Army Gen. John M. Nicholson passed command of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces Afghanistan to Army Gen. Austin S. Miller during a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, today.
Nicholson has been commander in Afghanistan since March 2016 and is the longest-serving NATO commander in the country.
Miller comes to Afghanistan after serving as the commander of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Both men served in the country previously.
The Long War
Nicholson said Afghanistan has been at war for more than 40 years. From the breakup of the monarchy and occupation by the Soviets to civil war and the Taliban sheltering of al-Qaida and allowing the terror group to launch its attacks on the U.S., the country has been at arms. “It’s time for this war in Afghanistan to end,” Nicholson said.
“[Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani’s courageous decision to announce a ceasefire over Eid al Fitr unleashed the strong call of the Afghan people for peace,” he said. “The entire world has witnessed this, and we support it. I believe some ofthe4 Taliban want peace also, but they are being encouraged to keep fighting. To the Taliban I say, you don’t need to keep killing your fellow Afghans. You don’t need to keep killing your fellow Muslims. The time for peace is now.”
Nicholson called on the Taliban to listen to the voice of their own people and enter serious negotiations with the Afghan government. He said as long as the Taliban continues to fight, Afghan government forces will continue to stand up to them. “But make no mistake, until you are willing to begin talking, we will keep fighting,” he said. “The brave young men and women of the Afghan security forces will always have our full support.”
He noted that the coalition in Afghanistan continues to grow. Nations around the world have pledged funds and personnel to help Afghanistan. “These nations are here on a conditions basis, not a calendar,” Nicholson said. “They do this because peace in Afghanistan is in everyone’s best interests.”
After accepting the command flags, Miller said it is an honor to be standing with representatives of 41 nations that are part of the coalition. “How often do we come together for a common cause,” he said in his remarks. “The world recognizes that Afghanistan cannot be a safe haven for terrorism. The world recognizes that we cannot fail. I know this has been a long fight and it has been generational. For us, for the Afghan people.
“I know the reason we are fighting and I know why we are here. And I know terrorist seek safe haven to export murder and attack the innocent and attack everybody’s way of life,” he said.
Miller said the Afghan people must use courage and leadership to push forward. The coalition will help, but Afghans must be the catalyst for peace. “After 17 years of war for this coalition, there have been many sacrifices,” he said. “Our NATO and coalition members have sacrificed much. Our Afghan partners and their people sacrifice daily in too great numbers and I offer my deepest condolences and respect to all of Afghanistan fallen and wounded.”
The general said that to be successful in the very tough fight in Afghanistan, all must continue to learn and adapt. “We must be wary of bias and easy conclusions: They don’t exist here,” Miller said. “I challenge all of us to always increase your understanding of the complexities, be adaptive, and as you execute, be relentless.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)