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Entries in NATO (4)


Middle East: Israel's Troubles with a Turkish Ally

The Results of the Mitchell Israel-Palestine Trip: Nothing

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israel-turkeyOn Sunday, Ankara made a dramatic last-minute decision to bar Israel from an international military exercise on Turkish soil. Israeli leaders see the decision as a political response linking to Turkey's continuing criticisms over Israel's military operations in Gaza.

On Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke to CNN:
We hope that the situation in Gaza will be improved. The situation will be back to the diplomatic track. And that will create a new atmosphere in Turkish-Israeli relations as well. But in the existing situation, of course we are criticizing this ... Israeli approach.

On the same day, Several Israeli defense officials said advanced weapons sales to Turkey would now be reviewed, and a leading academic expert on Israeli-Turkish relations suggested ending support for Turkey on the Armenian genocide issue in Washington if the deterioration in ties continues.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry tried to minimise the issue on Monday:
The international part of the Turkish exercise had merely been postponed and it is inappropriate to draw a political meaning and conclusion from the postponement. it is impossible to accept the assessments and comments attributed to Israeli officials in the press. We invite Israeli officials to [use] common sense in their stance and statements.

This may have eased the situation, as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded:
Israel's relations with Turkey are strategic, and have existed for dozens of years. Despite all the ups and downs Turkey continues to be a key player in our region.

Yet nothing in Middle East is ever limited to straightforward bilateral exchanges. The Turkish-Israeli tension occurs as Ankara's extends its Middle Eastern presence with other ties. On Tuesday, ten Turkish ministers including the Foreign Minister travelled to Damascus for the meeting fo the Turkey-Syria High Level Strategic Cooperation Council, established last month.

Iran's Power Politics: A Warning To Moscow

The Latest from Iran (10 October): Karroubi is Back

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AHMADI MEDVEDEVIn the aftermath of the Geneva talks on Iran's nuclear programme, there are clear signals that Tehran wants some re-assurance of Russia's support. Moscow may have backed away from its initial signal, after the revelation of the second enrichment plant, that it might accept tougher sanctions, but there is far more in play, as Iran tipped off in its high-profile references at Geneva to "regional issues". Beyond the headlines on "missile defense", positions from the Middle East to the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Basin are being contested.

These two articles from Iran Review--- the first by Dr Hassan Behestipour on the Iran-Russia-US triangle and the second by Behzad Ahmadi Lafuraki on the threat of Russia's accommodation with NATO --- are far more than academic exercises in making the point:

Iran and Washington’s Game with Moscow

Dr. Hassan Beheshtipour

After Obama was elected president in February 2009, relations between Russia and the United States somehow changed after two years that had passed since the Munich meeting. The new administration had given up past conservative policies and Obama paid a visit to Moscow in July 2009. In the new era, Washington ignores repression of Chechens by Russia, which in turn, helps the United States in Afghanistan.

The United States has also temporarily postponed implementation of its missile defense shield for Eastern Europe in order to convince Moscow to be more cooperative on Afghanistan and Iran. Russia has tried to expand its relations with pro-West Arab countries as well as countries critical of the United States in Latin America in order to secure a foothold in a region which has been traditionally considered a US backyard. This will not only increase political clout of Russia, but also provide Moscow with a good market to sell arms.

Perhaps the zenith of the confrontations between Moscow and Washington in recent months has been establishment of a missile shield by the United States in the Czech Republic and Poland. Hearing about postponement of the plan, Moscow has taken contradictory stances on it. While President Medvedev has welcomed the development, Russian military are skeptical about the true intention of the United States and consider the move to be aimed at deceiving Russia and buying time.

However, the Russians have officially announced that in return for the postponement, they would give up a plan to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad, which is a Russian enclave near the border with Poland.

Bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington

Despite the rhetoric between the United States and Russia after the election of Obama, bilateral conditions are still plagued with many challenges. The fact that Medvedev received Obama at his family resort in Moscow and the warm meetings between the two sides on the sidelines of G20 meeting in Weisberg, US, have shown that neither of the two sides want their differences to lead to a major confrontation. In other words, Russia is planning to compete with the United States for benefits while it had resigned to some form of confrontation with the US under the Bush Administration. Therefore, Russia will not seek war and conflict with the United States in the coming years. Unlike the past, the Russians know where and how to deal with the Americans and when and where to confront them in order to both guarantee their own interests and make the rival withdraw.

Role of Iran in Washington’s game with Russia

This policy, however, has cost Russia dearly as the country has damaged its international credit as a result of giving in to US pressures over Iran’s nuclear case. The Americans have made the most of the Russians to achieve their goals the latest instance of which was adoption of the fourth Security Council resolution against Iran in early 2009. In order to keep its bargaining power in the face of the United States, Russia cannot afford to lose the Iran trump card. But what obstacles lay ahead of Russia?

In order to curb further US advances toward its western and southern borders, it should first build confidence in its relations with countries like Iran because Russia is usually faced with two charges in relation to its foreign policy.

Firstly, Russia opposes US unilateralism at international level, but pursues a similar policy in the region. International experts maintain that international and regional forms of unilateralism are equally inefficient and cause distrust, thus, reducing cooperation among nations.

Secondly, in its interactions with the United States, Russia easily trades its allies’ interest with the West when needed, but when its own national security or national interests are at stake, like what happened with the missile defense system, it would not be ready for any deal with the West. Continuation of this policy, which is considered by journalists as trading other countries’ interests for its own, will isolate Russia in the long run.

Vladimir Eskusirov and Andrei Terekhov, Russian correspondents of Nezavisimaia Gazeta in Tehran wrote an article on Monday saying that Tehran was surprised by the Russian president’s remarks who noted that ‘under some circumstances, sanctions are the only choice’. Those remarks seem strange because Russia is well aware that Iran has no nuclear weapons.

Last Friday, the Russian president issued a special statement on the uranium enrichment facility near Qom and noted that construction of a new enrichment plant is against frequent requests by the United Nations Security Council for Iran to stop uranium enrichment on its soil.

Russian analysts maintain that Washington had reserved news about the new plant secret until October 1 when Iranians had to make a final choice. Interestingly, Obama told Medvedev about the new plant only on Wednesday with China and Russia being fed accurate information on Thursday, that is, later than France and UK. Statements by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, who said in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Russia expected its allies to immediately share any information on Iran with Moscow, clearly indicated that Moscow was not happy with the current state of affairs. Russia was unhappy both with the level of cooperation with Western members of P5+1, and with Iran which had not said anything to Russia about the new plant.

In reality, if Russia wants to have Iran’s cooperation, it should prove that Moscow is a trustworthy partner, not a country which passes good times with others while sharing bad times with Iran and other critics of the West.


NATO’s Call on Russia for Cooperation: Goals and Possibilities
Behzad Ahmadi Lafuraki

After the tension in Russia’s relations with NATO increased due to what happened in Southern Ossetia in August 2008, the two sides met at high level on the Greek island of Corfu on June 29, 2009 and agreed to resume political and military cooperation.

The then NATO secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, announced resumption of NATO – Russia cooperation and mentioned reduction in weapons of mass destruction and fighting illicit drugs as major fields in which the two sides can collaborate. His successor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also called for resumption of negotiations with Kremlin in order to create a new atmosphere and work out new strategic partnership according to which both sides could cooperate on Afghanistan, terrorism, and piracy. He declared reduction of common security concerns in Europe and fighting common threats as the main areas of cooperation between NATO and Russia.

The turning point in renewed relations between NATO and Russia, however, is a recent decision by the United States to give up its plan for the establishment of a missile defense shield in eastern and central Europe. Just one day after the announcement of the above decision by US officials, secretary-general of NATO declared that a major hurdle on the way of expanding relations with Russia has been removed and the two sides should now focus on commonalities. The secretary-general did not suffice to general terms and pointed to four main areas of cooperation between Russia and NATO, that is, fighting terrorism at international level, fighting drug trafficking in Afghanistan, preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons, and establishment of joint missile defense systems.

Russia also lost no time to show positive reaction to the US decision by commending Washington. Kremlin did not suffice to lip service and announced that it will stop deployment of new missiles in Kaliningrad.

The above developments and Rasmussen’s call on Russia to cooperate with NATO indicate a U-turn in NATO’s security policy, on the one hand, and Moscow’s keen interest in improving relations with the United States and NATO for better management of challenges, on the other hand. Since Russia’s relations with NATO have been constantly a function of the country’s relations with the United States and Europe, improvement in bilateral relations between Washington and Moscow has left its mark on Russia’s relations with NATO and common goals have overshadowed discrepancy in values.

On the whole, the West has reached the conclusion that convergence with Russia will be more beneficial for the security of transatlantic system than isolation of the country. Two main reasons have prompted Russia to cooperate with NATO despite threats posed to it by eastward expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The first reason is that Moscow is willing to be part of the transatlantic community. The second reason is having common security concerns with other NATO members, including the issue of stability in Afghanistan and drug trafficking in that country, fighting terrorism, especially transnational Islamist tendencies, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as challenges it is facing due to increased population and influence of China. In doing this, Russia is pursuing the following three goals:

1. To avoid isolation in international issues which are related to global security like Afghanistan by being present in international decision-making bodies such as NATO;

2. To prevent NATO from possibly taking anti-Russia positions; and

3. To creates opportunities for solving problems in the Caucasus by cooperating with NATO on such issues as Afghanistan or terrorism.

On the other hand, the United States and its allies are currently attaching more significance to Russia’s cooperation with NATO as problems like the instability in Afghanistan or the nuclear standoff with Iran greatly overshadowed the war in Georgia and its consequences. As for Afghanistan, it is possible for Russia to either limit the number of NATO flights over its airspace or instigate Central Asian states, as it did with Uzbekistan, to shut down US bases on their soil, thus, causing serious problems for NATO in supporting its forces in Afghanistan.

As for Iran, it seems that the United States has managed through introduction of the missile shield plan and its later rescission to make Moscow cooperate with Washington on Iran’s nuclear case. In fact, the United States has taken advantage of something that did not exist and has dealt with Russia over it. This has precedence in the US foreign policy and many similar instances can be seen in relation to various issues in the world. It was in line with this policy that as soon as the United States announced its decision to rescind the missile shield plan, Rasmussen moved to ask Russia to put the maximum possible diplomatic pressure on Iran in order to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.

The secretary-general of NATO warned the world on September 19, 2009 and on the verge of Group 5+1 meeting that if Iran were turned into a nuclear power, its model would be followed by some neighboring countries and emergence of multiple nuclear powers would not be in the best interests of NATO and Russia.

Since Russia has been consistently following a defensive policy toward NATO in the past decade and considered NATO’s decisions a function of the interests of its main power, that is, the United States, it seems that improvement in Washington – Moscow relations would certainly lead to improvement in Russia’s relations with NATO, just as happened in 2002.

The signs of such improvement are already on the horizon. Russian leaders have not ruled out the possibility of more sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program and have even expressed concerns over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.


Analysis & Transcript: Clinton and Gates on "What to Do in Afghanistan-Pakistan?" (and Iran)

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CLINTON GATESCNN, which is desperate to ensure that Christiane Amanpour is The Most Important Broadcaster in the History of the World, has not released the video of Monday's roundtable at George Washington University with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. They have released the transcript, however.

The significance of the discussion is diluted because the first 2/3 of it is one of the worst interviews I have ever read. Forget Amanpour's fawning and gushing about "the annals of recent history", the first few minutes devoted to Clinton and Gates saying We are the Best of Friends, the opening substantive question, "Do you think you can win in Afghanistan?", and the close in which Amanpour says that we have to fight in Afghanistan for "the young people".

Almost nothing of importance is said about Afghanistan, even though the Obama Administration is on the cusp of a decision about another military escalation. There is no critique of what another 40,000 troops would mean, only scare words about Al Qa'eda and the Taliban. The conversation is slanted with the further question, "By scaling back over the next 12 to 18 months, you can win in Afghanistan?", so Clinton and Gates can say, "No", and avoid any specific consideration of the difficulties of escalation.

The only passage of interest is Frank Sesno's challenge that the "non-military" dimension of US efforts is "only a drop in the bucket". Clinton does not refute that point, instead she tellingly shifts the conversation, "In order to operate in many of the places in Afghanistan, you have to have a level of security.So there has to be a commitment to make an area as secure as possible."

Yet, instead of pressing the point that there are issues beyond security, Amanpour and Sesno walked away. There is no reference in the interview to alleged corruption affecting the development efforts. Indeed, the Afghan Presidential election, which took place two months ago and still has not been resolved amidst allegations of fraud, is never mentioned.

The conversation on Iran is far more interesting. Indeed, Clinton dropped in an important revelation when she said that the Geneva talks on Iran's nuclear programme had produced an aggreement for "third-party enrichment" in principle. That shift from earlier reports of an agreement in practice matches Tehran's account. And beyond the specifics, Clinton offered perhaps the best summary of the US engagement with Iran: "[The talks] buy time."

Clinton was far more close-mouthed on Iran's internal situation, offering only, "We've been very clear in supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people and in speaking out forcefully against the irregularities of their electoral process." However, note further down her confirmation that the State Department did make a significant intervention early in the post-election crisis: "We were told that Twitter just was going to have to shut down for 48 hours to do some upgrades to the software. So we called and said, "Please don't shut down, because this is a major communications loop for people on the streets."

AMANPOUR: Welcome. Welcome to you both.

We've been sort of searching back in the annals of recent history, and we can't really find an example such as this, where two sitting secretaries, in charge of some of the most important briefs at the moment, are sitting on stage in an interview such as this.

So we just wanted to start by asking you, how often do you speak together? What is it like working together? Do you pick up the phone and call each other whenever you like? How does it work?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE Well, we actually spend a lot of time together, and it is mostly at the White House, in the Situation Room, which is this room that is especially set up for secure conversations, a windowless domain that we spend a lot of time in, and we also talk outside of those formal meetings.

But, you know, Bob has a -- a lot of experience, which I certainly appreciate, and also a good sense of humor, which makes everything a little bit better.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You know, most of my career, secretaries of state and defense weren't speaking to one another.

AMANPOUR: Precisely why we are.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: In fact, sometimes it was even worst than that.

GATES: And -- and -- and it could get pretty ugly, actually. And so -- I mean, it's terrific to -- to have the kind of relationship where we can talk together, because the truth of the matter is, if the bureaucracies realize that the principals get along and work together and are on the same page, it radiates downward.

And when people discover it's not career-enhancing to try and set your principal's hair on fire because the other person is doing something horrible, it makes a huge difference, and not just at this level, but all through the bureaucracy and the interagency.

SESNO: So what is it that, by doing this and by sending this signal from the top, that you are trying to change?

GATES: Well, I don't -- I don't think we're trying to prove anything. It's just we get along. We work together well. I think it starts with, frankly, based on my experience, the secretary of defense being willing to acknowledge that the secretary of state is the principal spokesperson for United States foreign policy. And once you get over that hurdle, the rest of it kind of falls into place.

CLINTON: You know, Frank, I think that, you know, when Secretary Gates was given this responsibility in the last administration, he immediately began making clear that we had to have a coherent and unified foreign policy; the instruments of American power in defense, diplomacy and development needed to be working together.

AMANPOUR: So given that you're involved in a very difficult situation right now -- the war in Afghanistan, the place where I've spent a long time -- I want to start by asking you, do you think you can win there? Both of you, I'd like to know whether you think you can win?

CLINTON: Well, I think, Christiane, what we're looking at, as we meet to advise the president, is what do we need to do in Afghanistan and Pakistan, because we see the region as the area of concern, that will, you know, promote American interests and values, protect our country, as well as the allies and other interests that we have around the world?

So I think it's a -- it's a -- a very thoughtful analysis about, what is it we need to do? And -- and we're -- you know, we're trying to look at it from ground up and make sure that we're examining every assumption, because what's important is, is that, at the end of the day, the president makes a decision that he believes in, that he thinks is going to further our core objectives of, you know, protecting our country, preventing attacks on us, trying to protect our interests and our allies. And that's what we're -- we're attempting to do.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Gates, the majority of the American people believe that America can win in Afghanistan. Do you think America can win in Afghanistan?

GATES: Well, from the time I've took this job, I have tried, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, to avoid terms like "winning" and "losing," because they become very loaded in our domestic debate, but they also become loaded around the world. I think the key thing is to establish what our objectives are, and can we achieve our objectives? And the answer to that question is absolutely.

SESNO: Well, let me ask you about our objectives, because back in March, President Obama said several things. He said our clear and focused goal -- that was his term -- was to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaida. He said, for the American people, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was the most dangerous place in the world, that Afghanistan was an international security issue of the highest order, and that if the Afghan government were to fall to the Taliban, the country will -- and I'm quoting him here -- "be again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can."

Has any of that changed from then until now in this review?


GATES: I don't think so.


GATES: I think it's important to remember that, as Secretary Clinton said, that the president indicated very explicitly in -- at the end of March that we would revisit the strategy after the election in Afghanistan.

Now, at least a couple of things have happened. One is the new commander has done an assessment and found a situation that -- in Afghanistan that is more serious than we anticipated when the decisions were made in March. So that's one thing to take into account.

The other is, clearly, a flawed election in Afghanistan that has complicated the picture for us.

And so, it seems to me, under these circumstances, and particularly -- I mean, let's be honest. The president is being asked to make a very significant decision. And the notion of being willing to pause, reassess basic assumptions, reassess the analysis, and then make those decisions seems to me, given the importance of these decisions -- which I've said are probably among the most important he will make in his entire presidency -- seems entirely appropriate.

AMANPOUR: So you've both spoken just now very highly of General McChrystal. You've talked about the new commander, his important reassessment, and changes on the ground.

There are obviously two basic choices that you have: either to go all in or to scale back. Some who are talking about scaling back talk about less nation-building, talk about more Predator strikes, perhaps more focus on -- on Pakistan rather than in Afghanistan.

In a public speech in London to military personnel, General McChrystal, when asked about that, flatly stated that it wouldn't work. Can we just show you what he said?


GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE FORCE, AFGHANISTAN: No. And the first -- the first reason is, I believe, you have to navigate from where you are, not from where you wish you were. We are in Afghanistan. We've established relationships, expectations both with the Afghan people, the Afghan government, in the region, and I believe Afghanistan has its own value. It's stability now.


AMANPOUR: So do you believe that, by scaling back over the next 12 to 18 months, you can win in Afghanistan?

GATES: Well, first of all, I think, as you know, we are not going to talk about where the president ought to go or the options in front of him. I mean, I think I just gave a speech this morning in which I said that the president deserves the candid advice of his senior advisers, both civilian and military, but that advice should be private.

All I will say is, first of all, I think Stan McChrystal is exactly the right person to be the commander in Afghanistan right now. He was my recommendation to the president to lead this effort. And I have every confidence that, no matter what decision the president makes, Stan McChrystal will implement it as effectively as possible.

AMANPOUR: Could I ask you about the nature of private advice? You have said it; others have said it; General Jones said it this weekend. You know that, during the lead-up to the gulf -- to the second Iraq war in 2003, many of the one-star, two-star, other generals and military officials didn't stand up and challenge the premise that only a certain amount of troops were necessary, and that was deemed to have been a big mistake and deemed to have wasted a lot of time, for instance, in Iraq.

Do you not think that General McChrystal must give his honest assessment in public, because of what happened when that honest assessment was not given?

GATES: I think the important thing is for the president to hear the advice of his commanders and to have the advantage of hearing that advice in private. In all the decisions that were made during the surge in Iraq, the president -- I structured a process where the commander in the field, General Petraeus, the then-commander of Central Command, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff each had an opportunity to present their views privately to the president on what ought to be done.

I think that's the way the process ought to work. I think the president -- this president has made it clear he is prepared to spend whatever time is needed in person, not only with the Joint Chiefs and the chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but with General McChrystal, to make sure they have had plenty of time to present their views directly to him. That's a commitment he has made to me directly, and I intend to make sure that it's exercised.

AMANPOUR: Could I just ask, Secretary Clinton, what you think about the nature of the debate over the advice?

CLINTON: I think it's important to put this into perhaps some historic perspective. You know, it is unusual for all advice about military matters to be in public for a president.

Now, there is a lot of second-guessing that might go on and historical perspective, but this process that President Obama has put together is, I think, one of the most open, most thorough that I've read about. And it is very much an invitation for everybody to come to the table, and that's what we're doing.

AMANPOUR: We'll be right back with more on this subject right after a break.




BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To advance security, opportunity and justice, not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces. We need agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers. That's how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs.

And that's why I'm ordering a substantial increase in our civilians on the ground. That's also why we must seek civilian support from our partners and allies.


SESNO: Secretary Clinton, you've heard that, President Obama speaking in March about the need to increase the number of civilians -- the civilian surge it's called -- but the civilian task has been -- or the civilian personnel has been way under-tasked. When you came into office, 300-some-odd civilians. You're trying to move to 1,000 by the end of the year or just under it.


SESNO: That's a big increase.


SESNO: But compared to the tens of thousands of the military, it's just a drop in the bucket. Is that really going to change the dynamic? What should the balance be in a conflict zone like Afghanistan if you're going to accomplish the goals that you're out to accomplish?

CLINTON: Well, Frank, I think what we are attempting to achieve is remarkable in a short period of time. As you say, back when the president made those remarks in March, we had about 300 civilians, Americans, in Afghanistan. We will have close to 1,000 by the end of this year.

But it is a kind of a chicken-and-an-egg issue. We want to focus on development, particularly agriculture, rule of law, good governance, economic development, women's empowerment, those kinds of issues. But in order to operate in many of the places in Afghanistan, you have to have a level of security.

So there has to be a commitment to make an area as secure as possible, because, remember, when an American goes in, that person will always be accompanied by, you know, NGOs, Afghans. So the numbers are much bigger than just the direct American hires, because there are a lot of Americans working in Afghanistan who work for charities or nongovernmental organizations.

But our assessment was that, you know, we needed to focus on how to help the people of Afghanistan lift themselves up, have their own opportunities, and it goes hand in hand with our military effort.

SESNO: Secretary Gates, you in many ways launched this conversation a couple of years ago with a speech where you talk -- and you said that we will not kill or capture our way to victory in these places. What should our civilian diplomats be doing that the military is now doing?

GATES: Well, let's -- let's step back, first of all, to that point two years ago when I said -- when I sort of gave my "man bites dog" speech of the secretary of defense, saying there wasn't enough money going to the Department of State.

The reality is, the Department of State and the Agency for International Development were starved for resources for decades. Now, just -- just let me give you an example. Working for me are 2 million men and women in uniform. Secretary Clinton has I think somewhere south of 7,000 foreign service officers. If you took all the foreign service officers in the world, they would barely crew one aircraft carrier. So, you know, just to keep things in perspective.

AMANPOUR: And part of what's happening is that the Afghan people are not getting as much economic development, therefore, not as much help and hope as -- as one might have thought when this started.

So the question I have for you, sir -- both of you, actually -- is that there had been some talk over the weekend about how the United States believes that perhaps Al Qaida has been diminished, the threat from the Taliban is not as great as one might have thought.

So I want to know what you think about the momentum of the Taliban, their long-term prospects, given the fact that today 80 percent of Afghanistan has a permanent Taliban presence, compared to 72 percent a year ago and 54 percent the year before that. They seem to be winning territory rather than losing.

GATES: I -- I can't improve on -- on General McChrystal's assessment that the situation in Afghanistan is serious and deteriorating. And, you know, there are a lot of reasons for it. You have to go back to 2003, 2004, in terms of the Taliban beginning to reconstitute themselves in Pakistan and so on. I mean, that's a historians' debate. We are where we are.

And -- and this -- it kind of goes back to General McChrystal's quote that you aired. You -- you have to start with where you are, not where you wish you were. And -- and the reality is that, because of our inability and the inability, frankly, of our allies, to put enough troops into Afghanistan, the Taliban do have the momentum right now, it seems.

AMANPOUR: And do you believe that should -- not next week or next month -- but should Afghanistan fall to the Taliban again, that it would again become a base for Al Qaida to have its operations there?

GATES: I think -- I think the thing to remember about Afghanistan is that that -- that country, and particularly the Afghan-Pakistan border, is -- is the modern epicenter of jihad. It is where the Mujahideen defeated the other superpower.

And their view is, in my opinion, that they now have the opportunity to defeat a second superpower, which, more than anything, would empower their message and the opportunity to recruit, to fundraise, and to plan operations.

So I think you have to see this area in a historical context in terms of what happened in the 1980s and the meaning of the victory over the Soviet Union in order to understand the importance of this symbiotic relationship between Al Qaida and the Taliban and -- and the other extremists, frankly.

AMANPOUR: So you think they would come back if Afghanistan fell?

GATES: I don't know whether the -- whether Al Qaida would sort of move their headquarters from the FATA to -- back into Afghanistan, but there's no question in my mind that if the Taliban took large -- took control of significant portions of Afghanistan, that that would be added space for Al Qaida to strengthen itself and -- and more recruitment, more fundraising.

But what's more important than that, in my view, is the message that it sends that empowers Al Qaida. Al Qaida, in many respects, is an ideology. And the notion that they have come back from this defeat -- come back from 2002, to challenge not only the United States, but NATO -- 42 nations and so on -- is a hugely empowering message, should they be successful.

AMANPOUR: We'll come back with more from both secretaries right after a break. We'll talk more about Pakistan and Iran.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back. We're going to continue our conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

We were just talking about Afghanistan and the Pakistan area -- part of your joint solution, hopefully, to this regional -- regional problems that exist there.

The prime minister, the president, the foreign minister of Pakistan have all said and have all been very worried about short-termism, short- timerism from the United States. They're concerned that, if you pull back, then they will have to bank not on the U.S. again, but on, perhaps, the Taliban, like they did before 9/11.

What do you say to -- to the Pakistani leaders, who are now doing precisely what you asked them to do -- going after the Taliban, after various militants and terrorists in their own -- in their own country?

CLINTON: Well, what we say is that we want to be supportive and provide assistance and we want to ramp that up. Just this -- this last week, a very important piece of legislation, the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, that made a commitment to additional aid for Pakistan's civilian government and to deliver services to the people of Pakistan was passed unanimously, on its way to the president to be signed.

And you're right. When we started this review, one of the innovative conclusions we reached was we had to look at both Afghanistan and Pakistan together. Obviously, we had a great commitment in Afghanistan and there had been military assistance and counterterrorism training provided to Pakistan, but there hadn't yet been a commitment by the Pakistani military and the civilian government, like we're seeing now, to go after the extremists that are threatening them, as well as beyond their borders.

And as Bob said, when we partnered with Pakistan to supply the Mujahideen with the weapons and training that they needed to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, once that was accomplished, we left. And Pakistan feels like we left them holding the bag, because all of a sudden they were awash in weapons, they were awash in drugs, they had all of these, you know, jihadists who had been trained up in conjunction with us. And, you know, we know what happened. We saw that occurring in Afghanistan.

So I think it's rightful of the Pakistanis to say, "Well, how long will your commitment be? How much will you be by our side as we take on these threats to us and, by the way, also to you?"

SESNO: I mean, the foreign -- if I may -- the foreign minister of Pakistan said the fact that this is being debated -- meaning this whole policy review -- whether to stay or not to stay, what sort of signal is that sending, he said. Isn't this undermining the very Pakistanis whom you have pressured to lean on their own extremists in the Taliban and fight this fight?

GATES: Well, first of all, I think that there is absolutely no reason for the president not to consider very carefully the next steps in Afghanistan. I had lunch with the Pakistani ambassador last week, and I made absolutely clear to him: We are not leaving Afghanistan.

This discussion is about next steps forward. And the president has some momentous decisions to make. And while there may be some short-term uncertainty on the part of our allies, in terms of those next steps, there should be no uncertainty in terms of our determination to remain in Afghanistan and to continue to build a relationship of partnership and trust with the Pakistanis.

That's long term. That's a strategic objective of the United States for -- for a number of reasons that Pakistan is a strategically important country. So I -- you know, if -- if it makes them nervous that we're talking about this for a couple of weeks, frankly, I think that's a transitory problem.

SESNO: I just want to button one thing up. You were talking earlier about your advice and your comments, your public comments, to keep the advice to the president private and candid. Are you trying to muzzle McChrystal?

GATES: Absolutely not. I -- I have told people on Capitol Hill, the minute the president makes his decisions, we will get General McChrystal back here as quickly as possible and up onto the Hill, because I will tell you, there is no one more knowledgeable and more persuasive on these issues than Stan McChrystal.

But it would put -- I believe it would put General McChrystal in an impossible situation to go up in a hyper-partisan environment to the Hill before the president made his decisions and put the general on the spot. I just think that's wrong. I think it's wrong for General McChrystal, and I think it's wrong for the president. And as far as I'm concerned, in this job, I'll do everything in my power to prevent that until the president has made his decisions.

AMANPOUR: We're going to take a break. But when we come back, we'll talk about Iran with Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back. We continue our conversation with the two secretaries sitting here.

I want to know if you can tell us, what precisely was agreed between the U.S., Iran, and the other powers sitting at that table in Geneva? Did they actually agree to ship out their low-enriched uranium?

CLINTON: Well, there were -- there were three agreements: One, that there would be inspections, and those inspections are going forward, and they're going forward quickly of the undisclosed sites that the president and Prime Minister Brown and President Sarkozy announced a little over a week ago in Pittsburgh.

They agreed that, in principle, the Iranians would ship out their LEU for reprocessing to be returned for their research reactor. There will be a team of experts meeting to determine exactly how that will be carried out within 10 days.

And they agreed that there will be another meeting, which means that this process doesn't just drag on without any, you know, continuity.

So we think that, on those three big issues, this was a worthwhile meeting. But as the president has said and I and others have also made clear, this is not by any means a stopping point. There is much more to be done. We expect much more.

We know that the Iranians need to understand that they have run a nuclear program that has violated international rules and Security Council resolutions, which they have to bring, you know, into compliance, making it more transparent and accountable. So we have -- we have work ahead of us, but I think that, on balance, what came out of the meeting in Geneva was positive.

AMANPOUR: Just to follow up on the low-enriched uranium, you know, one Iranian diplomat told the press that actually, no, there wasn't that agreement, and I'm asking you whether there is some miscommunication. Are they just agreeing to buy enriched -- further enriched uranium and not ship theirs out? Or do you understand that they are going to ship the bulk of theirs out?

CLINTON: Well, nothing is finished until it's finished. And there's a meeting of technical experts -- I believe it's October 18th -- to see how to put into action what we certainly believed was an agreement in principle. But there's a lot to be done before that actually happens.

SESNO: Do you think the Iranians actually want to resolve this?

CLINTON: We don't know yet. We don't know.

SESNO: Think this is credible?

GATES: I agree with Hillary. I think -- I think the jury's out. And -- and what we have to do is keep them to tight enough deadlines and specific enough requirements that we have some indication of whether they're serious or not.

SESNO: I mean, there's already -- there's already some substantial criticism of this, that -- that from -- from -- from some who are saying that this is another way for the Iranians to play for time and that, in effect, they're being rewarded for having flouted U.N. resolutions all these years if they can take the uranium that they shouldn't have enriched to begin with, get it sent out, and have it brought back, enhanced, and be able to use in a power plant?

CLINTON: Well, but -- but think about what we're -- what we're seeing here, and that is that the uranium that they have enriched would be used for a research reactor, which everybody knows they've been running, which they are entitled to run, but it would not be used for other purposes.

So, yes, does it buy time? It buys time. It buys time for us to consider carefully their response, the sincerity of their actions, and, you know, we're moving simultaneously on the dual track. I mean, we always said we had a track of engagement, and we have begun that with this process, but we also said we would be working with likeminded nations and convincing others to stand ready with tougher sanctions were we not successful.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, Secretary Gates, has your opinion, your intelligence, has anything changed regarding your assessment of whether they're trying to make a nuclear weapon?

GATES: My personal belief all along has been that they have the intention of -- of developing nuclear weapons. Whether they have actually begun that program or not is -- is hard to say, whether they're begun a weaponization program.

But I think, you know, the question is, can we over time or can we in a limited period of time bring the Iranians to a conclusion that -- that Iran is better off without nuclear weapons than with them, and not just in the security sense, but economically and in terms of their isolation in the international community, and so on?

And because -- I mean, my view is, the only long-term solution to this problem, at the end of the day, is the Iranians themselves deciding having nuclear weapons is not in their interest. And if we can't convince them of that, then an array of other options are open.

But our hope, my hope for ever since I took this job has been that -- that we could, through -- through both carrots and sticks, persuade them of a smarter direction for Iran.

AMANPOUR: Isn't the -- the -- I mean, there are basically, I think, three policy options, Iran with some kind of nuclear capability, a nuclear program, but with very strict verification, sanctions to try to get them not to enrich, which so far has not -- have not worked, plenty of holes, plenty of black market, or the military option, which you yourself have cast doubts upon its efficacy.

Isn't the -- the real nub of the debate right now to figure out some kind of way of verifying and inspecting and being able to know if they plan to do something else with their uranium, other than for peaceful purposes, as they claim?

CLINTON: Well, that is, of course, part of the change in calculation that Bob was referring to. We have a very clear objective of trying to persuade the Iranians that their calculation of their security interest and their economic interest should take into account the consequences of sanctions, for example, of increased defensive measures taken in Europe and in the gulf region.

You know, we just worked through this missile defense decision, and, you know, clearly, our new adaptive approach toward missile defense is aimed at protecting our NATO allies and most of Europe from a short- or medium-range Iranian missile.

We have begun to talk with a lot of our other friends and allies about, you know, what they need to feel that they would be adequately protected.

Now, this is not in any way to concede what Iran should do going forward, because some people say, when we talk defensive, that means that we're conceding that they are going to end up with a weapon. No, not at all. We are trying to influence the calculation and the decision as to whether or not they should move toward weaponization.

GATES: Some people have said, in so many words, that I'm kind of wooly-headed in believing that the -- that the Iranians would see not having nuclear weapons as more in their security interest than not.

But the question is, would the Iranians look at that that way if there were proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, if some of their neighbors in the Middle East, beyond those that now have them would develop nuclear weapons? Is that in their interest? Do they think that enhances their national security? I -- I think that's an argument to be made.

AMANPOUR: We're going to continue this line of questioning right after a short break.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back. As we continue our conversation, we were talking about Iran and some way of figuring out the way forward about Iran's nuclear program.

I just want to know, is it good enough to have a strict verification protocol -- for instance, the additional protocol under the NPT, or, indeed, you know, to have shipping out of the LEU? Is that good enough, even if it's not perfect?

CLINTON: Well, this is -- this is a question we're not ready to answer because we don't know what the options in front of us are. We don't know what Iran would agree to. We don't know what kind of pressure could be brought to bear in case they don't agree.

So, you know, our goal is, as it always has been, to try to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, which we think would be very destabilizing in the region and beyond, and that's what we're aimed at achieving through this engagement.

SESNO: Want to...

GATES: And what nuclear sites might they be prepared to be transparent about that have not been declared at this point.

SESNO: I want to ask you about, both, one last question about Iran, and that relates to what the message is to the people of Iran who've been in the streets, who have opposed Ahmadinejad, who spoke out, in some cases have been arrested, wounded or worse, standing up to what they see as a stolen election.

Are you concerned that those in Iran who want real political change are going to be somehow forgotten or abandoned or will not be the focus of American comment and -- and action?

CLINTON: No, because I think we've been very clear in supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people and in speaking out forcefully against the irregularities of their electoral process.

SESNO: Let's talk about 21st century diplomacy and how it's changed and -- and what you're doing, because you both addressed this, different terminology that's often used.

In one particular area, information, I want to talk a little bit for a moment here. You call it strategic communication, you call it public diplomacy, but it's connecting with the rest of the world. It's learning back from what others are saying. It's influencing leaders and persuading publics and knocking down myths or propaganda and maybe, in some cases, propagandizing ourselves.

A lot of this is now done by the military. There is no one person in charge of this. How should this very important information battle be waged and who should be in command?

CLINTON: Well, let me give you two quick examples.

SESNO: (inaudible) State Department?

CLINTON: Yes. You know, a -- a battlefield conflict zone requires the military to respond to, you know, rumors, attacks. They have to have a strategic communications effort, but it must be part of a broader national public diplomacy outreach effort.

I'll give you two quick examples. We were just talking about Iran. We learned that during the height of the demonstrations about the election that Twitter was a major source of information for people who were protesting. And we -- and we felt that was a good vehicle, but we were told that Twitter just was going to have to shut down for 48 hours to do some upgrades to the software. So we called and said, "Please don't shut down, because this is a major communications loop for people on the streets."

In Afghanistan, what we've learned since we got in there -- and these great young civilians who work for me in the State Department working with these great young military leaders working in the -- in our armed forces, they realized that we didn't have a secure environment for cell phones to operate.

So we began looking for places we could put up cell towers. We began looking for how we would incentivize businesses in Afghanistan to spread their cell phone coverage. Why? Because the Taliban and their allies use cell phones to intimidate people. We found out that they were running FM - - illegal FM stations literally off the back of motorcycles. And they were telling people, "We're going to behead this person, we're going to do that."

So we are competing in that space. And, you know, obviously, we have to work together, but we have the lead on it, because it needs to stand for more than just our military might. It needs to represent all of our national interests and values.

AMANPOUR: In Afghanistan, the notion of bombing from the air and going after militants from the air has caused a lot of civilian casualties and a huge drop-off for American public support amongst the people there.

Do you think that it's possible to continue using that as a primary weapon against -- against militants, just in terms of its effectiveness? And do you think that it's moral to use that as a primary attack against the militants?

GATES: Well, I think one of the principal changes that General McChrystal has -- has brought -- and I will give General McKiernan credit, his predecessor, for beginning to move away from the use of airpower, and particularly in offensive operations, and I think General McChrystal has underscored this.

And a central element of his strategy in Afghanistan is to get away from the use of airpower and the potential for mistakes that create civilian casualties and that every civilian casualty is a strategic defeat for -- for the countries trying to help the Afghan government and people.

And I would just say this: We will continue to use airpower to defend our own troops. If they are in trouble, we will use airpower to defend them. Where -- where I think General McChrystal has drawn a line is in using airpower in offensive operations.


AMANPOUR: And on that note, we would like to thank Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for being with us, Frank Sesno, as well, of course, and all of George Washington University. And I'll be back with a closing thought.


AMANPOUR: Thank you for joining us for this unique conversation. And we want to leave you now with this thought -- well, actually, with these faces. They're the faces of young people that I've met in Afghanistan, faces that are filled with hope for a decent future. These people tell us that they don't see the U.S. as occupiers, and they say they don't want the Taliban back. And it's the perspective of the Afghan people. It's their perception of who's winning which will most likely decide the outcome of this war.

Go to our Web site,, for the whole picture gallery and for more of this conversation, including some advice for young Americans from both secretaries.

That's it for now. Thanks for joining us. Goodbye from New York.

Video, Transcripts, and Analysis: National Security Advisor Jones on CBS and CNN (4 October)

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Have a good viewing of the video or read of the transcript of the interview of General James Jones, President Obama's National Security Advisor, on CBS's Face the Nation and you'll get the big story. The fight between Obama advisors who want to limit US involvement in Afghanistan and the military commanders who want escalation just went public, big-time. The decision of General Stanley McChrystal, in a speech in London, to trash Vice President Joe Biden's preference for a tightly-defined American effort against Al Qa'eda was a Take That to the Administration. That's why he got hauled aboard Air Force One, as President Obama made a special stopover en route to Copenhangen, for "consultations".

Jones, with his military background, has been Obama's chosen tough guy to face down the commanders (thus his comment this summer to the commanders in Afghanistan that, faced with a request for more troops, the President would react, "WTF?"). So, watching and reading this, how firm a line will Obama hold against the persistent demands and public pressures of his Generals?

(Below the CBS interview we've added the transcript of Jones' appearance on CNN's State of the Union, which goes over similar ground.)

Watch CBS News Videos Online

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: General, thank you for coming. More bad news from Afghanistan this morning. Eight American troops killed in this latest attack. This as the White House is debating whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. I want to begin by asking you about this meeting that the president had with General McChrystal, our top general in Afghanistan. He met with him in Copenhagen after the general basally shot down the idea of changing strategy in Afghanistan. Two questions. First, did the president feel that the general was trying to bring pressure on him in public and did he tell him not to do that?

GEN. JIM JONES, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Bob, first, thank you very much for having me on. It’s good to be back. Secondly to answer your question, I wasn’t at that meeting. And this is a one- on-one meeting between the two of them. And I haven’t really talked to the president about that. So I couldn’t answer this question except to say that the two had a good meeting and it was a good opportunity for them to get to know each other a little bit better. I’m sure they exchanged very direct views.

SCHIEFFER: Well, did the general tell the president that he thinks it’s a bad idea not to put these extra troops into Afghanistan that he is requesting? He says he needs 40,000 troops.

JONES: Well, General McChrystal and the entire military chain of command as well as the Secretary of Defense and the entire national security team is in the process of discussing this very issue. We’ve had one lengthy meeting already last week with General McChrystal on the screen from Kabul. We will have more.

This week, two more meetings this week. So all of these things are being discussed as they should be against the back drop of this unfortunate tragedy that we all regret.

But it serves to underscore the importance of the moment to make sure that the strategic issues and the strategic decisions that the president will make are fully aired and vetted and that the options that the president has are also put on the table. It would be, I think, unfortunate if we let the discussion just be about troop strength. There is a minimum level that you have to have that there’s unfortunately no ceiling to it.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just put up on the screen here what exactly the general said last week in London. When he was asked is scaling back the force as Vice President Biden wants to do was a good idea. Here’s what he said. “The short answer is no. A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.”

That’s pretty tough bottom line there, it seems to me. For example, do you agree that that would be a short-sighted strategy, general?

JONES: Well, I think that the -- I’ve said before for many years -- and I’ve had about six years of involvement in Afghanistan in various functions -- I think it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of other elements of the strategy that were decided on in March.

We do have a strategy. What General McChrystal has done is presented his opinion, is presenting his opinion of what he thinks his role within that strategy is. Our strategy is a regional strategy. We focus on Afghanistan and also Pakistan. And I think that to not understand the value of the role that the government to play in Afghanistan and we have an election that is playing itself out is a very, very significant aspect of the strategy.

And to not fully understand how reconstruction and development play in, whether you’re adopting a counterterrorism strategy or counterinsurgency strategy, there are things that you have to do, there are common things you have to do to be successful in both.

So I think this is what we’re going to tear apart and look at and consider General McChrystal’s input. The president should be presented with options, not just one fait accompli. And we will come up with the right solution, I think.

SCHIEFFER: Well, isn’t it going to be difficult though? Because this is the man that President Obama September sent out there? He relieved the general that was in command. He sent the new man out, said you go out there and tell me what we need to be doing here. And he comes back and says we need 40,000 troops. Isn’t that a hard decision for the president to disagree with?

JONES: On that score, the president is just now receiving the -- what the ask is in terms of troops. So that hasn’t -- that has not been discussed yet.

Our process is to examine the strategy, make sure we have that right, and again it’s Afghanistan for sure but it’s also Pakistan and it’s the region which is why we reshaped ourselves to deal with this issue in that way.

There are things going on in Pakistan that are very encouraging. The Pakistani army and the government have done much better since March when the strategy was announced against the insurgents on their side of the border. The relationship between the United States military and the Pakistani military is a growing one. It’s on the ascendancy. We hope that will lead to a campaign against all insurgents on that side of the border.

If that happens, that’s a strategic shift that will spill over into Afghanistan. So I would remind just for the sake of discussion here what our goals were to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda from being able to operate inside of Afghanistan, returning to Afghanistan, and also in the so-called safe haven of Pakistan.

SCHIEFFER: General, that prompts a question. Do you believe -- I mean, the general conventional wisdom is that if the Taliban comes back in force, if we’re not there, then al Qaeda will come back. Other people are saying, you know, during these discussions at the White House, we’re questioning all these assumptions. Do you think it follows that if the Taliban comes back that al Qaeda will be back?

JONES: That’s a hypothetical that I just, you know, it just depends on the circumstances. I would prefer to think about the other side of the coin is how do we make the present government successful? How do we get better rule of law at the local, regional and national level?

How do we marshal the nation-building effort, if you will, the development effort, economic development so that people in Afghanistan have a better future? By the way, the people of Afghanistan know what life is like under the Taliban. They’re not exactly thrilled about that possibility.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you is. Officials in Pakistan and Afghanistan have told us that we are concerned that once again America is losing our resolve in that part of the world. Are you concerned that what we consider deliberating others might see as dithering?

JONES: Well, you know, I think the deliberation is important. We have not only our national deliberation but we have an international presence that is extremely impressive and important. We are working side by side with NATO, for example, as we evaluate General McChrystal’s recommendation.

So, this is something that the president had said we would always do back in March he said after the elections we will make an assessment. This is exactly what’s happening. No one has suggested that we’re about to leave Afghanistan. We are committed to the battle against the radicals, radical terrorism.

SCHIEFFER: When do you think we’ll have a decision? When will the decision have a decision, a matter of weeks, months?

JONES: No, no. I think in a matter of weeks. We’re going to -- we have time on the president’s schedule. He’s going to devote an enormous amount of his time to lead us through this. Everyone will be involved. And at the end of the day, the right way to do this is to present the president with a set of options on what he can do. And Afghanistan will be the topic but it won’t be the only topic. It will be Pakistan. It will be the region. That’s the way we should do it.

SCHIEFFER: I have to ask you before you go about Iran. The “New York Times” reports this morning that the atomic agency concludes that Iran has acquired sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable bomb. I take it we know about this. What is the significance of that? Because two years ago, of course, our intelligence reported that Iran had stopped trying to design a nuclear weapon.

JONES: You know, I don’t think, you know, whether they know how to do it or not is, you know, is a matter of some conjecture but what we’re watching is what is their intent. And we have been worried about that intent. We now have an Iran that is willing to come to the table. We have two more meetings scheduled, one in which they will announce the -- they will allow the inspectors to visit the Qom site, which has just been recently announced, and the other one to discuss methodology by which we can ship [enriched] uranium out of the country.

Those two things alone move the dial in our direction favorably. And the issue of proliferation is one that really keeps us up at night and should keep us up at night whether it’s North Korea or Iran and on both fronts, we’re seeing some positive movement in the positive direction.

SCHIEFFER: All right, well general, we have to let you go. Thanks so much for joining us.

JONES: Bob, it’s always a pleasure, thank you very much.
CNN's State of the Union

KING: Let’s start as Americans wake to this sad news. Eight more Americans killed in Afghanistan in what is described as a fierce gunfight up near the Pakistan border. Let’s start with the threshold question. Nearly eight years after that war began, how long? How long will Americans be fighting in Afghanistan?

JONES: Well, John, as you know, we have been there a while and our allies have been there with us -- 42 countries, NATO, all of the major organizations of the world, from the U.N. to NATO, the EU, 68,000 U.S. troops now closing, 30,000 allied troops and close to 100,000 Afghan troops.

So it’s a robust force. I think the strategic decisions that the president is considering right now in the wake of the March decisions and the conference that we had in the White House are really the topic of the moment and that will set the stage for what happens in the future.

KING: Set the stage. So you don’t see the end in sight now?

JONES: Well I think the end is much more complex than just about adding “X” number of troops. Afghanistan is a country that’s quite large and that swallows up a lot of people. The key in Afghanistan, as we said back in March, is to have a triad of things happen simultaneously.

Security is obviously one reason, one important thing to take care of, but the other two are economic development and good governance in the rule of law and on that score, we have a lot more work to do and a Karzai government is going to have to pitch in and do much better than they have. But underlying that is, of course, the effort to build up the Afghan national security force, the police, and the army and that will be an important part of whatever we decide to do.

KING: Let’s walk through some of the challenges. As the head of the National Security Council, you are leading these discussions. One of the big questions is, does the return of the Taliban, if the United States were to have a smaller footprint or come out of Afghanistan all together and the Taliban was resurgent, does the return of the Taliban in your view, sir, equal the return of a sanctuary for al Qaeda?

JONES: Well, I think this is one of the central issues and it could. Obviously, the good news is that Americans should feel at least good about in Afghanistan is that the al Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country. No bases. No buildings to launch attacks on either us or our allies.

Now the problem is, the next step in this is the sanctuaries across the border. But I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban and I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling.

We are in the backdrop of this sad news and we all of us extend our condolences to the families who are going to get some sad news. But this is a tactical situation and the strategic discussions that go on and that are going to go on involving the senior military, senior active duty military in our armed forces and in the civilian leadership are very serious, very strategic, and very comprehensive. And it would be unwise to rush to a final judgment here.

KING: Well, General McChrystal -- excuse me for interrupting, but General McChrystal said he believes there is a very strong possibility if the Taliban resurged, that that would be equal, essentially, another open sanctuary, more camps. That’s where they launched the 9/11 attacks from. Do you and General McChrystal disagree on this?

JONES: No, I don’t think so. I think that’s a hypothetical. I believe that -- and I think most of us believe that the Karzai government does have a chance of pulling this out. As I said, troops are a consideration, but the other two factors that I mentioned, bringing hope to the people of Afghanistan through economic development, good governance, no corruption, no crime, replace corrupt governors where they have to be replaced. And I think what everybody agrees on is a really robust effort to help the Afghan army and the Afghan police control their own destiny.

KING: I want to get to the political situation, but let’s stay on security for a minute. Do you believe that we could succeed in Afghanistan with a smaller footprint, as some have said? Vice President Biden once discussed vigorously, as in special forces, use of drones, not as big of a footprint on the ground, not 68,000 and certainly not 100,000, but actually fewer American troops on the ground. Could we succeed that way?

JONES: We will be examining different options, and I’m sure General McChrystal and General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen will be willing to present different options and different scenarios in this discussion that we’re having.

I want to be clear that we have agreed on a strategy back in March. That strategy still obtains. The McChrystal report is his initial assessment on how to best support that strategy. So in the coming weeks, we will have vigorous debates. There will be alternative views presented and we’ll come up, I’m quite sure we’ll come up with a right solution.

KING: If he has campaigned, General McChrystal has quite publicly, a big speech in London the other day for his plan -- if the president decides no, I’m not sending more troops to Afghanistan, you have been in that position yourself sir as a commanding general. Could General McChrystal stay on if the president said no?

JONES: Again, that’s another hypothetical that I probably --

KING: Would you?

JONES: I shouldn’t judge what General McChrystal is going to do or not do. I am absolutely convinced that General McChrystal is in it for the long haul. He has said so publicly and privately. So this is not a -- this is not -- I don’t think this is an issue.

I think the real issue here, and this is important, John, the real issue I think is how we make all of the things that have to work together function in Afghanistan. And this is a strategic moment. And I think that we have an election that we have to get through and certify, the legitimacy of which is important for the people of Afghanistan.

We have really three things that have happened since March. One is, we’ve had the election and we’re getting to the point where, hopefully, it will be certified and it will be seen as legitimate. That’s very important. We’ve had General McChrystal’s assessment, which says the Taliban is doing better than he thought, and that is good. And then the third thing that’s happened, and this is a theater impact, it’s very important, is the Pakistani army and the Pakistani government has done much better than anybody thought they would do since March.

So that changes the game a little bit in terms of the regional configuration. I’ve said earlier that the presence of the -- I’m sorry, of al Qaeda in Afghanistan is virtually, is minimal. So we have these safe havens to deal with. We’re working very closely with the Pakistani government and the Pakistani army to try to, to try to help them get rid of the insurgency problem on their side of the border. If that happens, that’s a strategic shift in the region.

KING: The president sad down face-to-face with General McChrystal the other day on Air Force One in Europe. Did he express any disappointment that the commander has been so public? Essentially many in Washington think almost putting the commander-in-chief in a box by publicly saying, I need these troops?

JONES: Well, I wasn’t there and what happened between -- the conversation between the -- and I’ve not spoken to the president since he talked to him, so I can’t comment on the conversation.

KING: Is that an appropriate -- would you act that way as a commander? Is it at all unseemly that the men in uniform, and I know sir you wore the uniform for many years, that they’re out openly campaigning for this one as an open question for the president?

JONES: Ideally, it’s better for military advice to come up through the chain of command and I think that General McChrystal and the others in the chain of command will present the president with not just one option, which does, in fact, tend to have a, you know, enforcing function, but a range of options that the president can consider. And as I said, and forgive me for repeating myself, troops are a portion of the answer, but not the total answer. It’s this coordination that has --

KING: But you know you have some critics. Having seen General McChrystal made his case publicly, having spoken to General Petraeus, having been to the region, some Republicans including Senator John McCain say that you, sir, and others in the White House are playing politics with this decision. I want you to listen to Senator McCain.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It’s well known, it’s broadcast all over television, that there are individuals, including the vice president of the United States, now, unfortunately, the national security adviser, the chief political adviser to the president, Mr. Rahm Emanuel who don’t want to alienate the left base of the Democrat Party.


KING: Is that a factor in the White House, rising Democratic opposition to sending more troops to Afghanistan? Do you, sir, say, Mr. President, no more troops, because of politics, as Senator McCain says?

JONES: Senator McCain knows me very well. I worked for Senator McCain when he was a captain. I’ve known him for many, many years and he knows that I don’t play politics with national -- I don’t play politics, and I certainly don’t play it with national security and neither does anyone else I know. The lives of our young men and women are on the line. The strategy does not belong to any political party and I can assure you that the president of the United States is not playing to any political base. And I take exception to that remark.

KING: Let me ask you lastly on this subject because there’s a lot I want to talk about, but on this subject, you said you hope the government is certified soon. As you know, there have been allegations of massive fraud in the elections. Peter Galbraith is a U.S. diplomat who is part of the U.N. team there and then was removed because he says he spoke up. He wrote an op-ed piece in “The Washington Post” today where he says this. “As many as 30 percent of Karzai’s votes were fraudulent and lesser fraud was committed on behalf of other candidates.” And he again says, “The fraud has handed the Taliban its greatest strategic victory in eight years of fighting the United States and its Afghan partners.”

Was he right? Was the fraud that bad, and if so, can we have a relationship with President Karzai?

JONES: This is the first election that the Afghans have run themselves, and so it’s probably destined to be a little bit imperfect. But the important thing is that the Afghan people, however this comes out, the Afghan people feel that President Karzai is their legitimate president.

And I think the IEC, which is the Afghan Election Committee, and the ECC, the international position, international commission are reconciling in such a way that hopefully within the next week or 10 days, they’ll come out and they’ll basically certify the election.

Obviously, there is some fraud and abuses, but I think that they’ll come to a good spot and the Afghans will support -- it’s very important that they support the legitimately elected president. As to the dispute between Mr. Galbraith and Kai Eide, I know them both. They’re exceptionally able people. Unfortunately on this view, they had a sharp division of opinions. The U.N. is going to resolve it. But in the end, what’s most important is that the Afghans feel they have a legitimate president and I think it’s headed in that direction.

KING: A quick break. We’ll be back with more with General Jones, the national security adviser, in just a minute. We’ll discuss a new report suggesting Iran is closer to a nuclear bomb than you might have thought. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We’re back now with national security adviser and retired Marine Corps general Jim Jones. General, I want to start with this alarming headline in “The New York Times” today. Reports say Iran has data to make a nuclear bomb. If you read this in detail, it says essentially that Iran has cracked the code. It knows now how to make a smaller warhead. That it is closer to being able to build a bomb, a workable nuclear bomb and deliver it than the United States intelligence assessment that is public and those of some of our allies. Is that a fact? Are they closer to a bomb that has been publicly acknowledged?

JONES: No, we stand by the reports that we’ve put out. I think you’re going to get a lot of speculation, one way or the other, but I think that what’s happened with regard to Iran in the last couple of weeks has been very significant. And I think that they’ve recently announced that they will open their facility for inspection. I think on the 25th of October, as a matter of fact, in Qom. And then again when they meet again on the 19th of October, they will be discussing the methodology by which they transfer about 1,200 kilos of low enriched uranium to Russia.

KING: How do we deal with the trust issue there? The president said he wanted inspectors in in two weeks, they’ve cut this deal, they will go in three weeks from today. Are you reasonably assured, do you have verification measures in place? Can you see them if they try to move things out of there, if they try to essentially doctor the evidence before the inspectors get there?

JONES: Generally, yes. But I think there’s no substitute for inspections and verification and the fact that Iran came to the table and seemingly showed some degree of cooperation, I think, is a good thing.

Clearly, on matters of proliferation, whether it’s North Korea or Iran, the world is sending a strong message to both countries, and fortunately, we’re seeing some positive reaction to that. But this is not going to be an open-ended process. We want to be satisfied. We, the world community, want to be satisfied within a short period of time. So it’s not going to be extended discussions that we’re going to have before we draw our conclusions to what their real intent is. But for now, I think things are moving in the right direction.

KING: I’ll get you on a couple other questions. Two months ago, you were on “FOX News Sunday” and you said, “I’m confident we’ll be able to meet the deadline to close Gitmo within one year.” Since then, people -- Secretary Gates, others you’ve served with have said, probably not. Do you think you’ll meet that one year or is that going to slip?

JONES: We’re still going to -- we’re hard at work on it and we’re working not only internationally, but also nationally. And I still hope that we’ll be able to meet that deadline.

But the important thing is that the president has committed to closing the facility. It’s turned out to be harder than we thought, but ultimately, I think that -- we think that Gitmo is a symbol for what it represents, has to be closed, and we’ll find the solutions.

KING: You’re national security adviser at a time of two wars, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And there’s a big question about a promise the president made in the campaign, ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about homosexuals serving openly in the military.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid , sent the president a letter this past week in which he says, “At a time when we are fighting two wars, I do not believe we can afford to discharge any qualified individual who is willing to serve our country. Many members of Congress, like me, support the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ As Congress considers future legislative action, we believe it would be helpful to hear your views on policy.”

They want the president to get involved. Is it time now, as soon as possible, to change that policy?

JONES: The -- the president has an awful lot on -- on his desk. I know this is an issue that he intends to take on at the appropriate time. And he has already signaled that to the Defense Department. The Defense Department is doing the things it has to do to prepare, but at the right time, I’m sure the president will take it on.

KING: No idea when the right time is?

JONES: I don’t think it’s going to be -- it’s not years, but I think -- I think it will be teed up appropriately.

KING: Let me ask you, lastly. It’s our first time saying hello here on the program. Obviously, you’re worried about Afghanistan. You’re worried about Iraq. You mentioned North Korea, the nuclear issues, the Middle East.

When you go to bed at night and you look at the map, what keeps you up? Is there something we’re not paying attention to? Is it Yemen? Is it Somalia? Is it somewhere else in the world where you say, “You know what? I know we have to do all this, but this one worries me”?

JONES: There are a lot of things that keep me up at night, but if I had to pick one that I -- that I thought was most -- most alarming, it’s the question of proliferation and weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorists’ hands.

Generally, nation states, once they have the capability, can be controlled a little bit more. But if we -- if we lost, you know, track of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction and came into the hands of a radical terrorist group, they would use them. And that -- and that bothers me a great deal.

And that’s why this question of proliferation is probably central to how our children and grandchildren are going to live in this 21st century. And that we have to do a better job of explaining to our friends and allies how serious this is. And that’s why, I think, the pursuit of organizations like al Qaeda, wherever they are, has to be an international effort, and we have to be successful.

KING: General Jim Jones, the national security adviser. Sir, we thank you for your time today here on the program.