I want to thank Gen. John Campbell for his extraordinary leadership and dedication in his dual role as commander of United States Forces – Afghanistan, and as commander of the NATO Resolute Support mission. 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 Gen. Campbell.
Under Gen. Campbell’s leadership, our forces have engaged in two important and enduring missions: our train, advise and assist support to the Afghan security forces, and our counter-terrorism effort. Gen. Campbell has taken the fight to Al Qaeda and made clear our resolve to deny it safe haven. He has consistently identified ways to increase the capability and capacity of the Afghan military, a force that has shown the motivation and resiliency required to ensure the long term success of our partnership and the security and stability the Afghan people deserve. Gen. Campbell has presided over important milestones in our mission to enable the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), including the recent delivery of A-29s to the Afghan military to provide close air support, which will be a key element in increasing superiority against Taliban forces. He has also forged strong partnerships with the Afghan unity government led by President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, and it is clear that we have strong partners with a common vision focused on a secure and prosperous future for the Afghan people.
For nearly 18 months, Gen. Campbell has given his all to the mission as our top commander in Afghanistan, and his personal sacrifices on behalf of his troops and the Afghan people will be remembered by us all. As his tour in Afghanistan comes to a close, I want to personally thank him for everything he has done to bring us to this moment in Afghanistan, and for all he has done throughout his extraordinary career. There will be more to say about his future in the coming days.
The good news is that we have a deep bench. I am absolutely confident in the man the president intends to nominate to take Gen. Campbell’s place when his work in Afghanistan is completed. Lt. Gen, John “Mick” Nicholson is an accomplished soldier with extensive command experience both in Afghanistan and around the world. He has led soldiers at all levels from platoon to division in airborne, ranger, mechanized, Stryker and light infantry units in five different infantry divisions, and the 75th Ranger Regiment. He commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, reestablishing global response force capabilities, and commanded NATO’s Allied Land Command. 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. And he understands the importance and complexity of our mission in Afghanistan, having served in multiple capacities including chief of staff of operations for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, director of the Pakistan/Afghanistan Coordination Cell for the Joint Staff, and deputy commander – Stability of ISAF Regional Command – South.
I am confident that Gen. Nicholson will build upon Gen. 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.