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Washington (CNN) – President Obama has to announce in the coming days just how many U.S. troops will start leaving Afghanistan. Some 100,000 U.S. troops are currently there – joined by another 40,000 NATO forces. All U.S. troops are supposed to be out by the end of 2014 but some will start leaving in the coming months.
A few weeks ago, insiders had suggested to me that the president will settle on an initial pullout of 10,000 troops. Others now say it will be higher because of Osama bin Laden’s death and the staggering cost of maintaining troops there at a time of economic distress here at home.
It costs U.S. taxpayers about $120 billion a year to keep the troops in Afghanistan – that’s $10 billion a month. More and more politicians, Democrats and Republicans, are concluding that that money could be better spent at home.
Also increasing the pressure on President Obama to speed up the withdrawal are the shocking comments from Afghan President Hamid Karzai suggesting that U.S. troops are “occupiers.”
I know Vice President Joe Biden has been the most aggressive advocate inside the Obama Administration for accelerating the troop withdrawal. Biden's counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan relies on far fewer boots on the ground.
But all along, he’s faced stiff resistance from outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Afghanistan commander Gen. David Petraeus, who’s slated to become the next CIA director.
My instinct tells me President Obama is inching closer and closer to the views of his vice president.