US General David Petraeus today formally assumed command of the 130,000-strong international force in Afghanistan at a time of rising casualties and growing scepticism about the direction of the nearly nine-year-old war.
Gen. Petraeus received two flags – one for the US and the other for Nato - during a ceremony attended by several hundred Nato and Afghan officials at a grassy area just outside coalition headquarters in Kabul.
Gen. Petraeus succeeds General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired last month for intemperate remarks he and his aides made to Rolling Stone magazine about Obama administration officials.
Yesterday, Gen Petraeus was at the US Embassy saying that cooperation between civilian and military efforts in Afghanistan “is not optional”.
During today‘s ceremony, Gen. Petraeus told the crowd: “We are in this to win.”
“We are engaged in a contests of wills,” he said. “We have arrived at a critical moment.
“Upfront I also want to recognise the enormous contributions of my predecessor, Gen Stanley McChrystal.” He said progress made reflects McChrystal’s “vision, energy and leadership”.
Speaking before Gen. Petraeus, Gen. Egon Ramms, German army commander for the Allied Joint Force Command, also praised the work of Gen. McChrystal, saying he took the coalition “forward at a very difficult time”.
Ramms lamented the deaths of civilians due to military operations by coalition forces, but said people should not forget the Afghan citizens who died at the hands of insurgents whose actions are “unlawful”.