NATO's Afghanistan force gets new U.S. commander

KABUL Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:47pm IST

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, November 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed/Files

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, expected to oversee the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year, took control of the NATO-led mission on Sunday, in an elaborate ceremony which emphasised the country's sovereignty.

Dunford takes over from U.S. Marine General John Allen, who ended a 19-month tour which was arguably one of the most difficult periods in the war, now in its eleventh year.

"Today is not about change, it's about continuity. What has not changed is the will of this coalition," Dunford told a crowd of foreign and Afghan officials in the barricaded headquarters of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was absent from the change of command ceremony despite receiving an invitation from ISAF. A spokesman for Karzai declined to comment.

Allen, who directed ISAF's transfer of most security across the country to the Afghan army and police, delivered an emotional speech stressing the nation's sovereignty, an issue that has been a thorn in Karzai's relationship with his Western backers.

"Afghanistan is no longer the place between empires," Allen said, referring to a country where "imperial ambition and dynamics have played out ... for generation after generation".

Located between Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia, Afghanistan has been subject to invasions since the ancient Greeks, through to the 19th century "Great Game" scramble for power between Britain and Russia and the last more than 30 years of conflict.

Allen also underlined the role of the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces, who are expected to take over responsibility for all security by the middle of the year.

"Afghan forces (are) defending Afghan people and enabling the government of this country to serve its citizens. This is victory. This is what winning looks like," Allen said from a podium covered in an Afghan rug to enthusiastic applause.

Allen also stressed the role education is playing in changing the tide of public opinion in Afghanistan against Taliban insurgents, who banned girls from most schools. He earlier told Reuters that advancing women's rights was key to preventing the Islamist group from regaining support.

The White House said last month it would nominate Allen as NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, after the Pentagon cleared him of professional misconduct over emails to a Florida socialite linked to a scandal that led his predecessor, David Petraeus, to resign as director of the CIA. (Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

DIPLOMACY

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Japan Trip

Japan Trip

Modi eyes breakthrough nuclear pact on Japan trip.  Full Article 

India Beat England

India Beat England

Raina lashes down as India thrash sorry England.  Full Article 

Political Pulse

Political Pulse

Modi slams whispering campaign against Rajnath Singh.  Full Article 

Badaun Hanging Case

Badaun Hanging Case

Suspects in UP teen-hanging case may walk free, for now: source.  Full Article 

Mideast Conflict

Mideast Conflict

Gaza truce holding but Israel's Netanyahu under fire at home.  Full Article 

E-Commerce Investment

E-Commerce Investment

Ratan Tata invests in online retailer Snapdeal.  Full Article 

Coal Allocations

Coal Allocations

India's coal crunch - a chance to revamp, reallocate and revive.  Full Article 

Pakistan Protests

Pakistan Protests

Pakistan's prime minister resolved to ride out protests crisis.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage