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General Jones, Sens. Levin & Graham on "Face the Nation"

General Jones, Sens. Levin & Graham on "Face the Nation"

By Face the Nation - August 9, 2009

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again, General Jones is in the studio with us this morning.

Thank you very much for coming, General. You went to Afghanistan back in June, you took reporter Bob Woodward along on the trip and afterwards he reported that you told the commanders there they would have to make due with what they had. Yet every day brings a new report that General McChrystal, the top American commander on the ground there, is preparing a new assessment and it appears that he is going to ask for more troops.

We hear that from various people, Anthony Cordesman from CSIS is just back from there. He says we have set impossible goals. We set impossible time frames. He says you are going to have to have more resources.

Are you getting ready to consider putting more troops into Afghanistan?

JONES: We -- first of all, it is a pleasure to be with you, thank you very much for having me. The fact is -- and I'll get to my remarks on what the intention was, but the fact is that in March, we announced a very comprehensive strategy that everybody participated in.

That strategy has essentially three legs, more security, followed by economic development, followed by better governance from the -- at the local levels in Afghanistan. And buttressed by more rapid development of the Afghan army and the Afghan police. So we want to put an Afghan capacity together as quickly as possible. We have over 40 nations on the ground, we have all of the international organizations you could want, from the U.N. to NATO, to E.U., the World Bank, the IMF, and nongovernmental organizations.

And Afghanistan will be solved by a better coordination of these elements. The troop strength is an important piece of it, and my message to General McChrystal and to the commanders when I went there was to say, think about the total strategy that we have all agreed to, General McChrystal is conducting an assessment at the request of secretary of defense.

They -- the Defense Department will evaluate what General McChrystal has to say, and in due time it will come up for a decision by the president.

But I did not say -- I want to be clear on this, I did not say that troop strength is off the table for discussion. What I did say is that we have yet to be able to measure the implementation of the new strategy, so if you have recommendations, make it in the context of the new strategy.

This -- we have learned one thing in six years, we -- this is not just about troop strength.

SCHIEFFER: Well, but that sounds like you are getting us ready for sending more troops to Afghanistan.

JONES: Well, let me put another thing on the table here. When the president made his decision, there were additional troops that were on the charts that the secretary of defense said at the time, Mr. President, you do not have to make this decision now, this is something we can consider later after we measure the implementation of our strategy.

So we will have discussions as the weeks and months go by. The big thing for us now is to make sure that the strategy is being implemented, we have got new commanders, we have got new diplomats, we have got Richard Holbrooke, who is providing the theater engagement.

It is not just about Afghanistan, it's about Pakistan and what is going on there.

SCHIEFFER: But, General, we have been there how long? Six years, and it is like -- it sounds like you are talking about we just got there.

JONES: No, no, no. We -- I have been involved in this for six years also.

SCHIEFFER: Well, how bad is it there? Every report we have is that it is worse than it has ever been. That it has become sort of a sinkhole and now you are trying to develop yardsticks to find out how well we are doing.

When are we going to know how we are doing, even? JONES: We will -- that is a very good question, and it is a fair question. I -- this is my opinion. My opinion was that we did not have a well-articulated strategy until March of this year.

We had a strategy for security. We had a little bit of a strategy for economic development, which was other people's problems. And we had a strategy that may be addressed a little bit of governance and the rule of law. This strategy merges all of those three things.

We also are -- we are definitely going to, in conjunction with our allies, develop the Afghan army at a faster rate and the Afghan police so we can have Afghans in charge of their own destiny in a shorter period of time.

So, yes, we have been there six years. But if you go back to the overall history of it, and you look at the three pillars that need to be developed, security has always been done reasonably well, although we have had some backsliding since 2007, but the other two have been allowed to not develop as quickly.

So in conjunction with our allies, and I want to make sure that I make this point as well, that this is not just a U.S. problem. This is an international problem, and we cannot -- I think we have the strategy and we will shortly see, and I mean within a year, whether this strategy is working and then we will adjust from there.

SCHIEFFER: We'll know in a year if the new strategy...

JONES: Within the year...

SCHIEFFER: ... is working?

JONES: And we have the metrics to evaluate this strategy. The Congress has mandated them. We were going to do them anyway. The president has said, "I want regular reports as to how we're doing."

SCHIEFFER: But so far it isn't working? Would that be fair to say?

JONES: Well, it's -- it's only been three months old.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, the previous strategy?

JONES: We don't even have -- the troop strength that has been agreed has not even arrived there, so -- so my benchmark is this administration, in March, committed to a new strategy. We involved Afghanistan. We involved Pakistan. We involved NATO, the allies. We had the NATO summit, where the allies had a -- a new...

SCHIEFFER: So let me see if I can just sum this up.

JONES: ... a new attitude.

SCHIEFFER: You're going to develop a new strategy...

JONES: We've had it.

SCHIEFFER: ... and you have a new strategy going, and you may have to send more troops to Afghanistan?

You're not, at least, going to rule that out at this point?

JONES: I won't rule -- we won't rule anything out that stands to reason, but it is fair to say that, once we agree on a new strategy, we want to make sure that it is -- has a chance to be evaluated.

SCHIEFFER: OK.

JONES: And if things come up where we need to adjust one way or the other, and it involves troops or it involves more incentives...

(CROSSTALK) JONES: ... for economic development or better assistance to help the Afghan government function, we'll do that.

SCHIEFFER: Now, what was it, last weekend, that Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, flew out to meet with General McChrystal?

JONES: Correct.

SCHIEFFER: That suggests there may be some sort of -- we may be in some sort of crisis mode. This was a secret trip that wasn't announced until after they completed it.

Would you think -- would you say that things in Afghanistan at this point are at a crisis level?

JONES: Well, we're -- coming up to a very important election. We have, I think, a -- no, I don't think -- I don't think we're at a crisis level, in terms of -- or that there's going to be any movement on the ground by the Taliban that's going to overthrow the government. We're going to have, I think, a good election. The signs are that it's going to be -- the instruments of security are being well- thought-out.

I think, with the success that we've had on the Pakistan side of the border, which we can talk about if you like, and the growing troop strength by the U.S. and some of our allies on the Afghan side, I think -- I think the security aspect of things is -- going to get better.

There's going to be a little bit more fighting. Unfortunately, we're taking more casualties, but if we're able to marry up the other two legs of this three-legged stool that I mentioned, put things that will change the economic forecast for the Afghan people on the ground, put Afghan troops, Afghan police in the villages languages and towns, I think that's the -- that's the future.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about this situation in Pakistan. Mehsud, the top Taliban man -- I heard you say earlier today that we're 90 percent sure that we got him. Now, how important is that?

JONES: Well, I think it is very important. First of all, it's important because this is Pakistan's public enemy number one, if I could. He has -- he controls a very violent aspect of the insurgent problems in -- on the Pakistani side of the border. And this would be -- this is a big deal, and...

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk, a little bit, about the developments in North Korea. Former President Clinton went there. He got these people. We now know that it was the North Koreans that said, if you'll send him, we'll -- we'll let these two young Americans go.

We also know that, because I've heard you already report this, that the president, former president, did have conversations with them on a variety of subjects.

What happens now? Do we -- do we expect some development here now?

JONES: Well, we hope so. President Clinton did have the opportunity to talk to the North Korean leader and suggest that the happy scene that was carried out in California with the unification of families could have happened with the detainee from South Korea in Seoul or in Tokyo with the Japanese abductees and he represented our desire to have them released as well.

I think that obviously with his, as the former president, with his father, the Korean leader's father, was -- had eight years of experience with dealing with North Korea, and he was able to, in his own way -- the I hope persuasive that there is a better way, there is a better path, that it is clear that a couple of things are clear.

One is that we sent no official or unofficial message from our government, so there was no -- there is nothing secretive here, that North Korea knows that the path to talking is through the six party process, and that within that six party process --

SCHIEFFER: They seem to want to have some sort of one-on-one dialogue with the United States. Would we be willing to do that?

JONES: Sure within the context of the six party talks.

SCHIEFFER: What does that mean?

JONES: Meaning if they come back to the talks, we will talk to them bilaterally within those talks. We have coordinated all of this by the way with the other allies, the Chinese, the Russians, the South Koreans, the Japanese. So the path is clear, and President Clinton is a very convincing gentleman and I hope he was able to convince them.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this, General. Why do you think the North Korean leader wanted to do this? Was he trying to impress his own people? Was he trying to impress his military that look, I can get a former president of the United States to come over here. That shows you I am still a strong and vibrant leader? Or was he trying to impress the rest of the world? What was that all about?

JONES: You know, I would be guessing. You know, internally, he can manipulate this anyway he wants but as far as the rest of the world, I think that we are clear on what it was and what it wasn't.

SCHIEFFER: And what it was?

JONES: What it was is a private humanitarian mission to rescue and obtain the release of two girls so they could be with their families and that is President Obama's -- that was his goal in this.

SCHIEFFER: Finally, Gitmo. Every indication is you will not be able to make the president's deadline of closing that down by the end of the year.

JONES: This is a complex issue and we are working on this every single day. I still believe that we can achieve our goals, but it is a complex issue.

SCHIEFFER: But you are not sure if you are going to make it?

JONES: No, I think we will. I think there are some things on the table that we can't necessarily talk about right now, but hopefully there are some signs here that we will find the right way to do this.

SCHIEFFER: All right General Jones, thanks for being with us and I hope you come back.

JONES: It is a pleasure, thank you very much.

SCHIEFFER: And we will be back with our round table from Congress in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And with us now from Clemson, South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham of the Armed Services Committee. And here in the studio with us, Senator Carl Levin , who is the chairman of that committee. Let's start first with Afghanistan, where I started with General Jones. What are you going to do, Senator Levin, if the president comes to you and says we've got to have a lot more troops for Afghanistan?

LEVIN: It is too early to know what Congress would do. It depends on what the facts and the arguments are. It depends what our commanders in the field say. It depends also I think in part what our NATO allies are willing to do.

LEVIN: Many of them have come forth. Some of them -- a number of countries have taken very hard hits, losses of troops, but a lot of the other NATO allies have fallen short of their commitments, and we're going to put maximum pressure on them to do what they promised to do, in terms of providing trainers for the Afghan army and also providing money.

They have promised a billion dollars, along with a billion euros, a long time ago, and they have only provided 10 percent of that.

So, you know, Afghanistan is a little but different from -- a lot different from Iraq. For one thing, Afghanistan is the place, along with the Pakistan border, that the attackers were trained and harbored, that hit us on 9/11. We took our eye off that ball when we went to Iraq, but now we've got our eye on that border. We cannot allow that border to become a safe haven again.

And something else is very significant in Afghanistan. And that is that the Afghan army is cohesive; they are motivated; they hate the Taliban. And so they have the motivation necessary. What they don't have are the numbers yet. We've got to be much, much better and quick-training of the Afghan army, because I think we've got to transfer this responsibility as quickly as we can to the Afghans.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Graham, what -- what about that?

What about when we put our eye back on that area along the border?

What's going to need to be done there, and how far do you think Congress is going to be willing to go?

GRAHAM: Well, your question was, what would Congress do if the president said we needed more troops in Afghanistan?

I'm one Republican that would support more troops in Afghanistan. I do believe, quite frankly -- I'll be shocked if more troops are not requested by our commanders.

Afghanistan has deteriorated. In July of last year the president said, when he was a candidate for office, that Afghanistan, not Iraq, was the central battle in the war on terror.

I disagreed then because Iraq hung in the balance. Iraq is more stable. The president is right. Afghanistan is now the central battle front on the war in terror. That means more of everything: more troops, more political engagement, more economic engagement.

Carl is right. Our NATO allies need to send more troops. The Afghan army to be doubled would be a $20 billion appropriation over five years. America is now paying 90 percent of the Afghan army. NATO contributed their $100 million when Gates passed the hat to help pay for the Afghan army, so I would urge our NATO allies to submit more troops, more funding.

And I'll be shocked if more troops are not needed. We must secure Afghanistan, and it is not secure now because we don't have enough troops.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do you have any indication that our NATO allies are going to say anything more than, oh, it's a great idea, and we'd be happy to continue holding your hat...

(LAUGHTER)

... but we're not going to help you much more?

GRAHAM: Right.

SCHIEFFER: so what do we do after that?

GRAHAM: Well, we -- we have to get it right. We urge our -- you know, the president has a lot of political capital throughout the world. He's come up with a new engagement strategy. Hopefully they will reward the president by helping him.

But we've got to do it. No matter what NATO does, we've got to make sure that Afghanistan is secure for all the reasons that Carl said.

If we go -- if Afghanistan becomes a chaotic situation, it affects Pakistan. So we're going to need more of everything.

My message to my Democratic colleagues is that we made mistakes in Iraq. Let's not Rumsfeld Afghanistan. Let's don't do this thing on the cheap. Let's have enough combat power and engagement across the board to make sure we're successful. And quite frankly, we all have got a lot of ground to make up.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I'm going to get back to Senator Levin in just a minute, but I've got to ask you what you mean when you say "Let's don't Rumsfeld this thing."

GRAHAM: We went in with a strategy to -- to defeat the Iraqi army that worked. We never had enough troops on the ground to secure the population.

You cannot have political reconciliation, economic progress, the rule of law, when the judges and the economy is under siege by the enemy. There is too much violence. We've lost parts of Afghanistan to the Taliban.

So once we changed strategies and engaged in the surge with more military power and more of everything, we turned Iraq around. When I'm saying "Don't Rumsfeld Afghanistan," don't resist the idea that we're going to need more, because we are.

As much as it hurts me to say that, knowing that people in Iraq will come to Afghanistan to continue to fight, I think it's the only way to turn around Afghanistan.

SCHIEFFER: All right. So where are you going to get these troops, Senator?

And the last time I heard, the government was in, kind of, a crunch for money. How do you pay for all of this?

LEVIN: We have to transfer a lot of responsibility to the Afghan army. There was a summit, a NATO summit in April. There was a commitment made to have a trainer group go to Afghanistan, by NATO countries.

We've got to put a lot of pressure on NATO allies that have so far not come through to do that. It is critically important.

The Afghan army not only needs to get to 130,000, which is the current goal, from their approximately 80,000 that they're at now; they've got to double that to get to 250,000.

LEVIN: For all of the reasons that Lindsey Graham have just given. We have got to protect the Afghan people and they have got to protect their own people from the Taliban.

And by the way, there is a lot of challenging areas in Afghanistan. But Afghanistan in many areas is safe and security and there are certain areas where there are challenges and we have to take those challenges.

SCHIEFFER: Would you disagree with Senator Graham's premise that it's just going to take a lot more of everything, including U.S. troops.

LEVIN: I think it is going to take a lot more of most things. I don't think we should commit at this point to more troops for two reasons.

Number one, it takes NATO allies off the hook from keeping their commitments and number two, it takes some of the pressure off of the Afghans themselves to help move that army much more quickly. We need their commanders, for instance, to have larger units in Afghanistan.

SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you quickly about Guantanamo. General Jones says they still believe they can get it closed down by the end of the year. There seems to be a lot of resistance in Congress. Senator McConnell said this morning he thought there would be widespread bipartisan opposition to closing it down. Do you think it can actually be done?

LEVIN: Yes, I think it is be done and the White House assured me as of yet yesterday that they are on track to get us that plan in the time required by law. You know, we have -- President Bush who said we have to close Guantanamo. We got our key military leaders, from Petraeus to Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs say we've got to close Guantanamo. Five former secretaries of state say we have to close Guantanamo because Guantanamo has been used by terrorists as a training tool.

So there is a very broad consensus among some of us, the key leaders in this country that we need to close it, because it is a security threat as long as we keep it open. And so now what I believe we need to do is to have the plan, which others have insisted we have and I agree, have that plan in place for transferring all of those 220 people to other places --

SCHIEFFER: Would you be willing to take some of those people in Michigan?

LEVIN: I support that, providing we have local support and the governor when we are talking about state facilities, of course I do. You know, we should not be cowed by the terrorists so that we don't even keep them in maximum security prisons in the United States. We can't allow the terrorists to be intimidating us from trying them and keeping them in our jails.

SCHIEFFER: All right, we have to end it there. Senator Graham, thank you for being with us this morning. And you too, Senator Levin.

LEVIN: Thank you.

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