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    US Gen. Dunford takes the helm

    KABUL (PAN): Tasked with bringing forces home and overseeing the transfer of security duties to Afghan forces, US Gen. Joseph Dunford on Sunday assumed command of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan from Gen. John Allen during a special change of command ceremony at ISAF headquarters in Kabul amid tight security.

    Likely to be the last commander of the United States’ longest war, Marine General Dunford, takes the helm as the Taliban’s bloody insurgency against President Hamid Karzai’s government and foreign forces continues to persist.

    Allen, who leaves to become the alliance’s supreme commander in Europe, said: “We will be victorious.” He said victory over the insurgency led by the Taliban would “never be marked by a date, a point in time in the calendar” but insisted the effort would prevail. “The insurgency will be defeated over time by legitimate and well-trained Afghan forces,” he said.

    “Afghan forces defending Afghan people and enabling the government of this country to serve its citizens — this is victory, this is what winning looks like.”

    Dunford, a 35-year veteran of the US Marine Corps, said his assumption of command meant continuity not change, and insisted “what has not changed is the inevitability of our success”.

    The outgoing Allen was the fourth ISAF commander under US President Barack Obama, and his 19-month tenure was punctuated by a series of crises, from the accidental burning of Qurans at a US base to images of US soldiers urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters.

    There was also controversy about Allen’s own conduct after he became embroiled in the sex scandal that brought down David Petraeus, the CIA director — and Allen’s predecessor as ISAF chief.

    The Pentagon exonerated Allen last month over emails he sent to a woman tied to the Petraeus affair, which defence officials had said were potentially “inappropriate”.

    But perhaps the most difficult aspect of Allen’s time at the head of ISAF has been the surge in so-called “green on blue” insider attacks, in which Afghan security forces turn their weapons on their NATO allies.

    Reports last month citing the US Defense Department suggested that between 3,000 and 9,000 troops would stay to focus on preventing Al-Qaeda, which was sheltered by the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, from regaining a foothold in Afghanistan.

    The number of foreign soldiers battling the Taliban-led insurgency has already fallen to 100,000 from about 150,000. Of those, 66,000 are US troops, down from a maximum of about 100,000.

    mm/ma



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