The US general tapped to lead coalition forces in Afghanistan has refused at his Senate confirmation hearing to outline the pace of the 2014 withdrawal of American troops from the country.
'I think if I'm confirmed, what I need to do is make an assessment of the capabilities and capacities that we'll maintain over the next two years, such that they meet our objectives,' General Joseph Dunford said.
Dunford has been selected to replace General John Allen, whose nomination to become NATO's supreme commander was put on hold after he got caught up in the sex scandal that brought down CIA director David Petraeus.
Allen, initially due to face his own confirmation hearing on Thursday, is expected to make recommendations soon on how large a force is needed to assure a successful handover of security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
With Americans weary of overseas military operations after 11 years of war, Obama was expected to keep the drawdown of the US contingent in Afghanistan on track.
About 67,000 US troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan alongside 37,000 coalition troops and 337,000 local soldiers and police that make up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
To the surprise of Republican Senator John McCain, Dunford admitted that he had not been included in the conversations on future planning for Afghanistan.
'I agree that there will be further troop reductions through 2014 but the pace of withdrawal over the next 25 months will depend on several variables, including progress of the campaign, the state of the insurgency and the readiness of the ANSF to assume full security leadership and responsibility to the Afghan government by the end of 2014,' he said.
Dunford said Afghanistan's elections in 2014 leading to President Hamid Karzai's departure were 'the most significant strategic event' facing ISAF, the NATO-led force.
Dunford had initially been expected to take up the position of ISAF commander in Afghanistan in February, pending his approval by the Armed Services Committee and then the full Senate.
But, after Allen came under investigation for potentially inappropriate emails with a woman who touched off the Petraeus scandal, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta urged Congress to expedite the process.