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Campbell Passes U.S., NATO Colors to Nicholson in Kabul Ceremony

March 2, 2016 | BY Jim Garamone

Army Gen. John F. Campbell passed the colors of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission to Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. during a ceremony held before hundreds of NATO and Afghan partners here today.

Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai set the tone of the ceremony, saying that Campbell will be honored “not only by his own nation, but by Afghans.”

That sentiment was echoed throughout the change of command ceremony, which was held in front of the headquarters of the Resolute Support Mission.

Campbell told the Afghan partners that they’ve faced many challenges “and overcome them together.”

Change, Continuity

While there was a change in command, Campbell said, the ceremony really was about continuity. It is “the continuation of our commitment to Afghanistan,” he said. “We ask ourselves everyday: What more can we do for Afghanistan and what more can we help them to do for themselves? These simple questions are at the heart of what we do and what drives our mission here.”

The past 18 months have been a time of transition -- the peaceful transition of governments and the transition from the International Security Assistance Force to the Resolute Support Mission. The past 18 months also saw the transition to security in the country being the responsibility of Afghan security forces.

Campbell noted that, while the Afghan security forces are only a decade old, they have grown from a collection of militias to a modern security force of 325,000.

“They have proven resilient and continue to make significant strides,” he said. “So much so, that they are often unfairly compared to other, much older militaries. But this comparison is a testament to just how far we have come and more importantly, to what tomorrow may bring.”

Changes in Afghanistan and the region demand the continued support of the coalition, Campbell said.

“There is still much work that needs to be done and we find ourselves at an inflection point in our campaign,” he said. “The Afghan security forces have come far, but they still need our help. We must remain flexible in our planning to see this mission through to a successful conclusion.

Resilience Warrants Support

“The Afghan security forces desire to improve, and their resilience warrants our continued support in the critical years ahead,” Campbell added.

Nicholson spoke about the NATO-led coalition of 47 nations working with Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces, the Afghan people, and efforts against a common enemy.

He emphasized to the Afghan partners in the audience that NATO “has helped the Afghan people for over a decade and is committed to an enduring relationship with Afghanistan.”

Alliance leaders have pledged their continuing support to the Afghan nation, Afghan security forces, and the Afghan people, Nicholson said.

“We are with you,” he said. “We will never forget why we are here and the importance of this mission.”

Message to Enemy Forces

Nicholson also delivered a short message to Afghanistan’s enemies. “I know you,” he said. “You have only brought hardship and suffering to the Afghan people.”

To the Afghan people, Nicholson said all at the ceremony recognize the “bravery, strength and heroism of the Afghan people.”

Nicholson said it is an honor to serve with Afghan and coalition partners again.

“Yes, we have a tough path in front of us,” he said. “But with your courage, all things are possible. So I say, let us go forward with courage.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)