Obama picks Marine general as next top US officer

Obama picks Marine general as next top US officer

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Obama picks Marine general as next top US officer

AP Photo

President Barack Obama will nominate Marine General Joseph Dunford as the next chairman of the joint chiefs, choosing an officer with battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan for the US military's top job.
If confirmed by the Senate for the post, 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.
The next chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff will also have to contend with a resurgent Russia, China's growing military might and looming automatic budget cuts that could create headaches for the military.
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 chairman in October.
Obama was expected to announce the nomination on May 5 at the White House, officials said May 4.
The chairman 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 defense 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.
Officials said Obama also planned to nominate Air Force General Paul Selva to be next the vice chairman of the joint chiefs. The current vice chairman, 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.            
Dunford, a native of Boston who speaks with that city's distinct accent, 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 powerful 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.