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NATO Land Forces Commander to Succeed Campbell in Afghanistan

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2016 — The U.S. Army commander of NATO land forces has been selected to succeed Army Gen. John F. Campbell as the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon press secretary said today.

Army Lt. Gen. John W. "Mick" Nicholson Jr. is an accomplished soldier with extensive command experience in Afghanistan and around the world, Peter Cook said at a news briefing, reading a statement from Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Carter is "absolutely confident" in the man President Barack Obama intends to nominate to succeed Campbell, Cook said. The nomination and Nicholson’s accompanying promotion to four-star rank require Senate confirmation.

The defense secretary believes Nicholson will build upon Campbell’s hard work to "secure a bright future for the Afghan people, and help the government of Afghanistan strengthen a professional and capable security partner to the American people," Cook said, adding that the secretary thanks Campbell for his extraordinary leadership and dedication to the mission in Afghanistan.

Carter credits Campbell with taking the fight to al-Qaida and making clear the resolve to deny it safe haven, and with consistently identifying ways to increase the capability and capacity of the Afghan forces, Cook said.

"While many challenges remain, we have made gains over the past year that will put Afghanistan on a better path, and much of the credit for that progress rests with General Campbell," he said.

Extraordinary Career, Personal Sacrifice

For nearly 18 months, Campbell has given his all to the mission as the top commander in Afghanistan, Cook said. "His personal sacrifices on behalf of his troops and the Afghan people will be remembered by us all," he added.

Carter personally thanks Campbell as his tour comes to a close for "everything he has done to bring us to this moment in Afghanistan and for all that he has done throughout his extraordinary career," Cook said.

Understands Complexity of Mission

Nicholson has led soldiers at all levels, the press secretary said, from platoon to division in Airborne, Ranger, mechanized, Stryker and light infantry units in five infantry divisions and the 75th Ranger Regiment.

He commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, re-establishing Global Response Force capabilities, and commands NATO’s Allied Land Command in his current assignment, the spokesman added.

"He knows what it means to lead a responsive and nimble force, and how to build the capacity of our partners to respond to immediate and long-term threats, and remain adaptable to confront evolving challenges," Cook said.

Carter believes Nicholson understands the importance and complexity of the mission in Afghanistan, Cook said. He noted that the general has served in multiple related capacities, including as chief of staff of operations for the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, as director of the Pakistan/Afghanistan coordination cell for the Joint Staff, and as deputy commander for stability in ISAF Regional Command South.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)