The last of the 33,000 ‘surge’ troops ordered into Afghanistan by President Barack Obama in 2009 have withdrawn from the country, returning the American presence to pre-surge levels, a senior U.S. defense official said on Friday.

The surge in American troops was designed to push back the Taliban and create space for NATO forces to build the Afghan army to a point where it could take over Afghanistan’s security, allowing for an eventual Western drawdown. …

The return of U.S. forces to pre-surge levels comes as NATO commanders wrestle with an upswing in “insider attacks” by Afghan forces turning their guns on Western troops.