National Security Adviser To Obama Steps Down
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
We have news this morning that the president's national security adviser has resigned. General James Jones, a retired Marine general, helped oversee the Obama administration's review of the Afghan War strategy. He came under criticism early in the administration, and President Obama is expected to announce his replacement today.
NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman joins us now for the latest. Good morning.
TOM BOWMAN: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Let's talk first about how General Jones was perceived as national security adviser. I just mentioned criticism. What exactly was that?
BOWMAN: Well, the Pentagon - he got criticism really from the Pentagon and also the White House. The Pentagon saw him as really an unknown player when it came to the question of more troops for Afghanistan. What we do know is he famously told a Marine general in Afghanistan earlier last year: Don't expect more troops. And of course, in the end 30,000 more troops were sent to Afghanistan. And at the same time, he was really belittled by political operatives at the White House.
In Bob Woodward's book, they denounced him or belittled him as someone who didn't work very hard. And some of these operatives actually went around Jones to go to the president, to talk to him directly, so overall not really seen as a strong player.
MONTAGNE: And it seems, according to what has been said publicly, that General Jones opposed the troop increase for Afghanistan that the military was pushing.
BOWMAN: That's right. Apparently what he was doing here was articulating what the president wanted. The president never really wanted to send a lot more troops to Afghanistan. There was a lot of hand-wringing about it at the White House. They were pushing back on what the Pentagon wanted.
The Pentagon clearly from day one wanted a lot more troops to be sent to Afghanistan. They were listening to what then-General Stanley McChrystal was saying about the needs for Afghanistan.
Nearly all the senior defense officials were pushing for large numbers of troops. And Jones at the White House, you know, he really had the military credibility to question additional troops for Afghanistan. He was, of course, a former commandant of the Marine Corps, then he went on to be supreme commander of NATO forces, and he had a stellar career in the Marine Corps - over 40 years as a Marine, including heroic service in Vietnam at the battle of Khe Sanh.
MONTAGNE: And the man who will replace General Jones does not have that kind of military experience.
BOWMAN: No, he doesn't at all. Tom Donilon is his name. He's now the deputy national security adviser. He's a lawyer. He's a political operative. He managed the Democratic conventions, for example, back in 1980 and '84. His brother works for the vice president as a counselor. So he has strong political connections, but he doesn't have the military experience or really the national security experience we've seen in the past with most of the national security advisers. If you look at, for example, Brent Scowcroft under the first President Bush, or Colin Powell under Ronald Reagan, or even someone with strong foreign policy experience - let's say a Henry Kissinger in the past.
And the other thing is, what will this mean for relations with the Pentagon? In Bob Woodward's book, Defense Secretary Gates said Donilon would be a disaster at the White House as national security adviser. So it raises questions about Donilon working with the military in the coming years.
MONTAGNE: And Tom, we just have just a few seconds here. But another story in the news this morning, Senate Armed Services Committee has a report out about contractors in Afghanistan, about (unintelligible) those contractors hiring Afghans to guard U.S. bases and some of those Afghans having ties to the Taliban.
BOWMAN: Yes, that's right, not only the Taliban but warlords and other criminal elements. The report says the Pentagon hasn't done a good job of vetting some 26,000 private guards all around Afghanistan, and some of them are protecting American bases. The committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin, says this is all putting U.S. troops in danger.
MONTAGNE: NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman, thanks very much.
BOWMAN: You're welcome, Renee.