WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US military will close a major air base in Britain and withdraw from more than a dozen installations across Europe as part of a reorganisation of forces, the Pentagon said Thursday.
US operations at RAF Mildenhall in Britain will end and the money-saving consolidation plan will result “in a slight decrease in our force levels” in the region but no loss to American military power, the Pentagon said.
Despite the closure of Mildenhall and smaller outposts elsewhere, including the withdrawal of 500 troops from Lajes Field in Portugal, the United States remains committed to its European allies, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said.
“In the end, this transformation of our infrastructure will help maximise our military capabilities in Europe and help strengthen our important European partnerships, so that we can best support our Nato allies and partners in the region,” Mr Hagel said in a statement.
Some of the forces withdrawn from Britain, Portugal and elsewhere will be shifted to Germany and Italy, officials said.
The closure of Mildenhall, which is home to refueling tanker aircraft and special operations forces, will be offset in part by plans to station two squadrons of the new F-35 fighter jet at RAF Lakenheath within the next several years.
The moves will mean a net decrease of about 2,000 US military and civilian personnel in Britain over the next several years while in Germany, the total number of American troops eventually will increase.
The Pentagon said the reorganisation will save the US government about US$500 million (S$670 million) and enable a more efficient use of resources.
Officials insisted the moves would not in any way undercut America’s ability to counter a more assertive Russia and that Washington would continue to rotate troops for exercises and training with allies in Eastern Europe.
There are currently about 67,000 US troops stationed in Europe.