(Reuters) - President Barack Obama was set to unveil on Wednesday his plan to start bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan in a significant first step toward ending a decade-long war that is increasingly unpopular in the United States.
Obama will announce in a televised address at 8 p.m. EDT (midnight GMT) a plan to pull out 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by year's end, followed by about 23,000 more by the end of next summer, congressional aides told Reuters.
The announcement caps weeks of speculation about the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan nearly 10 years after the September 11 attacks that triggered the war in which Western forces have been unable to deal a decisive blow to the Taliban.
The United States is fighting alongside 47 NATO and non-NATO nations who plan to gradually transfer security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
Below are some facts about troop commitments from the main contributing nations in Afghanistan:
(For a full list, see http://www.isaf.nato.int/images/stories/File/Placemats/110606-isaf-placemat.pdf)
* THE UNITED STATES
- With around 100,000 troops, the United States has by far the largest force in Afghanistan, almost three times as large as it was when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.
In December 2009, Obama ordered an additional 30,000 troops, the last of whom arrived over the summer of 2010.
In January, the Pentagon said it was temporarily sending an additional 1,400 Marines in an effort to hold on to fragile security gains but overall U.S. troop levels would not surpass previously announced limits.
With at least 1,620 troops killed since the war started in 2001, the United States has also suffered the most casualties among the NATO members in Afghanistan.
- Britain has the second-biggest foreign troop contingent in Afghanistan with around 9,500 troops.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said last year British troops could start withdrawing in 2011 and that he wants British combat troops out of Afghanistan in five years. He has suggested British trainers could stay beyond 2015.
The war has become increasingly unpopular in Britain, especially after a spike in casualties last summer. However, British troops handed over some of the most violent areas in Helmand to the Americans last year as they consolidated numbers in the center of the province. This has led to a drop in British troop deaths, making the war easier for the public to stomach. Since 2001, over 370 British troops have been killed.
- Germany is the third-largest troop contributor with around 4,800 troops based in the north, which has seen a spike in violence over the past year. The war, which faces widespread opposition among Germans, has already brought down the chief of the armed forces, a cabinet minister and the president.
Germany had hoped to begin pulling troops out from the end of 2011 but has set no deadline for a complete withdrawal.
Lawmakers in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government say significant steps will have to be taken toward bringing troops home before the next federal election in 2013 but Berlin has also said it will provide support after 2014.
Over 50 German troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
- France has around 4,000 troops in Afghanistan and its defense minister, Alain Juppe, said last year the war was a "trap for all the parties involved there." France is expected to withdraw fully in 2014. More than 60 French troops have been killed since 2001.
- Italy has about 3,900 soldiers in Afghanistan, mainly based in the less violent west of the country. Italy's foreign minister has said Rome could start withdrawing troops this summer, with the aim of pulling all soldiers out by 2014.
Public opposition to the war came to a head last October when insurgents killed four Italian soldiers. At least 36 Italian troops have been killed since 2001.
- Canada has around 2,900 troops based in southern Kandahar province, where they have been involved in heavy fighting over the past few years. Over 150 troops have been killed and polls show the majority of Canadians oppose the mission.
Canada said it will end its military mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2011 but it will set up a 950-strong force to train Afghan soldiers and police from 2011 to 2014. A first group of trainers arrived in Afghanistan in May and more will follow until November.
- Poland has about 2,500 troops deployed in Afghanistan and faces growing public opposition to the war. At least 27 Polish soldiers have been killed since 2001. Last June, Warsaw said it would bring troops home by 2012 regardless of what other countries decided, prompting NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to urge Poland to "finish the job."
* THE NETHERLANDS
- The Netherlands became the first NATO ally to formally end its military mission in Afghanistan and withdrew its 2,000 troops from last August. The withdrawal came after the previous government collapsed in February 2010 after failing to agree on whether to extend its four-year mission. A total of 25 Dutch soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.
Since the start of June, 545 civilian and military staff have been training civilian police in the north of Afghanistan, mostly in the province of Kunduz. The mission, which includes 225 civilian and military trainers and 4 F-16 fighter planes, is scheduled to end by mid-2014.
* OTHER NATIONS
- A total of 48 nations -- most of them NATO members -- make up the foreign coalition in Afghanistan, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Other countries contribute anything from three soldiers, like Austria, to Turkey, which has around 1,800.
Public support for the war in those countries has also declined in recent years, especially in those which have suffered large numbers of troop deaths.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Editing by Eric Walsh and Todd Eastham)
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