The No. 2 commander in Afghanistan identified three units that will be part of the troop drawdowns that are to begin this month. The units comprise the first elements of the drawdown of 30,000 of American troops in Afghanistan to be completed next September.
In a video conference with Pentagon reporters, Lt. Gen. Dave Rodriguez said the drawdown will consist mostly of outgoing units not being replaced by incoming units, though there will be a few whose tours of duty will be shortened. He did not identify which units will have their tours shortened, but he did say three units currently scheduled to leave will not be replaced.
The top operational commander in Afghanistan said the drawdown is doable because of the growth of the Afghan Security Forces by 90,000 troops this year.
Rodriguez did not feel the drawdown pace would put troops at risk.
"The decision has been made and now it's our turn to execute the decision," he said. "And we can do that without a significant change in risk."
However, the drawdown and transition will be handled carefully.
"We will stay the course with a plan and not chase transition," Rodriguez said. "There is no faster way to dilute our efforts and undo all we have accomplished."
Two Army battalions will leave in July and not be replaced, Rodriguez said.
The Pentagon later identified the units as two battalions totaling 800 soldiers serving with the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. One of the battalions is based in Kabul, the other in the relatively peaceful province of Parwan located north of the Afghan capital.
Rodriguez also identified the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment as another unit that will not be replaced. Currently serving in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, the 800-Marine combat battalion will not be replaced when it leaves this fall.
According to Rodriguez, the 5,000 troops that draw down this summer will be a mix of combat troops, combat support troops, combat service support units and headquarters units.
"It will be a gradual drawdown, and I'm confident that we can draw down those troops through the end of this year and accomplish our mission," he said.
The additional 5,000 troops that will come out later this year will be determined by Rodriguez's successor, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparotti, and Gen. Petraeus' successor, Lt. Gen. John Allen, sometime in the fall.
According to Rodriguez, among the factors military planners will use to identify forces to be drawn down will be the ability of local Afghan security forces to "plan and execute and lead operations."
"The real issue for when we can begin the drawdown is when they can accomplish the mission with less of us," he added. "And that less of us starts with infantry soldiers. And the longer-term enabling factors that I just talked about will be what we enable and support them for the foreseeable future."
Overall, Rodriguez said, the situation in Afghanistan is still "fragile and reversible," but it is "starting to get past that level in selected areas."
The drawdown will involve the thinning out of U.S. forces in a given area and redistributing them to areas where they are needed. Rodriguez said that would involve thinning out forces in southern Afghanistan and sending them to more volatile eastern Afghanistan.
Rodriguez said that the overall number of violent attacks in Afghanistan this year has gone up slightly, but at the same time he indicated that the number of effective Taliban attacks has gone down.
"As far as the violence levels, it's a mixture," he said. "Some of them are up a little bit; and in places where we focused our energy, they are down. It is a slight increase overall since last year."
One of those areas is eastern Afghanistan, but more IED's are being found in that region too.
While overall attacks have slightly increased, there was a significant increase in direct fire attacks, he said, but "they are very, very ineffective."
In the last six months 1,000 insurgents have been killed or captured, Rodriguez said. That's a 250 percent increase over the same time frame in 2010.