Campbell, who served three tours in Afghanistan, led coalition forces during a critical time in Afghanistan’s history that encompassed numerous political and operational transitions. On the heels of an extended Afghan election resulting in the National Unity Government, he led the transition from the combat-oriented International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission to the security force assistance focus of Resolute Support.
In his remarks, Campbell talked about ongoing changes in Afghanistan that will continue once he departs, and require continuity of support. “Changes in the enemy situation, the Afghan government, the Afghan Security Forces themselves, and the region are all creating a confluence that demands our attention, and our support… more and more citizens are rejecting the old ways of tyranny, and are looking toward the promise of a new era, one that embraces the traditions and values of the past, but accepts the unmistakable progress of the future.”
When speaking directly to Afghan leaders with whom he worked closely, he added, “The patriotism, sacrifice, and strength you display in even the most trying of times inspires me. I am proud to call you brothers and sisters in arms, as well as friends. We, too, have experienced many difficult moments together and it is because of your dedication, what I see in you, and in the eyes of young Afghans when I speak to them, that I have hope.”
During Campbell’s command, coalition forces were reduced from 35,000 to approximately 13,000. Although troop numbers have been reduced as ISAF transitioned to Resolute Support, the international commitment remains strong with more than 40 nations continuing to provide military and economic support to Afghanistan.
Nicholson comes to his fourth tour in Afghanistan from his previous posting as commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command in Izmir, Turkey. He previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations from December 2010 to January 2012; Deputy Commander – Stabilization, Regional Command South from October 2008 to September 2009, and commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team/Task Force Spartan, 10th Mountain Division, from August 2004-August 2007.
In his remarks, Nicholson praised the people of Afghanistan as well as the Afghan and Coalition forces. “I believe that all who have fought bravely within the Afghan security forces and the Coalition are heroes. But the real heroes of this conflict are the Afghan people — those Afghan leaders here in the capital who take on the tough job of creating and running a government, and those in the villages and towns of Afghanistan whose lives have indeed been improved in the years since 2001, but who also have had to face the uncertainty and losses involved in this conflict.”
The ceremony was attended by senior Afghan, NATO and U.S civilian and military officials.