Gen. John Allen Leaves Afghanistan: 'We Are Winning'

By Susan Jones | February 10, 2013 | 8:27am EST

U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, right, shakes hand with outgoing NATO commander U.S. Gen. John Allen, left, during a change of command ceremony at the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013. Dunford takes charge at a critical time for President Barack Obama and the military as foreign combat forces prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, Pool)

( - In  his farewell to troops shortly before leaving Afghanistan on Sunday, Gen. John Allen said the campaign has been long, difficult and costly, but it remains "on track" and the troops who are fighting there are "making a difference."

"This campaign is, and always has been, about winning," he said. And we are winning. Our victory may never be marked by a parade  or a point in time when victory is declared. This campaign will be won when the population is protected by its own forces, and recognizes its government as legitimate and representative of the democratic will of the people.

"It is then that Afghanistan will be a free and sovereign state, and terrorists will no longer find safe haven within its borders."

Gen Allen also told the troops that their sacrifices "have not been in vain."

"I think of the brave souls of our fallen comrades daily, and of the thousand of chairs that will sit forever empty at dinner tables around the world. I want you to know that your sacrifices, and the sacrifices of your families, have not been in vain. Our success will be a tribute to your heroism..."

Gen. Allen said leading the NATO coalition -- which he has done for 19 months -- has been the greatest honor of his life.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford has now assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), presumably until the anticipated withdrawal of most foreign combat troops happens at the end of 2014.

"Today is not about change, it's about continuity," Dunford said on Sunday. "What's not changed is the growing capability of our Afghan partners, the Afghan national security forces. What's not changed is our commitment, more importantly, what's not changed is the inevitability of our success."

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