• 5,400 troops are to be grought home for redeployment elsewhere while 6,400 will be shifted to other European countries
  • Troops strength in Germany is to be capped at 25,000
  • The U.S. has 320,000 troops in Europe

The Pentagon announced Wednesday thousands of Army and Air Force troops would be pulled from Germany despite bipartisan opposition in Congress.

The U.S. has maintained a major presence in Germany since World War II. President Trump has complained NATO members have been taking advantage of U.S. military might, skimping on their own defense commitments.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced nearly 12,000 of the 36,000 troops in Germany would be pulled. The action is expected to take years to complete and cost billions of dollars, CNN reported.

About 6,400 troops and their families were to be brought home before possible redeployment to the Indo-Pacific. Some 5,600 troops were to be moved to other European countries, capping the number of troops in Germany at 25,000.

“The plan will consolidate headquarters to strengthen operational efficiency, will reposition some forces to the United States to focus on readiness, and place rotational forces in the Black Sea region on NATO’s southeastern flank,” the Pentagon said.

The moves are expected to begin within months but it was unclear whether the plan would survive if Trump is defeated in November.

The U.S. plans to increase its presence in Poland. CNBC reported it will cost billions to build bases in that country, which shares a 144-mile border with Russia. Polish President Andrzej Duda has been urging the U.S. to make the shift.

“It is important to note that in NATO’s 71-year history, the size, composition, and disposition of U.S. forces in Europe has changed many times,” Esper said in justifying the decision. “Sometimes this has been a result of changes in the threat, sometimes because of other changes in the international environment, and sometimes simply because the borders between NATO countries and Russia have shifted as new allies have joined.”

Russia long has objected to any military build-up in Poland, characterizing missile defense systems there and other NATO sites as provocations.

Twenty-two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee condemned the plan, saying in a letter to Trump any reduction in the U.S. military presence in Europe would be a gift to Russia.

Germany serves as a staging ground for U.S. operations in the Middle East and Africa. Keeping the 6,400 U.S. troops in Europe is seen as an effort to ease European concerns. The move east, at the same time, sends a clear message to Moscow that the U.S. is not abandoning its allies. In all, there currently are 320,000 U.S. military personnel in Europe.

Trump has criticized Germany for failing to meet NATO budget goals of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense. Germany’s current contribution is about 1.38%. He also has criticized the country for shortchanging the U.S. on trade.

“One of the only countries that hasn't agreed to pay what they're supposed to pay is Germany. So, I said until they pay, we're removing our soldiers, a number of our soldiers, by about half. Then when we get down to about 25,000, we'll see where we're going,” Trump said last month.