KABUL, Afghanistan, July 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Gen. David Petraeus took command of the Afghan war Sunday, acknowledging the "tough fight" ahead for NATO forces while pledging "we are in this to win."
"After years of war, we have arrived at a critical moment," Petraeus said at a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Kabul, The New York Times reported.
"We must demonstrate to the people and to the Taliban that Afghan and (American-led coalition) forces are here to safeguard the Afghan people and that we are in this to win. That is our clear objective."
Petraeus, 57, replaces Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was forced out for remarks he and his aides made to a Rolling Stone writer about President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other U.S. civilian leaders.
With the U.S. troop buildup continuing and coalition forces preparing an aggressive offensive against the Taliban, Petraeus will soon have 100,000 U.S. troops and 50,000 from other countries.
The Fourth of July ceremony came against a somber backdrop. The number of U.S. and NATO troops killed reached 102 in June, the highest since the war began nearly nine years ago. A major offensive in Kandahar has stalled over worries about insufficient local support, the Times noted, and neither the Afghan government nor army are equipped or willing to take control.
At the same time, U.S. opinion polls show a majority of Americans say they oppose the war.