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The man who is likely the last commander of Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan officially ended his tenure Sunday, with officials saying the command will be folded under the larger NATO leadership in coming weeks.

Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry has been commander of CFC-A since May 2005. He is headed next to serve as deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium.

In remarks during his departure ceremony, Eikenberry said that despite recent changes in command structure, the U.S. military will remain the largest single foreign troop presence in Afghanistan.

“The U.S. is a member of NATO. NATO’s success is the U.S.’s success, which is Afghanistan’s success,” he said.

“We are fighting a very different war. In this war, we are trying to build schools and clinics, we are trying to build roads, and we are trying to help the Afghan people reclaim their middle ground of civil society. What do we need most to succeed here? We need more time, more patience, and more commitment.”

There are more than 23,000 American servicemembers in Afghanistan, the highest number in the past six years. Twenty-six NATO countries and 11 other nations also are contributing troops and resources.

Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan will inactivate “in the coming weeks,” officials said.

Combined Joint Task Force 76, with a two-star U.S. general in command, will then become the highest American command in the country. A second command, the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, also with a two-star American general in command, trains Afghan National Security Forces.

U.S. forces are currently training about 1,500 new Afghan troops per month, and hope to raise an army of 70,000 and a police force of 82,000 by 2009, Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin, who is in charge of training and equipping Afghan troops and police officers, said recently.

In recent weeks, with the Taliban mounting a widespread, sustained offensive, U.S. commanders have repeated requests for more troops, predicting more heavy fighting to come.

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