WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama ordered 33,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in late 2009, and his defense secretary seems to be endorsing commanders' desire to keep them there as long as possible next year.
Pentagon chief Leon Panetta says the initial 10,000 troops will leave by the end of this year as planned. He tells the House Armed Services Committee that the remaining 23,000 will depart by the "end of the fighting season" next year. That season easily can extend through October.
Obama's initial schedule had the 23,000 leaving by next summer.
The difference is slight, but it reflects the push by war commanders to keep U.S. troops fighting as long as they can. There are nearly 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including the 33,000 surge Obama ordered in December 2009.
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