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US General Takes Command of Security Force
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US Gen. Dan McNeill took over command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Sunday in volatile Afghanistan at a ceremony in Kabul.

At the ceremony British General David Richards, ISAF outgoing commander said, "We've proved that NATO can and will defeat the Taliban militarily and come the spring an ISAF offensive, not a Taliban offensive, will set the conditions to defeat the insurgents."

At the ceremony Richards, who assumed the command in May, 2006, presented an ISAF flag to McNeill to mark the command change.

McNeill said that NATO troops would go on to fight Taliban and other militants to provide security and stability for Afghans.

At the ceremony Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, thanked the NATO troops and the international community for their support in Afghanistan's reconstruction. He also called for more assistance from the international world in rebuilding the country and improving the lives of Afghan people. 

Rising Taliban-linked insurgence has plunged Afghanistan into the worst period of bloodshed since the Taliban regime was ousted five years ago. Around 4,000 people, mostly Taliban militants, were killed in violent clashes last year.

NATO aims to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan and acquiring more weapons and equipment for its troops to defeat the resurgent Taliban.

Although among the 35,000-strong ISAF soldiers from 37 nations there are already about 14,000 US troops America still plans to strengthen its force and increase aid to the country.

The US military extended the Afghan mission by about 3,200 soldiers for four months in late January and say more troops will be sent to Afghanistan if needed. And the US government has asked Congress for 10.6 billion US dollars in aid for Afghanistan.

The US has also asked its NATO allies to do more in Afghanistan but apparently only a few countries responded to the appeal.

Taliban commanders have threatened to launch a spring offensive as snow melts across Afghanistan. They've vowed to deal a heavy blow to NATO and government troops. Recently the Taliban claimed that 2,000 suicide bombers were ready to launch attacks during the spring.

(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2007)

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