Gen Miller takes over NATO and US forces command in Kabul

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KABUL: The U.S. Military General Austin Scott Miller took over the command of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission and the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.
The former NATO and U.S. forces Commander Gen. John Nicholson handed over the command to Gen. Miller during a ceremony organized in Kabul Sunday.
Speaking during the change of command ceremony in Resolute Support headquarters, Gen. Miller hailed the NATO and Afghan partners for their sacrifices in the past 17 years.
Gen. Miller emphasized on the need for a sustainable solution to end the ongoing violence in Afghanistan.
Addressing guests, Afghanistan’s newly appointed national security adviser Mohib said: “I want to pay tribute to the courageous Afghan and American soldiers, and brave soldiers of all NATO nations who have sacrificed for peace and stability in Afghanistan and their home countries.”
He told Miller, government stands “shoulder to shoulder to fight the enemies of freedom and justice. Together we will eliminate the menace of terrorism from Afghanistan and the region.”
“But we will not get there without the support of our partners and friends, foremost the United States. It’s a gift that Afghanistan has so many friends and supporters in the United States and on behalf of the Afghan people, I thank you for your support.
He also said: “We are building today in Afghanistan what we hope to leave for our children-the right to justice, freedom of speech, an education and healthcare; the right to make individual decisions yet uphold the closeness of family and community.
“America has earnest partners in this generation, not just in our shared mission of defeating the threat of global terrorism, but in a vision of shared values and principles.
Mohib also said: “General Miller, you take command of RS when there is a generational change happening in Afghanistan; a generation of young leaders born and raised in war, who see it as an ill that has destroyed our society and economy. This generation is not here to build empire or militias.
Mohib also hailed the outgoing commander and said: “During your time as commander you helped the ANDSF mature into a professional force now leading the fight against the insurgents. I want to assure you that we will continue to build upon your great work.
Attending the ceremony were high-ranking officials from the Afghan government including Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib.
Other VIP guests including the head of UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, along with ambassadors and other dignitaries.
The Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak, National Security Adviser Dr. Hamdullah Mohib, and some other senior Afghan officials had also participated in the change of command ceremony.
Other high level dignitaries included the UNAMA Chief, Ambassadors, and the commander of the US Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel.
In his speech during the ceremony, Gen. Votel hailed Gen. Nicholson for his services and said NATO remains committed to eliminate the terrorist groups in Afghanistan.
Miller has meanwhile received a number of messages of support – including one from NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.
The NATO chief tweeted Sunday: “Looking forward to working closely with our new @ResoluteSupport Commander Lt Gen Miller. I thank Gen Nicholson for his outstanding service. #NATO remains committed to supporting #Afghan security forces as they create the conditions for lasting security & peace.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also tweeted on Sunday saying: “On behalf of the American people, special thank you to @Commander RS GEN Nicholson for his 2+ years of service leading @NATO in #Afghanistan. Congrats to GEN Miller who I look forward to working with as @ResoluteSupport’s next commander.”
Also among the guests was commander of United States Central Command Gen Joseph Votel and former Afghan national security adviser Hanif Atmar.
Meanwhile, Russia is not giving up on efforts to destabilize Afghanistan and drive divisions between the United States and its coalition partners, according to the outgoing commander of U.S. forces in the country.
The commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and of Operation Resolute Support, General John Nicholson, stepped down Sunday after serving in the position for more than two years.
But before relinquishing command, he took time to cast doubts on Russia’s intentions in the region, despite recent overtures from Moscow to help the Taliban reconcile with the Afghan government.
“We know that Russia is attempting to undercut our military gains and years of military progress in Afghanistan, and make partners question Afghanistan’s stability,” Nicholson said in an email to Voice of America, following on questions from his August 22 briefing with Pentagon reporters.
“It is no secret that Russia seeks any opportunity it can find to drive a wedge between the United States and our Central Asian partners, including Afghanistan,” Nicholson added.
U.S. and Afghan officials have previously accused Russia of meddling in Afghanistan by providing Taliban insurgents with both weapons and training.
Moscow has rejected the allegations, saying it has only political ties with the Taliban. Still, Russia has faced growing suspicion from the U.S. and its allies, who say the Kremlin has been increasingly working to expand its influence in Afghanistan and beyond.
Most recently, the U.S. and Russia have been competing over efforts to kick-start peace negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
Russia was set to host both parties, along with the U.S. and other countries, for talks starting September 4, but was forced to postpone after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declined the invitation.
The U.S. also has been hoping for talks between the government and the Taliban.
“We talk about an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process,” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said during a briefing with reporters this past week. “We believe that the best way to get there is to ensure Taliban recognizes they can’t win on the battlefield, they must negotiate.”
But while U.S. officials have touted what they see are signs of progress, including increased support for a peace process from various sectors of the Afghan population, the government’s recent cease-fire offer to the Taliban appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials have been angered by what they see as Russian efforts to derail peace and stabilization efforts with disinformation campaigns.
Just over a week ago, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova raised concerns about “unidentified” helicopters flying missions in support of fighters for the Islamic State terror group, also known as IS-Khorasan or IS-K, in the northern Sar-e-Pul province, suggesting the U.S. and NATO might be responsible.
“Who is arming the terrorists and secretly creating their bases?” she asked. “Why is this happening if NATO command is effectively in control of Afghanistan’s airspace?”
Pentagon officials rejected the suggestion of U.S. or NATO involvement as “completely untrue,” noting it was not the first time Moscow had levied such charges.
“As they [Russia] perpetuate false narratives about ISIS-K, the United States and the Afghan Special Security Forces eliminated the Jowzjan ISIS-K enclave and are killing ISIS-K leaders and fighters in Nangarhar,” Nicholson said in his statement to VOA.
Still, the outgoing commander said he held out hope Russia could play a constructive role.
“We have shared interests with Russia in Afghanistan – peace, counterterrorism and counternarcotics,” Nicholson said. “We hope to see Russia support Afghanistan and the NATO-led coalition in these areas going forward.” – NNI

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