NEW YORK - The United States military will begin the process of withdrawal from Afghanistan in July, as planned, starting with several thousand non-combat troops, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The move will fulfil a pledge President Barack Obama made when he committed 30,000 more service members to the war in late 2009, the newspaper said. The first Americans to come home from the war-ravaged country are expected to be engineers and support troops, rather than combat soldiers, as they face stiff challenge from insurgents. Engineers, whose job is done after building barracks, runways and dining halls for the surge forces, are prized by commanders. But their departure would not diminish the coalitions fighting power as significantly as sending home troops whose full-time mission is combat, the Times said. "And it is a sign that even as the United States trumpets progress in Afghanistan, commanders are not confident enough to begin withdrawing significant numbers of ground combat forces," it said. Officials said there would be no reduction this summer in combat troops in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces in the south, the location of some of the most intense fighting this year. Combat forces are likely to be shifted within those provinces, however. In Helmand Province, American troops could be moved from a stable area like Nawa and placed in the still-violent Taliban narcotics center of Sangin in the north and beyond toward the critical Kajaki Dam, the dispatch said. Commanders described this as a thinning of forces from less crucial areas and said it would allow engineers and other support personnel to be sent home first. But officials cautioned that a complicated assessment of troop numbers and mission priorities was still under way, and that no final decisions had been made. Next Monday, in the first step toward Afghans assuming responsibility for their own security, President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce the transfer of six areas to Afghan control: Bamian and Panjshir Provinces , the cities of Herat , Mazar-i-Sharif and Lashkar Gah, and much of the province around the Afghan capital of Kabul . Few United States forces are in those areas. The discussion about the way ahead in Afghanistan was certain to accelerate this week as General David Petraeus, the senior commander, was to testify before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday. Gen Petraeus has cited advances in the southern provinces, and he has said that American and NATO forces have been able to halt or reverse Taliban gains around Kabul and in the north and west of the country. Still, there are some in the administration who continue to advocate narrowing the mission to a campaign focused on counterterrorism missions, rather than the more expansive counterinsurgency effort.