U.S. President Barack Obama's National Security Adviser says he believes Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud is dead, and there is now a fight for power within the ranks of his terrorist organization. Retired General Jim Jones discussed the situation in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan during a series of interviews Sunday on American television.
Jim Jones seldom speaks out in public, choosing instead to play an important behind-the-scenes role at the White House. But at a time of dramatic developments abroad, he agreed to lengthy interviews with three major American television networks.
He appeared just days after reports surfaced that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. missile strike. Jones told the Fox News Sunday program the United States believes Mehsud is dead. "Mehsud was a very bad individual, a real thug, responsible for a lot of violence, a lot of innocent people losing their lives," he said.
He said there is clearly dissension now within the ranks of the Pakistani Taliban. "This is an important moment. I will not say it is a tipping point. But it certainly shows we are having some success. When you can take out a leader like Mehsud, you do have some dissension in the ranks and it reduces their capability to organize," he said.
The president's national security advisor said he hopes there will be positive movement in neighboring Afghanistan.
On CBS's Face the Nation, he was asked about the likelihood more U.S. troops will be needed. Jones said he could not rule it out, but stressed the need to give the new administration strategy adopted in March more time to show results. "Once we agree on a new strategy, we want to make sure it has a chance to be evaluated. And if things come up where we need to adjust one way or the other and it involves troops or involves more incentives for economic development or better assistance to help the Afghan government function, we will do that," he said.
Appearing on the same program, a top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said he would like to see NATO do more, but added the United States must bolster security in Afghanistan with or without increased support from the alliance. "I will be shocked if more troops are not needed. We must secure Afghanistan and it is not secure now because we do not have enough troops," he said.
The Sunday television news programs also focused on the recent successful mission by former U.S. President Bill Clinton to obtain the release of two American journalists held in North Korea. Jones stressed this was a private, humanitarian mission and there was no deal with the North Korean government. "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," he said.
He told the Fox News Sunday program the North Koreans indicated they want better relations, and one-on-one engagement with the United States. Jones said a bilateral discussion is possible, but only within the context of the six-party talks framework, which also includes China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.