Ménard is new commander in Afghanistan

Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard has taken over as the Canadian commander of Task Force Kandahar from Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance at a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield.

There is a new man in charge of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, as Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard took over on Thursday.

Ménard formally took over as the top officer for Task Force Kandahar from Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance at a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield.

Canada currently has about 2,800 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, mostly in the province of Kandahar. The Canadian combat mission is scheduled to end in 2011.

One of Ménard's first priorities will be to bump up the number of soldiers to secure the city of Kandahar, he said.

"Kandahar city, for me, remains centre of gravity," he said. "It is certainly key terrain and it needs to be taken care of."

Ménard said he expects as many as four more U.S. units to come under his command soon. Nick Carter, the NATO general in charge of southern Afghanistan, is expected to issue orders by Monday for deployment of troops in the region.

"This is critical for me in order to move forward," he said. "Number of troops does make a difference."

He also pledged to help Kandahar Gov. Tooryalai Wesa to fight corruption in the area.

Under Vance, Canadian soldiers spent more time outside the bounds of the city, working in villages and rural areas to the southwest.

Carter praised this approach at the transfer ceremony, calling it a model for other NATO allies to follow.

"There is much that others can learn from what the Canadian Task Force has achieved in the last nine months," said Carter.

The handover of Canadian command in Kandahar came on the same day that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was sworn in for a second five-year term in office.

With files from The Canadian Press