Army Gen. John F. Campbell arrived in Afghanistan Thursday to take command of U.S. and coalition forces at what he has called "a time of uncertainty" for the future of Afghanistan and the allied presence.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current commander of the International Security Assistance Force, has already taken leave of his staff in Kabul and the tentative date of Aug. 26 has been set for the formal change of command ceremony in Kabul, Pentagon officials said.
Dunford has been confirmed by the Senate to become the next Marine commandant, replacing Gen. James Amos. Gen. Daniel B. Allen, head of the Army's Forces Command, will replace Campbell as the Army's vice chief of staff.
Before leaving the Pentagon earlier this month, Campbell told a small group of reporters that "in any kind of transition, you're vulnerable." He noted that Afghanistan now was going through both a political and military transition.
The two candidates for president to replace Hamid Karzai – Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani – were involved in a bitter dispute over the election and the runoff recount.
Rumors of plots to seize power have circulated in Kabul. As Campbell was arriving, the Kabul government was expelling New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg, who has reported extensively on the election crisis.
James B. Cunningham, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, met with Karzai to protest Rosenberg's expulsion. In a statement, Cunningham said it was a "regrettable step backward" for Afghanistan's democracy and for press freedom.
The U.S. has been hoping that a new president would be in place before the NATO meeting in Wales next month at which time allies were expected to make commitments to President Obama's plan to withdraw combat troops by the end of this year and leave behind a residual force of 9,800.
Both Abdullah and Ghani have said they would sign a new Bilateral Security Agreement with the allies once the election is resolved.
The electoral turmoil came amid renewed offensives by the Taliban. A series of Taliban attacks were reported in Nuristan, Logar and Helmand provinces.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org