New US general takes NATO command in Afghanistan

June 15th, 2009 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Kabul, June 15 (DPA) US General Stanley A. McChrystal took command of NATO forces in the country Monday amid an upsurge of attacks by Taliban-led insurgents nearly eight years since their ouster.
The four-star general, who commanded the Special Forces in Iraq, replaced General David McKiernan during a low-profile ceremony at the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in central Kabul Monday morning, an alliance spokesman said.

General McKiernan was fired after less than a year in the job by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said the mission in Afghanistan needed “fresh thinking” and new approaches.

McChrystal will commander the largest foreign military forces in Afghanistan since the ouster of Taliban regime in late 2001. The total number of international forces will reach more than 90,000-strong after more than 20,000 additional US soldiers arrive in the country by summer.

Currently more than 70,000 international troops with 32,000 of them from 41 countries and the rest from the US are stationed in Afghanistan.

McChrystal arrived in Kabul Sunday and met Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his fortified presidential palace, Karzai’s office said in a statement.

The new NATO commander discussed the issue of civilian casualties caused by NATO forces with Karzai, which has caused friction between the Western-backed Afghan government and foreign forces.

“The measure of effectiveness will not be (the number of) enemy killed, it will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence,” McChrystal said in a statement issued by ISAF in Kabul.

US Central Command chief General David Petraeus, responsible for US military strategy in the Middle East and Central Asia, said Thursday that Taliban activity had reached record levels with more than 400 attacks including ambushes, suicide and roadside bombings last week.

Afghan Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar also said Sunday that the Taliban-led attacks were 40 percent higher last week than the previous week. He said more than 250 people, including Afghan civilians and security forces, but mostly insurgents, were killed in the violence last week.

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