- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2008

BAGRAM, Afghanistan - Gen. David D. McKiernan, best known for leading the U.S. invasion of Iraq, took command today of the 50,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, pledging to continue the mission “without missing a beat.”

The transfer of command comes amid a push to increase international aid and improve security with a beefed up NATO and Afghan army presence to battle a resurgent Taliban.

“While today marks a transition in commanders, the mission must continue without missing a beat,” Gen. McKiernan said at a ceremony in Kabul, where he took over command from retiring U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill.

“Insurgents, foreign fighters, criminals and others who stand in the way of that mission will be dealt with,” Gen. McKiernan said.

In recent years, the Taliban has favored large scale suicide attacks on civilians instead of large scale offensives to recapture territory following its ouster by the U.S. military and local militias in 2001

More than 8,000 people were killed in terrorist-related strikes in the country last year, the highest civilian toll since the 2001 invasion.

Gen. McKiernan will have more Afghan army troops and police — about 130,000 — working alongside ISAF forces than any previous commander, the Associated Press reported in a dispatch from Kabul.

Gen. McKiernan is best known for his command of U.S. ground forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

At today’s ceremony, Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed the new American commander

“Your task will not be easy,” Mr. Karzai said, according to the AP. “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.”

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