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WIESBADEN, Germany — The U.S. Army has appointed a non-American to the very top ranks of its European operations for the first time since the end of World War II. German Brig. Gen. Markus Laubenthal was officially welcomed to his new position as chief-of-staff of the U.S. Army in Europe (USAREUR) during a ceremony at Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden, Germany, on Thursday. Laubenthal will be responsible for organizing, directing and supporting — but not commanding — USAREUR staff, officials in Wiesbaden said. He previously served as chief of staff for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Regional Command North in Afghanistan. USAREUR is responsible for nearly 30,000 U.S. troops, most of them stationed in Germany.
Calling it “a big day for German-American relations,” USAREUR commander Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell said the decision to appoint a German general was made more than a year ago and was not a reaction to recent diplomatic turmoil. The appointment came only weeks after Germany asked top U.S. intelligence official in the country to leave in the midst of a spying scandal that has severely strained U.S.-German relations. “I did not ask the chief of staff of the army to go forward with this initiative having thought of that,” Lt. Gen. Campbell told NBC News. “But, if there is benefit out of us bringing General Laubenhtal here, then we are proud of this small effort.”
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