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Obama's Afghan withdrawal on track as NATO details 2014 troop training plans

In February, in his State of the Union speech, President Obama announced a 34,000 troop reduction in Afghanistan by early 2014, while leaving about 50,000 troops to support Afghan security forces through approximately November.

At its peak in 2010, the number of US troops in Afghanistan was about 100,000.

"Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan," Obama said during the speech. "This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over."

Therefore, on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was at NATO headquarters in Brussels to attend a planning meeting designed to lay out details for a “post-2014 training force that would remain in Afghanistan after control of security is handed off to the Afghans,” according to a Defcon report in The Hill.

Hagel was quick to point out the coalition is “transitioning, not leaving.” Plans are for the lead nations, the United States, Germany and Italy, to direct the training mission, with the US leading in more volatile areas of the West and North.

In addition, Turkey is mulling the option of taking the lead in Kabul.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed the mission will focus on training a much smaller force than is currently in Afghanistan. Rasmussen and Hagel were reticent to give size or specific numbers of remaining troops in 2014, but reportedly there will be more specifics nailed down in the coming months.

Ending the war in Afghanistan, which was started after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City in search of extremist perpetrators led by al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden, was a campaign promise made by Obama. He ordered the covert mission by Special Forces to hunt down bin Laden, who had eluded capture for years, even with a $25 million reward on his head.

The mission was accomplished on May 2, 2011, in a daring night-time raid on a compound in Pakistan that left the FBI’s most wanted terrorist dead from Navy SEAL gunshot wounds.

Critics of the Afghan war, which has killed over 2,000 soldiers and cost untold billions of dollars, fear that troops remaining in Afghanistan will not be enough to prevent it from once again reverting to Taliban control.

On Tuesday, NPR published a report by journalist Tom Bowman, who questions whether Afghans can take the lead after a majority of US troops withdraw. The answer is complex, due to intimidation from Taliban extremists upon villagers, who fear for their lives and for their families. There is concern that villagers are playing both sides of the fence; placating security officers during the day and appeasing Taliban forces at night.

During a recent meeting in the remote village of Kasan with an Afghan commander and US security officers, one elder explained through a translator the reason why he feared providing information on Taliban activity in exchange for military protection: "If I will call you guys ... the Taliban will kill me.”

Nevertheless, terrorism forces that destroyed 3,000 people on 9/11 have been severely weakened by the coalition and al-Qaida is a shrinking shadow of its former self. Critics of the Afghan war support the withdrawal of troops and the reduction of taxpayer dollars to support it.

To that end, NATO forces are drawing down troops in preparation for transition of security control to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, but an unspecified number of troops will remain in a non-combat role.

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Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.