General David Petraeus initiates plan to begin to “thin out” his forces.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (r) is greeted by top NATO commander Gen. David Petraeus as he arrives in Kabul, 2 Sept 2010

“The commander of U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan said Thursday that he has asked his officers to provide “initial assessments” of where he can begin to “thin out” his forces.

General Petraeus said he asked his staff to make plans to reduce their forces in relatively stable areas…

Petraeus is up against a deadline set by President Obama to begin a U.S. troop withdrawal next July.

The general indicated he does not expect to send home large units or to hand over large areas to Afghan security control. Rather, he said, at the beginning of the process, he will do what the United States did in Iraq and elsewhere – gradually reduce the U.S. troop presence in specific areas.

“You thin out, you don’t just sort of hand them the baton and say, ‘It’s yours,'” he said.

U.S. officials say the initial withdrawal will be small and that additional drawdowns will be based on security conditions in each part of the country.”

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