For First Time, More US Troops in Afghanistan than Iraq

ABC News' Luis Martinez reports:

For the first time ever, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is larger than the number of American forces in Iraq. Pentagon figures show that there are now 94,000 U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan and 92,000 serving in Iraq.

The crossover point for American force levels in both countries was expected to take place this Summer as the Obama administration surges 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan this year and draws down the number of forces in Iraq.

The drawdown plan in Iraq calls for reducing the number of American forces to 50,000 by September 1, a move that will require a major logistical effort over the next three months.

Long under-resourced, the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan has been increased significantly over the past two years as both the Bush and Obama administrations shifted their attentions to a military operation that began in October, 2001 in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. For much of that time, the number of troops allotted to the conflict in Afghanistan reflected how much of the military’s resources was being dedicated to the war effort in Iraq

The number of American forces in Afghanistan by the end of 2001 numbered 2,500. For the next two years force levels remained around 10,000 and continued to rise slowly to 17,000 in 2004 . Troop levels averaged around 22,000 for much of 2006 and 2007, but force levels continued to rise after that as the Bush administration began to provide the additional troops requested by military commanders on the ground as the security situation worsened. By comparison, the number of troops in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 peaked at almost 170,000.

By year’s end there will be 98,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan when the surge of forces ordered by the Obama administration is fully complete. The administration will conduct an assessment this December to review the progress of the population-centric strategy being conducted by the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

In announcing the surge into Afghanistan earlier this year, President Obama also outlined a timeframe in July, 2011 by which the United States would begin transferring control of security to the most secure parts of Afghanistan. That in turn would lead to a reduction of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The rising troop levels that past two years have also been reflected in higher casualty numbers as forces enter areas long-held by the Taliban. The number of U.S. fatalities in and around Afghanistan is nearing 1,000 and U.S. fatalities in 2009 was double what they were in 2008.

- Luis Martinez

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