PENTAGON - General Joseph Dunford, the nation’s top general as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is leaving office next week.
As the top military adviser to the president, he will be remembered for his handling of the ISIS crisis, his tenure during the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and his efforts to strengthen the military amid growing tensions with Russia and China.
Dunford led the U.S. military under two very different presidents, garnering respect from both sides of the political aisle — and from military experts.
“I think General Dunford has been one of the best chairmen we’ve ever had, and it’s not always easy to measure by the state of the world,” said Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.
Iran and Afghanistan
The general is retiring amid increased tensions with Iran and rising violence in Afghanistan.
“When I think about Afghanistan, I think about two things,” Dunford said. “No. 1 is we don’t want Afghanistan to be a sanctuary from which the homeland can be threatened, the American people and our allies can be threatened. And the other is we want peace and stability in Afghanistan for the Afghan people.”
Ensuring these objectives strained negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban.
Dunford has pushed throughout the process to make sure the military can still take out terrorists there despite President Trump’s desire to pull some troops out of the country.
The spokesman for the chairman, Air Force Col. Pat Ryder pointed out in a recent briefing that in the Middle East, Dunford led the charge that crushed the Islamic State caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
“When you go back four years and you look at the difference in terms of the presence of ISIS and — and what they had achieved then and where they are today, certainly there’s been progress,” Ryder said.
Calm, steady hand
And experts like O’Hanlon credit Dunford’s calm, steady leadership with keeping the U.S. out of a conflict with North Korea.
“We went through 2017, the locked and loaded, fire and fury, my button’s bigger than yours — all that brinkmanship needed to be survived and be prevented from taking us into war, and I think Dunford had a role in that as well,” O’Hanlon said.
While the United States remains entangled in conflicts, most agree the American military is stronger under his leadership, modernizing and growing in an effort to stay ahead of great powers Russia and China.