ISAF Nominee Testifies on the Hill, Kerry Visits Kabul to Urge Political Settlement

President Barack Obama’s nominee to take over leadership of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan told the Senate Armed Services Committee he is confident in the Afghan security forces’ ability to take over the combat mission, despite a rise in casualties in the last year. Obama nominated Army Gen. John Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, in late June to take over the NATO combat mission as it transitions to Operation Resolute Support at year’s end. Campbell told the SASC on July 10 that the remaining troops in the country are now advising and assisting Afghan forces and providing enablers, such as aircraft, intelligence, and logistics. “I have confidence in the strength of the Afghan security forces,” he said, noting the Afghans have progressed in their capabilities significantly. As time goes on, NATO will move from a “tactical train, advise, and assist” role and move up to a corps-level mission. Campbell’s assessment came as Secretary of State John Kerry made an unplanned visit to Kabul on July 11, to meet with President Hamid Karzai and the two candidates of the disputed presidential election, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. Widespread and credible reports of election fraud have spurred Abdullah to protest the result, which has raised the specter of unrest and further delayed the signing of a new security agreement, which is key to keeping troops in the country after 2014.