The Pentagon is standing up a new command devoted to helping Ukraine win its war against Russia. It will oversee not only the billions of dollars in aid that the country has received, but the ongoing U.S. training mission with Ukrainian troops, according to the announcement Friday.
The 300-person Security Assistance Group-Ukraine will take over the job that the XVIII Airborne Corps headquarters recently turned over in Germany, the Defense Department’s policy chief told reporters Tuesday at a Defense Writers Group event.
While he wouldn’t call it a “permanent” command, Colin Kahl said, it signals a transition to a more “enduring capability” beyond the crisis response model from the XVIII Airborne Corps.
“We had a training mission with Ukraine before the war, right? So, the commitment to Ukraine is not new,” he said. “So, really, we just see this as a continuation of what we’ve been doing with the Ukrainians since 2014. It got dialed up as a consequence of Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine back in February, but, really, it’s kind of just institutionalizing what we’ve been doing since then.”
Kahl declined to say whether a three-star general would be appointed to lead the command, a move the New York Times reported Friday, but the mission had previously been overseen by a three-star, Lt. Gen. Christopher Donaghue, the corps’ commander.
The SAG-U would represent the Pentagon’s first move to create more long-term force structure in Europe since Russia’s invasion earlier this year. Senior officials have publicly discussed the possibly of more permanently based troops, or more heel-to-toe troop rotations, but without hinting at any impending announcements.
The U.S. military’s footprint in Europe has swelled from 80,000 to 100,000 since February, when the first of tens of thousands of troops were mobilized to NATO countries for reassurance missions.
Since then, troops have been training with local forces and helping coordinate the transport of aid to Ukraine, or training Ukrainian troops outside of their country, a mission that the SAG-U signals will continue.
Whether that means this surge of Europe deployments will also continue is up in the air.
“So, right now, the intent is to keep troop levels at the same level as they’ve been,” a senior military official told Military Times during a background briefing Oct. 31. “We have no announcements to make in terms of any changes to that in the near term.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.