Security

Afghans praise last US commander in Afghanistan as troops depart

By Sulaiman

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In this photo taken on June 6, 2019, Gen. Austin 'Scott' Miller (left), commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, shakes hands with Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers during a visit to Nerkh district, Maidan Wardak province. [Thomas Watkins/AFP]

KABUL -- Afghans officials and civilians are paying tribute to Gen. Austin "Scott" Miller, the top US general in Afghanistan, who stepped down from his post on July 12.

"Command of this coalition has been the highlight of my military career," said Miller during a ceremony in Kabul attended by several Afghan government officials.

"The people of Afghanistan will be in my heart, and on my mind for the rest of my life," he said.

Miller took command of the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan in 2018, making him the longest-serving commander during the United States' two decades of military involvement in Afghanistan.

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US Army Gen. Austin 'Scott' Miller (left), departing top commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, talks with Abdullah Abdullah (right), chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, during a handover ceremony at the Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on July 12. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

His command authorities transferred to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) leader.

Miller traveled extensively across Afghanistan, like an Afghan general, to improve the security situation, Naqibullah Faiq, deputy minister of Interior Affairs, told Salaam Times.

"Miller would always visit the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and even civilians during his provincial trips. When I was the governor of Faryab and the province was under threat, even on the verge of collapse, Gen. Miller made four visits to Faryab in one year," Faiq said.

The general survived a Taliban assassination attempt in 2018 that killed a senior Afghan official with whom he was meeting.

"Miller knew which areas of the country were under threat and always acted in a timely manner," he added.

"By acting promptly and sending 150 soldiers from Resolute Support to Maimana, the provincial capital of Faryab, he prevented the province from falling into the hands of the Taliban."

Miller played a key role in the formation of the Afghan Local Army by consolidating armed groups into the Afghan National Army (ANA), according to Faiq.

Similarly, Miller organised and strengthened Afghanistan's commandos -- who operated sporadically and were serving as checkpoint guards prior to his arrival. He played a key role in enhancing their combat capabilities.

"Gen. Miller defended all parts of Afghanistan against the Taliban's onslaught," Faiq said. "Afghans have fond memories of him, appreciating him as someone who wanted to save Afghans from terrorism and the Taliban."

"Afghans are not optimistic about Miller leaving Afghanistan. With his departure, they think they will lose an Afghan general, like losing their own arm," Faiq said.

Respect for Afghan values

Miller was a prudent general who respected Afghan traditions and values, said First Deputy Interior Affairs Minister Gen. Ayoub Salangi.

"I have known Gen. Scott Miller for about 20 years. Miller is a good soldier and a prudent general," Salangi told Salaam Times. "He respected the traditions and values of Afghans and had a lot of respect for his Afghan friends."

"He was decisive in the fight against terrorism. He was close to his soldiers and colleagues. He worked closely with troops under his command and played an important role in strengthening and developing the Afghan forces," Salangi said.

Salangi described Miller as a full-fledged general who was also well versed in politics.

"Miller had a good personality and compassion for the Afghan people. He would occasionally go to meet ordinary people in cities," said Sikander Asghari, a military analyst in Kabul.

"Gen. Miller always addressed the problems and needs of the security forces, and if the Afghan forces needed air support, he would act swiftly to provide support," Asghari said.

"Miller has a key role in the achievements and successes of the ANDSF during recent years in the fight against terrorism," he added. "Afghans should appreciate his support," he said.

Afghans have achieved much in 20 years while foreign forces were here, said Mohammad Alizada, 36, a Kabul resident and shopkeeper in the Baraki area, said. The structure of security institutions such as the National Police, ANA and National Directorate of Security was established during this time.

"There were growth and development, our economy improved and Afghans lived in prosperity. All this happened because of the co-operation and support of foreign forces in Afghanistan and the leadership of the commanders of foreign forces, especially Gen. Miller," Alizada added.

"As Afghans, we appreciate their co-operation and support," he said.

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