Washington: President Barack Obama`s order to
withdraw 10,000 American troops from Afghanistan this year has
been accomplished, a little more than a week before the
year-end deadline, military officials have said.
The drawdown is the first step in the plan to wind down
the war, transition security to Afghan forces and end the
combat role for international troops by the end of 2014.
It also gives the Obama administration a second
war-related accomplishment to tout this month, coming just a
week after US officials marked the end of the war in Iraq and
the last convoy of American soldiers rumbled out of that
country into Kuwait.
Officials say there are now 91,000 US troops in
Afghanistan, down from the peak of 101,000 in June.
In December 2009 Obama announced he was sending an
additional 33,000 US troops to Afghanistan in a bid to beat
back the escalating Taliban insurgency and change the course
of the war. Six months ago, declaring that the "tide of war is
receding," Obama said he would withdraw 10,000 troops by the
end of this year, and another 23,000 by the end of next
The decision was met with initial opposition from
military leaders who thought the withdrawal was too much, too
soon, particularly since it would pull troops out before the
end of next year`s fighting season, which can last well into
October and even November.
Last week, however, during a trip to Afghanistan, Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta repeatedly told troops that the US had
reached a turning point in the war. And at one point he went
so far as to say, "I really think that for all the sacrifices
that you`re doing, the reality is that it is paying off and
that we`re moving in the right direction. ... We`re winning
this very tough conflict here in Afghanistan."
Contrasting that assessment is the continuing violence in
Afghanistan`s east, along the Pakistan border, and the
high-profile attacks and assassinations that continue to wreak
havoc in and around Kabul. The violence is compounded by
worries about government corruption, the fragile economy, and
fears that Afghan forces won`t be ready to take over security
of the country as American and NATO troops leave.