KABUL - General David Petraeus, Washington's new intelligence chief, handed over command of U.S. and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan Monday, a day after a tentative start was made to a gradual process of transferring security to Afghan forces. Petraeus, credited with reversing a spiral toward civil war in Iraq, took over in Afghanistan a year ago after his predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, was sacked by President Barack Obama for comments made in a magazine story.
He is leaving the military to take over as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as part of a wider shake-up of senior U.S. security officials and takes over from Leon Panetta, the new U.S. defense secretary.
Petraeus, who hands over to U.S. Marine Corps General John Allen, oversaw a "surge" of 30,000 extra U.S. forces which helped stop the momentum of a growing insurgency, especially in the Taliban heartland in the south. He led a similar escalation of forces that helped turn around the Iraq conflict in 2007-08.
"We should be clear-eyed about the challenges that lie ahead," Petraeus, who is expected to take over at the CIA in September, said at a ceremony for the change of command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Some analysts have questioned the success of Petraeus' much-vaunted counter-insurgency strategy in the face of rising violence. But Allen vowed to press ahead.
The United States and other ISAF nations are rapidly trying to train tens of thousands of extra Afghan police and soldiers so that they can eventually take over from the roughly 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan. (Reuters)