US Gen Austin Scott Miller officially took over as commander of US Forces-Afghanistan and of Operation Resolute Support on Sunday at a ceremony in Kabul.
Miller takes over from Gen John Nicholson, who led the NATO mission for over two years.
Attending the ceremony were high-ranking officials from the Afghan government including Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib.
Other VIP guests including the head of UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, along with ambassadors and other dignitaries.
Addressing guests, Miller said NATO partners and Afghan partners have sacrificed much over the past 17 years – he commended all NATO commanders for the work they have done.
Miller said that the world is committed Afghanistan will never a safe haven for terrorists.
“The world recognizes Afghanistan cannot be a safe haven for terrorism. The world recognizes we cannot fail. I know this has been a long fight and it has been generation; for us, for the Afghan people, I understand the reason we are fighting and I know why we are here and I know terrorists seeks safe haven to export more murder, attack the innocent and threaten everybody’s way of life,” said Miller.
According to Miller, there are still groups in Afghanistan who want to export only murder and to inspire attacks to threaten the entire world.
He said that the US and the international community will help Afghanistan to maintain pressure on these groups to ensure that they never use Afghanistan as sanctuary for their activities.
“There are groups in Afghanistan who want nothing more than to harm others. These groups thrive in ungoverned spaces, General Nicholson mentioned, the war spilled over to the rest of the world, they raise money, they recruit, they plan, they inspire attacks, we must maintain pressure on them. We must ensure terrorists can never use Afghanistan as a safe haven to threaten the world,” added Miller.
However, he said sustainable solutions need to be found in Afghanistan.
Outgoing commander, Nicholson meanwhile said it “has been a distinct honor to serve the Afghan people”.
He also thanked all officials, military personnel and leaders of the National Unity Government for their support over the past two years.
Nicholson said the coalition was here to support all Afghans and called on the Taliban to join the peace process.
"These nations are here on a conditions basis, not a calendar. Peace in Afghanistan is in everyone's best interest. It not only ends the suffering of the Afghan people. Peace in Afghanistan makes the entire world safer," said Nicholson.
Miller has meanwhile received a number of messages of support – including one from NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.
The NATO chief tweeted Sunday: “Looking forward to working closely with our new @ResoluteSupport Commander Lt Gen Miller. I thank Gen Nicholson for his outstanding service. #NATO remains committed to supporting #Afghan security forces as they create the conditions for lasting security & peace.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also tweeted on Sunday saying: “On behalf of the American people, special thank you to @Commander RS GEN Nicholson for his 2+ years of service leading @NATO in #Afghanistan. Congrats to GEN Miller who I look forward to working with as @ResoluteSupport’s next commander.”
Also among the guests was commander of United States Central Command Gen Joseph Votel and former Afghan national security adviser Hanif Atmar.
Addressing guests, Afghanistan's newly appointed national security adviser Mohib said: “I want to pay tribute to the courageous Afghan and American soldiers, and brave soldiers of all NATO nations who have sacrificed for peace and stability in Afghanistan and their home countries.”
He told Miller, government stands “shoulder to shoulder to fight the enemies of freedom and justice. Together we will eliminate the menace of terrorism from Afghanistan and the region.”
“But we will not get there without the support of our partners and friends, foremost the United States. It’s a gift that Afghanistan has so many friends and supporters in the United States and on behalf of the Afghan people, I thank you for your support.
He also said: “We are building today in Afghanistan what we hope to leave for our children—the right to justice, freedom of speech, an education and healthcare; the right to make individual decisions yet uphold the closeness of family and community.
“America has earnest partners in this generation, not just in our shared mission of defeating the threat of global terrorism, but in a vision of shared values and principles.
Mohib also said: “General Miller, you take command of RS when there is a generational change happening in Afghanistan; a generation of young leaders born and raised in war, who see it as an ill that has destroyed our society and economy. This generation is not here to build empire or militias.
Mohib also hailed the outgoing commander and said: “During your time as commander you helped the ANDSF mature into a professional force now leading the fight against the insurgents. I want to assure you that we will continue to build upon your great work.
This comes after the NATO Summit in Brussels, in July, when Heads of State and Government of all allied nations and operational partners contributing to the Resolute Support Mission decided to sustain the mission until conditions on the ground indicated a change was appropriate, and to extend financial support for the Afghan security forces through 2024.
The alliance also reaffirmed its support to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.