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New US chief for Afghan war

THE Obama administration is replacing the general overseeing the war in Afghanistan with a commander who has special-forces experience.

Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, a senior administrator with the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take the place of General David McKiernan once he is confirmed by the US Senate. Lieutenant General David M. Rodriguez will become McChrystal's deputy with the Senate's approval.

"Today we have a new policy set by our new president. We have a new strategy, a new mission and a new ambassador," Gates said on Monday at a news conference in Washiongton. "I believe that new military leadership also is needed."

McKiernan's exit after less than a year comes as more than 21,000 additional US forces begin to arrive in Afghanistan. Despite seven years of effort by the US and its allies, Afghanistan remains a battleground with an unstable government, a flourishing opium trade and suicide attacks by supporters of al-Qaida.

Suicide bombers attacked two government buildings in eastern Afghanistan yesterday. US forces were inside at least one of the buildings, and officials said at least four people were killed.

Obama approved 17,000 additional combat forces for Afghanistan this year, plus 4,000 trainers and other noncombat troops. By year's end, the US will have more than 68,000 troops in the sprawling country - about double the total at the end of George W. Bush's presidency but still far fewer than the 130,000 still in Iraq.


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