US General Joseph
Dunford Gives Mixed Assessment of Afghanistan War
November 15, 2012
A U.S. general nominated to oversee the drawdown of American troops in
Afghanistan by 2014 says a central goal of the 11-year war has yet to be
achieved. Marine General Joseph Dunford says terrorists and their
Taliban allies continue to operate in Afghanistan.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee,
General Dunford acknowledged that America’s longest war has not met its
primary original objective: rooting out al-Qaida and the militants who
give sanctuary to terrorists. But he cited statistics showing progress
made as a result of multinational efforts in Afghanistan.
“Seventy-six percent of the population is currently secured by Afghan
security forces. The vast preponderance of violence is now taking place
outside of populated areas. The Taliban have been displaced from the
population, and I view that as a sign of success,” Dunford said.
Dunford added that Afghanistan has recruited more than 300,000 security
force members, and that he expects them to be fully-trained during the
next year. He said he is “encouraged” by what he has seen of the
evolving capabilities of Afghan troops.
Committee Chairman Carl Levin was one of several senators expressing
grave concern about so-called “insider” attacks on coalition troops by
Taliban militants who have infiltrated Afghan security forces.
The committee’s top Republican, Senator John McCain, said the Obama
administration’s planned drawdown of forces in Afghanistan constitutes a
“rush to failure”.
“The president’s repeated emphasis on withdrawal, without laying out
what would constitute a successful and sustainable transition, has only
fed the belief in Afghanistan that the United States is committed to
getting out regardless of conditions on the ground. This doubt has
encouraged all actors in Afghanistan and in the region to hedge their
bets, which increases the worst instincts of the Afghan government, and
increases the chance of a return to civil conflict in our absence,”
General Dunford did not comment on administration policies. President
Barack Obama has said that ending the war in Afghanistan will allow the
United States to tend to pressing needs at home.
McCain had a bottom-line question for the general. “Do you think we are
winning the war in Afghanistan?”
Dunford replied: “I think we are making progress, and I believe our
objectives are achievable.”
Dunford expressed hope the United States and Afghanistan can forge a
security agreement for the post-2014 period, saying an accord would send
an important message to militants in Afghanistan as well as to
governments throughout the region.
If confirmed, Dunford would be the sixth U.S. commander in Afghanistan,
responsible for all NATO forces. Fewer than 70,000 U.S. troops remain in
Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of “surge” forces President Obama
ordered to Afghanistan in 2009.
An assistant commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Dunford led a regiment
in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.