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US starts Afghan troop drawdown with pull out of 650 soldiers

Posted by The Agonist on July 16th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Kabul | July 15

DPA – The United States has withdrawn 650 of its soldiers from Afghanistan, in accordance with a drawdown plan announced by President Barack Obama last month, US military confirmed Friday.

The move sets in motion a gradual 15-month withdrawal of 33,000 soldiers, of whom 10,000 are to leave the country before the end of the year.

Around 650 US army troops, deployed in Parwan province northwest of Kabul, had flown out on Wednesday, the US military confirmed Friday.

‘As part of the drawdown, the first US troops have left Afghanistan,’ the military said in a statement. ‘These units, the 113th and 134th Cavalry (Iowa National Guard) left this week and will not be replaced.’

One of the units transferred its mission to another team, the army said, while another unit was involved in a mentoring mission that had ended. Its security responsibility, in Kabul province, has been handed to Afghan National Security Forces.

‘These units were always scheduled to return home at this time. However, it wasn’t until late last month that they found out they wouldn’t be replaced by incoming units,’ the military said.

Afghanistan is preparing for a security handover from international forces to Afghan forces, starting in seven areas next week.

Security analysts are sceptical about the capability of Afghan forces to deal with ongoing violence, which has been increasing in the past few weeks.

The United Nations said on Thursday that the first six months of 2011 had seen more security incidents, while conflict-related civilian casualties increased by 15 per cent.

There are around 140,000 foreign troops fighting the Taliban insurgency in war-ravaged Afghanistan, of whom around 97,000 are Americans.

US and NATO forces have committed to stay in the country until 2014.

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