CALGARY - The soldier who oversees U.S. forces in Afghanistan is heading to the Calgary Stampede.

Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, is best known for coordinating the troop surge in Iraq that is credited with significantly reducing violence there.

He took responsibility late last year for American forces in Afghanistan.

His visit to Calgary comes as nearly 4,000 U.S. marines and 650 Afghan troops launched a massive offensive in Helmand province. Canada has about 2,700 troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

He was invited by Gen. Walter Natynczyk, who took over last year as Canada's chief of defence staff.

Petraeus was to be presented Thursday with a white cowboy hat by Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier. The white hat is a traditional honour for dignitaries and special guests to the city. Natynczyk received his white hat last year.

The two officers are to watch the Calgary Stampede parade Friday morning and visit Afghanistan360, a multimedia exhibit on Canada's civilian and military efforts in Afghanistan.

The exhibit features stories from the field and short video segments on the training and development projects that Canada supports in Afghanistan. Visitors can record 15-second video messages to troops serving in Afghanistan.

Since the mission to Afghanistan began 120 Canadian soldiers who have died in the conflict.

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