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Gen. Dunford to head Afghan war, wrap it up (+video)

US Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford's main challenges are likely to be managing the wind down of the war in Afghanistan. Afghans expect to see few changes on the ground. 

By Correspondent / October 11, 2012

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta addresses a news conference next to Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) US Navy Admiral James Stavridis (C) and US Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford (R) during a NATO defense ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels October 10, 2012.

Francois Lenoir/REUTERS

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Kabul, Afghanistan

When US Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford takes the command of international troops in Afghanistan in the coming months, there are few Afghans who expect it will herald any significant changes in a war that has already begun winding down.

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Eleven years ago, the first US soldiers entered Afghanistan. As many are now leaving the longest war in American history, two-thirds of those in uniform defending Afghanistan are Afghans. But can they hold off the Taliban? Charlie D'Agata reports.

If Washington sticks to its timeline for the Afghan war, Dunford's main challenges are likely to be managing the logistical challenges of withdrawal, ensuring areas handed over to Afghan control do not pass to the Taliban, and preventing weary NATO partners from exiting earlier than scheduled. 

But many Afghans say the personnel shift will have little bearing on the daily realities for those outside of international military command rooms, reflecting popular disillusionment with any further potential of foreign forces to transform the country.

“We have seen no positive change when different commanders have been replaced. Gen. John Allen [the current Afghanistan commander] did nothing for this country, just like the other commanders,” says Haji Jan Agha, a member of the Afghan parliament’s defense commission. “I don’t believe this new general can do anything to change the situation in the coming two years. He will be busy with the arrangements for the withdrawal and nothing else.”

President Obama’s nomination of Dunford as the new Afghanistan commander was announced on Wednesday. Incumbent US Marine Gen. John Allen, will move to NATO where he will serve as supreme allied commander.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's secretary general, recently made remarks to The Guardian newspaper that some NATO partners may speed up their withdraw. With General Allen as the new supreme allied commander of NATO forces, he will be well-positioned to hold together the alliance in Afghanistan in what is certain to be a critical two year period.

The US Senate must still confirm Dunford before he can take command of troops in Afghanistan. If he passes the confirmation hearing, he will become the sixth commander of international forces in Afghanistan since the US first invaded in October 2001. Unlike those before him, Dunford will take the helm of the war at a time when international forces are clearly moving toward the exit.

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