Kabul: Gen David Petraeus, the new commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, called for unity Saturday in the civilian and military effort to turn back the Taliban and stabilise the troubled country.
"In this important endeavor, cooperation is not optional," Petraeus told about 1,700 invited guests, including Afghan government and military and police officials, gathered at the US Embassy. "Civilian and military, Afghanistan and international, we are part of one team with one mission."
Petraeus added that the campaign to bolster the Afghan government in the face of the insurgent threat "is an effort in which we must achieve unity of effort." He told the Afghan dignitaries, "Your success is our success."
The remarks were Petraeus` first public comment since he arrived Friday night to assume command of the troubled international military mission in Afghanistan. His predecessor, Gen Stanley McChrystal, was fired last month for intemperate remarks by him and his aides about Obama administration figures to Rolling Stone magazine.
Appearing with Petraeus, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry said America`s commitment to Afghanistan would not wane, despite sagging US public support for the conflict and President Barack Obama`s July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing US troops.
"We`ll keep at it. We`ll persevere," Eikenberry said. "We`re committed for the long term."
Eikenberry called the new commander a "great friend" and handed him an access badge to the embassy, just across the street from NATO headquarters.
"Welcome aboard. You are welcome at this embassy 24-7," Eikenberry said.
McChrystal told Rolling Stone that he felt "betrayed" by Eikenberry`s opposition to the general`s request for a substantial increase in US troops in Afghanistan. Eikenberry`s opposition to the plan was contained in diplomatic cables leaked in Washington, a move McChrystal suspected was aimed at protecting the ambassador if the war effort failed.
DAI is a so-called "implementing partner" of Washington`s international aid arm USAID. It is believed to have opened its Kunduz operation about four months ago.
Such contractors are playing an increasingly important role in Afghanistan, using billions of dollars in aid pouring into the impoverished country in an effort to rebuild after 30 years of war.
"The actions taken by the EI security staff in defence of the compound and project staff were nothing short of heroic," DAI president and chief executive James Boomgard said in a statement.
He was referring to Edinburgh International, the security subcontractor.
The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, are stepping up attacks on foreign targets in response to intensified efforts by the US and NATO to rout the militants.
US aid contractors have been attacked across Afghanistan in recent months, hampering their efforts to recruit foreign staff as part of the "civilian surge" to speed development.
NATO said Friday that two of its soldiers had been killed in insurgent attacks, one in eastern Afghanistan, the other in the south, bringing the death toll so far this year to 325.