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Pace Of Troop Withdrawal Undecided

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- WASHINGTON -- As the Obama administration awaits the Pentagon's recommendation on troop cuts in Afghanistan, military leaders warned Thursday that the reduction must not jeopardize the progress made there in the past year.

The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, has not yet made his recommendation on the widely expected withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. But it will come in the next few weeks and move rapidly after that, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.

Adm. Mike Mullen warned that while no one knows yet how deep the initial cut will be, it must not erode the progress that troops have made in the past year.

Some lawmakers have suggested that the killing of Osama bin Laden last month should result in a more rapid end to the U.S. involvement in the protracted war.

President Barack Obama has said that the drawdown of troops will begin in July. Obama is likely to announce his decision late this month about the size of that initial withdrawal. Military officials also expect a forecast for further withdrawals over the next several months.

The No. 2 U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that over the coming months, Afghan forces must be pushed into the lead in more regions across the country.

"We have to start taking more risk and have more trust in them," Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez said, speaking to a conference at the Center for a New American Security.

He said he expects Afghan leaders to decide in August which additional regions in the country can be shifted from U.S. to Afghan military control.

Herat, western Afghanistan's largest city, is one of seven areas scheduled to be handed over to Afghan control in July as the first step of the transition of nationwide security responsibility to the Afghan troops.

There are roughly 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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