ISLAMABAD— U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford took charge of the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan at a change of command ceremony in Kabul Sunday. In an emotional speech during the transfer, outgoing U.S. commander General John Allen said he believes “Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven to terrorists” because of the gains the country has made with the help of international partners.
The change of command ceremony took place at the Kabul headquarters of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and was attended by foreign and top Afghan officials.
General Joseph Dunford assured outgoing commander General John Allen that the coalition will remain focused on accomplishing its Afghan mission.
“I will endeavor to continue the momentum of the campaign and support the people of Afghanistan as they seize the opportunity for a brighter future," said Dunford. " Today we are saying good-by to our great commander and we change the command. But today is not about change, it is about continuity. What is not changed is the will of this coalition.”
General Dunford is expected to be the last commander of the coalition established to counter the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, now in its 11th year. The American commander will oversee the withdrawal of most foreign troops from the country by December of 2014, when NATO’s combat mission ends.
Earlier, the outgoing commander, General Allen, in his speech expressed optimism that the achievements Afghanistan has made in the past decade have put the nation on a road to progress. He underlined the role of Afghan security forces in sustaining the gains as they are expected to take over security responsibility for all of Afghanistan by the middle of this year.
“This (Taliban) insurgency will be defeated overtime by the legitimate and well-trained Afghan forces that are emerging today…Afghan forces defending Afghan people and enabling the government of this country to serve its citizens, this is victory," said Allen. "This is what winning looks like.”
Referring to proxy wars neighboring and regional countries have been staging in Afghanistan, General Allen stated the war-ravaged nation is no longer the place for those rivalries.
“I believe that in ten years Afghanistan will never again be the place between empires caught in the grindstone of international politics," said Allen. "And I believe that Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven to terrorists that will oppress the precious people of this country and be the scourge and the plague of the world.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai did not attend Sunday’s ceremony despite receiving an official invitation.