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US Senate confirms new military commander in Afghanistan

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Read: 1008     15:43     29 June 2018    

The United States Senators approved a lengthy slate of nominations in the waning hours of work before their Fourth of July break, including a new commander for US and NATO’s Resolute Support Forces in Afghanistan.


Lt. Gen. Austin Scott Miller, the 17th commander to oversee the American and NATO mission in Afghanistan, will succeed Gen. John Nicholson in that role and received his fourth star as part of the confirmation process.

Miller had a largely friendly confirmation hearing before the committee last week, in which several senators said they expected him to be confirmed easily.

He was questioned on plans to turn around the 17-year-old war.

According to a report by The Hill, US Senator Elizabeth Warren pushed Miller the hardest on the issue, quoting several past defense leaders as saying Afghanistan reached a turning point.

“We’ve supposedly turned the corner so many times that it seems now we’re going in circles,” Warren said as quoted by The Hill. “So let me just ask you, do you envision turning another corner during your tenure as commander? After 17 years of war, what are you going to do differently to bring this conflict to an end?”

Miller replied by acknowledging the length of the war, saying “that’s generational.”

“I can’t guarantee you a timeline or an end date. I know that going into this position. Or offer necessarily a turning point, unless there is one, unless there’s something to report back and something has changed,” he continued.

Miller is currently the commander of Joint Special Operations Command. In that capacity, he oversees the elite Special Mission Units, including the Navy’s SEAL Team Six and the Army’s Delta Force.

His combat experience also includes missions in Somalia, Bosnia and Iraq.

If confirmed, Miller would take over command of the war about a year into the Trump administration’s new strategy.

Last year, US President Donald Trump announced plans that included bolstering US forces in Afghanistan by a few thousand to help end a stalemate.

Trump’s strategy also took away a timeline for withdrawal, saying it would be based on the conditions on the ground.

The United States has about 16,000 troops in Afghanistan on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counter-terrorism missions against groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

A three-day ceasefire earlier this month to mark Eid al-Fitr raised hopes of a breakthrough in diplomatic efforts to end the war. But the Taliban did not accept the Afghan government’s offer to extend the ceasefire beyond the holiday. The Afghan government’s unilateral ceasefire announcement with the Taliban will end today. 

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