Petraeus hands over control in Afghanistan
Monday, July 18, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Gen. David Petraeus handed over command of the Afghan war to Marine Gen. John Allen on Monday as the U.S. and its international partners prepare to withdraw over the next few years.
Petraeus, widely credited with turning the tide in Iraq, left to take over the CIA with his signature counterinsurgency strategy having yet to deliver a safer Afghanistan or push the Taliban to reconcile with the country’s Western-backed government.
Allen is known for helping turn Sunni insurgents against al-Qaida in Iraq in one of that war’s most pivotal stages. In Afghanistan, he will be tasked with the overseeing the start of the American troop withdrawal this month even as insurgents step up the violence and attacks on high-profile Afghans, including the assassination last week of President Hamid Karzai’s powerful half brother and the slaying of a close Karzai aid on Sunday.
Allen said the drawdown of U.S. forces and the transition of some areas to Afghan control this week does not mean international forces are easing up in their campaign to defeat the Taliban insurgency, though he acknowledged the fight won’t be easy.
“It is my intention to maintain the momentum of the campaign,” Allen said at the handover ceremony in the Afghan capital. “There will be tough days ahead. I have no illusions about the challenges.”
Allen, who takes command of about 130,000 U.S. and NATO troops, has said he supports President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw a third of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan by next year.
But Allen told a Senate hearing last month that the schedule set by Obama was more aggressive than the military had anticipated.