US Troops In Afghanistan Get New Commander February 2, 2007Posted by notapundit in Military News, US News.
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP)–Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez took command of U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Friday as part of a routine rotation that has seen the bulk of 10th Mountain Division troops replaced by soldiers from the 82nd Airborne.
Rodriguez told several hundred people gathered at the U.S. base at Bagram for a change-of-command ceremony that American troops were committed to the “security and economic prosperity and reconstruction of Afghanistan.”
Afghans “have endured tough times in the past, and we’re here to help,” he said.
The outgoing commanding general, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, said Afghanistan still faces a “strong threat” from Taliban and other militant groups, but that fighters have been weakened over the last year.
“I think the bigger parts of this insurgency do not have legs beneath it,” Freakley said. “But it is not gone. There’s going to be fighting for another few years. They’re not going to give up.”
Freakley, whose troops helped build or refurbish 120 schools during their yearlong rotation, said he believes the billions of dollars the U.S. is spending for reconstruction in Afghanistan is helping convince Afghans to support their fledgeling government and turn away from the Taliban.
Freakley leaves behind 3,200 10th Mountain soldiers who had their one-year tour extended by four months after commanders requested more troops for Afghanistan. They are due home in June.
The rest of the 10th Mountain Division troops are returning to their home base in Fort Drum, N.Y.
Afghanistan has seen a spike in violence over the last year, and some 4,000 people were killed in 2006 in insurgency-related violence, according to numbers compiled by The Associated Press based on U.S., NATO and Afghan officials.
The Afghan defense minister, Gen. Abdul Raheem Wardak, told those gathered at a handover ceremony that “never before has cooperation been so close” between Afghan and U.S. soldiers. Wardak said Freakley made sure Afghan soldiers have been involved “in all stages of operations” alongside U.S. troops.
“That has been rewarded with outstanding operational results,” he told those at the ceremony, including U.S. Ambassador Ronald Neumann and Gen. David Richards, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.