The following statement made by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta was read at today's transfer of command ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan:
To the men and women of ISAF: Thank you for fighting and serving in tough conditions every day. Through your dedication and sacrifice, you are changing the course of history in a volatile and dangerous part of the world – and you're paving the way for a brighter future.
No one has done more over the last 18 months to help realize that brighter future than General John Allen. He is one of America's most outstanding, unassuming, and brilliant military thinkers and leaders.
General Allen took command of ISAF and USFOR-A at a crucial moment in the war. He has led U.S. and coalition forces at the height of their combat power, and the men and women under his command have achieved steady progress despite severe challenges.
As a direct result of General Allen's superb leadership, the ISAF campaign is on track to achieve the goal of ensuring Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for Al Qaeda or its extremist affiliates. ISAF and Afghan forces have put relentless pressure on a resilient enemy and disrupted its ability to derail the campaign. Meanwhile, Afghan National Security Forces have grown in number and capability, and stepped into the lead for security operations – even as the United States has recovered 33,000 surge forces since mid-2011.
A critical part of that success has been General Allen's tireless and effective efforts to sustain and strengthen coalition unity now and in the future.
General Allen's forthright advice and wise counsel have been essential to President Obama and to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His selfless dedication to our troops and to our mission is a constant source of inspiration on the battlefield and back at home.
He has earned the thanks of this nation and many others for carrying the heavy burden of leadership with utmost professionalism and courage. Congratulations on a job well done, and Semper Fi!
General Allen will be succeeded by another combat-tested Marine, General Joe Dunford, who will carry forward the momentum and hard-fought progress in the campaign. As General Allen has said so often, this campaign is about winning, and with continued dedication and sacrifice, we will prevail!