President Obama prepares for US troop withdrawal in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan

Reports say the president will likely announce sometime in June how many troops will start coming home. Roughly 100,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan. American forces are expected to remain there through 2014.

However in an interview Monday night, the president said with respect to Afghanistan that it was, "time to recognize that we've accomplished a big chunk of our mission."

Meantime, the United Nations said Tuesday it is considering creating separate terrorism blacklists for al Qaeda and the Taliban, a political gesture that could spur possible Afghan peace talks.

The U.S. and Afghan governments have said that they are willing to reconcile with Taliban members who renounce violence, embrace the Afghan constitution and sever ties with al Qaeda. Making two separate lists would symbolically delink the Taliban from al Qaeda, recognizing their different agendas.

Al Qaeda is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious state in the Muslim world, while Afghan Taliban militants have focused on their own country and have shown little interest in attacking targets outside Afghanistan.

Some nations, however, are still undecided about whether to embrace the idea of splitting the list. All committee members must vote in favor for it to be approved. It's unclear, for instance, whether it will be approved by Russia, which has expressed reluctance in the past to approve requests to delist Taliban members.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been making peace overtures to members of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan for five years and sheltered al Qaeda before being driven out of power in the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. The Taliban have long demanded removal from the sanctions list to help promote reconciliation.

The current U.N. sanctions list for both al Qaeda and the Taliban includes about 450 people, entities and organizations, including roughly 140 with links to the Taliban.

The Afghan government already has asked a U.N. panel to take about 50 Taliban figures off the sanctions list, which keeps them subject to an asset freeze and travel ban. The committee will rule on many of these requests next week.

Meanwhile, authorities said insurgents kidnapped and killed an Afghan provincial council chief from one of seven areas NATO plans to hand over to Afghan security forces in July. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last month that plans to transfer control remained on course, despite recent bombings and assaults by insurgents in the areas.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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