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Gen. Petraeus assumes Command of ISAF
U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus emphasized the continuity of the counterinsurgency strategy as he assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force in front of the ISAF headquarters building, here.
Framed by towering pine trees, Petraeus was introduced by Germany Army Gen. Egon Ramms, the commander of NATO Allied Joint Force Command Headquarters Brunssum, in the Netherlands.
“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,” Petraeus said. “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,” Petraeus said. “We are engaged in a tough fight. After years of war, we have arrived at a critical moment. 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.
On the United States 234th birthday, the lawn in front of ISAF Headquarters was thronged with dignitaries and media as Petraeus spoke.
“We are engaged in a contest of wills” Petraeus said. “Our enemies are doing all that they can to undermine the confidence of the Afghan people. In so doing, they are killing and maiming innocent Afghan civilians on a daily basis.”
“Up front, I also want to recognize the enormous contributions of my predecessor, General Stan McChrystal,” Petraeus said. “We have all worked hard together over the past year-and-a-half to get the inputs right in Afghanistan. No one did more in helping to get the inputs right than General McChrystal. And the progress made in recent months, in the face of a determined enemy, is in many respects the result of the vision, energy, and leadership he provided during his time as COMISAF.
Petraeus arrived at his new headquarters in Kabul on Friday evening and has been getting briefings from his staff and meeting with key Afghan officials, to include Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.
“To our diplomatic and international civilian partners here today: We are all – civilian and military, Afghan and international – part of one team with one mission,” Petraeus said. “Indeed, we all recognize 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.”
The more than 140,000 international personnel from 47 nations assigned to ISAF 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.
“To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and civilians of ISAF and USFOR-A: I pledge to do all that I can to provide the best leadership, direction, and example that I can muster,” Petraeus said. “Your accomplishments this year have been impressive. Predictably, as we have sought to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and take away insurgent safe havens, the enemy has fought back. Recent months in Afghanistan have seen hard fighting and tough casualties. As we press on in our vital mission, we must continue our efforts to reduce the loss of innocent civilians to an absolute minimum.”
ISAF works to develop the capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces, and partners with the ANSF to reduce the capability and will of anti-government forces through nationwide counterinsurgency operations.
“To the many Afghan partners in uniform who have joined us this morning: Thanks for your tremendous courage and commitment,” Petraeus said. “Indeed, Afghan forces are now in the lead in Kabul and in a number of other areas. In such cases, Afghan units are the ‘supported’ forces, operating with assistance from ISAF to be sure, but already shouldering the responsibilities of leadership.”
The ISAF command synchronizes security efforts with ongoing improvements in governance and socio-economic development, in order to provide and environment for sustainable stability.
“To our Afghan partners: We will do all that we can to help you build a country free of the fear of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, a country in which all citizens can live in peace with one another and provide for themselves and their families,” Petraeus said. “Nothing has been easy in Afghanistan; however, we can all take heart from the progress that has been made on the security front and beyond.
“Indeed, seven million Afghan children are now in school, as opposed to less than one million a decade ago” Petraeus said. “Immunization rates for children are now in the seventy to ninety percent range nationwide. Cell phones are ubiquitous in a country that had virtually none during the Taliban days, though the Taliban seeks to deny their use. Kabul is a bustling, busy city, as are Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Jalalabad.”
Petraeus was nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 1.
Petraeus most recently served as the Commander of the U.S. Central Command and oversaw U.S. support to the NATO ISAF mission, which was mandated by the United Nations Security Council.
“Finally, to the people of Afghanistan: it is a great honor to be in your country and to lead ISAF,” Petraeus said. “I want to emphasize what a number of our country’s leaders recently affirmed – that our commitment to Afghanistan is an enduring one and that we are committed to a sustained effort to help the people of this country over the long-term. Neither you nor the insurgents nor our partners in the region should doubt that.
“We must demonstrate to the people and to the Taliban that Afghan and ISAF forces are here to safeguard the Afghan people, and that we are in this to win,” Petraeus said. “That is our clear objective.”
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