American troop levels in Afghanistan should drop by another 10,000 service members over the next three months, said III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. Scott C. Schroeder.
The Phantom Corps has served as the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command headquarters since deploying in April, making it responsible for all NATO ground troops in the country.
There are currently about 44,000 American service members in the country including roughly 6,000 from Fort Hood, Schroeder said during a phone interview from Kabul on Tuesday.
“That’s one of the reasons we sent Fort Hood troopers home earlier than expected,” Schroeder said, referring to the early homecoming of about 250 Fort Hood soldiers over the weekend. The corps also hopes to get down to the size of the contingency unit coming from Fort Bragg, N.C.’s XVIII Airborne Corps, which will replace it in early spring.
With the help of 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Schroeder said the corps also oversaw the closure of dozens of forward operating bases and outposts.
Of the 200 bases open when the corps arrived in Afghanistan, 127 either were closed or transferred to the Afghans.
“That’s a lot of work,” Schroeder said. “That’s really what (2nd Brigade) came to (do). They’ve had a big impact working that mission and helping close those bases and securing them while they’re closed, and moving equipment back to larger hubs.”
Officials said the continued development of the Afghan National Security Forces has made the drawdown possible.
“We are transitioning to this functional advising and working in those lines to help the Afghans be successful,” Schroeder said. “They’re executing unilateral unit operations on their own and they are doing OK.”
President Barack Obama ordered the combat mission in Afghanistan to end in 2014, and talks are currently underway to determine what involvement the U.S. will have beyond then.