First U.S. soldiers depart Afghanistan as drawdown begins.

An Afghan National Army artillery soldier fires a D-30 122mm…

An Afghan National Army artillery soldier fires a D-30 122mm Howitzer during a live-fire exercise April 26, 2011, in Paktika province, Afghanistan. Afghan soldiers were being trained in anticipation of a possible drawdown of U.S. troops beginning in July. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly K. Menzies/Released)

The first batch of departing U.S. soldiers left Afghanistan this week, beginning a drawdown of 10,000 American troops scheduled to leave by year’s end.

About 650 U.S. soldiers left the northeastern province of Parwan on Wednesday, according to Lt. Commander Colette Murphy, a spokeswoman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Military officials say this is the first group of soldiers whose redeployment will not be replaced by a new rotation of fresh troops.

Another 600 troops are in the process of leaving, Murphy said. Both groups are from the Iowa National Guard.

The remainder of a 33,000 U.S. troop surge — which began in 2009 — are expected to return home by the end of 2012, President Barack Obama has said.

Source: David Ariosto for CNN.

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