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Obama deciding on size of initial Afghanistan troop withdrawal

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The president will hold a video conference Wednesday with the Afghan leader
  • The troop withdrawal will begin next month, as planned, the White House says
  • "This is a step along the way of implementing" the withdrawal agreement, Carney says

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama will hold a video conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday, but has yet to reach a decision on the size and scope of the U.S. troop withdrawal that will begin next month, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

Carney told reporters that the troop withdrawal will begin in July, as planned. What remains undecided are the number and kinds of U.S. force members coming home, he said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on his final visit to Afghanistan before stepping down at the end of June, said over the weekend that he believes as many combat forces as possible should remain in Afghanistan for as long as possible.

Carney said Obama is consulting with Gates and his military leaders on the topic, including a regular meeting Monday with top government and military officials on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Everyone agrees that the withdrawal from Afghanistan should begin next month as called for in the strategy the president announced in 2009, Carney said.

"There is not a lot of debate about this," Carney said. "This is not a reopening of a process that was concluded in 2009."

He added: "The policy decision has been made. This is a step along the way of implementing that policy."

CNN's Dan Lothian contributed to this story.