U.S. military officials in Afghanistan say the first of about 10,000 troops due to leave the country this year have flown home -- kicking off a gradual drawdown that is due to be completed in 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced in June that 33,000 American troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of next summer, leaving behind 65,000 and effectively ending a military surge ordered into the country in late 2009.
The first withdrawal involved about 650 U.S. ground troops deployed northwest of the capital, Kabul, in the province of Parwan. They flew out on July 13 and will not be replaced by an incoming unit.
The departing troops were from the Iowa National Guard. Another contingent of military trainers from the Iowa National Guard are due to leave later this month. Their job is to be taken over by Afghan security forces.
compiled from agency reports