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Maj. Gen. Richard Formica has taken command of the effort to train and equip Afghan troops, facing a challenge to grow the Afghan army from 68,000 troops to 134,000 by 2011.

Formica took over the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan late last week from Maj. Gen. Robert W. Cone, who returns to the U.S. after 18 months in charge of the effort.

"Winning in Afghanistan is about building Afghan capability," Gen. David McKiernan, the NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said at the change of command ceremony. "CSTC-A is at the forefront of building a professional Afghan national security force."

Growing the Afghan army is seen as crucial to the war effort in Afghanistan, as increases in U.S. and NATO troops have been hard to find. With nearly 140,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, and several NATO nations unwilling to send more forces — or ease restrictions on the operations of their troops already in country — a larger Afghan force is needed.

"Together, we will build capability and capacity to defeat our common enemy," Formica said at the ceremony, held at Kabul International Airport.

"We also know that the challenges ahead involve how fast we can grow a credible force … one of the challenges will be to accelerate the growth for the army and the police, without sacrificing standards, while we ensure capable formations to fight and defeat the enemy."

Over the past year, the command has also expanded the Afghan National Police force from 50,000 to 76,000 members.

Formica previously served as director of force management in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff.

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