By Stewart Benson
As the War in Afghanistan reaches its twelfth year mark, the American and international military missions are under command of their 15th and final leader, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. In a traditional handoff ceremony conducted in Kabul yesterday, Dunford was officially given command of over 100,000 troops, overseeing the withdrawal process of that also consists of 68,000 American troops. Dunford, along with withdrawing troops and a large amount of equipment and cargo, must also successfully transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces. Large swaths of the country are still fighting the Taliban insurgency, especially in the East and Southern regions, and in some of these areas the Taliban has successfully regained complete control. While many see the road towards a unified, peaceful Afghanistan, once American and international troops withdraw, as unrealistic, Dunford has expressed hope for the landlocked country that has been ravaged by war for decades.
Gen. Dunford takes over duties from previous supreme commander Gen. John Allen, whose time in Afghanistan was marked by diplomatic reassurances that saw damaged relationships between the Afghan government, American troops and the Afghan public. During the ceremony, Allen also expressed hope for the country’s future, while also recognizing the tremendous sacrifices made by foreign troops and Afghan security forces. The persistence of Taliban forces were very real, Allen admitted, however he also expressed the opinions that Afghanistan will never be caught in international feuds again and will never become a safe-haven for terrorist organizations. There is increasing uneasiness that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates will call Afghanistan home once again, and a guarantee that this will not come true, in a war plagued by underestimations and misconceptions, will surely not sway many. When speaking of the Taliban, Allen said nothing of successfully expelling them from Afghanistan, admitting that victory against the Taliban may not “be marked on a calendar.” The road ahead for Afghan security forces is especially troublesome, noting the growing number of Afghan soldiers and police who have died fighting the insurgents in recent months. Instances of Taliban sympathizers within these forces are becoming even more a problem, with “friendly fire” deaths growing rapidly.
Addressing these issues will be difficult for Gen. Dunford; however President Obama will announce specific plans and troop levels in the coming weeks. Dunford has served on a number of senior posts within the military, most recently as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. Once arriving in Afghanistan, Dunford has sat beside Allen at several meetings, understanding concerns and learning the responsibilities of his new post. Dunford’s new job will be severely difficult, and will hopefully end with full American withdrawal and complete Afghan responsibility. Perhaps the toughest part will be having Afghan security forces perform their own recruiting, training, and equipment supply. Currently they rely on American troops for nearly everything, including medical evacuation, intelligence and logistics assistance. Afghanistan must be self-sustaining if a victory over the Taliban is to be had, and the road towards this goal will be difficult without some sort of outside assistance.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.