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After starting his presidency by increasing the troop presence in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama in June set a tentative end date for the longest war in U.S. history and declared the beginning of the end of his Afghanistan “surge.”

Before 2012 begins, 10,000 of the 33,000 troops the president flooded into the country in 2010 will have returned home, according to the plan, and by September the surge will be over.

That will leave about 68,000 U.S. troops to continue the fight and to train and mentor Afghan forces, who are expected to assume an ever-growing share of responsibility for protecting their country.

The remaining U.S. force will continue to redeploy at a steady pace until American combat operations end at the close of 2014, Obama said. There have been recent indications that the U.S. could keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2015.

Obama’s drawdown announcement was not unexpected, but the numbers were much larger than many analysts predicted, and larger than those recommended by the Pentagon and by Gen. David Petraeus, then-commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Obama pared down American objectives from wholesale nation-building, which Petraeus championed, to one “achievable” goal: “No safe haven from which al-Qaida or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies.”

“We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place,” Obama said. “We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely.”

millhamm@estripes.osd.milTwitter: @mattmillham

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