By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
May 28, 2009 - President Barack Obama's decisions to grow the military, broaden the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and focus on 21st century threats are making America "increasingly safer," the president's national security advisor said yesterday. "I firmly believe that the United States is not only safe, but it will be more secure, and the American people are increasingly safer because of the president's leadership that he's displayed consistently over the last four months, both at home and abroad," James L. Jones Jr. said in a speech at an Atlantic Council event here.
Jones, a former Marine Corps commandant and NATO commander, praised the president's choice to increase the Defense Department budget, grow the Army and Marine Corps and delay planned reductions of the Air Force and Navy. In the meantime, the United States is working to bring the war in Iraq to a close while taking a more comprehensive approach to Afghanistan, he said.
"We are doing everything we can to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end, and we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a new commitment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its allies," he said.
Jones noted the importance of including Pakistan in a more broad approach to the region, and praised recent Pakistani military action against Taliban strongholds in the country's Northwest Frontier province.
In parts of the Pakistan-Afghan border region, the Taliban had been welcomed by residents who saw the militants as being capable of providing justice and order where the government in Islamabad had failed. Clashes between the Pakistani army and Taliban fighters escalated last week in the Swat Valley area on the heels of fighting in the Buner and Dir districts.
"We're also happy to see in Pakistan a new and comprehensive, and so far impressively successful, effort by the Pakistani army to react to its challenge by its extremists," Jones said, adding that Pakistan is handling with great skill the refugee problem caused by the fighting.
The United States under Obama's leadership, Jones said, is making new investments in the capabilities necessary for confronting 21st century challenges -- both conventional and unconventional.
"We need to be able to anticipate the kind of operations that we should be thinking about six months to a year ahead of time in different parts of the world to bring the necessary elements of national and international power to bear to prevent future Iraqs and future Afghanistans," he said.
Focusing more resources on recognizing developing problems abroad and assisting foreign governments through nonmilitary means sometimes is referred to as "Phase Zero" operations, which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said is emerging as one of the department's "big themes," the national security advisor said.
Jones said 21st century challenges differ from the previous century in that current threats "come in waves" that often are asymmetric, which can be characterized by tactics ranging from anti-satellite or anti-air capabilities to weapons of mass destruction or cyber attacks.
"It is not just about a war on terror," he said. "It has components relating to proliferation, to climate and energy, economic security, cybersecurity, the illegal trafficking of humans, narcoterrorism, any number of things," he said.