President Obama will announce in his State of the Union Tuesday that 34,000 American combat troops will be out of Afghanistan by this time next year, White House sources confirmed.
Once the 34,000 U.S. troops – the current combat complement in country – return home, 28,000 troops will remain behind to support and train the Afghans, a White House source confirmed for Military.com Tuesday morning.
Confirmation followed an initial report by the Associated Press. In both instances, the sources spoke on confirmation of anonymity.
Obama and his cabinet have not decided how many, if any, troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014. U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have studied whether to keep up to 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Obama announced in 2011 his plans to end the combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, about two years after he boosted the U.S. presence by about 30,000 troops. Troop withdrawals through 2011 and 2012 brought troop strength in Afghanistan back to its pre-surge levels in September.
Obama is expected to link his announcement of an earlier withdrawal to successful operations in Afghanistan. In recent months, the Afghan National Army has increasingly taken the lead in combat missions.
The Afghansitan military has grown to a 352,000 force. However, Pentagon officials admit that the Afghan force will have to shrink after 2014 once U.S. funding is reduced.