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Italy Takes Over ISAF Command --> 4 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Turkey today handed over command of the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to Italy.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai praised the NATO-led troops and thanked the NATO member countries for their sacrifices.

"The Afghan people will never forget the sacrifices of the children of all the countries of the ISAF and NATO and the coalition, because that sacrifice of your children has provided our children an opportunity to live, to go to school, and to live a happy life, and I thank you all for that," Karzai said.

He was speaking at the handover ceremony in Kabul.

Turkey finished up six months at the helm of the ISAF, and Italy is taking over command of the 8,500-strong contingent as it seeks to provide security for Afghanistan's 18 September parliamentary elections.

The force was established at the end of 2001, shortly after a U.S.-led coalition ousted the fundamentalist Taliban regime. Its job is to provide security for the establishment of Afghanistan's new government.