The first group of about 10,000 US soldiers due to leave Afghanistan this year have already left, military officials said on Friday, kicking off a gradual drawdown due to be completed in 2014.
US president Barack Obama in June announced that 33,000 American troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of next summer, leaving behind 65,000 and effectively ending a military ordered into the country late 2009.
Around 650 US army troops deployed northwest of the capital in the province of Parwan, flew out on Wednesday and will not be replaced by an incoming unit, the US military confirmed on Friday.
“It’s correct that these soldiers are the first to redeploy from Afghanistan without being replaced by a new rotation of soldiers since the president’s announcement,” said US army press officer Major Michael Wunn.
US officers have said that a total of about 800 soldiers in two Army units will depart this month.
Karzai holds prayers for brother
Several hundred Afghan and international dignitaries went to the presidential palace on Friday to express their sympathies to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose half brother was assassinated earlier this week at his home in southern Afghanistan.
They joined Karzai for prayers in a mosque at the palace, sitting cross-legged on rugs to remember Ahmed Wali Karzai, a powerful and controversial man in Kandahar province and throughout the south.
Tuesday’s slaying of Wali Karzai left the president without a powerful partner and threatened to create a power vacuum in the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban. US Gen David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and UN envoy Staffan de Mistura attended the memorial along with Afghan ministers, lawmakers and military leaders.