Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie took charge of the remaining US forces in Afghanistan during a ceremony in Kabul on Monday.
The command of the forces was handed to him from Gen. Austin S. Miller who served in the post since 2018.
Addressing the ceremony, Gen. Miller said that achieving peace has become hard as the violence remains high. He called on the Taliban to immediately reduce violence so that there is progress in talks.
“The people of Afghanistan will be in my heart and on my mind for the rest of my life.” He called the post “the highlight of my military career.”
“Our job now is not to forget” those who sacrificed here, he said.
McKenzie takes the responsibility as the US and NATO’s military presence in the country will end within the next two months. The new mission is "US Forces Afghanistan Forward" involving those troops who will remain in the country to protect diplomats after the US military drawdown ends next month.
“The violence is taking place across the country, but we know that with that violence, it works very difficult to achieve as a political settlement,” Miller said. “So again, what I tell the Taliban is they’re responsible too. The violence that’s going on is against the will of the Afghan people. And it needs to stop.”
Gen. McKenzie meanwhile pledged the US’s continued support for Afghan forces.
“While drawdown continues and will be ended by the end of August ... United States commitment to support the Afghan government and its armed forces carries on,” he said.
“Some gaps that have emerged after the withdrawal of foreign forces, these gaps are being filled and we are addressing the areas in need,” National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said.
Last week, US President Joe Biden said that the United States military presence in Afghanistan will end on August 31.
On July 2 the US Defense Department’s press secretary John Kirby said that the new Kabul-based command will be led by Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, and those troops will help with security requirements at the Hamid Karzai International Airport there.
The force will also offer “continued advice and assistance to Afghan national defense and security forces” and support counterterrorism efforts, Kirby said.
“(McKenzie) will continue to exercise authority over the conduct of any and all counterterrorism operations needed to protect the homeland from threats emanating out of Afghanistan, and he will lead efforts to develop options for the logistical, financial and technical support to Afghan forces once our drawdown is complete,” Kirby said.