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