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Combat mission over in Afghanistan by year's end, Obama says

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Under the president's plan there will be just 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year. (Source: CNN) Under the president's plan there will be just 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year. (Source: CNN)
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WASHINGTON, DC (CNN) - After more than 12 years of war, President Barack Obama has announced a new plan to wrap up America's military involvement in Afghanistan.

It calls for thousands of U.S. troops to remain in the country beyond the end of this year.

But, only if the Afghan government cooperates.

Declaring the combat mission in Afghanistan over by the end of the year, Obama laid out the final chapter for the nation's longest war.

"The bottom line is, it's time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.

Beyond 2014, a small, residual force will be limited to training Afghan fighters and counter-terror operations.

Under the president's plan there will be just 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year.

And about half that by 2016.

And embassy security only in the Afghan capital as Obama prepares to leave office.

Obama's proposal stops short of the full withdrawal he promised voters in 2012.

"We will have them all out of there by 2014," he said then.

But worried about a repeat of the bloodshed that followed the pullout from Iraq, U.S. military commanders pushed for a minimum of 10,000 troops.

And that plan, the top general in Afghanistan cautioned, won't be perfect.

"There would be an increased risk," said Gen. Joseph Dunford.

In a statement, three key GOP senators called the president's plan "a monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy."

The White House proposal hinges on a new security agreement with Afghan leaders.

Afghanistan's current President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign it, leaving it to the two men vying to replace him to seal the deal.

"The two final Afghan candidates in the runoff election for president have each indicated that they would sign this (agreement) after taking office. So I'm hopeful we can get this done," Obama said.

Without that security agreement, White House officials stress there will be no troops in Afghanistan after the end of this year.

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