Obama picks Marine general as top military advisor

2015-05-05 21:11
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

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Washington - President Barack Obama nominated Marine General Joseph Dunford as chairperson of the joint chiefs on Tuesday, choosing an officer with battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan for the military's top job.

Describing Dunford as "one of the most admired officers in our military", Obama hailed the Boston native as a top-notch strategic thinker.

"I know Joe. I trust him," Obama said in a White House Rose Garden announcement ceremony.

"He's already proven his ability to give me his unvarnished military advice based on his experience on the ground."

If confirmed by the Senate, Dunford will be drawing on his years fighting insurgents over the past decade when he advises Obama on the US-led war against the Islamic State group.

Obama lauded Dunford's work in Afghanistan in particular.

"Under his steady hand, we've achieved key milestones, including the transition to Afghan responsibility for security, historic Afghan elections, and the drawdown of US forces, setting the stage for our combat mission there."

Dunford, 59, currently the commandant of the US Marine Corps, would replace General Martin Dempsey, an army officer who will retire after he finishes his second term as chairperson in October.

The next chairperson of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff will have to contend with a resurgent Russia, China's growing military might and looming automatic budget cuts that could create headaches for the military.

The chairperson of the joint chiefs does not have troops or weapons at his command, but he acts as the top military adviser to the president and the defence secretary.

The job often carries hefty influence on matters of war and peace, and the chairman also is seen as the public face of the armed forces.

Obama also nominated Air Force General Paul Selva to be next the vice chairman of the joint chiefs. The current vice chairperson, Admiral James Winnefeld, is due to retire.

Selva is head of the military's transportation command and had served as the lead Air Force strategist.

Oversaw drawdown in Afghanistan

Dunford previously served as the commander of Nato's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan from February 2013 until August 2014.

During his time as commander in Kabul, Dunford oversaw a major drawdown of tens of thousands of US troops, as Afghan forces took the lead in the fight against the Taliban insurgency.

But Dunford persuaded the White House to keep a small force on the ground after 2014 instead of a total troop withdrawal.

Dunford also led troops in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and spent nearly two years in the country.

In 2009, he was appointed head of Marine forces in the military's Central Command, which oversees American troops across the Middle East. He had been Marine Corps commandant only since last October.

Although he earned the nickname "Fighting Joe" during his time in Iraq, Dunford has an affable manner and is well-liked by rank and file troops. The four-star general is at ease before reporters, which will come in handy in a post that often entails numerous public appearances.

Senator Jack Reed, the senior ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Dunford's nomination a "superb choice".

"General Dunford has the experience and vision to lead the Joint Chiefs and help shape our national security strategy at a time of enormous global challenges," Reed said in a statement.

An infantry officer, Dunford followed General James Amos, a pilot, as commandant of the Marine Corps. He holds a master's degree in government from Georgetown University and a master's degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

He has served in the Marine Corps for more than 35 years.

The Senate must approve the nomination of Dunford for the two-year term. Chairmen usually serve two terms.

However, the last Marine to hold the post, Peter Pace, was not nominated for a second term during George W Bush's presidency. Pace faced opposition from Senate Democrats over the war in Iraq. 

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us

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