Barack Obama announced earlier today that he would nominate Iraq War veteran General Martin Dempsey as the new chair of the Joint Chiefs, likely concluding a reshuffling of his national-security team. The selection of Dempsey allows Admiral Mike Mullen end his term in September as planned. While Obama had earlier promised to reduce American levels in Afghanistan, his new choice seems to be on the same page as the President of late in promising to provide as many resources to the fight there as required, Reuters reports:
The selection comes as Obama is facing growing pressure to accelerate a troop drawdown in Afghanistan and is preparing to complete a withdrawal from Iraq.
Echoing remarks Dempsey himself recently made to U.S. troops, Obama vowed: “We will provide whatever it takes to achieve our objectives in the current fight.”
Dempsey currently sits on the Joint Chiefs as the Army’s representative. General Ray Odierno, another Iraq War commander, will take his place, and Admiral James Winnefeld moves from running the US Northern Command to vice chair.
The Senate will have to confirm these moves, but there should be little debate and general consensus on the nominations. It’s interesting that Obama has chosen two men so closely associated with the war in Iraq, though. Dempsey was the overall commander of the multi-national force’s Security Transition Force from 2005-7, which developed and trained the new Iraqi security forces, moving from there to deputy commander of CENTCOM and later a brief stint as acting commander before spending the next three years as the commander of the Training and Doctrine Command. Odierno is even more closely associated with Iraq, having commanded all US forces there, and is generally considered one of the key architects of the 2007 “surge” strategy that Barack Obama vociferously rejected as a Senator and presidential candidate.
The choices seem well considered, as I’m not aware of any potential objections. Mullen did a fine job as Joint Chiefs chair, and Dempsey should provide continuity and credibility. I’d expect these nominations to move quickly in the Senate.