WASHINGTON, August 26, 2014 —
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. turned over command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force to Army Gen. John F. Campbell during a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, today.
Campbell will be the last commander of the force as the NATO mission will transition to an advise and assist operation at the end of the year. Dunford will move on to become the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Dunford assumed command of ISAF in Feb. 2013. He has been instrumental in getting Afghan security forces trained and in the lead throughout the country and military officials say Afghan forces have become markedly better under his watch. They provided security at the Loya Jirga in Kabul last year as well as during this year’s elections.
“As commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, President Obama and I have relied on Joe’s extraordinary ability and judgment as America responsibly transitions out of our longest war,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a written release.
NATO’s Rasmussen thanks Dunford
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen echoed Hagel’s praise and thanked Dunford for his outstanding leadership in a difficult job.
Campbell comes to ISAF command after serving as the Army’s vice chief of staff. He is no stranger to Afghanistan, having served in the country twice before, most recently as commander of Regional Command – East, built around the 101st Airborne Division.
“General Campbell is taking up his post at an important time for Afghanistan and for our ISAF mission,” Rasmussen said. “The Afghan security forces are leading all security operations. By the end of this year they will have full security responsibility to protect the Afghan population. I am confident that General Campbell will lead ISAF through an orderly completion at the end of this year and guide our efforts to continue to support the Afghan Security Forces, once the required legal framework is in place.”
Campbell’s message to troops
In a message to the force, Campbell said the change in command does not mean a change in policy or strategy. The phasing, timing and objectives of the NATO force in Afghanistan remains the same, he said.
NATO will continue to train Afghan forces and will guide them as they develop the infrastructure needed to be a successful security force, Campbell said.
“We find ourselves at a decisive phase of our campaign,” Campbell said in his letter to the force. “In the midst of this summer’s fighting season, political and security transitions are taking place simultaneously.”
No doubt, he said, this will cause friction, but he asked all to be patient and to maintain their resolve. “With the ANSF now firmly in the leadoff security operations, they continue to prove their tenacity and effectiveness every day,” Campbell wrote. “You will continue to play a vital role in ensuring their enduring success as you honor the service and sacrifice of those who came before you.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)