Gen. Joseph Dunford, President Obama’s pick to take command of the Afghanistan war within months, revealed in Senate testimony on Thursday that he has not been included in Gen. John Allen’s highly-anticipated war recommendations currently being deliberated in the White House and Pentagon.
Dunford, under pointed questioning by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he has been kept in the dark, during his confirmation hearing before the Armed Services Committee.
“Do you know what those recommendations are?” McCain asked.
“Sir, I have not been included in those conversations,” Dunford replied.
“Boy, that’s -- that’s interesting to me,” McCain remarked. “The guy that’s going to take over the command has not even been included in those conversations. Do you feel prepared to assume these responsibilities?”
Dunford said he did and had an understanding of the war’s “framework” but would not go into the detailed plan during the hearing.
The exchange began more than half an hour into the hearing when McCain angrily complained that Dunford was avoiding questions. He had been asking the presumed incoming commander for his war plans. McCain specifically pressed whether Dunford supported Obama’s “steady” drawdown of troops, or keeping the full 68,000 through 2014.
McCain asked if Dunford gets briefed on the war and the general said he gets daily war updates and has visited Afghanistan. Indeed, Dunford has made “several” visists, according to his answers to a committee questionnaire, including as vice director of operations of the Joint Staff and commander of all Marines in Central Command, including in Afghanistan.
“Almost every answer you’ve given us is -- well we’re going to do studies and assessments. So I hope you have at least some initial thoughts and impressions as to how we should proceed,” McCain pressed.
In the questionnaire, Dunford said he agreed with Obama’s decision to pull out the surge forces and the NATO transition plan through 2014 agreed to in Chicago in May, but did not commit to any withdrawal speed.
“I agree that there will be further troop reductions through 2014 but the pace of the withdrawal over the next 25 months will depend on several variables,” which he will monitor, he wrote.