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33,000 troops to go: 1-star outlines Afghanistan drawdown

Mar. 31, 2014 - 07:11PM   |  
US team trains, certifies Afghan soldiers on the b
The Pentagon's goal is to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan by about 15 percent by Aug. 1 and by another 20 percent by Oct. 31. Here, a soldier observes Afghan soldiers firing a howitzer. (Sgt. Margaret Taylor / /Army)
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The U.S. has closed nearly 290 bases across Afghanistan as of March 1 and fewer than 80 bases remain.

When it comes to personnel, there are still about 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but there’s also “a steady path to reduce throughout the year,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue, the chief operations officer for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command.

O’Donohue provided an overview of U.S. troops still serving downrange during a March 18 phone interview with Army Times.

“We’ve reduced our forces from about 100,000, by about 67 percent,” said he said. “We are truly in a support role.”

The U.S. is entering “a little bit of a pause as we prepare for [the Afghan presidential] elections,” but the goal is to continue closing down bases, he said.

Current forecasts call for 54 more bases to be closed by Aug. 1, and only about 27 bases are expected to remain open by the end of October, O’Donohue said.

The goal is to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan by about 15 percent by Aug. 1 and by another 20 percent by Oct. 31, he said.

“We’re in the process of drawing down and turning over to the Afghans,” he said. “We’re going to shift our composition, and it’s just natural that we shift from regional commands to train and advise. Rather than having a regional command that’s in charge of battlespace, the Afghans are now in front.”

As the drawdown continues, O’Donohue anticipates the U.S. will start moving its advising functions up the chain, moving from the battalion level to the brigade and corps levels.

“We’re very conscious of the 12-year mark of this mission,” he said. “The Afghans have picked up the fight, and we’re right there with them, but definitely in a support role.”

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