In a few hours, President Obama will announce how many troops he will withdraw from Afghanistan over the next 18 months. Reporting has been all over the map—CNN cites 30,000 “surge” troops home by the end of 2012; The Los Angeles Times is reporting a withdrawal of 10,000 troops by the end of this year; White House officials told Fox News that Obama has not made a final decision on a number. How will a troop withdrawal of any size change the mission in the country and is it a foregone conclusion that a long-term US troop presence, in the 15-25,000 range, will be necessary to train the Afghan National Army and continue special operations in the Pakistan border areas? Looking ahead in the region, how will the withdrawal affect reported peace negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban representatives; the tenuous balance of power in the region; and attempts to empower Afghanistan to realize its own economic potential?
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