Dunford visits Afghanistan to review US military campaign

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — The top US military officer visited Afghanistan on Monday to evaluate the military campaign and ensure new American advisory teams and an upgraded Afghan Air Force are on target as the next fighting season with the Taliban looms.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he wants to understand the goals for the coming months so that the US-led coalition can develop ways to measure progress in the fight.

Dunford told reporters traveling with him that he seeks a discussion about measures of effectiveness. A key question, he said, is how the United States will know that it’s where it needs to be in implementing the Afghans’ plan.


The idea of benchmarks for progress in the Afghan war has been simmering for several months as the Pentagon looks to end America’s longest war. Measuring success will be a key part of White House discussions this summer when President Trump looks for a one-year assessment of his new regional strategy.

Last August, a reluctant Trump had to be persuaded to inject new US troops to the war, now in its 17th year.

‘‘The intent really is to get my own assessment of what we can expect over the next couple months,’’ said Dunford, who commanded US and coalition forces in Afghanistan from February 2013 to August 2014.

He said a major focus will be ensuring General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has the resources he needs.

Dunford’s visit comes on the heels of a two-day stop in Afghanistan last week by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis amid talk of a renewed push to get Taliban fighters to the peace table with the Afghan government.