Pe­traeus takes charge, says it’s ‘crit­i­cal moment’ in Afghan war

Austin American-Statesman - - MONDAY BRIEFING - By Dex­ter Filkins

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gen. David H. Pe­traeus took com­mand of the trou­bled Afghan war ef­fort on Sun­day, warn­ing of hard days to come but promis­ing to per­se­vere un­til the govern­ment and army here are strong enough to stand on their own.

“We are en­gaged in a tough fight,” he told a gath­er­ing of Afghan lead­ers and Amer­i­can and NATO of­fi­cers at a cer­e­mony in Kabul. “Af­ter years of war, we have ar­rived at a crit­i­cal moment.

“We must demon­strate to the peo­ple and to the Tal­iban that Afghan and ISAF forces are here to safe­guard the Afghan peo­ple, and that we are in this to win,” he said, re­fer­ring to the Amer­i­can-led coali­tion.

Pe­traeus re­places fel­low four-star Gen. Stan­ley McChrys­tal, who had led the war ef­fort for the past year. McChrys­tal’s mil­i­tary ca­reer was abruptly ended by re­marks he and top aides made in an ex­plo­sive pro­file that ap­peared in Rolling Stone mag­a­zine.

In it, McChrys­tal and his team dis­par­aged Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and expressed ir­ri­ta­tion with spe­cial re­gional en­voy Richard Hol­brooke. One of McChrys­tal’s se­nior aides was quoted as call­ing Obama’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, James Jones, a “clown.”

Pe­traeus paid trib­ute to his pre­de­ces­sor, and many of McChrys­tal’s se­nior of­fi­cers at­tended, still in their jobs.

Pe­traeus is tak­ing com­mand at what ap­pears to be a crit­i­cal, per­haps even de­ci­sive, moment in the war, which be­gan in 2001 af­ter the Sept. 11 attacks. The 30,000 ad­di­tional troops sent by Obama are still ar­riv­ing. Once they take their places, Pe­traeus will have about 100,000 Amer­i­can troops at his dis­posal and 50,000 from other coun­tries. Gen. David Pe­traeus, the new com­man­der of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, for­mally as­sumed com­mand dur­ing a cer­e­mony Sun­day in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Du­san Vranic

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