By Larry Shaughnessy
(CNN) - Gen. Joseph Dunford told Congress on Thursday that he was not involved in recent discussions about the future of U.S. troops in Afghanistan even though he is in line to become the top commander there.
"I have not been included in those conversations," Dunford said at his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.
"I think I have an understanding of the framework within which that decision ought to be made. I have certainly identified what I think are the most important variables that need to be considered," Dunford, who is assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said.
"But again, I have not been involved in the detailed planning," he said.
There are about 67,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan with plans to end their combat role by the end of 2014. The Obama administration will make a decision within weeks on how many troops will remain there as a residual force, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week.
The United States and Afghanistan officially launched the start of negotiations on a security agreement on Thursday in Kabul.
While Dunford's nomination appeared on track, much of the hearing was devoted to the current U.S. commander in Afghanistan whose nomination for a bigger job is on hold over questions related to the scandal engulfing former CIA Director David Petraeus.
Gen. John Allen's appointment as NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was supposed to be addressed by the Senate panel on Thursday. But consideration awaits the outcome of an investigation into Allen's contacts with a woman whose complaints about anonymous and potentially harassing e-mails led to an FBI investigation that uncovered an extramarital affair involving Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Petraeus resigned his post last week.
Still, several Republican senators at the hearing took time to praise Allen.
"I continue to believe that General Allen is one of our best military leaders and I continue to have confidence in his ability to lead the war in Afghanistan as well as to serve in the post for which he has now been nominated," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said.
Both Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, agreed with McCain's comments.
If Dunford is confirmed, he is scheduled to replace Allen in February.