Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, will step down Monday in a move that symbolically marks the end of a 20-year war.
Miller, after overseeing efforts in the region for three years, will transfer his responsibility over in a ceremony held at the U.S. military headquarters. Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the chief of U.S. Central Command, is to take over the mission and oversee operations from Tampa, according to The Washington Post.
President Joe Biden said during a speech Thursday that the withdrawal process will be complete Aug. 31, moving up the deadline from his original date of Sept. 11. But the process is already essentially complete, and Miller’s departure from the area is one of the last items on the checklist. (RELATED: As Taliban Takeovers Paints Gloom In Afghanistan, Biden Vows To Stay Out Of It)
Two-star Navy SEAL Rear Adm. Peter Vasely is set to lead the few troops left in the region, with about 650 troops remaining in Afghanistan to protect the U.S. Embassy, the Post noted.
Miller is the war’s longest-serving senior U.S. officer and is departing as the Taliban has been quickly taking over districts across Afghanistan. Despite this, Biden said Thursday that he doesn’t believe the Taliban taking over the Afghanistan government is “inevitable.”
Biden called the Afghan military “better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war” than the Taliban, even after reports that the military at times waved the white flag during Taliban takeovers.
McKenzie is visiting Afghanistan for Monday’s ceremony and explained this decision is a symbol of continued support from the U.S. to the Afghan government, according to the Post. He admitted the withdrawal means the relationship between the two countries is going to change, though.
“It won’t be done like it was done in the past, and we need to be very clear about that,” McKenzie told reporters on his way to Afghanistan, adding that the Taliban is currently having a “military victory” over the Afghan government.
Even so, McKenzie said he believes the Taliban will face a big fight in Kabul, the capital and largest city in Afghanistan.
“I think the Afghans are determined to fight very hard for those provincial capitals,” McKenzie said, according to the Post.