Obama to Announce Afghanistan Troop Drawdown Numbers

VIDEO: Gen. Petraeus and Sec. Gates discuss the war in Afghanistan with Diane Sawyer.
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President Obama will announce on Wednesday his much anticipated decision on drawing down troops in Afghanistan.

After the announcement Wednesday, the president will travel Thursday to Fort Drum, N.Y., home of the 10th Mountain Division, one of the first to deploy to Afghanistan. President Bush visited there less than a year after the war started.

Military sources tell ABC News' Martha Raddatz they hope the initial drawdown number is small, but that they do not know what the president's decision is yet.

Soon-to-be-retired Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on his final tour of Afghanistan earlier this month, warned that it would be "premature" to make any significant changes to the military campaign in Afghanistan before the end of the year or until the United States can say that "we've turned the corner here in Afghanistan."

The White House, on the other hand, continues to argue that the cuts in the numbers of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be "real."

Even if the Pentagon and White House agree on the number, Gates' public dissent makes it difficult for the president to sell that number to his supporters, who are getting increasingly agitated over the growing cost of the war.

Some reports have suggested that 5,000 combat troops may be brought home in July, with roughly an additional 5,000 by the end of the year -- but no confirmed numbers have been released.

There are currently about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, so the withdrawal could be less than 10 percent, a number that is already riling up Obama's liberal base.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said he wants to see 15,000 U.S. troops out by December, and other Democrats have also said they want to see a significant withdrawal.

"I think Democrats want to see and what I think the American people want to see is a shift from the U.S. playing the dominating role in Afghanistan to a significant and early transfer of responsibility to the Afghan people and certainly I think the end of the year, a significant, substantial draw down would accommodate that objective," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told ABC's Top Line.

This is not the first time in recent years the White House is finding itself at odds with the Pentagon over the number of troops in Afghanistan. In 2009, Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation for a troop surge received a cool reception in Washington, even though the president eventually approved it, at a cost of $36 billion.

What's different now is the lack of public support for the longest war in U.S. history.

A record two-thirds -- or 64 percent -- of Americans say the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting, a steep rise from 44 percent in late 2009, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll published in March.

Nearly 80 percent of independents said Obama should withdraw a "substantial number" of troops from Afghanistan this summer and barely more than a quarter felt the war is worth its costs.

What the president may have working in his favor is that the war falls well below the economy and employment on Americans' agenda, which could make it easy for him to sell the drawdown numbers, even if his liberal base is unhappy with them.

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