The Cable

White House: We are returning to a pre-1990 military stance in the Gulf

President Barack Obama's administration has disproved the notion that a large military footprint helps fight terrorism and, following the end of the Iraq war, is now returning the United States to a pre-1990 military level in the Persian Gulf, according to a White House official.

Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, told a group of supporters on a private conference call Wednesday that the entire idea of deploying large numbers of troops in the region, which has been U.S. policy since the Gulf War in 1990, is now over.

"The tide of war is receding around the world," said Rhodes. "It's certainly going to be the lowest level, in terms of number of troops, that we've seen in 20 years. There are not really plans to have any substantial increases in any other parts of the Gulf as this war winds down."

Just after the administration announced it was not able to reach a deal with Iraq to extend the U.S. troop presence there in October, the New York Times reported the administration was planning to increase troop levels in nearby countries, such as Kuwait, to account for the risk of Iraq backsliding into violence. But Rhodes said Wednesday that's just not the case.

"I don't think we're looking to reallocate our military footprint in any significant way from Iraq. They won't be reallocated to other countries in the region in any substantial numbers," he said.

Rhodes explained that the scaling back of the U.S. military presence in the Gulf was part of the administration's strategy to "demilitarize" U.S. foreign policy and shift to an approach that favored counter-terrorism tactics. He also said the end of the war in Iraq -- and eventually the war in Afghanistan -- proved that large military deployments are not necessary to deny terrorists safe haven in foreign countries.

"The argument several years ago... was that you needed to have a very large U.S. military footprint so that you could fight the terrorists ‘over there,' so they wouldn't come here. But we've demonstrated the opposite, that you don't need to have a large U.S. military footprint in these countries, that you can shrink them and focus on al Qaeda in a far more specific way... and still very much accomplish your national security goals," said Rhodes.

"That allows us in many respects to demilitarize elements of our foreign policy and establish more normal relationships," he added. "That's our posture in the region and its far more in line with where we were before 1990."

Rhodes also framed the end of the Iraq war as a fulfillment of an Obama campaign promise.

"President Obama has kept a core promise of his to the American people. He opposed the war in Iraq as a candidate for Senate in 2002, before it started. He put forward a plan to end the war as a senator and promised to end the war as a candidate. And now we can definitively say he has kept that promise as president," said Rhodes. "America is safer and stronger because of the way we ended the war in Iraq."

One terrorist who will remain "over there" is Ali Musa Daqduq, who U.S. military officials claim is a Hezbollah commander. Daqduq has been imprisoned by U.S. forces in Iraq because he led a team that kidnapped  and killed five U.S. soldiers in Iraq in January 2007.

The White House told the New York Times on Friday that the United States had transferred Daqduq to Iraqi custody. 21 senators had drafted a letter urging the administration not to hand him over out of concern that the Iraqi government might release him.

"Failure to transfer Daqduq to Guantanamo Bay or another American military-controlled detention facility outside the United States before December 31st will result in his transfer to Iraqi authorities, potential release to Iran and eventual return to the battlefield," the senators wrote in the letter, which was never sent because the administration handed over Daqduq first.

"Daqduq's Iranian paymasters would like nothing more than to see him transferred to Iraqi custody where they could effectively pressure for his escape or release. We truly hope you will not let that happen."

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told the New York Times on Friday, "We have sought and received assurances that he will be tried for his crimes."

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The Cable

Jim Jones: Amb. Haqqani was not involved in memogate

Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones has submitted a confidential affidavit, obtained by The Cable, in which he swears that he has no reason to believe that former Pakistani Ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani had any role in the scandal known as "memogate."

Jones was the go-between in the transmission of a secret memo from Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen in the days following the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad. The memo, purportedly from the Pakistani civilian leadership, asked for U.S. government help to avoid a pending military coup in Pakistan and pledged, in return, to reorient Pakistan's foreign and national security policy to be more in line with U.S. interests.

Ijaz has claimed over and over that the memo and the scheme it contained was derived and driven by Haqqani, who has since resigned over the scandal and is now in Islamabad without permission to leave the country. Ijaz also claims that that Haqqani discussed the scheme with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who faces increasing domestic political pressure from opponents and is in Dubai due to what is being described as a recent "mini-stroke."

Haqqani has always claimed that he had no role in the writing or delivery of the memo. Earlier this week, Jones broke his silence on the issue by signing a confidential affidavit about his role in "memogate," which he sent to Haqqani's lawyers as part of their planned libel suit against Ijaz. In the affidavit, Jones states that Ijaz never mentioned to him that the memo came from Haqqani.

"A few days before May 9, 2011, I received a phone call from Mr. Mansoor ljaz. I have known Mr. ljaz in a personal capacity since 2006. During the call Mr. Ijaz mentioned that he had a message from  the ‘highest authority' in the Pakistan government which he asked me to relay to then Chairman  of the Joint Chiefs  of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen," Jones wrote in the confidential affidavit.

"At no time during the call do I remember Mr. Ijaz mentioning Ambassador Haqqani, and he gave me no reason to believe that he was acting at the direction of Ambassador Haqqani, with his participation, or that Ambassador Haqqani had knowledge of the call or the contents of the message."

Jones told Ijaz he would only forward the message to Mullen if it was in writing. On May 9, Ijaz sent the unsigned memo to Jones's personal e-mail account and Jones passed it on to Mullen. Mullen has acknowledged that he received the memo but claims he gave it no credence and took no action on it whatsoever.

"It was my assumption that the memo was written by Mr. Ijaz, since the memo essentially put into writing the language he had used in our telephone conversation earlier," Jones wrote in his affidavit. "I do not recall whether Mr. Ijaz claimed that Ambassador Haqqani had anything to do with the creation of the memo. I have no reason to believe that Ambassador Haqqani had any role in the creation of the memo, nor that he had any prior knowledge of the memo."

The Jones affidavit will be used by Haqqani's legal team to bolster Haqqani's claims that Ijaz was the author's memo, not him. Ijaz's main evidence of Haqqani's involvement is a series of Blackberry Messenger communications that Ijaz claims he had with Haqqani to discuss the memo during its formation. Ijaz has said his Blackberry is being examined by Pakistani forensic experts as part of the ongoing investigation.

Ijaz's activity throughout the scandal has raised several questions about his motives. For example, he publicly disclosed the existence of the memo in an Oct. 10 op-ed in the Financial Times, purportedly to defend Mullen from attacks and slanders in Pakistan. Then, on Oct. 22, he met in London with Pakistan's Gen. Shuja Pasha, the leader of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which Ijaz's memo promised would be replaced with new, U.S.-friendly national security leaders in Pakistan.

Last week, Ijaz claimed in a Newsweek article that Haqqani and Zardari knew of the raid to kill bin Laden in advance and may have given the U.S. military tacit permission to violate Pakistani airspace. Haqqani has initiated legal action against Ijaz over those claims and the Jones affidavit is part of that litigation.

In the most interesting part of the affidavit, Jones states his personal opinion that the memo probably did not come from the Pakistani government at all.

"Upon my reading of the memo that I was asked to forward to Admiral Mullen, it struck me as highly unusual that the ‘highest authority' in the Pakistan government would use Mr. ljaz, a private citizen and part-time journalist living in Europe, as a conduit for this communication," Jones wrote. "My personal opinion was that the memo was probably not credible."

Asked for comment on Friday by The Cable, Jones declined to elaborate.

Ijaz responded to Jones' affidavit with a lengthy comment to The Cable. Here are some excerpts, after the jump:

On December 12, 2011, Gen. James L. Jones issued an Affidavit to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in which he, to the best of his knowledge, information and belief, tried to recall the events of May 9, 10 and 11 of this year, which are the dates on which Amb. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, asked me to assist him in delivering a message that he dictated to me and whose content originated entirely from him to Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Gen. Jones was the individual who I asked to deliver Haqqani's message to the admiral.

Gen. Jones and I have known each other since 2006.  I consider him a friend and have learned many valuable lessons from him during the five years we've known each other.  He has been a guest speaker at my charity events and I have been an overnight guest at his official home when he was NATO commander.  We have published an op-ed together, ironically, in the Financial Times on the subject of Pakistan.  Our families know each other, as do our spouses.  He is a man of the highest possible integrity who has served the United States with unparalleled dignity and honor.

But in the case of his recollections with regard to this matter, I have a friendly disagreement with him on a number of the points he raises in his affidavit... 

First, Gen. Jones states in Point 3 of his affidavit, "A few days before May 9,2011, I received a phone call from Mr. Mansoor ljaz..."  This is factually incorrect for a number of reasons.  The only telephone number I had for Jim at that time was his home number after he left the National Security Council.  A thorough review this evening of my telephone records for the only two telephone numbers I maintain (a US cell and a UK cell) shows that on neither billing statement for that time period is there a single call to Jim's home telephone number other than the one made on the morning of May 9th after Amb. Haqqani and I spoke -- in fact just after we spoke.  There are no calls at all to any number I have ever had for Jim in any single day in May prior to May 9th, and indeed, not on any date for that billing cycle going back to April 21, 2011...

Secondly, Jim states in Point 4 of his affidavit, "At no time during the call do I remember Mr. Ijaz mentioning Ambassador Haqqani, and he gave me no reason to believe that he was acting at the direction of Ambassador Haqqani, with his participation, or that Ambassador Haqqani had knowledge of the call or the contents of the message. I informed Mr.ljazthat I would not forward an oral message of this type to Admiral Mullen and that if he wanted anl.thing forwarded it would have to be in writing."

This statement is partially correct, and can be simply corrected by looking more closely at the timeline of discussion during that call.  To the best of my recollection, at the outset of the call and for much of the call, I did not mention Haqqani's name because I felt it was necessary to gauge Jim's reaction to the message content first.  As his skepticism of the message grew, he asked me who this was coming from and I said, exactly as Jim has stated in Point 6 of his affidavit, that it was from the highest authority in Pakistan.  His skepticism persisted, and so to avoid any view from Jim about sourcing, near the end of the call I made it clear to him that the message was originating from Haqqani.  He asked me, as I have stated in my Supreme Court testimony, about my relationship with Haqqani and I gave him a very short overview.  He indicated his views of Haqqani, which he repeated to me in more strongly worded terms in a recent call after the controversy erupted, and the call ended.

It is important to note that I never mentioned Gen. Jones' name to Haqqani in any conversation or correspondence we had.  Haqqani knew I was talking to more than one person, although it is my belief that he probably knew I would rely on Jim in the end.  He certainly knew of my strong personal feelings for Jim, which I had conveyed in no uncertain terms when Haqqani took me to see President Zardari in Washington on May 5, 2009.  President Zardari knew as well...

Third, Jim erroneously notes that we had spoken a "day or two earlier" in Point 6.  It was on that day for the first time in a very long time.

Fourth, Jim notes that he assumed I wrote the memo since our conversation was reflected in it.  Of course it was.  But that doesn't mean the content of the Memorandum arose from that conversation.  I say again, the content of the Memorandum to Adm. Mike Mullen originated entirely from Amb. Husain Haqqani.  He dictated it to me and was responsible for all key edits.

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