Pentagon: Last of Surge Troops Out of Afghanistan

Posted September 20th, 2012 at 8:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The Pentagon says the last of the 33,000 troops sent to Afghanistan in what was called the “surge” more than two years ago have pulled out.

U.S. troops levels in Afghanistan are now back down to 68,000 — the pre-surge number.

President Barack Obama ordered the extra forces to Afghanistan in late 2009 to push back the Taliban and give Afghan forces a chance to start taking over security. The United States plans to completely withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The developments came as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta continued his trip to Asia. In New Zealand, he is seeking to revive long-suspended defense ties with the island country.

The United States would like to reassert its influence throughout the Asia-Pacific region as China continues to emerge as a military and economic powerhouse.

Panetta arrived in New Zealand after concluding a three-day visit to China, where he was given a rare tour of a Chinese naval base, and was allowed to board a warship and a submarine.