Afghanistan – General Petraeus assumes command of ISAF forces

As General David Petraeus takes over command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan the strategy for defeating insurgency in the country has been reaffirmed.

US Embassy in Kabul
US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry (right), and new ISAF Commander, General David Petraeus (centre), at the US Embassy in Kabul
Source: Staff Sergeant Bradley Lail, United States Air Force
Click to enlarge

General Petraeus emphasised the continuity of the counter-insurgency strategy as he assumed command, and NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, insisted that this was a change of command, not a change of strategy, and that all 46 nations had reaffirmed their full support to the mission.

The Secretary General said over the weekend:

„We will all continue the current strategy to take on the Taliban politically and militarily in their heartland, to gradually transfer lead security responsibility to the Afghans, and to help the Government of Afghanistan in providing good governance and delivering basic services to the Afghan people.“

General Petraeus added:

„As President Obama and NATO Secretary General Rasmussen have noted, my assumption of command represents a change in personnel, not a change in policy or strategy.

„To be sure, I will, as any new commander should, together with ISAF, Afghan and diplomatic partners, examine our civil-military effort to determine where refinements might be needed.

„I feel privileged to be joining this critical effort at such a pivotal time. We are engaged in a tough fight. After years of war, we have arrived at a critical moment.

ISAF forces in Afghanista
General David Petraeus assumes command of ISAF forces in Afghanistan during a ceremony on Sunday 4 July 2010 at the command’s headquarters in Kabul
Source: Lieutenant Commander Doug Houser, United States Navy
Click to enlarge

„We must demonstrate to the Afghan people, and to the world, that Al-Qaeda and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on the Afghan people and on freedom-loving nations around the world.

„And with the surge in ISAF forces and the growth of our Afghan partners, we have a new opportunity to do just that.“

General Petraeus arrived at his new headquarters in Kabul on Friday 2 July 2010 and has been getting briefings from his staff and meeting with key Afghan officials, including Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and the US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry:

„We are all – civilian and military, Afghan and international – part of one team with one mission,“ General Petraeus said.

„Indeed, we all recognise the grave threat that the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the associated ’syndicate‘ of extremists pose to this country, to this region, and to the world. We cannot accomplish our mission without working together.“

General Petraeus has also written a letter to more than 140,000 international personnel from all the nations assigned to ISAF to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in its efforts to protect the Afghan people and to secure its territory from violent extremists who pose a transnational threat.

In the letter General Petraeus wrote:

Camp Leatherneck
The handover ceremony at Camp Leatherneck signifying Regional Command (South West)’s assumption of command of all international forces in South West Afghanistan
Source: Sergeant Heidi Agostini, United States Marine Corps
Click to enlarge

„We serve in Afghanistan at a critical time. With the surge in ISAF strength and the growth of Afghan forces, we and our Afghan comrades have a new opportunity.

„Together, we can ensure that Afghanistan will not once again be ruled by those who embrace indiscriminate violence and transnational extremists, and we can ensure that Al-Qaeda and other extremist elements cannot once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on our homelands and of the Afghan people.“

See Related Links for the full text of the letter.

General Petraeus most recently served as the Commander of the US Central Command and oversaw US support to the NATO ISAF mission, which was mandated by the United Nations Security Council.

Meanwhile, the newly-formed Regional Command (South West) raised the NATO flag during a ceremony signifying the unification of all international security forces in South West Afghanistan yesterday.

Governor Gulab Mangal of Helmand province and Governor Ghulam Dastagir Azad of Nimruz province attended the ceremony along with senior government officials from the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, the Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF partners.

Regional Command (South West) is responsible for international security operations in the Helmand and Nimruz provinces in South West Afghanistan.

Along with the Afghan Government and security forces, six other nations contribute to Regional Command (South West) to bring security to the region. These nations include the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Georgia, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Republic of Estonia.

The rotational command is currently taken by the US Marine Corps under the leadership of Major General Richard Mills.

Press release
Ministry of Defence, UK