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US general takes over NATO command in Afghanistan; 3 soldiers killed
Afghanistan NATO Co 5229996
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, shakes hand with the incoming NATOs commander in Afghanistan U.S. Gen. David D. McKiernan during the changing command ceremony of the NATO- led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) at the NATOs headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, June 3, 2008. U.S. Gen. Dan K. McNeill, third left, handed over the command to McKiernan on Tuesday. German Gen. Egon Ramms, commander of Joint Command Brunssum, is on second left. - photo by Associated Press
    KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. general who led American troops into Iraq took command Tuesday of the 40-nation NATO-led campaign in Afghanistan.
    Army Gen. David D. McKiernan took charge of the 51,000-member International Security Assistance Force from Gen. Dan McNeill, who will retire from the U.S. Army after 40 years.
    Addressing a change of command ceremony Tuesday, McKiernan said he was ‘‘honored to walk alongside our Afghan brothers.’’
    ‘‘While today marks a transition in commanders, the mission must continue without missing a beat,’’ he said, listing security, reconstruction and development as the types of support that Afghanistan deserves. ‘‘Insurgents, foreign fighters, criminals and others who stand in the way of that mission will be dealt with.’’
    In the latest violence, three ISAF soldiers were killed in attacks, including two in eastern Afghanistan, where most of the forces are American. About 15 others — insurgents and Afghan police — also died in violence.
    Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed McKiernan to the country.
    ‘‘Your task will not be easy,’’ Karzai warned. ‘‘But I’m sure as good a soldier as you are, you will serve it well, together with Afghan officers and the Ministry of Defense.’’
    He asked McKiernan and other military commanders to continue to equip and train Afghan security forces so the country can eventually stand on its own.
    McKiernan, whose previous assignment was as commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, inherits the largest ISAF force since the international military partnership was created in 2001, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban for hosting al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.
    He takes command during a period of heightened violence and a spiraling opium poppy heroin trade in Afghanistan. More than 8,000 people were killed in insurgency-related attacks in the country last year, the most since the 2001 invasion.
    But McKiernan will also have more Afghan army troops and police — about 130,000 — working alongside ISAF forces than any previous commander.
    As a three-star general in 2003, McKiernan commanded the U.S. land forces during the invasion of Iraq.
    Around the country, three ISAF soldiers, three policemen, a private security guard and at least 10 Taliban were killed in Afghanistan’s latest violence.
    — Two ISAF soldiers were killed while on patrol in the east. NATO did not release any additional information. Most soldiers in the east are American. One soldier was also wounded.
    — A third ISAF soldier died in the south from wounds suffered from a battle. NATO released no other information.
    — In the Murja district of Helmand province, Taliban fighters attacked a police patrol Monday and killed one policeman, said provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal. Police counterattacked, killing eight Taliban.
    — In the eastern province of Khost, gunmen assassinated a district intelligence Tuesday, said Mujib Rahman, the district chief of Alishar.
    — In the southern Zabul province, Taliban fighters ambushed a NATO logistics convoy and killed one private security guard, said provincial police chief Saridullah Khan.
    — U.S.-led coalition forces killed ‘‘several’’ militants during an operation in the Garmser district of Helmand province Monday, the coalition said. Militants attacked the coalition troops while they were searching a compound, and the troops responded with gunfire, mortars and air strikes, killing the militants, the coalition statement said.
    U.S. Marines moved into Garmser in early May, and NATO officials say that militants who used to operate there are starting to flee the region.
    — In Herat province’s Ghoryan district, Taliban attacked a police checkpoint, killing one officer and kidnapping six, said Haji Raouf Ahmadi, police spokesman for western Afghanistan.

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