Gen Dunford, formerly theassistant commandant of theUS Marine Corps, haspromised to complete the transition ofsecurity duties to Afghan forces and to”set the conditions for an enduringpartnership with the Afghan people”.He replaces another Marine: GenJohn Allen, who was recently clearedof misconduct after an investigationinto “potentially inappropriate”communication with a Floridasocialite.Gen Allen this week said he wouldretire from the military instead ofaccepting President Barack Obama’sappointment as supreme Natocommander in Europe, citing familyhealth issues.
While Gen Allen was busy finishinghis recommendations to the WhiteHouse on how quickly to withdrawtroops from Afghanistan next year,Gen Dunford was studying up andpreparing for deployment.As the second-ranking MarineCorps officer, Gen Dunford has visitedAfghanistan many times.Maren Leed, senior adviser at theCenter for Strategic and InternationalStudies, says Gen Allen’s departurewill not lead to a major revision in theUS exit plan from Afghanistan. As itstands now, the US is to finish itsmission in Afghanistan by the end of2014.”What you will see is [Dunford]spending time building and nurturingrelationships, trying to keep moraleup, and keep pressure on the Afghangovernment to make sure that theyare progressing and meeting theircommitments,” she says.
While some Republicans suggestGen Dunford will be susceptible topolitical pressure from the WhiteHouse, Ms Lees says the generalrejects this notion.”Once he is in command, if heperceives that [withdrawal] deadlineto be counter-productive or to be tooearly, he absolutely would make thatvery clear to the White House,” shesays.Gen Dunford earned the nickname”Fighting Joe” in the Iraq war, whenhe led the initial attack into Iraq andon to Baghdad. Subsequently, GenDunford shot rapidly up the chain ofcommand, faster than almost anyonein recent Marine history.
Afghanistan may prove GenDunford’s most challengingassignment yet. Ms Leedsummarised the tasks ahead:
finish negotiations on legalframework governing how remainingUS forces are treated in Afghanistancontinue the military campaigndiscuss with Washington the paceand size of the troop withdrawalweigh in on the roles andresponsibilities of remaining USforceskeep morale high and troopscommitted to the missionThe arrival of the war-wise Marinegeneral as the new top Natocommander provides the US with anopportunity to reassure Afghans thatwhile America’s longest war is ending,the Americans are not leavingcompletely anytime soon.