WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama’s administration has selected a general with extensive experience in Afghanistan to lead American efforts there at a time when concerns here are mounting about the Afghan army’s ability to thwart a resurgent Taliban and other terror threats.

Lt Gen John W “Mick” Nicholson, if confirmed by the Senate, will replace Army Gen John Campbell as the top US commander in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said. Campbell has led US and NATO operations in the country since August 2014. It was not immediately clear whether Campbell would be assigned another post or retire.

Nicholson is a West Point-educated infantry officer who served in the elite 75th Ranger Regiment and commanded the 82nd Airborne Division. He is expected to be promoted to four-star general before taking command in Afghanistan. Nicholson now serves as commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command in Izmir, Turkey.

Nicholson has served more than three years in Afghanistan in several positions between 2006 and 2012. Most recently, he served from December 2010 through January 2012 in a dual role as the deputy commanding general for US Forces Afghanistan and the deputy chief of staff for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

Cook, reading a statement from Defence Secretary Ash Carter, called Nicholson “an accomplished soldier with extensive command experience both in Afghanistan and around the world.”

“He knows what it means to lead a responsive and nimble force and how to build the capacity of our partners to respond to immediate and long-term threats and remain adaptable to evolving challenges,” Cook read from Carter’s statement.

Carter’s statement acknowledged Nicholson, who will likely take his new role in March, will face challenges, but it credited Campbell with working closely with the Afghan government and the country’s security forces to increase their abilities.

“Gen Campbell has given his all to the mission as our top commander in Afghanistan, and his personal sacrifices on behalf of his troops and the Afghan people will be remembered by us all,” Cook read. “… He has consistently identified ways to increase the capability and capacity of the Afghan forces, forces that have shown the motivation and resiliency required to assure the long-term success of our partnership and the security and the stability of the Afghan people deserve.”

The Taliban did retake some land last year from Afghan forces, briefly capturing the city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan in October and more recently parts of the Helmand Province in the country’s south where fighting has continued. But Afghan forces have improved in several areas including aviation. In recent weeks, the country’s first A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft arrived to allow pilots to fly close air support missions.

Under Nicholson’s watch, the US force in Afghanistan is expected to decrease to about 5,500 troops by the end of 2016. There are about 9,800 troops there now, primarily to train and advise Afghan forces and conduct some counterterrorism operations against Islamic State militants and remnants of Al-Qaeda. Some lawmakers in Congress have called for a larger US force in Afghanistan.