Obama's nomination comes as he faces increasing pressure to withdraw troops from Afghanistan [Reuters]

Barack Obama, the US president, has nominated General Martin Dempsey, a former commander of troops in
the Iraq war, as the country's top military officer.

Obama made the high-profile pick in a White House ceremony on Monday, just before heading to Arlington cemetery for a Memorial Day event to honour America's war dead.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Dempsey would replace Admiral Mike Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he steps down on October 1.

The selection comes as Obama faces growing pressure to accelerate a troop drawdown in Afghanistan and prepares to complete a withdrawal from Iraq.

At the White House ceremony, Obama hailed Dempsey, who is currently the army chief of staff, as "one of
our nation's respected and combat-tested generals".

Obama said he was naming General Raymond Odierno to succeed Dempsey in that job.

'Much work to do'

Admiral James Winnefeld, commander of US Northern command, was named as vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"General Dempsey, Admiral Winnefeld, we have much to do - from bringing our troops home from Iraq to beginning to reduce our forces in Afghanistan this summer and transitioning to Afghan lead; from defeating al- Qaeda to protecting the Libyan people.

"All this, even as we make difficult budget decisions while keeping our military the finest fighting force in the world. Above all, as Commander-in-Chief, I'll be looking to you, and the rest of the Joint Chiefs, for what I value most in my advisers your honest, unvarnished advice," Obama said at the Rose Garden announcement.

Obama called on the Senate to quickly act on confirming his new military team.

The nomination was the latest move in an overhaul of the Obama administration's national security team.

In April, Obama announced he had chosen CIA director Leon Panetta to replace the departing Robert Gates as defence secretary.

Army general David Petraeus, commander of the Afghanistan war effort, was chosen to replace Panetta as head of the CIA.

Source: Agencies