WASHINGTON President Barack Obama’s choice to be the top commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that he envisions a U.S. presence in the country after American combat forces leave at the end of 2014, despite a national war-weariness reflected in Congress.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps who has directed combat forces in Iraq, said the two main missions would be counterterrorism and assisting and advising Afghan security forces.
Pressed on the size of the residual force, Dunford declined to provide specifics but did say 1,000 troops would be insufficient.
“I believe that advise-and-assist role is an enduring role and would extend past December 2014,” Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing.
The general’s testimony came at a time of extreme change in the administration’s national security team and the looming decision on the pace of drawing down the 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.