President Thanks Former Commander of NATO Forces in Afghanistan
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 17, 2008 President Bush today praised the former commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, who plans to retire in August after a 40-year Army career.
Earlier this month, Gen. Dan K. McNeill wrapped up a 16-month duty tour in Afghanistan, where he oversaw a multinational force of roughly 48,000 troops, including about 18,000 U.S. servicemembers.
“I've gotten to know the general well. He's a tough, no-nonsense patriot who was our commander in Afghanistan,” Bush said after his meeting with McNeill in the Oval Office this morning. “I want to thank you very much for the briefing you just gave me about the issues that we face, [and] your optimism about success.”
Bush referred to the general and his wife, Maureen, as “really fine Americans” and added that it has been a privilege to serve with them.
The president, who recently returned from Europe, said he was pleased with the strong commitments that American allies are making to help Afghanistan succeed.
“They know that what happens in Afghanistan matters to their own internal security,” he said. “They fully understand as well that helping young girls go to school and helping moms raise their babies in a better environment, helping rebuild this society after years of tyranny is in all our interests. And it's also a moral duty we have.”
Bush thanked McNeill on behalf of the country. “The world is better off because of your service,” he added.
During McNeill’s command, school enrollment in Afghanistan grew from 5.7 million to 6.2 million children. Over the same time, a United Nations assessment showed that 85 percent of Afghan citizens have health care nearby, and that decreased infant mortality rates likely will save an estimated 87,000 Afghan infants -- statistics McNeill cited in a Pentagon news conference last week.
“And the list could go on,” he told reporters June 13. “I'm simply trying to make a statement that there has been progress here. There's certainly progress in the security sector. There is progress in reconstruction.
“I think you will continue to see progress there,” the general continued. “I'm not saying that the fight is over, that the battle is won; it's not. But if our aim is -- and I think this is what our aim should be -- to enable Afghan security forces to take responsibility for their own battle space, to take responsibility for taking on this insurgency, then I think we're well on the way of doing that, and I think you'll continue to see that.”
Army Gen. David D. McKiernan assumed command of NATO’s ISAF from McNeill.