US General Joseph Dunford has been nominated to take over from General John Allen as commander ISAF in Afghanistan. PHOTO: AFP
WASHINGTON: General Joseph Dunford, nominee for the next ISAF Commander in Afghanistan, says that he believes the issue of safe havens in Pakistan needs to be addressed, but is willing to “support any initiative that will bring resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan.”
In his testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee, which held a session on his nomination, Gen. Dunford said that Pakistan has it’s bets placed on what the long term commitment of the US to Afghanistan will be, adding that Pakistan’s calculus will change if the US is there beyond 2014.
Gen. Dunford had been nominated by President Obama to take over as the next ISAF commander, replacing incumbent Gen. John Allen for a period which will oversee a key phase in the US drawdown from Afghanistan.
The nomination had been announced in early October, before the current scandal involving Gen. Allen and a Department of Defense (DoD) investigation on whether he sent emails to Jill Kelley, who was allegedly harassed by Paula Broadwell, who had an affair with the now former CIA Director David Petraeus.
After the DoD investigation was announced, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta asked the Senate to hold the nomination of Gen. Allen as the next Supreme Commander in Europe. Gen. Allen was due to testify on his nomination in Thursday’s Armed Services Committee session.
Relations with Pakistan
In response to a question, Gen. Dunford told the Armed Services Committee that he would make his assessment on the current US drawdown plans in Afghanistan if confirmed as the ISAF commander. The Marine Corps General was of the view that an unstable Afghanistan would be of significant risk to Pakistan.
On the subject of reconciliation, Gen. Dunford said that he would support US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Marc Grossman’s efforts in this regard. “We support any initiative that will bring resolution to conflict in Afghanistan,” said Gen. Dunford.
In his remarks, the nominee said that the relationship between India and Pakistan is critical for stability in the region.
In response to a question, Gen. Dunford said that the ground lines of communication through Pakistan are the most efficient and inexpensive way to get the US’ equipment out of Afghanistan. He added that he was encouraged by the terms of reference signed with Pakistan on November 2.
When asked about the issue of IEDs by Senator Blumenthal, Gen. Dunford said that the issue of the IEDs is one that he would need to be decisively engaged in.
“Pakistan is the number one area where we need to make progress on IEDs,” he said.
Dunford added that the materials used in the production of IEDs come from Pakistan, but he was encouraged by the coordination with Pakistan on the border recently, which he said is also stems from the fact that Pakistan also recognises IEDs as a threat. However, he was clear that efforts made so far by Pakistan to stem the flow of IEDs and other materials to militants in Afghanistan had failed to satisfy him and it remained a matter of priority that the US limit this proliferation from the other side of the Durand Line.
Gen Dunford though said that a healthy dialogue with Pakistan would be important in progressing on the matter.
Pointing towards failings on the issue, the Marine general pointed out that Pakistan has not yet built the coordination centres it was supposed to under the tripartite agreement.
In his closing remarks, Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the committee, said he was confident that Gen. Dunford would be confirmed as the next ISAF Commander in Afghanistan.
Tags: Afghanistan, Occupation, by, US, NATO, Taliban, Pakistan, terrorist, Punjabi, ISI, Al, Qaeda, Iran, Intel, India, Haqqani
Location: Afghanistan (load item map)
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