Military personnel in Oklahoma say the president's announcement of a drawdown of nearly half the force in Afghanistan won't change any current orders given to soldiers there from the state.
President Barack Obama announced during his State of the Union speech Tuesday that 34,000 troops would be coming home from Afghanistan in the next year. Security responsibility is set to be handed over to Afghan troops by the end of 2014.
Fewer Oklahomans are stationed in Afghanistan than were in 2011 and 2012: The Oklahoma National Guard now has fewer than 500 troops there compared to 2011 and 2012 when nearly 3,000 soldiers were on the ground.
Less than 50 soldiers are there from Tinker Air Force Base, and about 1,300 are there from Fort Sill, military officials said.
Maj. Geoff Legler, with the Oklahoma National Guard, said the announcement is a first step, but how the drawdown will be implemented is unknown.
“As of today the announcement has no current effect on our operations,” Legler said.
“It's extremely hard to say what will happen.”
Much will depend on the situation in Afghanistan and when the Department of Defense officially ends combat operations there, he said.
Legler said troops continued to deploy to the Middle East even after the combat mission in Iraq ended in December 2011.
Maj. Lindy White, a public affairs officer for the Oklahoma National Guard, was deployed to Afghanistan with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in 2004 and in 2011. During the 2004 deployment she witnessed the election and inauguration of President Hamid Karzai.