A group of Florida National Guardsmen has been ordered by Joe Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to leave Ukraine as the danger of an imminent invasion by Russian forces still appears likely.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said that Task Force Gator has been active in mentoring and training Ukrainian defense forces and ordered them to a different undisclosed position in Europe.
The 160 members of Task Force Gator have been in Ukraine since November. The unit has been assisting NATO allies and partners in training Ukraine Observer Controller/Trainers at the Combat Training Center near Yavoriv. They have been using a “train-the-trainer” approach to help the Ukrainians learn what they need to train and mentor their defense forces and rotational brigades effectively.
Kirby said that the decision to redeploy the group outside Ukraine comes from an abundance of caution for the “safety and security of our personnel foremost in mind.” The decision was also reportedly informed by State Department guidance currently in place for official US personnel.
Kirby also said that the redeployment does not indicate any change in American intent to support the Ukrainian defense forces but “provides flexibility” in deterring Russian aggression and maintaining confidence from US allies in the region.
On Friday, Joe Biden ordered 3,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to deploy to 3,000 service members in Poland, Germany, and Romania. Meanwhile, Russia has reportedly positioned around 130,000 troops and equipment near its border with Ukraine. Ukraine has around 145,000 troops prepared to defend against a Russian invasion.
Austin said on Saturday that he has met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu to discuss the build-up and aggressive posture Russia has taken in Crimea and near Ukraine.
Biden met by phone conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to discuss the situation. Putin also met before that conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.