U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has frozen plans for further reducing U.S. forces in Europe and will maintain about 40,000 soldiers in Germany and Italy, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
That will be nearly twice as many as had been envisioned under a draw down that began two years ago, senior Pentagon and military officials were quoted as saying.
In doing so, Gates accepted proposals of the U.S. military leaders in Europe, who advocated keeping the larger force on the continent to sustain training and other exercises with foreign militaries and as a hedge against risks to U.S. security.
The number of U.S. Army troops in Europe has already fallen to 43,000 from 62,000 two years ago under a plan signed by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary.
That plan had been described as the most significant rearrangement of the American military since the Cold War, calling for the number of Army troops in Europe to be cut to about 24,000 by the end of 2008.
But the new decision to delay the return of Army troops from Europe probably means that it will be up to the next president to decide the eventual number and location of American forces in Europe.