33,000 U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan

July 26, 2012 at 8:28 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, July 26 (UPI) -- The Taliban's presence in southwestern Afghanistan has weakened, allowing coalition forces to turn over security to Afghans, U.S. military officials said.

"It will be a rolling transition to more training and advising and assisting and less of the counterinsurgency operations," said Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps. "The Afghan security forces will be in the lead and we'll be in support."

President Barack Obama ordered a surge of 33,000 troops to the area more than two years ago to reverse the Taliban's gains in the area. The president now wants most combat forces out of the country by the end of 2014, with 23,000 troops removed by September. That leaves 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, USA Today reported Thursday.

Marine Col. John Shafer, commander of Regional Combat Team 6 in Helmand, said Taliban fighters have been weakened and forced to the fringes of the region due to a boost in Afghan security forces.

"The insurgency cannot generate anything that can threaten the Afghan security forces at this time," Shafer said. "Another couple punches, I think they're going to go down," he said of the Taliban.

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