13,000 U.S. Troops Remain in Iraq As Drawdown Continues

As Vice President Biden visits Baghdad, he will find that the American military presence in Iraq has dropped significantly since his last visit.  The American military presence in Iraq now stands at 13,000  as the major logistical effort to get all American forces out of Iraq by the end of this year continues.

Just last week the total number of U.S. forces stood at 18,000.

The drawdown of all U.S. troops from Iraq began in September in accordance with the US-Iraqi security agreement reached in 2008 by the Bush administration.

The numbers have decreased significantly since then.   In mid-September there were approximately 45,000 American troops in Iraq.   By the last week of October there were still 39,000 U.S. troops serving in Iraq.   That means that 26,000 American service members have left Iraq since then.

U.S. military commanders have said that the bulk of all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by mid-December.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the U.S. military is working on another drawdown, the reduction by year’s end of 10,000 of the 33,000 surge troops sent  there last year.

In June, President Obama  announced that the surge forces would be reduced in two phases: 10,000 by the end of this year and the remaining 23,000 by the end of next summer.

The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has already been reduced by 4,000 by not replacing some units as they finished their deployments.   In keeping with the Obama administration’s original plan for the surge, the drawdown began in July when two Army National Guard battalions were not replaced when they returned home.   However, there were no further troop reductions until last month when a Marine combat battalion that served in the restive Helmand Province was not replaced when its deployment ended.  Defense officials say the bulk of the remaining 6,000 troops coming home in December will be support troops, not combat forces.

When this year’s drawdown of 10,000 surge forces is completed in December, the level of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will remain at 91,000.  The next reduction in surge troops likely won’t occur until the last possible moment.

In an interview with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz in October, Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, said that he planned on keeping the bulk of remaining surge forces in place through September 2012 to maximize their effectiveness.  At that point  the U.S. military will  launch a major logistical effort to get the 23,000 surge forces out of Afghanistan.