By Julian Pecquet - 08/03/12 03:36 PM EDT
Cunningham's appointment comes at a critical time, as U.S. forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan after 11 years of war. He'll also be responsible for overseeing preparations for the 2014 elections, which the United States sees as a crucial test of whether the country can function without U.S. support.
“Ultimately,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said at Cunningham's confirmation hearing this week, “it is the political transition that will determine whether our military gains are sustainable, and the strength and quality of the Afghan state we leave behind will be determined by that political transition.”