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Petraeus sees critical moment as takes over Afghan command

media Petraeus gives his speech during the change-of-command ceremony at the … Reuters

US General David Petraeus warned that the military campaign in Afghanistan is at a “critical moment”, as he formally took on the role of new commander at a ceremony in Kabul Sunday. On Saturday he discussed his mission and the fighting against corruption with President Hamid Karzai.

"We have arrived at a critical moment,” Petraeus told the small group of Afghan military, civilian VIPs and diplomats attending the ceremony. “We must demonstrate to Al-Qaeda and its network of extremist allies that they will not be allowed to establish safe havens in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks.”

The four-star general, who arrived in Kabul on Friday, takes over from General Stanley McChrystal, who was relieved of his command for insubordination.

On Saturday he attended a reception to mark the US’s independence day at his country’s embassy and met Karzai.

Petraeus promised that “unity, transparency and accountability” would be the keywords of his mission, according to a statement from the president’s office.

Karzai was this week reported to have discussed with the rebel Haqqani faction and to be trying to work more closely with Pakistan, because he is believed to have lost faith in the prospects of victory for the international anti-Taliban offensive.

He also raised concerns over corruption after billions of dollars of US aid were blocked last week.

France 24's Leela Jacinto blogs on Afghanistan and Pakistan

Karzai dismissed press reports of aid money being siphoned off as “baseless” but agreed that "anti-corruption was the main part of the war against terrorism and emphasised cooperation to reduce it".

The new commander and President Barack Obama say that the change in command will not mean a change in strategy. But Petraeus has hinted that there may be some changes.

He faces complaints from the troops that McChrystal’s “courageous restraint” rule, which aimed to reduce Afghan civilian casualties, has increased their own casualties, leading to June seeing the highest number of foreign troop deaths since the 2001 invasion.

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