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US Army opens new Polish headquarters as troop levels rise

© AFP/File | US soldiers are pictured prior the beginning of the official welcoming ceremony of NATO troops in Orzysz, Poland, on April 13, 2017

WARSAW (AFP) - 

The US Army Europe said Thursday that it had set up a new headquarters in Poland to command troops deployed in NATO and Pentagon operations across the alliance's eastern flank aimed at deterring Russia.

Washington deployed an additional combat brigade to Europe this year as part of its Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR), bringing its number of brigades on the continent to three.

"Last week, more than 100 soldiers relocated from Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany, to Poznan, Poland, to enhance the mission command of US rotational forces... where the US Army has not previously maintained a significant military presence," OAR Mission Command spokesman, Master Sergeant Brent M. Williams, said in a statement to AFP.

The headquarters will serve more than 6,000 US troops deployed in NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The deployments to the region were ordered during the previous administration of president Barack Obama.

Rhetoric by US President Donald Trump, who called NATO "obsolete" and demanded that allies pay their share in the alliance shortly before he took office, deeply rattled its easternmost members bordering Russia.

Trump has since reversed much of his criticism and made good on US troop commitments for the unprecedented NATO deployments across its eastern flank.

The alliance is deploying four battalions for the first time to Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as tripwires against Russian interference in the region, formerly under Moscow's control and where officials have been unsettled by its actions in Ukraine.

© 2017 AFP