U.S. General David Petraeus today assumed command of the 130,000-strong international security force in Afghanistan.
Speaking in Kabul, Petraeus said the mission in the country has reached "a critical moment."
"We are engaged in a tough fight. After years of war, we have arrived at a critical moment," he said. "We must demonstrate to the Afghan people and to the world that Al-Qaeda and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on the Afghan people and on freedom-loving nations around the world.
"And with the surge and ISAF forces and the growth of our Afghan partners, we have an new opportunity to do just that."
Petraeus replaces General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired after making controversial remarks about the conduct of the war in the U.S. magazine "Rolling Stone."
He takes command amid rising coalition casualties from Taliban attacks.
June was the deadliest month for allied forces since the war began in October 2001 with 102 deaths, more than half of them Americans.