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

Trending political talk
18 May 2021

Trending political talk

Come December and the Lahore jalsa and the shirt lengths went up a bit. The fad was changing.
Policy rate primer
17 May 2021

Policy rate primer

Economic activity generated by a lower policy rate may be illusory.

Editorial

Hard balancing act
Updated 18 May 2021

Hard balancing act

Pakistan has enjoyed close relations with Washington and Beijing; now is the wrong time to start prioritising one over the other.
18 May 2021

Covid awareness

THE effects of large gatherings over Eid as well as multiple home visits will be apparent in the days to come and...
18 May 2021

Karachi’s drains

THE initial realisation that Cyclone Tauktae was headed for the Sindh coast prompted the powers that be in the...
Palestine bloodbath
Updated 17 May 2021

Palestine bloodbath

One wonders whether the right of self-defence allows a country to butcher toddlers and the disabled, as Tel Aviv has done in Gaza.
17 May 2021

Registering madressahs

DURING the past two decades, several attempts by successive governments to standardise and regularise madressahs ...
17 May 2021

LSM growth

THE robust growth in large-scale industrial output since July last year has generated a kind of economic optimism...