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US to reduce troop numbers in Afghanistan very soon
Updated: 2005-12-29 09:30

The US military gave details of its planned troop reduction in Afghanistan, saying the total number would shrink by some 2,500 from the current 19,000 under a routine troop rotation due very soon.

US military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Laurent Fox, said however that the 2,500-strong force from the 10th Mountain Division will remain on standby and can be deployed anytime if needed.

"The replacement group that will be coming in will be 2,500 less than what is being replaced," the spokesman told a regular press briefing in Kabul.

"We've approximately 19,000 troops (currently) and this will bring it down to approximately 16,500," he added.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced last week that the US would reduce its troop strength in Afghanistan next year by between 2,000 and 3,000.

The US military, which has been based in Afghanistan since helping topple the Taliban regime in late 2001, rotates troops every year.

Fox said an expected increase in the separate NATO-led peacekeeping force and an increase in Afghan security forces had made the reduction possible.

The currently 19,000-strong force, backed by some 1,000 other coalition troops, is hunting remnants of the Taliban who are waging an inusrgency against Afghan and foreign troops.

More than 1,500 people have been killed this year, many of them militants.

Most attacks occur in southern and eastern Afghanistan, a mountainous region along the Pakistani border.

Fox said military representatives from Afghanistan, neighboring Pakistan and the US-led coalition who met in Kabul last week discussed issues relating to the "war on terror".

"The discussion focused on issues that impact both countries to include border operations, cross-border operations and countering improvised explosive devices," he said.

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