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New Afghan War Commander Reports Progess Against Taliban

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NATO's newly appointed commander in Afghanistan, David Petraeus, has briefed officials at NATO headquarters about his plan for the Afghan mission.  Speaking at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, General David Petraeus said forces in Afghanistan are making progress against the Taliban.

"I think that there is no question but that the Taliban had the momentum, had the initiative if you will, coming into this year. And indeed, one of the real areas of focus has been to reverse that process and I think that process has been reversed in certain areas of Afghanistan," said Petraeus.

He added that the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan will remain the same under his command. And protecting civilian lives, the general said, remains a top priority.

"In a counter-insurgency the human terrain is the decisive terrain and therefore you must do everything humanly possible to protect the population and indeed again to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life."

The appointment of General Petraeus was unanimously confirmed Wednesday by the U.S. Senate.  He is expected to arrive at NATO headquarters in Kabul on Friday.

Petraeus replaces General Stanley McChrystal who was removed from the post last week after the publication of a controversial magazine report in which he and his aides were critical of top U.S. officials.

Speaking to the Senate Wednesday, General Petraeus said he would reassess - but not change - the rules of engagement in Afghanistan.  Some critics have said that current military operating rules put the lives of U.S. troops in danger. 

"There is no intent to change rules of engagement, it is to look very hard at how the rules and tactical directive are implemented and to ensure that there is even implementation across all units, instead of some unevenness that has crept in in some,"  Petreaus said.  

With 102 troops killed, June was the deadliest month during the course of nine years of war in Afghanistan.

Dan Plesch, director of the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at London's School of Oriental and African Studies, says some U.S. allies in Europe were upset because the Obama administration did not consult them over the change in command from General McChrystal to General Petraeus.

"Theoretically in a democratic alliance, the secretary general should have been involved.  But I think the White House saw this as a domestic U.S. issue and also needed to maintain confidentiality.  But it does point to what the realities are within the alliance, which is that in the end it is the U.S. that calls the shots and the others have to get along," said Plesch.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Afghan Taliban told the British Broadcasting Corporation that insurgents are winning the war in Afghanistan.  He also said the Taliban would not enter into negotiations with NATO.

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