The first batch of U.S. soldiers set to leave Afghanistan left earlier this week, beginning a drawdown of 10,000 U.S. troops scheduled to depart by year's end.
Some 650 U.S. Army soldiers left the northeastern province of Parwan on Wednesday, according to Lt. Commander Colette Murphy, a spokeswoman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Military officials say this is the first group of soldiers whose redeployment will not be replaced by a new rotation of fresh troops. FULL POST
NATO wants to give Lashkar Gah - the capital of the volatile Helmand province - over to the Afghans to handle security from July onward. But allegations of police brutality, Taliban prevalence and violence abound. Is this really the Afghanistan we want to leave behind. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports.
How will U.S. troop withdrawal affect places like Kabul and Kandahar and what is the Taliban's long-term strategy?
CNN senior international correspondent talked with CNN's Anderson Cooper after President Obama's Afghanistan address:
COOPER: [In his address, Obama] said it's time "to focus on nation building here at home." ... Nation building is not officially what the U.S. says they're doing in Afghanistan, but really as part of this counterinsurgency strategy, nation building is what the United States has been doing in Afghanistan for years.
ROBERTSON: It has. If you look at where surges had the best successes, towns in Kandahar and some of the towns in Helmand, it's because there's been security and that's allowed to provide facilities for the mayor's office and for the provincial governor.
Things that they can't afford to do by themselves and get markets back up and running and provide security for street vendors to be able to come out to those markets. It's all these sorts of things that surge has provided for. FULL POST
France will start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, following a timetable similar to the one U.S. President Barack Obama announced, the French president's office said Thursday.
"This withdrawal will be done in consultation with our allies and with the Afghan authorities," the statement from Nicolas Sarkozy's office said.
All French soldiers could be out of Afghanistan by 2013, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet told France Info radio Thursday. France has 3,935 troops in Afghanistan, according to the NATO mission there.
Obama said Wednesday that the U.S. would withdraw 33,000 U.S. troops by September 2012. That will leave just under 70,000 Americans there.
– CNN's Saskya Vandoorne contributed to this report.
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.
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."
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner wrapped up a two-day trip to Afghanistan Wednesday with a demand that President Barack Obama explain how the "pace and scope" of a planned U.S. troop withdrawal will not undermine the country's fragile security gains. FULL POST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed doubt in the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan Thursday, saying, "I'm not confident it's going to work."
In an interview that aired Thursday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," the five-term Nevada senator said, "The president has indicated as commander-in-chief he is going to start drawing down the forces this summer."
Reid also noted the $100 billion the country is spending, calling it a "huge amount of money" that the nation "cannot continue to keep dumping" into the Afghanistan war. FULL POST