Entries in Gen. David Petraeus (3)


Gen. Allen Assumes Control of Coalition Forces in Afghanistan

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Gen. David Petraeus conducted his final official duty in uniform on Monday, handing over control of the more than 140,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan to Gen. John Allen.

In a change of command ceremony held privately in Kabul, Allen officially assumed command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force from Petraeus.  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who attended the ceremony, promoted Allen to a four-star general before he took over the reins.

Speaking on his vision for Afghanistan and the ISAF, Allen told the crowd, “Throughout, we will keep our eyes on the horizon -- the future of Afghanistan -- a nation of free people at peace, governed under its constitution, pursuing economic enterprise and development, in a secure and stable environment free from the extremism and terrorism that has plagued this wonderful country and its people for more than a generation.  In the end -- together we will prevail.”

Also on Monday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai awarded Petraeus the Wazir Mohammad Akbar Khan, Afghanistan's most significant medal of honor.  

Petraeus will officially retire from the military next month and become the new director of the CIA.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UN Reports Record Levels of Violence, Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Despite headline-grabbing claims by soon-to-be CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus last week that insurgent attacks in Afghanistan have decreased, the United Nations said on Thursday that the war there has never been more violent, with a 30 percent increase in security incidents in the first half of 2011 compared to the first half of 2010.

The U.N. also said that more civilians are dying than at any point since the war in Afghanistan began -- up 15 percent over already record-breaking levels last year.

The vast majority of civilian deaths and injuries are caused by insurgents, and increasingly, NATO forces are causing a lower percentage, continuing a trend that began under Gen. Stanley McChrystal's watch.  McChrystal was the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before Gen. Petraeus.

But the data is still sobering for the U.S., which is desperate for Afghans to feel safer and, therefore, perceive the tide of the war is turning.

"The mounting toll of civilian casualties in the first six months of 2011 represents a deepening entrenchment of violence in the everyday lives of Afghans," the U.N.'s report says.  "With responsibility for security transitioning from international military forces to Afghan forces in several parts of the country in July, violence rose as Anti-Government Elements sought to demonstrate that Afghan security forces could not manage security on their own."

The increase in violence, according to the U.N., is mainly a result of record levels of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and more complex and effective suicide attacks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan: Gen. Petraeus Honors Fallen Soldiers in Kunar Battle

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(KUNAR, Afghanistan) -- They parachuted behind German lines during World War II's invasion of Normandy and at the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. Now their heroics have found a freezing mountaintop in the most remote, forsaken reaches of Afghanistan.

The 101st Airborne Division is one of the most decorated divisions of the U.S. Army. Monday, a stack of stars and hearts -- medals in silver, bronze and purple -- were pinned on the chests of 20 soldiers by their commander, General David Petraeus. Rarely, if ever, have so many medals been given to a single unit for a single battle in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The U.S. troops from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 327th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) came to a Taliban hideout in Kunar province -- a hornets' nest along the treacherous Afghanistan-Pakistan border -- to take the battle to them.

They were patrolling close to the border when they were fired upon from three sides by Taliban fighters.

The firefight lasted hours, with the U.S. soldiers and Afghan forces digging into a muddy hillside.

Capt. Ed Bankston organized his troops by radio one moment, and fired at Taliban the next. Monday, for his valor, Bankston was awarded the Silver Star -- the nation's third-highest decoration -- pinned to his uniform by General Petraeus, himself a former commander of the 101st.

Sergeant Matthew Mendez took a bullet to the chest in the battle and kept fighting. Saved only by his body armor, Mendez was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery.

Sergeant Jeremy Sizemore was shot too -- while leading his platoon into the thick of the battle. Amazingly, the bullet, he said, deflected off a plastic Tang bottle in his pocket. Monday, Sizemore received the Bronze Star as well. His commanding general understood what moved these men to heroics.

"It just kicks in and it's their fierce determination not to let down their buddies," Petraeus said.

With bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace" in the background, Petraeus honored the six of their buddies who didn't make it, and another six who were wounded were honored at a solemn memorial.

Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga, 28, of Hialeah, Fla; Staff Sgt. Frank E. Adamski III, 26, of Moosup, Conn.; Spc. Jameson L. Lindskog, 23, of Pleasanton, Calif.; Staff Sgt. Bryan A. Burgess, 29, of Cleburne, Texas; Spc. Dustin J. Feldhaus, 20, of Glendale, Ariz.; and Pvt. Jeremy P. Faulkner, 23, of Griffin, Ga., all lost their lives that day.

For Private First Class Brian Smith, the youngest in this close-knit squad, the loss ran deep as he knelt and wept to remember the sergeant he looked up to.

Each soldier from this mighty crew honored Monday would gladly trade every medal in the world for the lives of their fallen comrades.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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