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US sacks top commander in Afghanistan

May 12, 2009 12:09 IST

The United States has announced the appointment of a new commander of its forces in Afghanistan as it now starts sending an additional 21,000 troops to this war-torn country to fight against the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.

"Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal would replace General David McKiernan as the head of US and International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan," US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Monday.

McChrystal would have to be confirmed by the Senate before he could take charge of the new position, till then McKiernan would remain the commander of US and ISAF in Afghanistan.

"McKiernan was asked to resign," Gates told reporters at a Pentagon press conference. Both the White House and the Defense Department said the changes in the top US military leadership has been taken in view of US President Barack Obaama's new Af-Pak policy.

"This change of direction in Afghanistan in no way diminishes the President's deep respect for General McKiernan and his decades of public service," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

Gates has also recommended that Lieutenant General David Rodriguez be assigned to the new position of deputy commander of US forces in Afghanistan.

"The focus here is simply on getting fresh thinking, fresh eyes on the problem, and in how we implement the strategy and the mission going forward," he said.

Observing that General McChrystal and General Rodriguez bring a unique skill set in counter-insurgency, Gates said they will provide new leadership and fresh thinking in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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