18 Jul 2011

Petreaus hands over Afghanistan command

10:23 pm on 18 July 2011

The United States General in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan, David Petreaus, has handed responsibility for the military campaign there to his successor, General John Allen.

The handover came hours after a close aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai was killed in an attack in Kabul.

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New Zealand's SAS troops were involved in the operation.

Earlier, NATO handed control of Bamiyan province, where New Zealand reconstruction personnel are stationed, to local forces.

It is the first of seven areas to be passed to Afghan security forces under a plan announced by President Karzai in March.

The handover from NATO to Afghan forces is seen as a critical step in a transition of power before foreign troops end combat operations in 2014.

The BBC reports General Petraeus, who is returning to the US to run the CIA, oversaw last year's surge of US troops to Afghanistan.

At the change of command ceremony in the Afghan capital, Kabul, General Petraeus, expressed his "profound and lasting" gratitude to Afghan and International Security Assistance Force troops for their service. General Allen spoke of tough days ahead.