The last of the 33,000 “surge” troops President Obama ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 have left the country, the Pentagon announced Friday, just ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline.
The number of U.S. troops in the war zone now stands at 68,000, Secretary of State Leon E. Panetta told reporters traveling with him during a week-long visit to the Asia-Pacific region. The troop count is down from a peak of 101,000 U.S. forces last year and marks the end of a critical phase in Obama’s war strategy.
“There’s no question there will continue to be difficult days ahead in this campaign,” Panetta said at a news conference in Auckland, where he was making a visit, in part, to thank New Zealand for its contribution of about 180 troops to the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan. “But this is an opportunity to recognize that the surge did accomplish its objectives.”read source article