WASHINGTON - The death of Osama bin Laden and growing pressure from Congress to shrink the US commitment and expense in Afghanistan have given new impetus to those in the Obama administration who favour a swift reduction of US forces.
The US would withdraw 70,000 troops from Afghanistan during the next three years and rely increasingly on Special Forces in plans being discussed by the White House.
Commanders are said to be proposing President Barack Obama begin the withdrawal by pulling out up to 10,000 troops by the end of this year.
There are now 100,000 US troops in the country.
But the commander of British forces in Afghanistan, looking ahead to the handover of security to local forces in 2014, has warned that ''now is not the time to blink''.
General James Bucknall, who is also second in command of the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), spoke amid growing unease in Kabul about the possible withdrawal of troops.
He warned that the Taliban would ''come back at us as hard as they can'' in the northern summer and that the insurgency would not have ended by the end of 2014.
''We have only really been playing this sensibly, or properly, with the right resources from last year,'' he said.
Abdullah Abdullah, a former presidential candidate, said a premature or hasty with- drawal would lead to ''chaos''.
The US has become increasingly reliant on Special Forces troops in the past 12 months, with General David Petraeus crediting raids against militant leaders with helping to blunt Taliban momentum.
Advocates of Special Forces have been emboldened by the success of the bin Laden raid.
Leon Panetta, the CIA director nominated to replace Robert Gates as Defence Secretary, is also said to favour use of Special Forces and unmanned drones rather than large numbers of troops. (Agencies)