It has been announced that U.S. Marines will soon be arriving at a small American air base in Spain to form a U.S. rapid reaction force for the North African region. This deployment is clearly linked to last year’s brutal terrorist attack in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead.

By the end of May, Morón Air Base in southern Spain will be home to 500 U.S. Marines. Morón has been a U.S. air base since 1953. The 500 Marines will be supported by six V-22 Osprey aircraft and C-130 tactical cargo planes that can also serve as air-to-air refuellers.

This deployment of U.S. Marines, and the fact that the United States has an air base in the region for them to deploy to, is another example of why the American military presence in Europe is so important.

There are those arguing that U.S. bases in Europe are a Cold War relic and that the American taxpayer should not be paying for the defense of Germany, Spain, or any other European country. This argument is based on a false premise. U.S. troops in Europe are not there to protect Europeans. First and foremost, they are there to protect U.S. interests in the region.

As a report published by The Heritage Foundation states:

From the Arctic to the Levant, from the Maghreb to the Caucasus, Europe is at one of the most important crossroads of the world. U.S. bases in Europe provide American leaders with flexibility, resilience, and options in a dangerous multipolar world. The huge garrisons of American service personnel in Europe are no longer the fortresses of the Cold War, but the forward operating bases of the 21st century.

The U.S. military presence in Europe deters American adversaries, strengthens allies, and protects American interests. The basing and support cost of the almost 50,000 U.S. troops in Germany cost $4 billion last year. That is less than 1 percent of the overall defense budget.

Whether preparing U.S. and allied troops for Afghanistan or responding to an unexpected crisis in the region, the U.S. can project power and react to the unexpected because of its forward-based military capabilities in Europe.

Reducing these capabilities would only weaken America on the world stage.