The commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan gives up leadership

Another important step in the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan: The commander of US and NATO forces in the country, General Austin Scott Miller, relinquished his command on Monday.

The basics in brief

  • An important step towards the end of the international military mission.

Miller was the highest-ranking NATO military officer stationed in Afghanistan.

At a ceremony in Kabul, Miller handed over his duties to General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the Florida-based US Army Central Command (Centcom). The remaining US operations in Afghanistan are now governed not locally, but by the United States. Centcom coordinates US military activities in 20 countries in the Middle East, Central and South Asia.

Miller has commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan since September 2018. He has now called this mission “the pinnacle of my military career.” Presenting the coalition flag to McKenzie in a symbolic act, Miller said the Afghan people will be “in my heart and in my thoughts” for the rest of their lives.

Miller survived an attack by the extremist Islamist Taliban movement in 2018. A senior Afghan government official who had met with the US general was killed in the attack.

McKenzie stressed that the US military will continue to support the Afghan government after his departure. In the future, this will be done “from bases outside Afghanistan”. In Afghanistan itself, only about 650 US troops will be deployed in the future, and they are responsible for protecting US diplomatic institutions.

The handover ceremony took place between the American generals inside the heavily guarded “Green Zone” in the Afghan capital. It was attended by high-ranking officials of the Afghan government and the army.

In parallel with the withdrawal of foreign forces, the Taliban have recently occupied more and more areas in Afghanistan. The rebels have captured several provinces and important border crossings in recent weeks.

According to its own information, the Taliban has already occupied 85 percent of the country since the start of the withdrawal of all NATO forces at the end of April. They control about 250 of Afghanistan’s nearly 400 districts – a representation that cannot be independently verified and is rejected by the government in Kabul.

The US military handed over its main base at Bagram to the Afghan Armed Forces in early July. The complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan must be completed by the end of August. The German army has not been in Afghanistan since the end of June.

Despite the Taliban’s advance, US President Joe Biden defended his decision in favor of a speedy troop withdrawal from Afghanistan last week. He said that since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States has “achieved” its goals in the fight against terrorism in the Hindu Kush.

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