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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now Iran is just one of many factors on the mind of President Obama's national security advisor. As part of this week's string of meetings in Europe, retired Marine General James Jones attends a meeting of NATO, the alliance with Europe that has been strained in some recent years.

General JAMES JONES (US Marines, Retired; National Security Advisor): We have to rebuild a lot of relationships. We have reached out to everyone that we possibly can.

INSKEEP: James Jones wears civilian suits now, but still keeps the business-like baring of a six-foot-four Marine. The European trip takes him to familiar grounds, since he once commanded the North Atlantic Alliance. Now he wants the help of Europeans and others with the war in Afghanistan. Last week, the president rolled out his new strategy. The U.S. is sending more troops, but Europeans, as we heard from Michele Kelemen, may not. So General Jones tries to focus on the extra civilian aid that the Europeans might provide.

Gen. JONES: More mentors to help them in economic planning, to help them in agriculture planning, more emphasis on judicial reform, more emphasis on developing more capacity for the Afghan army and the Afghan police so they can do more themselves. If you will, we're trying to put a three-legged stool together. We have done the security leg pretty well, but we haven't done the other two legs - that is economic development and the rule of law and government.

INSKEEP: There was a Dutch general who has quoted the other day in Afghanistan, saying we've had the concept for a while. We're finally resourcing the concept. Is that a fair way for me to think of this strategy?

Gen. JONES: That's exactly the right way for me to do it. Yes. That's what we're doing now.

INSKEEP: Obviously, the last administration was talking about strengthening the government of Afghanistan and strengthening the government of Pakistan, which will make people wonder what's really different here.

Gen. JONES: The main difference in the strategic approach is that in order to deal with Afghanistan, you also have to deal with Pakistan. You have to deal with things as a region. The Pakistan side of the coin is the one that's least developed because it's the most recent. In Afghanistan, you think of the presence of the UN, of NATO, of the EU, of the World Bank, of the IMF, and so you ask yourself: Why is there a sense that we're backsliding in Afghanistan? And part of it is that we just haven't been able to coordinate all three legs of that stool I was referring to. And this is a different approach. It's the one that people have been asking for. It's the one that makes sense. And it's the one that we're going to have to do well if we're going to be successful.

INSKEEP: When you focus on the situation in Pakistan, what's within your control to influence or change and what's out of your control?

Gen. JONES: Well, what's in our control of influence and change is our diplomacy. Obviously, a sovereign nation is going to have the right of refusal, but we've already reached some accord with the Pakistani military that they would appreciate some benefit of some training. It's extremely important that for us to be successful that we remove that safe haven of operation that the insurgents have been able to navigate in. And I'm quite sure with our plan right now that we'll get there.

INSKEEP: The British defense minister said in January that NATO has to step up more, that if the United States is an insurance policy for Europe, that NATO countries can't forego paying the premiums. I'm paraphrasing here, but that was the analogy that he used. Is that really the situation, that Europe needs to step up and do more?

Gen. JONES: Well, I think all allies need to do what they can. France has already announced that they're going to do more things. Germany's excited about it. Italy's excited about it. A lot of the major players in the alliance have already signaled their enthusiasm. And frankly, including the softer power of things, we're doing exactly what people have criticized us for not doing in the past. So we'll see how far we go.

INSKEEP: What can Iran add to that mix?

Gen. JONES: Well, Iran is a regional power, and it has great concerns about their borders being used for drug running. I think we can have regional economic conferences that could probably do more to stimulate the trade, part of a kind of a broader approach to stabilization that we hope to bring to the issue.

INSKEEP: I'm trying to understand that a little better. I mean, if you go to a particular European country, you could ask them for troops. They might or might not agree.

Gen. JONES: Right.

INSKEEP: You could ask them for any number of civilian kinds of assistance. What's something specific you could ask Iran for?

Gen. JONES: Well, we're not planning on asking Iran for anything. We're certainly not thinking about troops from Iran or anything like that.

INSKEEP: Of course not, of course not.

Gen. JONES: Right, right.

INSKEEP: But I'm trying to get a sense of a concrete way that they can be helpful.

Gen. JONES: Yeah. We'll be - I think this is very embryonic, and we'll just have to wait and see what's possible.

INSKEEP: Do you need Iran's help to solve the problem of Afghanistan?

Gen. JONES: We need regional stability, and to the extent that all countries can participate in stability in the form of economic stability, political stability. That's helpful. And we'll just have to wait and see exactly what they decide to do or not do. I want to be very clear that we're not asking Iran to do anything in particular in Afghanistan, except not to make trouble.

INSKEEP: General Jones, thanks very much.

Gen. JONES: Thank you.

INSKEEP: General James Jones is President Obama national security advisor, spoke yesterday at the White House. And you can find a transcript of the interview at npr.org.

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