US General Dunford takes charge of Nato in Afghanistan

KABUL (AFP) - US General Joseph Dunford assumed command of NATO forces in Afghanistan on Sunday, taking over from General John Allen as the coalition prepares to withdraw the bulk of combat troops by next year.

Marine general Dunford will likely be the last commander of the United States' longest war, tasked with bringing forces home after more than 11 years and overseeing the transfer of Afghan security duties to local forces.

Despite the persistence of the Taleban's bloody insurgency against President Hamid Karzai's government and NATO forces, Gen Allen, who leaves to become the alliance's supreme commander in Europe, said the coalition was "on the road to winning".

Gen Dunford, a Marine general like Gen Allen who earned the nickname "Fighting Joe" for his leadership in Iraq, took command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in a ceremony at the group's headquarters in Kabul seen by an AFP reporter.

In an interview with the BBC, Gen Allen said it was difficult to "put a dot on the calendar" to mark victory in a counter-insurgency campaign, but insisted the NATO effort was moving in the right direction.

"I think we have gone a long way to setting the conditions for what, generally, usually, is the defining factor in winning a counter-insurgency - to set the conditions for governance, to set the conditions for economic opportunity.... I think we are on the road to winning," he told the broadcaster.

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