More US Troops in Afghanistan Than Iraq: Pentagon
WASHINGTON - For the first time, more US forces are deployed in Afghanistan than Iraq, amid a buildup of American troops in the Afghan war, the Pentagon said on Monday.
About 94,000 US troops are now in Afghanistan, while 92,000 remain in Iraq, where commanders are gradually scaling back the US contingent, Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Robbins told AFP.
The latest troop numbers reflect a shift in US priorities under President Barack Obama, who as a candidate slammed the Iraq war as a distraction undermining the US-led effort in Afghanistan.
The US force in Afghanistan has roughly tripled since Obama took office in January 2009, when more than 30,000 troops were stationed in the country.
Most of the troops in a 30,000-strong surge ordered by Obama in December have arrived in the country, with the NATO-led force focusing on pushing Taliban insurgents out of Kandahar city and nearby villages.
Obama has ordered the withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq by September, with the US force due to decline to 50,000. Under a security agreement with Baghdad, all US forces must pull out by the end of 2011.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week the drawdown of US troops from Iraq remained on track and had not been delayed because of recent violence or delays in forming a new Iraqi government.
Gates was due to hold talks at the Pentagon on Monday with the US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno.