US commando takes helm of forces in Afghanistan

Published September 2, 2018
Incoming General Scott Miller, command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan gestures as he speaks during a change of command ceremony at Resolute Support in Kabul on September 2, 2018.  —AFP
Incoming General Scott Miller, command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan gestures as he speaks during a change of command ceremony at Resolute Support in Kabul on September 2, 2018. —AFP
General Scott Miller (C), command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and outgoing US Army General John Nicholson (R), gesture during a change of command ceremony at Resolute Support in Kabul on September 2, 2018. —AFP
General Scott Miller (C), command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and outgoing US Army General John Nicholson (R), gesture during a change of command ceremony at Resolute Support in Kabul on September 2, 2018. —AFP

General Scott Miller took command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan on Sunday, as worsening violence erodes hopes for peace in the war-torn country.

Miller, who has commanded special operations units in Afghanistan since 2013, succeeds General John Nicholson, who is rotating out of the post after more than two years.

The handover comes at a sensitive time in the 17-year war that has seen little progress by Afghan or US forces against the Taliban, Afghanistan's largest militant group.

Afghan and international players have been ratcheting up efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban, which was toppled from power by US-led forces in 2001.

An unprecedented ceasefire in June followed by talks between US officials and Taliban representatives in Qatar in July fuelled hopes for negotiations to end the war.

But a recent spate of attacks by Taliban and the smaller but potent Islamic State group that left hundreds of security forces and civilians dead has almost extinguished that optimism.

“This is a tough fight,” Miller acknowledged during an outdoor change of command ceremony in Kabul attended by top Afghan officials and foreign diplomats.

“There's no room for status quo, we cannot afford to be complacent. We must be aware of bias and easy conclusions — they don't exist here.”

For the past two years Miller has headed up the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and has lengthy experience working with some of America's most elite fighters.

Nicholson, who will return to the Pentagon, is the longest-serving US commander of NATO and American Forces in Afghanistan.

Read next: Is Afghanistan really another Vietnam for the US?

There had been concerns that militants would shower Kabul with mortar or rocket fire to spoil Sunday's handover, as they did during Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's speech on the first day of the Eid al-Adha holiday last month.

But the ceremony passed off uninterrupted.

Miller takes up his new role more than a year after US President Donald Trump unveiled his Afghanistan strategy, which increased the US troop presence and now includes a renewed push to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

But there are fears that Trump is growing frustrated with the pace of progress in the country.

The Taliban have long insisted on direct talks with Washington and refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they see as illegitimate.

There is speculation that another meeting between US and Taliban representatives could be held this month. “We known the military component is only one part of this conditions-based strategy,” Miller said.

He added that it was necessary to “create space for the political process” to end the war.

Currently there are about 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan, providing the main component of the NATO mission there to support and train local forces.

Opinion

Editorial

Another U-turn?
Updated 07 Oct, 2022

Another U-turn?

The PTI’s decision to take back its resignations could herald a twist in the tussle playing out in Islamabad.
Renewed TTP threat
07 Oct, 2022

Renewed TTP threat

THE interior ministry’s call for ‘extreme vigilance’ and instructions to security forces to conduct ‘search...
Women’s gala in GB
07 Oct, 2022

Women’s gala in GB

REGRESSIVE forces, once again, nearly had their way — this time in Gilgit-Baltistan. A three-day sporting gala for...
‘Draconian’ law
06 Oct, 2022

‘Draconian’ law

THE debate over what it means to be ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’ has reignited after the incumbent Supreme Court ...
Welcome clarity
Updated 06 Oct, 2022

Welcome clarity

There needs to be consensus amongst all political actors that matters of governance should be the exclusive domain of civilians.
Car purchases
06 Oct, 2022

Car purchases

IF we are in the market to buy a new car, we end up paying a significantly large amount as premium over the sticker...