Under persistent questions from skeptical senators, the top commander in Afghanistan supported President Barack Obama’s plan to drawdown US troop levels and expressed confidence the Afghan security forces would be able to defeat the Taliban and minimize the threat of an al-Qaeda resurgence even after all allied combat forces are gone. Gen. Joseph Dunford, speaking during a July 17 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be the Marine Corps Commandant, conceded that conditions on the ground might require his successor as commander of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) and US forces in Afghanistan to request some changes in the pace of the troop drawdown. However, he praised the progress of the ASF, noting they have sustained the total burden of combat operations during the current fighting season. He also was confident the agreement by the two presidential candidates for a United Nations supervised recount of the national election and a unity government would provide the political stability necessary for continued security improvements. Though his views generally were accepted by Democratic senators, many Republicans criticized the drawdown plan and warned of a repeat of the collapse of the Iraqi Army. (See also Ending the Longest War.)
Americans’ trust and confidence in the U.S. military has declined precipitously in recent months, according to the results of a survey. Experts lay the blame on increasing political polarization and the fallout from this summer’s turbulent withdrawal from Afghanistan.