KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, 2014 —
Army Gen. John F. Campbell assumed command of the NATO International Security Assistance Force from Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., during a change of command ceremony held here today.
The ceremony was attended by senior Afghan, NATO and U.S. officials, including Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Hans-Lothar Domröse, Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum Commanding General; Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe; Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command; Minister of National Defense of Afghanistan Gen. Besmillah Mohammadi, and many others.
Senior leaders’ praise
“As General John Campbell assumes command of ISAF -- John's third tour of duty in Afghanistan -- I want to thank him and his wife Ann for their service as well,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a statement. “John's leadership comes at a defining moment, as Afghanistan undertakes a historic political transition, and the United States and our coalition partners’ transition from combat to training and support for Afghan forces. President Obama and I have the highest confidence in John, and we look forward to working closely with him in the months ahead."
Dempsey spoke during the ceremony and recognized Dunford for his commitment and service to ISAF.
“You served with great courage, great commitment, tirelessly giving every ounce of your being to this mission,” Dempsey said of Dunford’s service as ISAF’s commander. The chairman also praised Campbell, describing him as “another man who is deeply committed to this mission, and has the best amount of experience and who will be a good partner to Afghanistan.”
ISAF’s mission will continue
Dunford reflected on his time spent in Afghanistan, but reminded guests that the ISAF mission will continue tomorrow.
“Tomorrow is going to begin just like today with the men and women of ISAF focused on training, advising and assisting the Afghan Security Forces as they secure the Afghan people,” Dunford said. “Tomorrow will begin just like today, coalition and Afghan forces taking the fight to the common enemy.”
During Dunford’s 19-month assignment he has seen the transformation of not only Afghanistan, but also the nation’s security forces. He departs Afghanistan to assume the roles and responsibilities as 36th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.
When Dunford assumed command in February 2013, there were 100,000 coalition members supporting ISAF. About 35,000 remain as of August 2014.
Afghan Gen. Mohammadi, who attended and spoke during the change of command, praised Dunford for his service to Afghanistan.
“On behalf of the government and Afghan National Security Forces, I would like to express my deepest gratitude and respect for General Dunford for his selfless and sincere services to Afghanistan,” Mohammadi said.
Critical time in Afghanistan
Campbell is assuming his new post at an important time in the ISAF mission and for Afghanistan in general. The Afghan security forces are in the lead for all security operations and by the end of 2014, they will assume full security responsibility to protect the Afghan population.
“Today, General John F. Campbell assumed command of ISAF from General Joseph F. Dunford. I wish him every success and I look forward to working closely with him,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an official statement. “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.”
Mohammadi also welcomed Campbell back to Afghanistan, recognizing his previous two tours spent building the Afghan National Security Forces.
“Looking forward to working with you and we remain committed to achieve our common goals,” Mohammadi said.
Experienced senior leader
Prior to assuming command of ISAF, Campbell served as the 34th U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff. During more than 33 years of service, he has commanded units at every echelon from platoon to division, with duty in Germany, Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be back in Afghanistan,” Campbell said. “It is a truly distinct honor and privilege for me to have the opportunity to return to Afghanistan and lead the International Security Assistance Force and United States Forces-Afghanistan.”
This assignment marks Campbell’s third command tour in Afghanistan, with previous brigade command experience in Kandahar and as the RC-East Commander in Bagram in 2010-2011.
Campbell recognized Dunford’s enormous contributions and highlighted his “vision, energy and leadership,” citing how his friend of more than 15 years, “has clearly set the standard.”
Campbell also recognized the commitment of the coalition and the accomplishments of the ANSF.
During his speech, Dunford thanked his Afghan counterparts, NATO leaders, coalition partners, U.S. military leadership, and the men of women of ISAF. He also recognized Campbell for his dedication.
“Finally, let me recognize General John Campbell, a personal friend for over 15 years, a longtime friend of Afghanistan, an extraordinary leader,” Dunford said. “The campaign and the men and women of ISAF -- you’re in great hands.”