Kabul: The US general leading the war in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, relinquished command on Monday, in a symbolic end to America’s longest conflict even as Taliban insurgents gain momentum. He transferred authority to General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, in a ceremony in Kabul on Monday.
Miller will become America’s last four-star general on the ground in Afghanistan in a ceremony in Kabul that will come ahead of a formal end to the military mission there on August 31, a date set by President Joe Biden. McKenzie, whose Florida-based Central Command oversees U.S. forces in hot-spots including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, flew into Kabul to underscore America’s future assistance to Afghan security forces.
“Admittedly, it’s going to be very different than it was in the past. I’m not going to minimize that,” McKenzie told a small group of reporters. “But we’re going to support them.” But he also cautioned that the Taliban, in his view, appeared to be seeking “a military solution” to a war that the United States has unsuccessfully tried to end with a peace agreement between the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government. He cautioned that provincial capitals were at risk but noted that the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces “are determined to fight very hard for those provincial capitals.”
Even after Miller steps down, McKenzie will still be able to authorise U.S. air strikes against the Taliban through August 31 in support of Ghani’s Western-backed government. But after that, the Marine general said when it came to U.S. strikes in Afghanistan, his focus will shift squarely to counter-terrorism operations against al Qaeda and Islamic State.
As he steps down, Miller, 60, has spent longer on the ground than any of the previous generals to command the war. He had a close call in 2018 when a rogue Afghan bodyguard in Kandahar province opened fire in and killed a powerful Afghan police chief standing near Miller. A U.S. brigadier general was wounded as were other Americans but Miller emerged unscathed. After Miller leaves the post, the Pentagon has engineered a transition that will allow a series of generals to carry on with supporting the Afghan security forces, mostly from overseas.
Beyond McKenzie’s overwatch from Florida, a Qatar-based brigadier general, Curtis Buzzard, will focus on administering funding support for the Afghan security forces – including aircraft maintenance support. In Kabul, Navy Rear Admiral Peter Vasely will lead a newly created U.S. Forces Afghanistan-Forward, focusing on protecting the embassy and airport.
Meanwhile, head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, who attended the event said that the Taliban cannot take over Afghanistan through military means. Hamdullah Mohib, the country’s national security adviser, said that the Taliban still maintain ties with al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, Wahid Omar, Director General at office of public and strategic Affairs of the Afghan government, emphasized on the escalation of violence and conflict in the country, saying that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are operating jointly and still have strong ties. “This is a relationship between two like-minded groups, two groups that believe in violence, believe in threats, believe in killing and believe in terrorism,” Omar told reporters on Monday. “On the surface, it is shown to be negligent, but in practice it has a great depth, and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are one, they think alike, they act alike, and they have one purpose.”
On the other hand, he added, the Taliban have imposed barbarism and terror on the people under their control. “Now is the time for all of us, as the pillars of a civilized society, to stand in a single line against this horror and their barbarism,” he said.
Also, US Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson tweeted, “I condemn the Taliban’s assaults on correctional facilities and assassination of prison officials working to ensure a safe and secure Afghanistan. Such actions show utter disregard for the rule of law and an intent to sow fear by releasing murderers, rapists, Daesh and other terrorists onto the Afghan public.”
In other news, the Foreign Ministry is aware of Taliban delegation’s trip to Turkmenistan. The trip has been scheduled at a time when the group’s attacks in recent months have caused the death of over 3,500 individuals and displacement of over 200,000 and disrupted normal life of the people and economic activities across several districts, said MoFA.
The MoFA appreciates all measures aimed to strengthen the peace process in Afghanistan, and believes that an end to fighting is possible only through political solution as a result of real peace negotiations.
The Afghan government appreciates the support of regional and international partners from the Afghan peace process and expects that these efforts should be focused on direct consultations with the Afghan government to strengthen regional and international consensus for provision of a ceasefire and an end to fighting and severing Taliban’s ties with regional terrorists.
Meanwhile, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan and Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Zamir Kabulov told TASS on Monday that what is unfolding in Afghanistan is alarming, yet Moscow had foreseen this course of events. “It is alarming yet predictable. What we’ve forecasted is happening,” he said in response to a corresponding question.
However, Deputy Commander of Iran’s Law Enforcement Police Forces Brigadier General Qassem Rezayee said that the US and other foreign forces deployed in Afghanistan are responsible for the long-term insecurity in the war-torn country. “The US-led colonial powers, with their illegitimate presence in the region, have created a terrible situation for the Afghan people,” General Rezayee said while visiting the Southeastern borders of Iran on Monday.
In other news, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) presented two epic songs, re-organized and re-sung by ANIM, to the ANDSF. Unveiling the songs at the Government Media and Information Center (GMIC), ANIM Head Ahmad Naser Sarmast said that the songs were re-sung by the symphony orchestra led by Qanbar Ali Noshad.
Sarmast hoped that the media would broadcast the songs during popular hours to fulfill their mission in order to raise the national spirit, resistance, and create unity and empathy in society. Noshad said that the epic songs have been reorganized and re-sung in support of ANDSF sacrifices, who are in the hotbeds of the battle against the enemies of the country and people.
President Ghani’s Senior Advisor and Director General of Office of Public and Strategic Affairs, Waheed Omar, emphasized on the effective role of music in society, and added that history has shown that in a state of war and oppression, coercion and violence, it is important to build and maintain moral, resistance and motivation. Omar appreciated ANIM’s work and added that all society has to fight for the country’s, children’s, women’s, and youths’ future so that all can have the right to work, get an education, and practice art, and everyone has the opportunity to do the work they are interested in within the framework of law.
This comes even as dozens of local residents of Khwaja Du Koh district, Jowzjan province, have picked up arms to fight the Taliban. Provincial council head Babur Ishchi said that he has mobilized over 100 local residents, to defend the district. Ishchi added that these forces will fight the Taliban anywhere across the province, if necessary, and that people’s forces are increasing on a daily basis. Those who have picked up arms in Khwaja Du Koh and Sheberghan vowed to defend their land under any circumstances.