- Title: AFGHANISTAN: U.S. secret operations leader takes Afghan command
- Date: 13th June 2009
- Summary: KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (JUNE 15, 2009) (REUTERS) SOLDIERS BEARING FLAGS AT COMMAND CEREMONY AT THE ISAF HEADQUARTERS IN KABUL VARIOUS OF NATO SOLDERS SALUTING AT THE COMMAND CEREMONY / "STARS AND STRIPES" BEING PLAYED
- Embargoed: 1st July 2009 15:05
- Location: Afghanistan
- Country: Afghanistan
- Topics: War / Fighting,Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA5ANCJDQGCJJ3SWEQO571881ZM
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: A new commander of special operations takes charge of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
A veteran commander of top-secret special operations took charge of the nearly 90,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Monday (June 15), promising to shield Afghans from civilian casualties that have cost Western troops support.
"The Afghan people are at the centre of our mission. In reality, they are the mission. We must protect them from violence, whatever its nature. We must respect their religion and their traditions. Each of us, from rifleman to regional commander, from village to city, must execute our mission with the realization that displaying respect, cultural sensitivity, accountability and transparency are essential to gaining the support and trust of the Afghan people. If we gain that trust, we can not lose. If we lose that trust, we can not win," U.S. General Stanley McChrystal said at a ceremony on the lawn of NATO's Kabul headquarters.
He was presented with a flag of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force by a German army general representing the alliance.
A uniformed U.S. military band played the Afghan and U.S. national anthems beneath flags of NATO countries, flying at half staff in honour of fallen troops.
Repeating a theme that has become a mantra of U.S. counter-insurgency strategy, McChrystal said the foreign troops needed to earn the "support and trust of the Afghan people".
He arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday (June 14) after winning backing from European allies, a month after being named by President Barack Obama to succeed General David McKiernan, abruptly removed from command of a war U.S. officials said was not being won.
On arrival, McChrystal met Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who pressed him to avoid civilian casualties, Karzai's office said.
McChrystal takes command midway through a massive build-up of U.S. forces which will see their numbers more than double from 32,000 at the end of 2008 to 68,000 by the end of this year. He also commands about 30,000 troops from other NATO allies.
Washington considers Taliban-led insurgencies in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan to be its main security threat, and is diverting tens of thousands of troops to Afghanistan from Iraq.
U.S. forces say the number of insurgent attacks in Afghanistan is at its highest since the militants were driven out of power in retaliation for shielding Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States nearly eight years ago.
Fighting is expected to intensify over the next months as more troops are deployed ahead of an August presidential election.
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