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Amid Confusion, DoD Names New Mission 'Operation Freedom's Sentinel'

Commander of ISAF, Gen. John Campbell, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Delbert Byers open the "Resolute Support" flag during a ceremony at the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Commander of ISAF, Gen. John Campbell, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Delbert Byers open the "Resolute Support" flag during a ceremony at the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

The new U.S. military mission in Afghanistan has begun and will be called Operation Freedom's Sentinel -- once some initial confusion about the apostrophe was cleared up.

In statements Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Obama noted that Operation Enduring Freedom combat mission in Afghanistan had come to an end and the new training and advisory mission would be called Operation Freedom's Sentinel.

Following on the announcement, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, tweeted that the "new mission in Afghanistan to be called Operation Freedom's Sentinel. Focused on train, advise & assist, as well as counter-terrorism."

However, a spokesman for Army Gen. John F. Campbell, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, initially said later that the name was "Operation Freedom Sentinel" without the apostrophe. A few hours later, the spokesman said he was mistaken and the apostrophe was back in. It was "Freedom's Sentinel."

That still left the problem of distinguishing between the Pentagon name Operation Freedom's Sentinel and the NATO term Operation Resolute Support.

In the transition ceremony in Kabul on Sunday, at which the green-and-white flag of the International Security Assistance Force was furled, Campbell unfurled what he called the "Resolute Support colors."

In emails, Campbell's spokesman later said that Resolute Support would apply to the overall NATO continuing mission in Afghanistan while Freedom's Sentinel was the U.S. mission in coordination with Resolute Support.

"Resolute Support will serve as the bedrock of an enduring partnership" between NATO and Afghanistan, Campbell said at the ceremony.  "The road before us remains challenging, but we will triumph."

In his statement on Sunday, Obama said that the ceremony in Kabul "marks a milestone for our country.  For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan.

"Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is  ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion," he  said.

"At the invitation of the Afghan government, and to preserve the gains we have made together, the United States -- along with our allies and partners -- will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan forces and to conduct counter-terrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda," Obama said.

Hagel said, "In Operation Freedom's Sentinel, the United States will pursue two missions with the support of the Afghan government and the Afghan people."

"We will work with our allies and partners as part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission to continue training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces," he added. "And we will continue our counterterrorism mission against the remnants of Al Qaeda to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks against our homeland."

The U.S. initially planned to have 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through next year but Campbell asked for an additional 1,000 U.S. troops until NATO partners fulfill their commitments to build the force to about 13,500. The Pentagon has approved Campbell's request.

In a statement on Monday, the Taliban said that the flag-furling ceremony in Kabul marked a "defeat" for the U.S.

"ISAF rolled up its flag in an atmosphere of failure and disappointment without having achieved anything substantial or tangible," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in the statement, Reuters reported.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@monster.com

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Afghanistan Pentagon Richard Sisk

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