US-NATO forces get new commander

Kabul—U.S. Army General John W. “Mick” Nicholson took command Wednesday of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, inheriting America’s longest war and a vicious Talban-led insurgency.
Nicholson, 58, took over from U.S. Army General John F. Campbell, who oversaw the end of the international combat mission in 2014 and a subsequent escalation in the Taliban’s war against Kabul.
In a ceremony at the headquarters of the U.S.-NATO Resolute Support mission in Kabul, Nicholson thanked NATO representatives for standing by the U.S. after the September 11, 2001 attacks on “the homeland.”
To the “enemy,” he said: “I know you. You have brought only hardship and suffering to the Afghan people.”
Nicholson served in Afghanistan three times between 2006 and 2012. Most recently he was commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command in Izmir, Turkey.
He takes command of around 13,000 international troops, including 9,800 Americans, in Afghanistan. The RS mandate is focused on training and assisting Afghan forces as they take on the insurgency largely on their own.
Around 3,000 of the U.S. troops are engaged in counter-terrorism operations against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and —following a recent extension of their mandate by President Barack Obama — the Islamic State group, which has a nascent presence in some volatile regions of Afghanistan.
He takes control of the Afghan theater as the Taliban are extending their reach to previously peaceful areas, notably the northern provinces bordering the Central Asian states, and escalating the war in their southern heartland provinces.
At Wednesday’s ceremony, Nicholson told assembled guests — who included Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif — that he traveled to Helmand earlier this week. “I wanted to meet our leaders, look them in the eye, shake their hands and assure them of our commitment to this partnership and the importance of what they are doing,” he said, referring to Afghan leaders.—Agencies

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