Petraeus: Drawdown in Afghanistan Will be a Slow Process

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Gen. David H. Petraeus will not be ordering his troops out of Afghanistan’s provinces all at once, but will instead slowly and deliberately remove small units in an complex process he calls “thinning out.”

“You can reduce your forces. But you thin out,” Petraeus told Wired in a recent interview. “You don’t just hand over. The whole unit doesn’t leave.”

Sharing his Afghan redeployment strategy, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan said it is to early to speculate what will happen after the July 2011 date.  However, he declared support for the Obama policy of beginning a “conditions-based” drawdown next summer. Next year’s withdrawals will depend on how the security picture looks, and Petraeus said recommendations will come from “those who know it best.”

The general’s strategy will start at the district and progress to the larger provinces, which will ensure U.S. troops do not leave an area and abruptly turn it over to unprepared Afghans.

“We’ve got a lot of months in this fighting season and a lot of work to do before July 2011,” he told Wired. “But in the tough areas, it’ll probably be district-level. More autonomous areas, it can be province-level.”

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