Obama could tap new top general this week

Top general makes surprise visit to Iraq
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Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama is expected to announce his pick for the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff this week, perhaps as soon as Tuesday, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

Several officials say the front runner remains Gen. Joseph Dunford, currently the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The other major contender is General Mark Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff.
Some officials told CNN it's believed Dunford may have initially declined the job, in favor of staying as head of the Marine Corps, a post he only started last October. Prior to that he served as the head of U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.
    But Welsh's nomination could be problematic as well. One congressional official noted that the Air Force has had many run-ins with Congress over the rising costs of its major weapons programs. That could lead to a contentious confirmation process with the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.
    Welsh recently served as head of U.S. Air Force operations in Europe and as an associate director at the CIA for military support, the top job coordinating operations between the intelligence agency and the Pentagon.
    The announcement for a new chairman has been widely expected for the last several days, though White House officials would not say Monday if a decision has been made by the President.
    The chairman serves as the principal military adviser to the President for a two-year term, putting the next chairman in the position of serving after the next presidential election. If confirmed by the Senate, the chairman will replace retiring Gen. Martin Dempsey.
    It is also expected that Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman will retire and a successor will be named. Winnefeld has taken a leading role with the White House in many of the recent covert military counter-terrorism and hostage rescue operations. But Winnefeld could also be asked to remain on another two years as vice chairman, given his counter-terrorism expertise.
    The Pentagon is not officially commenting on any of the potential nominations.