The outgoing commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan has said he believes the alliance is on the road to winning the war against the Taliban insurgency.

US General John Allen handed over command to General Joseph Dunford at NATO headquarters outside Kabul this morning.

He said his assessment was not just based on military progress and stressed the role education is playing in changing the tide of public opinion against insurgents.

General Allen also said advancing women's rights was key to preventing the militant Islamist group from regaining support.

US Marine General Joseph Dunford took control of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan in an elaborate ceremony which emphasised the country's sovereignty.

He is expected to oversee the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year.

"Today is not about change, it's about continuity. What has not changed is the will of this coalition," Dunford told a crowd of foreign and Afghan officials in the barricaded headquarters of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was absent from the change of command ceremony despite receiving an invitation from ISAF.

A spokesman for Karzai declined to comment.

The White House said last month it would nominate Allen as NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, after the Pentagon cleared him of professional misconduct over emails to a Florida socialite linked to a scandal that led his predecessor, David Petraeus, to resign as director of the CIA.