KABUL (AFP/Reuters) - The first American soldiers of about 10,000 due to leave Afghanistan this year have flown home, military officials said Friday, kicking off a gradual drawdown due to be completed in 2014. US President Barack Obama in June announced that 33,000 American troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of next summer, leaving behind 65,000 and effectively ending a military surge ordered into the country late 2009. Around 650 US army troops deployed northwest of the capital in the province of Parwan flew out on Wednesday and will not be replaced by an incoming unit, the US military confirmed Friday. Its correct that these soldiers are the first to redeploy from Afghanistan without being replaced by a new rotation of soldiers since the presidents announcement, said US army press officer Major Michael Wunn. US officers have said that a total of about 800 soldiers in two Army units will depart this month. The speed of the drawdown has been heavily criticised in Washington liberals wanted more, Republican hawks complained it was too fast and top Pentagon officials felt snubbed for having much of their advice overruled. The units that left were the Army National Guards 1st Squadron, 134th Cavalry Regiment, based in Kabul, and the Army National Guards 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, which had been in neighboring Parwan province. Afghan security forces are to take over security responsibility from foreign forces in seven areas of the country this summer. Afghan forces will then take the lead in securing the entire country by the end of 2014. These units were always scheduled to return home at this time. However, it wasnt until late last month that they found out they wouldnt be replaced by incoming units, said Wunn. US officers have said that with no major troop withdrawals until later in the year, US commanders will have virtually the entire surge force on the ground through the summer fighting season. There are currently around 150,000 US-led foreign troops on the ground in Afghanistan, including about 99,000 Americans. A Marine unit fighting in southern Helmand province, the 3rd battalion of the 4th Marine Regiment, will pull out between November and December. Underscoring the high level of violence still affecting the southern provinces, Helmand provincial government announced that five civilians had been killed on Thursday in a Taliban mine blast. And the number of civilian casualties from the war that began with a US-led invasion in late 2001 has risen by 15 per cent in the first six months of 2011, the UN has said, putting the year on track to be the deadliest in a decade. Both the top US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said Obamas withdrawal plan was more aggressive than they had recommended. Yet voters at home are tiring of the nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan and the ballooning costs of the conflict have become an increasingly controversial in Western capitals battling with the fallout of recession. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said last week that his focus was on handing over security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, visiting Afghanistan for the first time since taking up his new job. Nevertheless, there is huge scepticism over the ability of Afghan army and police to take responsibility for warding off the Taliban-led insurgency amid widespread illiteracy and attrition among the ranks. Panetta acknowledged that there remained a lot more work to do in terms of being able to transition the responsibility to them. Although extra US troops ordered into southern Afghanistan have made security gains there, the situation in the east of the country bordering Pakistan has deteriorated. Late last month, insurgents staged a brazen raid on the Kabul Intercontinental hotel, killing 12 people and raising fresh questions about whether Afghan forces are ready to assume responsibilities as US forces pull out.