President Obama announced Wednesday night that all of the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 would be home within the next 15 months.
In a nationally televised address from the East Room of the White House, Obama said 10,000 of the so-called "surge" forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012. The troop withdrawals will begin next month, as promised when Obama ordered the surge in a speech 18 months ago. (Chart: U.S. troop levels over the years)
After the departure of all the surge forces, the total U.S. military deployment in Afghanistan would be just under 70,000 troops. Obama's time frame would give U.S. commanders another two "fighting" seasons with the bulk of U.S. forces still available for combat operations.
Three veterans of Afghanistan's conflict reflect on their years there and their hopes for the embattled country. Journalist Carlotta Gall, American John Christopher Turner (who has worked on and off in Afghanistan since the 1960s) and Afghan opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah weigh in on what it will mean when the U.S. troops begin withdrawing.
"I think you're going to have instability and insurgency still," says Gall. "And you're going to have people very nervous - who are anti-Taliban - who will start agitating to say we have to defend ourselves. ... There's great trepidation in 'what's next?'" FULL POST
On Tuesday, an Obama administration official told CNN that Obama will announce that 30,000 U.S. "surge" forces will be fully withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. Members of Congress are being informed that 10,000 troops will be withdrawn by the end of this year, followed by another 20,000 next year, a congressional source said.
Check out the U.S. troops levels over the years as well as the number of U.S. casualties
When snow starts falling in Afghanistan later this year, fewer U.S. soldiers will be on the ground, and fewer taxpayer dollars will be required to continue to finance the war (as expected to be announced by President Obama on Tuesday).
But the savings in the first year - probably less than $10 billion - won't be much to write home about, especially considering the U.S. has already run up a $443 billion tab in Afghanistan.
Kabul, Afghanistan - Ahead of President Obama's speech, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports from Afghanistan about how Afghans are feeling about the U.S. troops in their country.
As Walsh says, the withdrawal makes sense domestically for the U.S. but in terms of Afghans and how they will perceive it, "it's very much restructuring the NATO presence here, and giving them the simple idea that there's a new fiscal landscape ahead in which they're going to have to come to some kind of accommodation with the insurgency. ...
"I think [Afghan officials] aren't speaking directly about the withdrawal until it's made entirely public by Obama, but the public here frankly are beginning to be tired of the presence of foreign troops. They've had foreign troops that are out here for the last 30 years or so. And while many see the NATO contribution as having tried to bring a better life here to Afghanistan, I think there are genuine concerns that they need to get on with their lives themselves without foreign interference as some see here. Many refer to American troops here as occupiers, and frankly want to see them get hold of their own country, their own sovereignty again."
As President Obama is expected to announce in a speech Tuesday that 30,000 U.S. "surge" forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh takes a look at one town in Afghanistan. A flag flies openly, the white banner of the Taliban. The message: we, the Taliban, are back in power here. Small Taliban fiefdoms are popping up while NATO's surge is at full strength, leaving many wondering what they'll do as NATO starts to leave?