August 12, 2016
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford came of age on the battlefields of America’s post-9/11 wars. As a colonel, he led the 5th Marine Regiment during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, earning his nickname of “Fighting Joe” Dunford. Later, he commanded all U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan as commander of the International Security Assistance Force from February 2013 to August 2014. Breaking Defense contributor James Kitfield interviewed Dunford one-on-one on a recent trip to Iraq and Turkey. This includes excerpts from a series of interviews Dunford gave to Kitfield and a small group of reporters that accompanied him.
Q: When you were asked during your confirmation hearings last fall what is the greatest threat the country faced from a dizzying array of challenges, you pointed to Russia. Given how much Russia has been in the news since then – bombing U.S.-supported rebels in Syria, conducting dangerous fly-bys of US warships, reportedly hacking the emails of the Democratic National Committee — do you still stand by that assessment?
Dunford: When I was asked about the top threats we faced, I listed multiple challenges. But I said the one that could pose an existential threat to the United States was Russia. That was based on their capabilities, to include cyber warfare, information operations, and nuclear weapons capabilities. My assessment was also based on their behavior in places like Crimea, Ukraine, and Georgia. So Russia still has all of those capabilities, and their behavior has remained pretty consistent since I testified. So I still believe Russia remains our greatest potential threat.