WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has not yet announced how many troops he will withdraw from Afghanistan, but his budget request Monday suggests several thousand soldiers could go home in the first year or so.
The pace and scale of the actual drawdown will depend on conditions on the ground and they refuse to give any definitive idea about the size of the initial withdrawal due to begin in July, Pentagon officials say.
Still, Pentagon budget documents forecast the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will drop to an average of 98,250 in fiscal year 2012, compared with an average of 102,000 in fiscal 2011. Fiscal 2012 starts in October.
"The force levels in Afghanistan decrease toward the end of FY 2011, consistent with the president's decision to begin the transition to an Afghan-lead, reducing the annual average from 102,000 to 98,250 troops," the documents said.
The documents were released as part of the administration's roll-out of its spending requests to Congress, which includes $118 billion in funding for the Iraq and Afghan wars as well as other overseas efforts.
Obama has announced plans to start drawing down troops from the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan in July with the goal of passing lead security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told Reuters not to read too much into the budgeting figures.
"It's important to remember that the ultimate rate of drawdown of troops from Afghanistan will be determined by the conditions on the ground this July," Morrell said.
"We don't yet know what the conditions will bear. So we can't forecast with precision how many troops will be coming out, how many will be redistributed elsewhere in country."
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