President Trump says he wants to bring U.S. troops home from Syria, the Korean Peninsula, Europe and elsewhere and unload part of America’s military burden onto other nations, but his “default position” meets stiff headwinds inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, defense insiders and experts say.
Defense Department figures show that U.S. troop presence abroad has stayed roughly the same during the first 18 months of the Trump administration and has increased in some key corners of the globe since January 2017.
Despite Mr. Trump’s apparent desire to reduce America’s military presence in certain parts of the world, the defense spending bill he signed this month authorizes more than 15,000 additional active-duty forces, spends the most money on European-based U.S. troops since the end of the Cold War and sets up hurdles that make any effort to pull forces out of South Korea difficult if not impossible.
Analysts say Mr. Trump believes it’s in the nation’s best interest to bring at least some troops home, but his position routinely meets institutionalized resistance among Defense Department officials and hawks in Congress. Knowing that he may not be able to follow through with his goal, the president relies on the mere mention of troop withdrawal as a negotiating tool with defense officials, continually forcing them to justify troop deployments anywhere in the world, analysts say.
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