Vines takes over US-led Afghan forces
BAGRAM: Maj. Gen. John R. Vines became the new commander of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday during a ceremony at Bagram Air Base.
With US soldiers standing at attention and American flags snapping in the wind, Vines accepted his new assignment on the base’s helicopter runway.
Vines replaces Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the 18th Airborne Corps commander, who is scheduled to leave Afghanistan soon after his one-year tour of duty ends.
The personnel change switched the command from the 18th Airborne Corps, which is based in Fort Bragg, N.C., to the 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y.
Bagram Air Base is the headquarters of coalition forces in Afghanistan. About 11,500 coalition troops, 8,500 of them Americans, are in Afghanistan hunting down remnants of the ousted Taliban regime and their allies, including Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terror network. Rebels continue to menace US forces with scattered attacks, especially in Afghanistan’s lawless border regions. Last month, combat operations by US forces and their allies were brought under the same command for the first time. At the time, Vines, commander of 82nd Airborne Division forces in Afghanistan, handed control of combat missions to McNeill, the overall commander of coalition troops in the country. Vines stayed on as McNeill’s deputy. —AP