Obama nominates top Marine as Afghan commander

WASHINGTON Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:07pm EDT

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

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

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated General Joseph Dunford, the No. 2 Marine officer, to lead the war effort in Afghanistan and oversee plans to withdraw most of America's combat forces from the country by the end of 2014.

Dunford, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, would replace General John Allen, who took over command of the Afghan mission in July 2011 and was nominated by the president on Wednesday to become supreme allied commander in Europe.

Dunford, who served in Iraq, has been assistant commandant of the Marine Corps since October 2010, had been widely expected to take charge of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan as Allen rotated out of the post.

"If confirmed by the Senate, he will lead our forces through key milestones in our effort that will allow us to bring the war to a close responsibly as Afghanistan takes full responsibility for its security," Obama said in a statement.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick)

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