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US - Apr 11, 2012 - 11:48

Last modified: 11 Apr 2012 08:48

The United States Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, has said the US plans to remove all 33,000 of President Barack Obama's "surge" troops from Afghanistan by October 2012.

That will leave an estimated 68,000 US forces to fight the Taliban and train Afghan forces for an eventual full security take-over by Afghan National Security Forces by the time foreign combat troops leave in 2014.

Panetta hosted Afghanistan's Minister of National Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak and Minister of Interior Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

According to the New York Times, Wardak, also speaking on Tuesday, said the government in Kabul and the international coalition had agreed to a reduction of Afghan forces following the NATO withdrawal.

Citing cost, Wardak said the ANSF could go from a peak 352,000 to 230,000 following the exit of foreign forces.

The proposed reduction, "will be subject to revision based on the realities on the ground,” General Wardak said.

The Afghan Defence Minister went on to say the reductions “will be gradual.”