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NATO’s Role in Afghanistan [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: James L. Jones, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
Presider: Jonathan Karl, Senior National Security Correspondent, ABC News
October 4, 2006
Council on Foreign Relations The Washington Club
Washington, DC

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JONATHAN KARL: All right, welcome. I’d like to welcome everybody to today’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting. Thank you for coming.

Before we get started, just the obligatory reminder for all those cell phones and BlackBerries and everything else, if we can, please, at the very least turn them to the silent position, I would appreciate it. And I would also like to remind everybody here, as it should be obvious from the presence of Tom Ricks and a few others, this meeting is on the record; everything here is on the record at the general’s request.

Obviously, General Jones needs no introduction. You have his bio. If I were to read through his bio, it would take up most of the next hour. So I will skip that.

GENERAL JAMES L. JONES: That’s all right. Read it!

KARL: I just wanted to make a couple of quick points about General Jones. Obviously, an authentic American hero—Silver Star winner, decorated many times over. But he’s also somebody that survived time working in the Washington office after Vietnam with John McCain doing legislative affairs. So he’s been through a lot. And General Jones, obviously, the 32 nd commandant of the Marine Corps, also the first commandant of the Marine Corps ever to leave that job at the end of his term and go on to another job on active duty, where he is currently the commander for U.S. European Command, and also—and one of the greatest titles I think you can have, the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

And it’s a real honor to have you here with us.

I would also just add, in all the Marines that I have spoken to in advance of this meeting, the one thing that comes across—the phrase that’s repeated over and over again is that General Jones is a Marine’s Marine, one of the most respected men in uniform.

And again, it’s a real honor to have you here. I know you have some opening comments.

JONES: Thank you. Thanks, Jon. And I’d like to thank everyone for being here. I didn’t realize Afghanistan was such a passionate topic—(laughter)—especially to members of the Pentagon press corps. I don’t think I was this successful in the Pentagon briefings to get this turnout, so I’m delighted.

Let me just start off, if I could, with a couple of comments about Afghanistan. This is actually a historical moment today for the alliance—actually tomorrow will be, precisely—because in addition to being engaged on three different continents with quite a few soldiers, sailors airmen and Marines—somewhere around 38,000 and climbing, which is not generally known—in the Balkans, in the Mediterranean, in counterterrorism operations and on the high seas, NATO’s Article 5—only Article 5 mission is still ongoing, in Iraq, in a training mission, training and equipping mission for the Iraqi army, a small footprint in support of the African Union, the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where we’re conducting troop lifts in and out of the Sudan. NATO is really engaged in a lot of out-of-area operations. As a matter of fact, the term “out of area” doesn’t really apply anymore because that geographical restriction has faded into history. NATO’s also getting ready to certify a NATO response force, which is also a new operational concept, that will give the alliance much more flexible capability to do things rapidly at very long distances.

But Afghanistan remains the flagship mission for the alliance. this operational plan which is depicted to my left was briefed to the Nnorth Atlantic Council, the ministers of defense, in February of 2004, and now here on October 5 th, 2006, the counterclockwise rotation which started in Kabul and then went north and west, and then south this year, and now tomorrow will move to the east, essentially means that 37 sovereign nations have taken on the collective responsibility for security, stability and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

For the alliance this is a historical moment made possible by the recent decision by U.S. authorities to transfer—to the transfer of authority of some 12,000 soldiers—and I mean soldiers in a generic sense—to NATO effective October 5 th.

So this is an important day, one that will in fact bring about a renewed sense of commitment, certainly a unity of command, unity of effort and focus of, as I said, 37 sovereign countries that are engaged on making Afghanistan be a success. And I account myself as one of those who is optimistic for—that Afghanistan will be a success provided we continue to do the right things.

On that score, let me call your attention to the chart on my right, which is going to be replaced momentarily. This has to do with the business of what it takes to be successful in Afghanistan, in my view, and in my view, Afghanistan will not be resolved by military means. The military coefficient and footprint is very important. I believe that we have—while we are always looking for more capability, more equipment, generally speaking, the troop strength in Afghanistan under the current threat envelop is adequate for the mission, and I’m confident that we can take on any military challenge that there is and be successful.

But the real challenge in Afghanistan and for the success is how well the reconstruction mission, the international aid mission is focused, and on that score, I think there is a requirement to do more and to bring more focus, more clarity and more purpose and more results in a shorter period of time. And fundamentally, this is the exit strategy for Afghanistan.

If you look at the five pillars that are depicted, you’re looking at the representation of five G-8 nations that have taken on responsibility to be a lead nation in this reform effort. Three of those pillars need massive attention, specifically the battle against counternarcotics, which touches every aspect of the recovery in Afghanistan. The money from this growing program—and it is growing—fuels the insurgency. It allows the opposition to build the IEDs that kill and wound innocent civilians and wound and kill soldiers of the alliance. It fuels the corruption problem in Afghanistan. It fuels the criminal element, and it touches every aspect of Afghan reconstruction.

Included in that is the economic reconstruction.

There are a lot of figures out there that say, you know, can you put a figure on it? Anything that touches over 50 percent of the gross domestic product of a country, such as the narcotics problem in Afghanistan, is a big problem. And its needs more attention. It needs more clarity, more definition and more purpose. It is truly the Achilles’ heel of Afghanistan.

The other two pillars that need to be—need some attention that has to happen almost sequentially or simultaneously, I should say, are the judicial reform. Corruption is a big problem in Afghanistan.

On that score, the results in the last three years have been, in my view, singularly unimpressive. And the Karzai government and those countries that are helping in this reconstruction aspect of Afghanistan need to have—show quicker and better success in as short a period of time as possible.

And lastly, the third one is the police reforms. Although the—there are numbers that are fairly impressive as to the number of policemen on the streets, the quality of the training needs to be enhanced. The quality of pay needs to be started, in some cases. And we must lift those very, very important functions out of the temptation of corruption by making sure that we have the right investment, the right training and the right education of these forces.

So those three pillars are fundamentally very important to the near term of Afghanistan.

Not on that chart is another important program that I would like to highlight, and that’s the idea of strategic communications inside the country. We simply have to do a better job explaining to the Afghan people why it is that they should be for what is happening in Afghanistan and against the alternative. Generally speaking, the Afghan people get it, but there is growing—there—obviously growing impatience with the rate in which these reforms are going to touch their lives.

NATO just completed a very, very important operational success in the south in the aftermath of Operation Medusa. And here I would like to pay great tribute to the troops of Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries—Holland, Estonia, Portugal, the United States and all of the countries that came to—that rallied to the fight in the southern region for this important, decisive moment, which will be followed very quickly by evidence of reconstruction, so it touches the people’s lives.

There are many questions about the level of violence in Afghanistan. Let me just touch on that briefly.

In the south, the level of violence was predictable. We have never had troops permanently stationed in the south. There are now 9,000 NATO troops in the southern region. This is a first. This is an area that has largely been untouched by reconstruction. It’s been affected by corrupt leadership, inadequate pay for government officials, and it has been the traditional home of the Taliban and the traditional crossroads of the narcotrafficking problem as well as criminal elements. So everything that we want to fix in Afghanistan is in the southern region.

And with the clear military victory that just occurred—I did express some surprise at the tenacity of the Taliban. What was really surprising was the fact that they tried to fight NATO troops almost conventionally, and they took a pretty heavy beating for it. I don’t expect them to make that mistake again. And they’ll probably go back to this war of attrition that they’re better at than conventional battle.

But the point is that anything we do militarily is perishable if it’s no accompanied by reconstruction, and the 37 nations of the alliance understand this. The idea in Afghanistan is not to make more enemies than we already have and not to do anything that’s not good for the people. And I think if we can fix the focus of the international reconstruction, keep the military doing what it’s doing, celebrate the primacy of the provincial reconstruction teams which are symbolically and actually very, very important in the difference they’re making in the Afghani lives, then I think we could be on a very good track in a relatively short period of time.

I know you want to ask some questions. Jon, I’ll just—I’ll stop with that, and I’ll be happy to respond to anything that people might want to talk about.

KARL: Well, picking up on the—(applause)—and I want to ask you about your plans and where we’re going ahead in Afghanistan, but first let’s take a step back. We’re now at the point where this year, there have been more coalition deaths by a considerable number than there were last year. There have been already more than three times the number of coalition deaths (than) there were in all of 2004. You know the rest of the litany. Opium production is at record highs. You touched on some of the problems with the government. Just looking back, we’re five years into Afghanistan. This was the model. This was the success story. What went wrong?

JONES: Will, I’m not willing to concede that anything has gone wrong, per se, and I actually believe that there is more—there are more right things than wrong things. But I do recognize that we are at a point where we need to put more focus in certain areas in order to continue to proceed in the right direction.

I’ve already said that the narcotics problem is the Achilles’ heel, and I believe that. I think it affects every aspect of Afghan life, the problems with the government, the money that is used to fuel the combat and the opposition.

But where we are able to put in good governance, good leaders, good governors, where we’re able to make sure that the Afghan army—which, by the way, is one of the success stories of Afghanistan. This was an army that contributed immeasurably in the success of Operation Medusa. It is in the thirty-thousands now, so it’s about half-way to its eventual size. But it is an army that actually the people of Afghanistan are proud of, and that accounts itself very well on the ground.

But where we’re able to make those changes—good governance, good police, good military leadership—the Taliban and the opposition drift off into areas where they can make more mischief.

KARL: But, I mean, if I can just—let me ask you, though, if I can try, on what some people have suggested has gone wrong. I mean, you’re five years into this. The narcotics problem is not a new phenomenon. You said in your opening remarks that we basically hadn’t done anything in the south until now. I mean, was it a mistake, perhaps, to rush into Iraq and not put enough focus into Afghanistan? (Laughter.) Did we think it was a—you know—did we—and I don’t need you to talk about Iraq—

JONES: No, I know. Yeah, thank you. Thank you.

KARL:—but did we abandon Afghanistan? (Laughter.)

JONES: No, look, I think that first of all, the good things that have happened are that the Afghani people have voted in tremendous numbers on two major elections—the presidential elections and the parliamentary elections. There are some incredible stories of personal bravery to do that. Today in Afghanistan, 6 million children are going to school; 2 million of them are women. There’s been thousands of kilometers of roads built. There are success stories in pockets around the country.

But you cannot be everywhere at the same time. Afghanistan’s a big country. The first domino to fall in Afghanistan was to cause the collapse of the Taliban, and that happened. And in much of the country, in the north, for example, the threat is very low; in the west it’s moderate; in the south it’s high; and in the east it’s high. And in the capital region, aside from occasional acts of violence, people are in the streets leading normal lives, stores are open, restaurants are open, hotels are open, and life is, in fact, struggling to achieve some normalcy and some sense of progress for the future.

This is palpable in the country. We can accelerate this process, and the areas that I’ve highlighted need more focus. And I think everybody recognizes that. The challenge is: How do you do that, who does it, how do you get everything from NGOs to 37 governments focusing, for example, on judicial reform?

There are a thousand prosecutors in Afghanistan. They live on $65 a month. They cannot exist on $65 a month in Kabul. An interpreter for the United Nations makes about $630 a month. There’s something backwards there, and somebody needs to fix that. Interpreters are important, but prosecutors that are not corrupt are even more important. The attorney general of Afghanistan, who is a man by all reputation who is uncorruptable, when asked, “What is it that you need to ensure that your prosecutors can do their jobs and actually start putting people who should be in jail behind bars,” he said, “If you were able to pay my 1,000 prosecutors $350 a month, they would be above—beyond corruption.” That’s a fairly simple solution, I think, and we have to figure ways to do that.

So is everything going great? No. But is there going to be a military defeat? No. So the battle is over hearts and minds and whether you can bring—whether 37 countries working together can bring the changes that are required to jump-start that society. And with 37 countries under all the mandates that you want, all the legal authorities, the U.N. resolutions, you can do this. And I think it’s a—eventually it’ll be a success. It just depends on how much time we want to spend doing it.

KARL: So tomorrow—very timely your visit here, in addition to the publishing of a new book that was just out—tomorrow, NATO takes over responsibility for stability and reconstruction in the country. You will have 12,000 American troops under NATO with the largest operation for U.S. under NATO ever.

Is NATO really up to the job, given the problem that you face as a NATO commander in terms of all the conditions that are put by various countries, the so-called caveats? You know, “Yes, we’re going to commit forces”—and even that’s been hard—“but you get the forces, but no, they can’t, you know do night patrols. No, they can’t operate in the south.” I mean, you’re—you mentioned the Canadians and the British, but I mean, the Italians, the Germans, the French, others—you’re under some real restraints there, aren’t you?

JONES: Yeah. (Laughter.)

KARL: But you’re the Supreme Allied Commander!

JONES: I know.

The reality of an alliance like NATO, with 26 sovereign nations, is that we spend a lot of time getting consensus. NATO is an alliance that operates under consensus. You have to have consensus to take on a mission. Then you have to have consensus on the size force that you’re willing to—that you want to raise, what are the rules of engagement, what are the rules of detention, how do you—and everything has to be agreed.

So you get to the point of where everything’s agreed that you’re going to take on a mission, and then you raise the force. And then the room gets a little quieter because that costs real money. Under NATO, if you provide forces, Nation X provides forces, Nation X pays for everything that has to do with those forces. It’s not a bad system, but it just means that you really have to work hard to get those forces.

And once you get those forces, many times there are national restrictions as to what the providing country will allow those forces to do. We battle that. And they are called caveats. In Afghanistan—I’m on record, and I’ll say it again—we have, in my view, too many caveats. Every chief of defense knows it. They’re tired of taking telephone calls from me. But I’m going—we’re going to keep on talking about it because, little by little, we do make progress and we whittle it down.

In 2004 in Kosovo, we had so many caveats that our commanders spent more time trying to figure out what they couldn’t do with their forces than what they could do. Today, in 2006 in Kosovo—which, by the way, is another important NATO mission, and it will be in the headlines somewhere by the end of the year—but we have very few caveats. Nations have understood that this was an untenable situation, and we’ve made great progress over a couple of years on caveats and restrictions.

We need to do the same thing in Afghanistan. There are roughly about 50 restrictions that have an operational impact on the commander of ISAF’s ability to use his forces. I want to see that number go down. We will continue to work with nations to do that. It is slow. It’s not automatic. But it doesn’t mean that we’re going to fail. It doesn’t mean that.

I actually believe that caveats, when they’re known, put a nation’s troops at more risk than the nations who don’t have caveats. If you’re a thinking enemy like we’re facing in Afghanistan, they want to find out which are the troops that won’t fight, or that won’t fight with the freedom that others do, and naturally they gravitate that way.

So fewer caveats is important. Caveats also mean that you have to compensate for what some troops can’t do with other troops that can. So you actually wind up contributing more forces and it gets more expensive.

So that’s the story on caveats. It’s not a show-stopper, but it certainly is something that we have to keep working on.

KARL: What are—just so we can understand what we’re talking about here, what are some of the known caveats? You said there are 50. How much—

JONES: Well, essentially, the ones that are the most hurtful are the ones that—say you have quick response forces around the country in the differ sectors that we’ve pointed out there on that map. A caveat would be a nation that has a company-size quick response force and says these forces cannot be used outside of this geographical boundary. So if that’s true and that holds, that means that if you have a crisis in another part of the country, the commander cannot quickly go to those forces without going back to the capital and getting national authorization or not, as the case may be, to use those forces in a certain way.

On the battlefield of rapidly changing environments, you—the tyranny of distance and time work against you. So the better—the more control a commander has and the more agility he has and the more capability he has is directly related to the number of caveats we have to accomplish the mission.

Another one could be—you mentioned it yourself—our forces cannot be used at night. Another one is our forces cannot be used to fight the Taliban, for example.

KARL: Our forces cannot be used to—

JONES: Some. Some. But—

KARL: Strange way to go to Afghanistan.

KARL:—direct combat, you know, direct combat—some of them are. You cannot initiate combat. You can defend yourself if you’re shot at.

I don’t want to overstate this. This—some of these are small—most of the major nations generally are very inside in the green, if you will, in terms of use of the forces. And they’re doing some extraordinary work, particularly in the south, which was NATO’s first real test of ground combat resolve in—probably since World War II.

And Canada, the United Kingdom and the countries of the Netherlands, Romania, Estonia, Portugal, the ANA and the forces that came over from the eastern area, which were still Operation Enduring Freedom, acquitted themselves very, very well and actually are going to change the conditions in the south.

KARL: We’ve certainly seen the Canadians and the British and the Dutch do that in the south, and also take some real losses. Are you concerned about public opinion? And I mean, you look at the Canadians, you have burgeoning antiwar movement because of the—you know, they’re not used to this.

JONES: There—this is definitely new territory for many allies. And the governments have shown great courage. The troops are doing everything that’s being asked of them.

I think that, frankly, the best message you can send to public opinion is to actually show that we’re—that’s not all we’re doing. We are fighting—we fought in the south in order to set the conditions for rapid reconstruction, changing—showing people that that their lives will be better by virtue—as a result of this.

It’s unfortunate that we had to do this. But we’re going to take care of the refugees, we’re going to get them home, we’re going to feed them, we’re going to clothe them, we’re going to repair their houses, we’re going to open their schools, and we’re going to leave forces behind to make sure that the Taliban or the narcotics cartels or the criminals or the different factions that are always fighting for influence over their lives don’t come back. And in the south, where we had no permanent forces, we now have 9,000, and it’s going to make a difference.

KARL: How many—how strong is the Taliban force down there now? And how heavy were their losses in this last—

JONES: It’s very hard to put an exact figure. I’ve said publicly that I think around 1,000 to 1,500 casualties. We had the unusual—very unusual public statement by their spokesman that they were conducting a tactical retreat because of the losses. It’s hard to say how many. I would speculate in the entire country on any given day, you may have several thousand.

But it would be wrong to say that this is just the Taliban. And I think I need to set that record straight. The narcotics cartels have their own armies and their own capabilities. They’re conducting a massive exploitation effort. Ninety percent of the product is sold in the streets of European capitals. It takes an enormous apparatus to ensure that the product gets to the markets. And they have their own capability to inflict damage; to make sure that the roads and the passages stay open and they get to where they want to go, whether it’s through Pakistan, Iran, up through Russia and all the known trade routes. So this is a very violent cartel. They are buying their protection by funding other organizations, from criminal gangs to tribes, to inciting any kind of resistance to keep the government off of their back, and they’re buying that kind of protection. And that’s why I come back to these pillars, and particularly the narcotics pillar as being so critical to the future success in the reconstruction and stability of that country.

KARL: And what’s the approach to that? I mean, are you—is it eradication? Is it—and how aggressive can you be without further alienating the people you’re trying to support?

JONES: Well, the fact is that the military—the militaries do not have a leading role in this campaign. This is left up to the Afghans themselves, the Drug Enforcement Administrations of the participating countries.

The lead nation is the United Kingdom. There is supposed to be a tremendous energy associated with this, but it needs a fresh look because it is—it’s still—we’re losing ground. I mean, statistically there’s—we’re losing ground in the effort.

I don’t think there’s any one solution, John. I don’t think it’s—eradication does it. I think you have to have a comprehensive approach to this problem. Some of it has to be fought in the capitals, which are the end of the supply chain. But it is definitely something that has to be addressed and has to be addressed more effectively than we’ve done so far.

KARL: Okay, General, I want to give the rest—those in the audience a chance to ask some questions, and as you can see, we have microphones on either side. So let’s start right here.

QUESTIONER: Stephen Biddle from the Council. There’s been a lot of tension to the issue of caveats, but in a sense, caveats are just a tip of a very large iceberg of challenges associated with conducting a campaign this complex with this many independent actors involved.

I was wondering if you could comment on some of the issues of equipment interoperability, doctrinal comparability—all of the other challenges of combined warfare and a style of warfare that’s in some respects more complicated than conventional operations to begin with.

JONES: One of the great qualities of the alliance is that for many, many years the armies, navies, air forces, Marine Corps and now Special Operations Forces of the alliance have worked on interoperability. It’s not perfect. We need to continue the effort. This is why the establishment of the Allied Command for Transformation a few years ago was so important because it is the center of where the doctrines and the training and the procedures get developed and the new concepts get developed.

The best work on interoperability doesn’t help us too much in Afghanistan, but the navies of the—navies of NATO are completely interoperable. The air forces are very highly interoperable. The—not surprisingly, the armies are the ones that have the longest way to go, and Special Forces are just getting off the ground. But there’s no question that when—as we’ve seen in the aftermath of Medusa with the forces that have just really arrived, coming together from eight or nine different nations, managed to pull everything off reasonably well: air-to-ground tactics, ground-to-ground coordination, working with the ANA, overcoming language difficulties. As you know, the most common language in NATO is English—English and French. But people come ready to do the job, and that’s been less of a problem than the idea of raising forces is—the concept of force generation is difficult. But there’s enormous capacity in the alliance for these kinds of missions. The reservoir of equipment and manpower is very high. The problem is paying for it.

And, frankly, it’s not a question of capacity. It’s a question of will.

KARL: Okay. Yes.

QUESTIONER: General Jones, can you hear me?

JONES: I can hear you.

QUESTIONER: This is Tom Ricks from The Washington Post. In Bob Woodward’s new book, you are quoted on several controversial points such as calling the Iraq war a debacle, saying that Secretary Rumsfeld had emasculated the Joint Chiefs and disputing what the chairman—his account of a conversation. Three quick questions on that. Were you quoted accurately? Have you heard back from Secretary Rumsfeld or General Pace about this? And third, is the so-called revolt of the generals now extending to four-star generals on active duty?

JONES: Actually—(laughter)—just—I’ll take those one at a time, I guess. (Laughs, laughter.) Tom, that sounds like a real fiasco you just started. (Laughter.)

Let’s see. I think the answer is that I have talked to General Pace. I have not talked to anyone else. I had a conversation with my very good friend, who I’ve known and served with for—well, since 1970. On the eve of his ascendancy to be the chairman, he came over to Stuttgart to make a round to talk to all of the combatant commanders, and ask us what we thought. And I shared some views that not only—that were not limited to Iraq but Afghanistan, on the strategic value to the United States of forward- based forces. We talked about the—some of my views on Goldwater- Nichols. I’m on record in the Congress of being a supporter of a revision of Goldwater-Nichols to take care of some of what I think the unintended consequences of Goldwater-Nichols were. I—for example, I believe that the chairman—we should give serious consideration to the most senior man in uniform being in the chain of command. He has a lot of responsibility. I think he should have some authority to go with that. That’s not new. I’ve discussed it with previous chairmen, with previous secretaries of Defense, with members of Congress.

And so the context of the conversation was to prepare him and give him what’s—the best support I could, as there was no question that he was going to be the chairman. He’d been named, and we’d talked, so that’s not the issue. We laughed about the tenacity it takes to survive and function eight years in the Pentagon.

And I spoke from my own personal experience of exactly eight straight years in the Pentagon—and the liberating effect it has when you get to leave—(laughter)—for which I’m eternally grateful to the administration and Secretary Rumsfeld for keeping me on active duty and letting me do something as exhilarating and as wonderful as this was.

So I’m not going to get into recollections of adjectives. I know that we had a serious discussion.

I did talk about Iraq. I did talk about Iraq with the concern that Iraq deserves. And I make no predictions there except that I’m personally committed to the idea that we collectively—we the nations, we the United States, however you want to put it, we the Iraqis—have got to be successful in Iraq. The strategic consequences of failure in Iraq, at least in my calculus, are very serious, and whatever we need to do to prevail is what has to happen. Similarly in Afghanistan. I’ve given my expose on that. I know more about Afghanistan than Iraq. I try not to talk about things I don’t know about.

And we went on to a number of other discussions, the role of the Joint Chiefs in a Goldwater-Nichols environment, and what’s happened in terms of things about my own experience of having no—being specifically prohibited from participating in any acquisition process as a service chief, and yet being held accountable for acquisition problems in the public forum, in fact, by the Congress, when the law says you cannot affect acquisition. Your chiefs are in the—Joint Chiefs are in the requirements business but not in the acquisition business.

I just think there’s a whole litany of things that need to be cleaned up in order to clarify functions, roles, missions and responsibilities. In the combatant commanders’ world, we have a lot of responsibility, and I think there are some things there that we can tidy up to make sure that our national strategies with regard to theater security cooperation and the like get better—we’re more agile and more effective.

So the sum total of the discussion was two friends talking, one trying to help the other. I think that General Pace was absolutely the perfect choice to be chairman, and I think he’s doing a great job. A lot of the things that we talked about he has put into place. And that was the context of it.

That conversation was in September of 2005. In December of 2005, my good friend Bob Woodward visited me in Brussels, came up to my house. We went out to dinner, we talked for a few hours, and we talked about those issues in that context. My intent was to be positive, not critical, and to reflect some of the things that I have been known to stand for.

It was reported in the way it was reported. I don’t challenge Bob’s characterization of it, expect that had I seen it, I probably would have suggested that the tone was a little bit more critical than I intended it to be. I intended it to be more helpful to the new chairman, an honest discussion of some of the problems that I’d already talked about in both private conversations and in public testimony. And I think that’s where I’d like to leave it.

KARL: And the revolt of the generals?

JONES: Oh. In a previous—at the National Press Club a few months ago, I was asked that question. And I do not associate myself with the so-called “revolt of the generals.” I believe that general officers, both active and retired, have an obligation to let their views be known. I think there’s ways in which you can do that that can be helpful. And so I don’t—I do not in any way associate myself with that particular group, and will not associate myself in my retired life either.

KARL: And I think he also asked if you had talked to Secretary Rumsfeld since the book came out.

JONES: Oh, I’m sorry. No, the secretary has been out of town in South America. I last met with the secretary in Slovenia last week when the United States announced that it would transfer 12,000 troops over to ISAF.

KARL: Sir?

QUESTIONER: (Arnaud de Borchgrave, CSIS) Thank you. General, on September 5 th, a rather controversial agreement was signed by President Musharraf with the tribal leaders in north Waziristan. And you were quoted as saying let’s give it 60 or 90 days to see if it’s going to work. But the latest from Afghanistan is that attacks by the Taliban have trebled since September 5 th.

JONES: Well, the—I was in Islamabad. I did meet with the senior military officials of the Pakistanis’ military. They did brief me on the nature of the accords, and they were optimistic about being able to make them work. Since this was only my second meeting, I took it at face value, and I did say I know what you just recounted; I will return back to Islamabad in the near future, after we’ve made a complete assessment and give it a little bit of time to kind of see exactly how this is going to go.

Not being naive here, this is a big problem. The border situation is something that I believe the leaders of the Pakistanis’ military understand, that you cannot treat the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan in isolation; this is a regional problem. And it’s certainly—in my view, in Pakistan’s interest that we find the solutions in Afghanistan because that will materially affect perhaps a spillover effect into not only Pakistan, but other countries of the region.

So strategically, success in Afghanistan is very, very important, and I hope that we’ll have a very good relation between NATO—NATO’s military and Pakistani military to bring about the situation that we want to see happen along the border region.

KARL: Okay. And if we can go back over here, and please state your name and your affiliation.

QUESTIONER: Jim Dobbins with the Rand Corporation. To follow up on Arnaud’s question with respect to Pakistan, U.N., NATO or Afghan and U.S. officials are virtually unanimous in private in asserting that the Pakistani intelligence service is providing and is continuing to provide support to the Taliban in one form or another. I wonder whether you’d be willing to comment on the degree to which the Pakistani intelligence service is somehow complicit in one way or another. And I also wonder whether you have any assessment of the proportion of the fighters that we’re encountering that are recruited in Pakistan as opposed to recruited in Afghanistan.

JONES: As NATO is just entering into its relationship with Pakistan, in a more total context, in the previous three years that I’ve been involved in this—with this issue, I’ve been focused on the north of the country, the capital region and the west, and only now has the—have we moved into the south and the east where the more difficult military problem exists. So we’re still coming up to speed on many of these issues. I really can’t comment on either question that you asked for—asked about because I’m still in the learning stage. But give me a couple of months, and maybe I can give you an answer that is more complete. It’s just not been on my radar recently.

KARL: We’ll come back in 60 or 90 days on that one.

JONES: Thank you.

KARL: Yes, back here. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Lloyd Hand, DLA Piper. A piggyback on Arnaud’s question earlier, General. Is the pursuit of bin Laden within the scope of the mission of NATO? And if so, are you permitted unrestricted authorization to pursue him?

Just a comment also, if I may. I think by your words and your conduct it’s pretty clear why the NATO members in general and the U.S. in particular are very fortunate to have you as NATO’s commander and particularly right now.

JONES: Thank you, sir. There is a—in the make-up of this—of our forces in Afghanistan, there is a distinction that nations have insisted upon between the more kinetic counterterrorism role, loosely defined as the aggressive search for Osama bin Laden, and aggressive counterterrorist operations in the high-threat regions that U.S. forces and coalition forces have been typically operating in, and the NATO mandate that really addresses more counterinsurgency/anti-terrorist activities.

The—and so there is a little bit of a—and if you looked at the wiring diagram, you would see a little segue where the OEF coalition can in fact continue their mission to be more kinetic. It’s not limited to any particular part of the country. We have command and control arrangements where if there is a serious opportunity somewhere, if it manifests itself, that forces that are tailored to do this can in fact go to different parts of the country to carry out that mission.

NATO has shown that it is—has the capacity to fight, if necessary. I think that question has been asked and answered. And I think that it’s been answered very, very well.

NATO’s focus, because of its capacity and mass, is going to be to harmonize the immediate effects of military operations with reconstruction. One has to follow the other in order to win the battle over the hearts and minds, if you will.

And so you will see a direct cause-and-effect relationship. You’re—if you were in the south right now, you’d be seeing it start. And that is really the focus of the alliance.

Now, if in fact a high-value target of opportunity presented itself in Afghanistan, can NATO apprehend people? Absolutely. Do we have a detention policy? Absolutely. It is agreed to by 26 sovereign countries. It works.

Recently in the north we had an apprehension involving Germans; ANA, Afghan National Army; Operation Enduring Freedom forces; and one or two other countries that resulted in a high-value target being seized by Special Operations forces, transferred to the Afghan authorities, and then subsequently returned to other countries that wish to interrogate the person that was apprehended. Happened to be more about a drug issue than anything else, but also weapons and illegal arms shipments, explosives and all of that.

So we have the ability to do that. It’s working, and I’m satisfied that the distinction between the two missions is clear, but it is not—and it’s not difficult to find the harmonization to prevent the separate identity of both—I’m sorry—to preserve the separate identity of both.

KARL: Okay. Yes, ma’am?

QUESTIONER: Georgie Anne Geyer, Universal Press Syndicate. General, after Vietnam, there were a lot of meetings in the war colleges and so on, on counterinsurgency, on guerrilla warfare. I attended a number of them.

And yet recently, once Iraq started, there have been all these articles about counterinsurgency not being taught in the war colleges, about—it seems that the forces, the services were not being trained in guerrilla warfare or counterinsurgency. I mean, I’ve seen whole, long articles. I’m just curious. Are we redoing the Vietnam story, having to learn it all over from the base?

JONES: Georgie Anne, I don’t know, to be honest with you. I know that when I was commandant of the Marine Corps, we dusted off one of the greatest books that I think I’ve ever read, called Marine Corps Small Wars Manual, that General Al Gray actually forced me to read when I was his military assistant. Actually, I think he gave me a test on it. (Laughter.) And it is still one of the best manuals that are out there on how to be successful in counterinsurgency.

So I think our war colleges are certainly teaching that. I don’t think that—there may be a little catch-up here, but I’m quite sure that with the amount of experience that we have in the armed forces right now, there’s quite a bit of learning going on.

I think—I know some services have studied, for example, the counterinsurgency efforts of Algeria, that had a very, very horrific problem just not that many years ago, in terms of violence on the scale of what we’re seeing in Iraq, and were able to defeat it. It still has some remnants out there, but there’s no question that Algeria had a success story there, and I think we’re studying that. I personally go to Algeria, and the chief of defense has been very helpful in setting up conversations with people who—Algerians who fought in that insurgency.

So we learn lessons from everybody. It’s important to do.

KARL: Yes? Back there.

QUESTIONER: Philip Dine, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I’m going back to narcotics in Afghanistan. Not just did the production of poppy rise by 59 percent over the last year, but the number of Afghans involved rose from 2 million to 2.9 million, which would translate to 36 million Americans. How did this happen? To what extent is it societal issues in Afghanistan, including the vicious cycle between economic development and illicit narcotics, and to what extent is it flawed or inattentive U.S. and U.K. policies?

JONES: Well, the amount of income that the farmer actually gets for growing the poppies is probably quite small, but it’s guaranteed income and it’s also generally money that’s paid for in advance. So in those areas of the country where there is no alternative, they do what they have to to survive. And they also do it probably under the threat of—pretty serious threats as to what would happen if they didn’t do it.

So the answer is to find some international consensus on what is the overall campaign strategy for a successful war on narcotics in Afghanistan.

The good news is you can see it. It’s not like Colombia, for example. You can’t hide it in Afghanistan. It’s just massive. And until we figure out the ways to—whether it’s subsidies, alternate crops, roads to markets, figuring out a way to disincentivize the farmers but also make sure that they’re not going to be killed by the cartels, all of these things kind of happening simultaneously—that plan has got to be together, and it’s got to be holistic, it’s got to be cohesive. It’s a battle that’s got to be joined. And we ought to—my view is we ought to look at it from a—you know, with a blank sheet of paper and say, and then these are the people that are going to make this happen, whoever that is.

But it’s where we are. We’re still—we’re losing ground, and it bothers me. It’s definitely what is most pressing and most on my mind with regard to our future efforts in Afghanistan.

KARL: There, way in the back, standing up. (I’m trying to ?)—

QUESTIONER: Hi. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News. I want to take one more stab at the Woodward book. I want to read you just one quote: “The Joint Chiefs have been systematically emasculated by Rumsfeld.” And regardless of whether you said that before, do you believe that now, and do you believe that we’re in a debacle in Iraq?

JONES: I believe that in the context of the answer that I gave with regard to Goldwater-Nichols that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have had some restrictions put on them that were not intended to have the consequences they’ve had.

You—having been a member of the Joint Chiefs during the 1999 to 2003 timeframe, I found that the Title 10 mission of organize, train and equip was a very time-consuming one. I definitely understood that. Had a little bit of a tougher time trying to stay abreast of a lot of the—you know, the war in Afghanistan, for example, and the movement towards Iraq. But that was partially because the system was set up that the chain of command goes from the commander in chief to the secretary of Defense to the combatant commanders. So off to the side of the direct line, you have the Joint Chiefs, you have the chairman, I mean, whose—(who) actually has to be involved in that—but the line of authority is clear, and that’s—those are the rules, and those are the rules you play by.

A relook at Goldwater-Nichols I think at some point would be healthy to make sure that after the years of experience that—to answer the question, are we happy with that? Is that the way we really want it to work? Do we want the chiefs out of the acquisition business, for example? I think—personally, I think the answer is no; I think you want the chiefs to be involved. But that’s an issue for another time.

I don’t want to get into “did you say”—“did you say a particular word to describe a situation?” I think the intent—I’ve tried to communicate the intent. It was positive, it’s not meant against anything. But there’s a lot of dynamics at work here on decision-making for the good of national security. I do believe that in the last few years that the trend has been in a more positive direction. I think there have been some helpful reorganizations inside the Pentagon that have allowed greater cohesion and people from different walks to communicate their views. I think we’re—General Pace has been able to carve out time so that the military community can actually—all the four-stars, combatant commanders, service chiefs can sit together, which is a little bit going backwards—going back to the old CINCs conferences. That’s very healthy. And I think the secretary of Defense gets good advice from that particular community, as communicated by the chairman.

So I think there have been some positive developments. But I think a relook at Goldwater-Nicholas, to take a look at the overall impact of it, would be healthy for our positioning and how we do things in the future.

KARL: But just so we’re entirely clear, the second part of that question on Iraq, and not what you did or didn’t say, I mean, do you believe Iraq has been a debacle or—

JONES: No, I think that’s probably a stronger—much stronger word than I would use. Again, my mission is—I’m not trying to duck the issue, but the only role I have in Iraq is a NATO role of a couple of hundred people that do training and equipping. I am consumed by NATO, I am consumed by the transformation of the European Command. I think John Abizaid is doing a terrific job. He and I talk a lot, we help each other, we help each other immeasurably. I’m very grateful to the U.S. Central Command for what we’ve been able to kludge together, and what Afghanistan will be as of tomorrow.

But I think the most important thing about Iraq is that we succeed. However it has to be done, it is critical that we succeed on the ground in our efforts there. And as long as I’m in uniform, and after uniform, I’ll do everything I can to help that mission.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

KARL: We are out of time. We’re actually over. Just on that note, if I can ask everybody to please stay seated, General Jones is now, thanks to me, a little bit late for his next meeting; we’ll give him a chance to get out.

But, General, again, I want to thank you for your candor. You have a reputation, well deserved, as a straight-shooter. And again, it’s been an honor, and thank you very much for your time.

JONES: Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you all. (Applause.)

Thanks, Jon. Good to see you. Thank you, I appreciate it.

KARL: We really appreciate it. Take care.

JONES: Thank you.

 

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