Tue, Jul 19, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Petraeus relinquishes command of Afghanistan

Reuters, KABUL

US General David Petraeus, Washington’s new intelligence chief, handed over command of US and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan yesterday, a day after a tentative start was made to a gradual process of transferring security to Afghan forces.

Petraeus, credited with reversing a spiral toward civil war in Iraq, took over in Afghanistan on July 4 last year and is leaving the military to take over as director of the CIA as part of a wider shake-up of senior US security officials.

Petraeus oversaw a “surge” of 30,000 extra US forces, which helped stop the momentum of a growing insurgency, especially in the Taliban heartland in the south.

However, despite gains in violent southern provinces during Petraeus’ year in charge, the -Taliban-led insurgency is still far from quelled.

Violence across Afghanistan last year hit its worst levels since the Taliban were ousted by US-led Afghan forces in 2001, with civilian and military casualties hitting record levels, and this year has followed a similar trend.

“We should be clear-eyed about the challenges that lie ahead,” Petraeus said at a ceremony to mark the change of command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to US Marine Corps General John Allen.

Underlining those challenges, ISAF said yesterday three of its troops had been killed by a homemade bomb in Afghanistan’s east, where some of the toughest fighting has taken place over the past year and where a fractured insurgency still rages.

While some analysts have questioned the success of Petraeus’ much-vaunted counter--insurgency strategy in the face of rising -violence, Allen vowed to press on, but also warned of the challenges ahead.

“It is my intention to maintain the momentum of this great campaign on which we have embarked,” Allen said. “There will be tough days ahead.”

On Sunday, ISAF handed security control over to Afghan forces in central Bamiyan Province, marking the start of a gradual transition process that will end with all foreign combat troops leaving Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

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