10,000 U.S. troops withdrawn from Afghanistan

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta presents a Purple Heart medal to Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Ortiz-Mercado during his visit to the 172nd Infantry Brigade Task Force Blackhawks at a forward operating base in Sharana, Afghanistan, Dec. 14, 2011. AP Photo

WASHINGTON - U.S. military officials say that President Barack Obama's order to withdraw 10,000 American troops from Afghanistan this year has been accomplished, a little more than a week before the year-end deadline.

The pullout is the first step in the U.S. military's plan to wind down the war, hand over security to Afghan forces and end the combat role for international troops by the end of 2014.

It also gives the Obama administration a second war-related accomplishment to tout this month — coming just a week after U.S. officials marked the end of the war in Iraq and the last convoy of American soldiers rumbled out of that country into Kuwait.

Officials say there are now 91,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan — down from the peak of 101,000 in June.

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