Transcript: Gen. Jim Jones on 'FNS'

The following is a rush transcript of the August 9, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: IWith a number of global hot spots to discuss, let's get right to it with our first guest, President Obama's national security adviser, General Jim Jones.

And, General, welcome to "FOX News Sunday."


WALLACE: Is Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban inside Pakistan, dead?

JONES: Well, we think so. The Pakistani government has believed — believes that he is, and all evidence that we have suggests that. But there are reports from the Mehsud organization that he's not. But we think — we think that it looks like he is.

WALLACE: Let me ask you to clear up another matter. There were reports yesterday of a gun fight between two leading contenders to replace Mehsud and that one where both of them had been killed in a gun fight.

But this morning, one of those two people who was allegedly dead reportedly called Reuters news service to say that he's alive and well and there was no fight. What do you know about that?

JONES: Well, we've heard — we've heard stories about that. We can't — I can't confirm it. But it certainly is — appears to be that there was some dissension in the ranks. That's not a bad thing for us.

And it goes to show that I think the strategy that we're engaged with with Pakistan is actually having some effect. And that's good.

WALLACE: Well, I was going to ask you, assuming that Mehsud is dead, what does it say about the president's war on terror?

JONES: Well, I think in terms of Pakistan, it means that the Pakistani government and the army is — and our relationships with the army are having good effect, and I think that we're moving in the right direction.

Mehsud is — was a very bad individual, a real thug, responsible for a lot of violence, a lot of innocent people losing their lives. And I think that if there's dissension in the ranks and that if, in fact, he is, as we think, dead, this is a positive indication that in Pakistan things are turning for the better.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that. Regardless of who's in charge, there's still up to 20,000 Taliban fighters inside Pakistan. Is this a key moment for the Pakistanis to go after them? And are we pressing the Pakistani government and military to do just that?

JONES: Well, for the last several months, Chris, we've had a very, very good engagement with the Pakistani government. The Pakistani army has acquitted itself quite well in the Swat region, showing sensitivity for refugees as well.

We have a growing relationship in terms of intelligence sharing, and I think the relationships between the two — the two countries are on the — certainly very positive right now — and also the relationships with Afghanistan.

Don't forget this is a theater-wide engagement. This is an important moment. I won't say it's a tipping point, but it certainly shows that we're having some success.

When you can take out a leader like Mehsud, you do show — you do have some dissension in the ranks, and it reduces their capability to organize, regardless of how many they have.

This is a strong message. Pakistan deserves to be — to be credited for its role. And we hope that we continue the pressure and we don't — we don't let up.

WALLACE: Afghanistan — you say it's a theater-wide issue. Afghanistan is scheduled to hold national elections on August 20th. With the Taliban active in about half of that country, will that election go off? And what are the chances of serious disruptions?

JONES: Well, all indications right now are that the elections are going to go off, that they're going to be fair. They're going to be secure in most parts, secured by lot of Afghan forces, with international forces forming the outer ring of security. We are paying a lot of attention to that.

It looks like they're having a good debate going into the elections. And so the signs are positive now. We're quite sure that there will be — there will be some efforts out there to disrupt them, but we hope to keep that to a minimum.

WALLACE: The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, reportedly wants more U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan.

But according to the Washington Post, you told our top brass in late June that the president was done sending additional troops. And I want to get to the quote. "If there were new requests for force now, the president would quite likely have a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment."

Everyone in the room caught the phonetic reference to "WTF," which in the military and elsewhere means "what the expletive."

JONES: Right.

WALLACE: General, did you say that?

JONES: I did say that, but in the context of the overall strategy. We — this is not, Chris, simply about the number of troops.

This — I have been involved in Afghanistan for the better part of six years of my life, initially as a NATO commander. And in my two years of retirement, we conducted a major study about Afghanistan. And now I'm back into it.

What is not lacking in Afghanistan is a comprehensive strategy. We have published the strategy that not only is agreed to here by everyone in the nation's capital, but also by lot of our international allies.

Essentially, there are three prongs to the strategy. There's a security prong. That is — that is about troops. But economic recovery and cohesion with the security strategy is important. And better governance and rule of law, from Kabul all the way down to the local townships is extremely important.

So my point in saying what I said was that it is not simply about troops. Now...

WALLACE: But are you ruling out more troops for Afghanistan?

JONES: As you know, as you mentioned, General McChrystal is doing a comprehensive assessment, which is what any military commander does when they take over a significant job.

And the secretary of defense has heard his preliminary report, has asked some questions. It will come up through the chain of command, and then we'll see what...

WALLACE: But if he asks for more troops, you're not ruling it out?

JONES: Not ruling it out at all.

WALLACE: OK. There have been a flurry of recent reports, including a comment over the last couple of days from the new British army chief of staff, that to secure Afghanistan will take at least — at least — another decade.

First of all, do you agree with that? And secondly, is the president prepared for that kind of long-term commitment?

JONES: Well, I know Sir David Richards quite well. He was the commander of ISAF when I was his senior commander at NATO.

And I think that what we have in place right now is a comprehensive strategy. We have yet to go past the first milestone of evaluating it.

But I think the strategy that the president has agreed to and announced that all allies have agreed to, that emphasizes the three prongs that I just mentioned — our — and also, it also emphasizes more role for an increased capacity in the Afghan army and also the Afghan police.

If we do that, I think we will — we'll see indications very quickly that we're turning in the right direction. And I think that the Afghans will be able to control their own destiny much quicker.

WALLACE: Do you want to give us a time line for that?

JONES: I don't want to give — I don't want to predict a time line, just like we couldn't predict a time line in Iraq. But you get to that tipping point. If you — if the pieces are all organized correctly, you get to that tipping point a lot quicker, and then it becomes irreversible.

WALLACE: President Obama has made it part of his policy to try to reach out to Iran. Are we still prepared to negotiate with President Ahmadinejad after what seemed to be widespread reports that he stole the election?

JONES: In the context of the international P Five — what we call the P Five-Plus One negotiations, we have — we have extended an open invitation to Iran to join the talks, which we would — we strongly hope they do.

They have not responded to that invitation. That's been on the table since April. We hope that they do. The...

WALLACE: The fact — let me just ask — you say we hope they do. The fact that we — that...

JONES: We hope that they respond.

WALLACE: But the fact that Ahmadinejad may have stolen the election makes no difference?

JONES: Well, the fact of the election really makes a difference to the people of Iran. They are the ones that have to decide on the legitimacy of it.

We have to deal with this — the — whatever the central authority is. If it turns out to be the same individuals, then that's who we have to deal with.

But the issues on the table are so important, in terms of nuclear weapons — I might say North Korea as well — that when they respond, if they respond, we'll have to deal with them. That's just the fact of life.

WALLACE: A report this morning that the Revolutionary Guard in Iran wants the political candidate, presidential candidate who lost, to go on trial for unrest after the elections. How would we regard that?

JONES: With regard to Iran, there's obviously some internal difficulties in that country. We have basically taken the stance that since we can't, obviously, affect it one way or another, nor should we, that we will deal with the Iran as this thing shakes out.

But it is obvious that there's some internal difficulties. We'll just watch and see what happens.

WALLACE: General, what have you learned from President Clinton's trip to North Korea this week to bring back those two journalists? Did Kim Jong- il or any of the other top officials in their meetings indicate they want a new relationship with the U.S.?

JONES: Well, as you know, Chris, this was a private mission and one that the — I think the — we're all grateful to the former president for taking it on. Certainly the families — the joyful reunion was something we all celebrate.

And by the way, we would like to see the same kind of reunion in South Korea with the detainee that the North Koreans have, and also with the Japanese abductees that are still in North Korean prisons.

But the former president and the leader had about a 3.5-hour discussion. Reportedly, they discussed the importance of denuclearization in terms of weapon systems of the North Korean Peninsula — of the Korean Peninsula, and — in addition to, you know, talking about other things that the former president may have wished to discuss.

WALLACE: But did — in that meeting — as you say, it was over three hours. Did the North Koreans indicate they want a new relationship with the U.S.? And did they specifically ask for direct talks rather than going back to the six-party talks?

JONES: North Koreans have indicated that they would like a new relation — a better relation with the United States. They've always advocated for bilateral engagement. We have put on the table in the context of the talks we would be happy to do that if, in fact, they would rejoin the talks. So we think the...

WALLACE: We would have — be willing to have bilateral talks in the context of the six-party...

JONES: Within the context of the — of the six-party talks.

WALLACE: What did we learn about Kim's health and his hold on power from the Clinton trip?

JONES: Well, we're still very much debriefing the party that went with President Clinton. But preliminary reports appeared that the — that Kim Jong-il is in full control of his organization, his government. The conversations were respectful and cordial in tone.

WALLACE: But he's still in charge?

JONES: And he certainly is — he certainly appears to still be the one who's in charge.

WALLACE: Can you assure the American people that all that the North Koreans got from this trip in exchange for the two American journalists — that all they got from this trip was the photo-op, that there were no secret concessions from the United States?

JONES: I can do that with absolutely a straight face. There was no official message sent via the former president, and there were no promises, other than to make sure that the two young girls were reunited with their families.

WALLACE: A couple of final questions. Will the president meet his deadline for closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay by next January?

JONES: Well, we have every intention of doing so, and there's a lot of work going on every single day to make sure that we find the right solution. And I'm confident that we'll be able to meet that deadline.

WALLACE: Finally, let's talk a little bit about Jim Jones, because I think it's fair to say that you have been lower profile than some of your predecessors as national security adviser, particularly Henry Kissinger and some of the others.

But you're not seen in public all the time hovering right next to the president. You're not seen as the gatekeeper who controls all the foreign policy types who get in to see the president. Do you have a different view of your job?

JONES: I do. I think this is also a different century. And I think the national security adviser runs an organization that deals from everything starting with climate change and energy all the way to cyber-security, including the normal threats that we associate with the job.

So it's very complex. We have economic issues that we're concerned about. And so I think...

WALLACE: But particularly in terms of your role.

JONES: I think — I think, first of all, there's no problem with me seeing the president on any matter that he wants to discuss or I want to discuss. That is — that is not a problem.

I believe that there's a — there's a new way of doing business, to tee up the issues that are very complex and span a huge, huge array of subjects that each day the president has to deal with.

And I think that getting the right people in to see the president at the right time to brief him on a daily basis on these issues is the right thing to do. It's just...

WALLACE: And you're not threatened that...

JONES: I don't — I don't — at the principal's level, with Secretary Clinton and Secretary gates, we talk every day. We talk with Susan Rice up at the — up at the U.N. We have a very collaborative team. There's no dissension. There's no — there's nothing but trust and confidence. And that's the enjoyable part of the job.

So I don't — I want to make sure that the president gets the best advice he can. If I need to put my particular spin on it, I have — I have no problem doing that.

I just — I just think that I serve the president better by presiding over an organization that tees up the issues in the right way. We have a good process, I think, to make sure that the president gets the advice that he needs, that — we vet it. We tear it apart. We fight over it if we need to.

But when we come to see the president, we have a — we have a — he gets — he gets the pros and the cons. And if I — as the national security adviser, if I need to say something either privately or with my colleagues, I do so. I don't have any problem with that.

WALLACE: General Jones, we want to thank you so much for coming in today. Please come back, sir.

JONES: I appreciate it. Thank you, Chris.

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