Obama gave commanders leeway on July pullout

By ROBERT BURNS | June 26, 2011 | 1:45 PM EDT

President Barack Obama visits with soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, many of whom have just returned from Afghanistan, Thursday, June 23, 2011, in Fort Drum, N.Y. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials say that when President Barack Obama promised that American forces would begin leaving Afghanistan in July, he gave commanders the power to decide details such as how many troops would go home first.

Providing that leeway is important to Army Gen. David Petraeus (peh-TRAY'-uhs), the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. It lets him pace this year's phase of the pullout in a way that preserves combat power through the end of the current fighting season in October or November.

Obama said Wednesday he was ordering 10,000 U.S. troops home by year's end and that 23,000 more would leave by September 2012.

He did not say how many would go next month.