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Obama: Afghan combat mission over by year-end

President Barack Obama will seek to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the war formally ends later this year and then withdraw most of those forces by 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

Obama's decision is largely in line with what military commanders have been seeking and would allow the president to fully end the American-led military effort by the time he leaves office.

US President Barack Obama speaks during a surprise visit with US troops at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, prior to the Memorial Day holiday.
SAUL LOEB | AFP | Getty Images
US President Barack Obama speaks during a surprise visit with US troops at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, prior to the Memorial Day holiday.

The two-year plan is contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. While current Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declined to sign the agreement, U.S. officials are confident that either of the candidates seeking to replace him would give his approval.

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The plan calls for the U.S. military to draw down from its current force of 32,000 to 9,800 by the start of next year. Those remaining troops would be throughout Afghanistan.

Over the course of next year, the number of troops would be cut in half and consolidated in the capital of Kabul and at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. Those remaining forces would largely be withdrawn by the end of 2016, with fewer than 1,000 remaining behind to staff a security office in Kabul.

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Obama is just back from a surprise weekend trip to Afghanistan where he met with U.S. commanders and American forces serving in the closing months of the nation's longest war.