Speaking on Feb. 22, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said a portion of the 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be withdrawn this spring, leaving 32,000 through April of 2014 and an unknown number who will remain beyond 2014.
The force of 32,000 gives Afghan officials time to hold their presidential elections. “Once those elections are completed,” Panetta said “we will then begin the final drawdown.”
Panetta spoke highly of the Afghan military and police forces: “There is a strong consensus that our mission is succeeding… on the ground because of the growing role and capabilities all of us have seen in the Afghan national security forces.”
The Obama admin is currently talking with U.S. allies in Europe to decide how many troops will stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Pentagon press secretary George Little said a force of “8,000 to 12,000 has been discussed,” but no decision has been made.