Obama to Withdraw 34,000 Troops From Afghanistan

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013 10:25 AM

By Lisa Barron

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President Barack Obama will announce in Tuesday’s State of the Union address that by this time next year, 34,000 American troops will be home from Afghanistan, according to multiple reports.

With some 66,000 troops currently in that country, the move will cut U.S. forces there by half.

The announcement comes one month after Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, at a meeting in Washington, agreed to step up the pace of the military transition in Afghanistan. Additional troop reductions are reportedly expected through the end of 2014.

According to a new Washington Post poll out today, 80 percent of registered voters support the president’s policy of ending the war in Afghanistan.

Obama is now considering how many troops will remain in the country after the combat mission officially ends at the close of 2014. The levels could range from as many as 15,000 troops to none at all, according to CNN.

An administration official told the cable network on Monday that the U.S.-led coalition has "struck devastating blows against al-Qaida, and Afghan forces continue to grow stronger, with 352,000 now in training or on duty."

This official said that Afghan forces are already leading nearly 90 percent of operations across the country and will start taking the lead on all combat missions in the spring.

"By the end of 2014, we will responsibly bring our war in Afghanistan to a close," the official told CNN, adding that Obama made his decision "based on the recommendations of the military and his national security team," as well as consultations with Karzai and "international coalition partners."

The drawdown of troops will be headed by Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who replaced Gen. John Allen this week as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Allen is now the president's pick to become the top NATO commander.

At a change-of-command ceremony in Kabul on Sunday, Dunford, who spend 22 months in Iraq, said, "Today is not about change, it’s about continuity. I’ll endeavor to continue the momentum of the campaign and support the people of Afghanistan as they seize the opportunity for a brighter future.”

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