WASHINGTON, April 3, 2011 -- In his first interview since leaving the White House last fall, former Obama National Security Advisor Jim Jones said that the U.S. military intervention in Libya was not in the vital interest of the United States and the action "was more in the vital interest of Europeans" than Americans.
"It's not a vital interest, in the sense that it affects the vital security of the nation, but we are part of an alliance," he told "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour. "We are one of the global leaders."
"It is more in the vital interest of Europeans," the retired Marine said, "when you consider the effects of massive immigration, the effects of terror, the oil market."
Last Sunday on "This Week," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Libya did not pose an actual or imminent threat to the United States before the military action began and that the operation "was not a vital national interest to the United States."
Amanpour pressed Jones on what the endgame of the Libya operation might be.
"This is the big issue, Christiane," he said, explaining that he didn't know how the U.S. would get Libya leader Moammar Gadhafi to leave.
Who are the Libyan Rebels?
Amanpour asked Jones about the many questions surrounding the Libyan opposition that the United States supports.
Jones said that "you can be sure that in any of these goings-on in the Middle East, there's going to be an element of radical thinking and people who are pursuing goals that are not in agreement with what we hope the outcome will be."
Amanpour asked if the rebels should be armed.
"I think the first thing that has to be done is to find who they are. If you start from the proposition that the reason for committing our forces, as Americans or as part of NATO, was basically to avoid a massacre of innocent civilians, which probably would have happened, now we're there. Now we have to follow the rest of the trail to identify these people then decide whether that's meritorious or not in terms of training, organizing, equipping," he said.
"The United States had not done that yet. But we are trying to figure out who's who on the ground," he added.
Jones: U.S. Drawdown in Afghanistan Dependent on Pakistan
Jones told Amanpour a lot of the planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is dependent on the actions of the Pakistani government.
Amanpour asked Jones if U.S. forces can begin to draw down in a responsible way in July of this year.
"I think it can be done responsibly and we'll have to see what it looks like. A lot of it hinges on what happens on the other side of the border with our friends – our neighbors – the Pakistanis," Jones said.
"If Pakistan turns to what some of think they should have done more effectively for a longer period of time now: attacking and removing those safe havens that cause us so much difficulties, and if we can get some kind of coordination with their forces, then I think you can in fact—"
Amanpour interjected. "You don't seem convinced that they're playing their part."
"I'm not convinced," said Jones, a former general who served as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and the Commandant of the Marine Corps before joining the Obama administration. "There have been some positive things done along the border, but we have not yet seen Pakistan embrace the whole concept of what they can do strategically to alter this entire situation."
"So they're still playing a bit of a double game," Amanpour asked.
"Yes," Jones replied. "Despite massive work on the part of the administration at the civilian, at the military level, there still seems to be that reluctance to engage comprehensively and buy-in to an overall plan that, I think, would really help Pakistan in the long-term."
Six U.S. servicemembers were killed in Afghanistan during an operation in Kunar province, near the border with Pakistan this week. Thirty-four American servicememebers were killed in Afghanistan in the month of March.
With Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh facing increasing pressure to step down, Jones echoed language coming from the White House, noting that the situation in Yemen is "very worrisome."
"Saleh's been very skillful over the years in being able to consolidate and maintain his power. The trends Yemen are not good, this could be a major problem and where terror is concerned, this would be a safehaven that would be a very troubling turn of events of us," he said.
Amanpour asked if the U.S. should try to keep Saleh, who has been an ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism, in power.
"There are certain things that we can do and that we can't do," he said. "When events reach a certain stage, they have a life of their own. It would be nice to be able to think that we could do everything and make the world perfect the way we want it," Jones explained, "but that's not the case."