The next big Afghan battle: How many troops to withdraw

One military officer said, “There still are some very significant differences of opinion.”…

The possibility that the skeptics may use the military’s upbeat reports to push for an accelerated reduction has alarmed some in the Pentagon, who question whether Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top coalition commander in Afghanistan, has been too vocal in his claims of progress this fall. “Kabul has been focused on December when the real battle in Washington will be later on,” a senior military official said…

Senior administration officials insist that political considerations will not play a decisive role in determining the pace of ending combat operations in Afghanistan, which is scheduled to be complete at the end of 2014. But one senior adviser said Obama and his party’s base agree “to the extent that Afghanistan is not a place the president wants to stay one day longer than he has to.”