The new Resolute Support Mission commander has taken charge of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. General John Nicholson has relinquished command to General Scotty Miller. A change of command ceremony for the changeover of the Resolute Support Mission commander position took place at RS Headquarters on Sunday, September 2, 2018. In attendance were many high-ranking Afghan and international government leaders and military officials.
Nicholson had been in Afghanistan almost 2 1/2 years. He had three previous tours in Afghanistan over the past two decades. He will likely be considered successful in increasing the capability of the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) and the Afghan Air Force (AAF). Both the ASSF and the AAF are on a path to double in size. The two organizations are the most effective units of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
Nicholson will also be remembered as the general who oversaw the military aspects of the South Asia strategy rolled out by the Trump administration and the US Department of Defense in August 2017. This strategy was intent on putting diplomatic, political, social, and military pressure on insurgents to come to the negotiating table. The overall goal of the South Asia strategy was reconciliation.  Nicholson had been in command since March 2016. During the handover ceremony Nicholson called on the Taliban once again to take the road to peace:
“I believe some of the Taliban want peace also, but they are encouraged to keep fighting. To the Taliban I say, you don’t need to keep killing your fellow Afghans. You don’t need to keep killing your fellow Muslims. The time for peace is now.”
The outgoing general put a lot of emphasis on how the ANDSF would increase the military pressure on the Taliban forcing them to seek reconciliation as a way to end the conflict. Thus far, one year into the South Asia strategy, the peace avenue has not generated any momentum that could be considered significant. The military situation remains where it was 2 1/2 years ago – a stalemate between the insurgents and the Afghan national security forces with the Taliban controlling or contesting more territory than ever before (post-2001). The media seem silent on the next assignment for General Nicholson – retirement is very likely in the near future.
The incoming commander is very familiar with Afghanistan. General Scott Miller took part in the early operations in 2001 and 2002 while assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).  During the long Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) fight he has deployed a number of times to Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations. In 2010-2011 he commanded the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A). CFSOCC-A was a one-star position and was primarily responsible for the training, advising, and enabling of the elite units of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC), the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program, and the standing up the Afghan Local Police (ALP). At that time NATO SOF and Task Force were under the command of one-stars reporting directly to the ISAF commander as did Miller.
In 2013-2014 he was in command of the NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (NSOCC-A). This was a two-star position which had the three SOF components (CFSOCC-A, Task Force, and NATO SOF) rolled up into one SOF command. After his NSOCC-A assignment Miller went to Fort Benning where he headed up the U.S. Army Manuever Center of Excellence overseeing military training courses such as Airborne School, Ranger School, and other infantry and armor training courses. His latest assignment was as the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
During the ceremony General Miller spoke about the 17-year long conflict and why the international community is supporting the Afghan regime:
“I know the reason we are fighting and I know why we are here. And I know the terrorist seek safe haven to export murder and attack the innocent and attack everybody’s way of life.”
General Miller faces a difficult situation in Afghanistan. The insurgency continues to enjoy the support of Pakistan. Insurgencies that have the support of neighboring countries that provide funding, training, resources, training bases, and sanctuary have proven to be difficult to defeat. The Taliban continue to enjoy funding from state and non-state organizations of the Arab world. The corrupt Afghan government continues to fail in providing basic governmental services to its population at the sub-governance level – which, in part, feeds support to the Taliban. Not enough of the senior Afghan military leaders who are old, corrupt, and inept have been removed from power. The Afghan elites are more concerned with enriching their bank accounts, buying villas in Dubai, and increasing their position and power within Afghanistan than in the defeat of the insurgents. There are just too many contributing factors for why the insurgents have not been defeated to list here.
The next few years will likely see more of the same. The military situation will probably continue as is – a stalemate. The insurgents will likely incrementally increase their position of strength in the rural districts but will probably not be able to take and hold a provincial capital. Despite the rhetoric coming from Resolute Support there is very little chance of the Taliban settling for a negotiated peace. The insurgents will likely continue the long-term approach of waiting for the international community to tire of the Afghan conflict and depart. 
Perhaps General Miller will approach the dismal situation in Afghanistan with a more realistic appreciation of how badly things are going. Hopefully he will avoid public comments such as ‘turning the corner’, ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, ‘the Taliban cannot win on the battlefield’, and other optimistic statements over the next few years. General Miller steps into the position with an excellent reputation, a superb background for the mission, a clear understanding of the task ahead, and with eyes wide open. However, General Miller will probably leave in a few years having accomplished about the same that Generals Nicholson, Campbell, Dunford, Allen, Petraeus, and the long list of others have accomplished.
But we can always hope for more.
 See a short video by Gen Nicholson on the goal of the South Asia strategy (RS HQs, Aug 29, 2018, 1 min)
 JSOC includes units such as SEAL Team 6, 75th Ranger Regiment, Delta Force, and a few others.
 There is, of course, the Trump factor. The President could just pull the plug on the entire mission. But that is unlikely . . . maybe . . .
Miller Takes Over NATO, U.S. Commands in Afghanistan, Defense News Media, September 2, 2018
Change of Command at NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, NATO, September 2, 2018.
General Miller Biography, Cdr Resolute Support, 2018
Official RS Biography
Video – US Commander Takes Over America’s Longest War, Voice of America (VOA), September 2, 2018. A two-minute long video with highlights of the change of command ceremony.
Video – Resolute Support Change of Command Ceremony, DoD, September 2, 2018. (2 1/2 mins long)
Video – Listen to and watch a video of General John Nicholson’s final speech as Resolute Support’s Commander. (DVIDS RS HQ, Sep 2, 2018, 10 minutes).
Video – Listen to and watch a video of General Scott Miller’s first speech as the Resolute Support Commander during the Change of Command ceremony. (DVIDS RS HQs, Sep 2, 2018, 7 minutes).
Photo: Resolute Support Mission Commander – Gen Miller. Photo by Resolute Support HQs, September 2, 2018.