President Obama will nominate Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, choosing a widely respected, combat-hardened commander who led the Afghanistan war coalition during a key transitional period during 2013-14, US officials said today. The move cuts short Dunford's service as the commandant of the US Marine Corps, a job he began last October. But the rapid promotion is one of several that have marked Dunford's fast-tracked military career, which saw him leap from a one-star general to four stars in about three years. Officials also said Obama is tapping Gen. Paul J. Selva, a top Air Force officer and pilot, to serve as vice chairman. Obama plans to make the announcement at the White House tomorrow, officials say.
Dunford is expected to be easily confirmed by the US Senate and would succeed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who will have served four years as chairman. Dunford began his career as an infantry officer and has commanded at all levels. He served nearly two years in Iraq, including as head of the Marines' 5th Regimental Combat Team during the 2003 invasion, where he earned the nickname "Fighting Joe." He is well-connected internationally, often meeting with NATO and other coalition leaders, particularly during his Afghanistan command. His selection signals that even as the US puts more focus on Asia and looks ahead to high-tech cyber and space threats, the administration still believes a strong ground force commander is needed to work through the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and across the Middle East and Africa. (Read more President Obama stories.)