Drawdown "more aggressive" than Pentagon wanted

Soldier Von Bolante scans the horizon as he mans a sentry point of Combat Outpost Sabari in Khost, Afghanistan, June 18, 2011.
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Updated at 7:13 a.m., June 23, 2011.

Ten years in Afghanistan has cost the U.S. $443 billion and 1,632 American lives. That toll has been spent to purchase a decade without another attack on American soil from al Qaeda in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, President Obama told the nation the time has come to wind down the war.

As with everything in Afghanistan, his decision is controversial. President Obama announced a drawdown of 10,000 U.S. troops by the end of this year, with all 33,000 "surge" sent during Mr. Obama's term withdrawn by September of 2012.

But that represents a a faster drawdown than many generals wanted, though there is little doubt military leaders will publicly support it, CBS News correspondent David Martin reports.

Special Report: Afghanistan

One Pentagon official said pulling the first 10,000 troops out by the end of this year was "more aggressive" than recommended by Gen. David Petraeus, who constantly warned that hard fought gains made by the surge were fragile and reversible.

A second official said the military wanted to keep the bulk of the surge force in Afghanistan through the end of next summer's fighting season. Under the president's timetable, the drawdown of the final surge forces will occur during that fighting season.

Still, officials said that although military leaders did not get their way, they are "okay" with the president's decision.

It costs about $1 million to keep a single soldier in Afghanistan for a year, so bringing 33,000 home over the next 14 months will add up to a savings of more than $30 billion. That would reduce the annual cost of the war from the current $113 billion to around $80 billion.

It would also relieve some of the strain on the troops who currently get two months home for every month in theater and could allow the army to reduce the length of combat tours from 12 to nine months.

Most important of all, fewer troops in Afghanistan should also mean fewer casualties. More than 700 Americans have died in Afghanistan since President Obama ordered the surge.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.