By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 18, 2011 – Much work remains to secure Afghanistan’s future and eliminate violent extremists, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan said today in a letter to the men and women of the International Security Assistance Force.
Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen addressed the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians of ISAF, praising their courage under the most challenging conditions and setting out his priorities for unified action.
“It will be my honor to serve with you all,” Allen handwrote at the bottom of the letter, which was posted on ISAF’s website. Allen assumed command today, succeeding Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is retiring from the Army and will be the next CIA director.
Allen said his priorities include continuing the relentless pursuit of the enemy and accelerating the work associated with developing and fielding the Afghan national security forces.
“We will accelerate our efforts to protect the population and to attack and degrade insurgent networks,” he wrote. “As we support the overall effort, we will continue to capture and kill the enemy and remove him from the field of battle through reintegration.”
Allen said ISAF will promote opportunities for stabilizing villages and establishing the Afghan local police. Working with civilian partners, he added, ISAF will help to build capacity for governance, economic development and the rule of law.
In the field, the general said, Afghan national security force formations are growing in size and confidence.
“Afghans are fighting for their country, and we must facilitate this everywhere we can,” Allen said, “seeking opportunities for Afghan leadership to step forward in their institutions and in the field.”
Other ISAF priorities include coordinating and cooperating closely with Afghan partners to support the transition to Afghan forces having responsibility for their nation’s security, and staying innovative, agile and responsive as the campaign evolves, Allen wrote.
“When we have completed the work of this campaign, Afghans will be in the lead in security across the country, securing the final phase of transition in 2014,” the general said. “They will be postured not only to prevent the return of extremism and terrorism in Afghanistan, but also to achieve Afghanistan’s long-term security requirements.”
Allen told the troops that “now is the time to be ‘all in’ as we support the prosecution of the campaign, the development and fielding of the [Afghan forces] and the process of transition.”
In addition, being good stewards of the resources nations have entrusted to ISAF to achieve its mission is the responsibility of every ISAF member, Allen wrote.
The general reminded ISAF troops of why they’re in Afghanistan.
“The Afghan people welcomed ISAF and its members into this ancient and historic land 10 years ago,” he wrote, “to help them remove a ruthless and implacable enemy while promoting conditions for a stable and peaceful future.”
Tough days remain ahead, he added, “[but] I take heart in the determination and endurance of the free men and women of the 49 nations of ISAF who stand shoulder to shoulder -- shohna ba shohna -- with our Afghan partners to see this great endeavor through to its successful completion.”