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Obama Picks Retired General as National Security Advisor

President-elect Barack Obama has named retired four-star general James Jones to be his national security advisor. Mr. Obama says General Jones has the skills to bring together all elements of U.S. power to defeat unconventional enemies and promote American values. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington.

General Jones is a tall, imposing former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. His looks and demeanor have been compared to those of the late actor John Wayne.

Jones served for more than 40 years in the U.S. military. He rose in the ranks from leading a platoon in Vietnam to serving as the supreme allied commander in Europe for the NATO alliance.

Jones also served as the Bush administration's envoy to design an Israeli-Palestinian security model in the West Bank city of Jenin. He also traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan on fact-finding missions for the Pentagon.

The retired general says the Iraq war has caused the U.S. to "take its eye off the ball" in Afghanistan and has warned the consequences of a failure there are just as grave as in Iraq.

Jones grew up in Paris and is fluent in French. As a young officer in the 1980s he was the Marine Corps' liaison to the U.S. Senate.

President-elect Obama says General Jones brings both military and diplomatic experience to the job of national security advisor.

"I am convinced that General James Jones is uniquely suited to be a strong and skilled national security advisor," he said. "Generations of Joneses have served heroically on the battlefield, from the beaches of Tarawa in World War II, to Foxtrot Ridge in Vietnam. Jim's Silver Star is a proud part of that legacy. He will bring to the job the dual experience of serving in uniform and as a diplomat."

General Jones will be part of a foreign policy team that will include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a carry-over from the Bush administration, and Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

As national security advisor Jones will have extraordinary access to Mr. Obama. He will work in the West Wing of the White House and will consult with the president several times a day.

Past advisors have had to mediate between the Pentagon and State Department, and Jones says a coordinated security strategy is essential.

"National security in the 21st century comprises a portfolio which includes all elements of our national power and influence working in coordination and harmony towards a desired goal of keeping our nation safe, helping to make our world a better place and providing opportunity to live in peace and security for the generations to follow," he said.

Jones is currently president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, an effort designed to unite energy producers and policymakers behind a strategy to secure U.S. energy supplies.

While serving in Europe he encouraged NATO to regard global energy as a security issue.

President-elect Obama says the link between energy and security is important.

"Jim is focused on the threats of today and the future. He understands the connection between energy and national security and has worked on the frontlines of global instability, from Kosovo to northern Iraq to Afghanistan," Mr. Obama said. "He will advise me and work effectively to integrate our efforts across the government, so that we are effectively using all elements of American power to defeat unconventional threats and promote our values."

The 64-year-old retired general shares at least one hobby with the president-elect. Mr. Obama enjoys playing basketball and General Jones played the sport while studying at Georgetown University.