Two heavy armored US brigades, based in Germany, with a total of 7 000 men will pack and go home: This is what has been announced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Is Washington, under the stewardship of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, finally taking the road to disarmament by beginning to withdraw its forces from Europe? Far from it.

These troops will shrink from 81 000 to 74 000 men, half of whom are ground troops, but those who pull out will be replaced by "rotating units." Europeans may rest assured: The US will not leave them alone in such a dangerous world.

On the contrary, “Europeans will see more of US troops on their soil” since bases in Europe will be used for an increased rotation of US forces in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. The ground troops will be concentrated into two units: a light armored brigade in Germany, and an airborne one in Vicenza, Italy. Another step forward in the strategic "realignment" conducted ​​by the Pentagon, which is redeploying its forces from Central and Western Europe, to the South and East of the continent, to position them more effectively in areas of strategic importance.

In such a setting, writes the United States Embassy in Rome in a cable outed by Wikileaks, Italy has become "the base of the most important military apparatus deployed outside the United States, and with the African Command (which has two sub-commands in Italy) it will be the more significant partner in our force projection army." This is confirmed by the last official inventory of the 4 214 military bases located on US territory and the 611 military bases distributed in other countries (Base Structure Report 2011).

In Italy, the Pentagon owns 1,395 buildings while 1,062 others are either rented or under concession agreement, for a total surface of almost 2 million square meters. They are broken down into 40 main localities, to which others of lesser importance have to be added, bringing the total to 60. Which means that after the Vatican, the most important real estate owner in Italy is the Pentagon. A very profitable investment, not only because Italy contributes economically to the upkeep of these bases, but because they allow for a faster and less expensive "force projection" than the same operation executed on US continental territory.

The other key advantage is that in Italy, all governments, center-right or center-left, have so far been at the entire disposal of the Pentagon. Vicenza, Aviano, Ghedi Torre, Livorno, Pisa, Naples, Gaeta, Sigonella, Niscemi and other venues are now part of the Pentagon geography. Here the United States has established its military commands, its rapid projection forces, its weapons (including nuclear), its most advanced military communications systems. From here, U.S. forces enact their rotations, by taking on not only a military function but also an important political function: "As long as significant US forces remain in Europe, leadership will be maintained, explains a Congress Commission."

To that end, vows Panetta, the U.S. military engagement in Europe is "unwavering."

Source: Il Manifesto