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US To Withdraw 23,000 Troops From Afghanistan By September

Camp Pendleton Marines in Afghanistan
Nichelle / Flicker
Camp Pendleton Marines in Afghanistan

Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, told reporters today that 23,000 American service members will be home by September 30th. There are roughly 88,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan right now.

Allen said during a Pentagon press briefing that the growth of Afghan military and police forces in the last year will help make up the difference when American troops leave:

"During the last 12 months, the Afghan security forces have expanded from 276,000 to 340,000, and they'll reach their full surge strength ahead of the scheduled deadline in October."

After the 23,000 U.S. troops leave, Allen said he will access the situation and decide only then what the next phase of withdrawal will look like:

“While, in absolute terms, eventually our numbers come down, it is not our intention to cede the ground … to the Taliban."

President Obama announced Monday that U.S. and NATO forces would hand over command of all combat mission to Afghan troops next year.