Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Forces in Afghanistan Get a New Commander

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Forces in Afghanistan Get a New Commander

Article excerpt

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. of the U.S. Marines took charge of American and international forces in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. of the U.S. Marines took charge of American and international forces in Afghanistan on Sunday in a traditional change-of-command ceremony here, becoming the 15th general -- and probably the last -- to lead the international mission.

The International Security Assistance Force and the United States are set to wind down the fight in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, ending what has been America's longest war. While there probably will be successor foreign military forces on Afghan soil, they would involve a fraction of the troops now here and have a far narrower focus.

General Dunford succeeds Gen. John R. Allen of the Marines, who has been in charge for 19 months, making him one of the longest- serving commanders of the war.

Far from carrying out a perfunctory hand-off, General Allen struck a thoughtful and emotion-filled tone Sunday as he spoke about the price of the war for American and foreign troops, the persistence of the Taliban and their allies, and his growing belief since his arrival on July 18, 2011, that Afghanistan would succeed in becoming a country that can defend itself and its fledgling democracy.

He noted that although his wife and daughters could not attend the ceremony, "the Afghan people have become my family" -- a line that rang true coming from a someone who as much as any other commander reduced civilian casualties and who often personally apologized to President Hamad Karzai when Afghans died.

He then introduced two Afghan students he had met from a nearby high school, a girl and a boy, saying they were the future that the troops -- U.S., Afghan and international -- were fighting for.

Recalling his arrival in the country, he said, "Frankly, looking back to that day in July 2011, I did not have the sense of optimism that I have as I stand here today, an optimism and a very real sense of knowing that we will be victorious. …

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