tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 24, 2013 8:00am-10:01am EDT
the means that set the conditions for other things to happen, and certainly your recent experience would suggest that. but before we get that, let's talk about the middle east. and if you don't mind giving us -- and i should say that general allen is constrained and talking about the israel-palestine issue because he still got an official duty serving as the security advisor to the peace talks there. u..
>> the first, i think, and most conspicuous reason is that the presidential election in afghanistan will occur on the 5th of april, and it will be the election which will facilitate the transition of authority and power from the karzai government in whatever form that has taken over the many years that they have been, he has been in power to what will come next. and we're now beginning to get clarity on who those candidates will be. some of them we expected, some of them we didn't. i think we've got some pretty strong candidates, actually.
that election's going to be very important. it's going to be very important not just in the technical outcome, it is a democratic process that we hope will render an outcome that is credible, internationally recognizable as a credible democratic outcome. it will produce an administration with whom we hope we can work over the long term. there's no reason to believe that it wouldn't given the slate of candidates we're beginning to see merge. see emerge. but what's really important is if this election -- this is a point that's been made frequently by not just the united states, but many of our other international partners -- if this election is not viewed as being credible, inclusive and come prehence i, we're going to see -- comprehensive, we're going to see it very difficult for many of our partners and for the united states to justify the long-term commitment we have made to afghanistan.
so this is a really moment. it's profoundly different than the last presidential election because the maturation of developmental institutions and the capacity governance. much needs to be done still. there's a long, long way to go, ultimately, in the development of democratic institutions and governance. but from where we were in '09 to where we are today, that process has progressed a great deal. so there is a greater governmental basis from which then an election can have meaning. the other really profound difference between the last election and this election is this afghan national security force at 352,000 has reach that is unparalleled in afghanistan's history. and so where before the question might have been asked who had access to polling stations and ballot boxes and all of those things, the capacity of the government to secure not just
the people trying to vote, but the process of the election is far better than it's ever been before. and when you walk out of -- tour afghanistan, by the end of the following woke you're dated -- week you're dated, so i'm careful what i'm going to say. but we've worked very, very hard to assist the ministry of the interior which had lead in the security of the election to go about the business of insuring that election is solidly secured, that the ballot boxes are solidly secured and that support to the independent electoral commission is such that the counting of those ballots is secured as well. so we've got a better platform in a governmental sense for an election to have meaning, we've got a better platform in a security sense for the government and the process of the election to occur. and so i'm more confident now than i was in '09, more
confident lately than i was just a year ago. but that doesn't mean this isn't still going to be difficult. if the election gets slipped, if there's a runoff, we have the potential that the next administration will be forming its government at the very moment at the end of 2014 when the isaf mission begins and the next mission -- isaf mission ends and the next mission begins. ultimately, a are -- a residual force, nato would call the term resolute support. it envisages a u.s. component and an international component, the idea being that from the first of january, 2015, for some period of time measured in years, we'll have an advisory mission in afghanistan to continue the upward development of the ansf and to give them the stability necessary so that the
new administration has its ability to get its legs under it so that the kiss torsion of the wartime -- distortion of the wartime economy on which afghanistan has floated for a number of years can begin to settle out. all of that relies on a secure stability and security platform. we think an advisory mission with the ansf after 2014 will facilitate that political, that economic maturation necessary based on activities of the ansf. it's in doubt right now, as you know. the bilateral security agreement was the follow on to the strategic partnership agreement can which president obama and president karzai signed in kabul about 18 months ago. the issues are daunting. any nation that engages in status of forces agreements which is sort of what the bilateral security agreement is goes into those negotiations anticipating some requirement to compromise on sovereignty. it's an emotional issue for any
state, especially a developed state. for a state like afghanistan which is emerging into sovereignty which is a conflict-ridden state seeking to become a postconflict society, it is even more emotional. and so there are some issues that are third rail issues for president karzai politically, and he has elected now that secretary kerry has recently been there and has advanced the game a bit to, president karzai has elected to lateral the hard decision making on this to jirga. it is a traditional afghan approach where the elite within the society -- when i say elite, that doesn't mean the top echelons, it means the representative elements within the afghan society will come together, will break into committees. they'll consider the question that president karzai will put to the loyal jirga which is about conditions for the bilateral security agreement,
they will recommend back to him whether afghanistan should go with it or not. now, who knows what the outcome of this will be. my guess is that as the afghans have seen really substantial improvement in their society over the last several years across of the measures of societal improvement whether it's life expect -- expect tan si or child mortality, none of that could have happened without the role of the united states and isaf providing that support specifically and the support of the ansf over the lock term. so my guess is the afghans will look at this closely, they'll think about what their options are. if they don't approve it and the united states elects not to leave a force there, the president has been very clear that without jurisdictional protections of our forces in the aftermath of the bilateral security agreement he will not leave our forces in afghanistan. so the afghans feed to ask
themselves, and if there are afghans in the audience, listening or going to see this video, you need to ask yourself this question: what are your options if the united states elects not to leaf -- leave forces here? my very strong suspicion is that our coalition partners won't either, and the $16 billion that was pledged at least by our elements in tokyo in the summer of '12 for development relied on a security platform that we could rely on and could depend on. my guess is we'll see a lot of that go as well. so the afghan people need to ask themselves what they need to trade in terms of sovereignty for the long-term security of the country and a relationship with the west that really today is unprecedented in the history of a country in the situation that afghanistan is. let me talk just briefly about pakistan. pakistan is, i think, extraordinarily important to the united states. i have very strong feelings for the country and for the people. our relationship with pakistan
has been a troubled relationship frequently. it has been difficult on a number of occasions for us to see eye to eye across the frontier between afghanistan and pakistan. it is, of course, both a place for a policy relationship, but it is also as the commander of isaf, it was a place where large numbers of the insurgents from north to south, they varied in who they were and what they did and how i had to deal with them, it was a place of sanctuary and safe haven as well. so there was real frustration this some respects with the safe haven of pakistan. but often that frustration was operationalized in the policy relationship with pakistan, and we've always got to be very careful about our relationship with pakistan in this that regard. it is a country with a brittle democracy. they deserve a lot of credit in
that nawaz sharif has recently been elected, and we've seen the first transition of a civil government to a civil government successfully. the army staff has been kept in the barracks. we've seen many times in the he'sly of pakistan the -- history of pakistan the army has overthrown the civilian government. he's worked very hard to keep that from happening because the army, frankly, while it was engaged on the line in contact with india, based on strategic interests, he otherwise committed them in the federally-admitted tribal areas. they've sustained more casualties than our forces have in a much shorter time fighting an insurgency which has helped us. so i'm always very careful about the natural reflex many this town -- in this town to punish pakistan. we should seek ways to create stability within pakistan as well.
it's got a role in the peace agreement that, ultimately, will be led by the afghans, and pakistan, i'll end where i started, is an enormously complicated and complex issue for the united states, but it's also one we must grip in very serious ways with respect to our policy approach. going west across the region we have iran, of course, one of the principal supporters of terrorism and instability in the region for a varian i of its own reasons which causes it to be a challenge everywhere from its former relationship with that mass, through lebanese hezbollah, through its support to syria, its efforts n the gulf region -- in the gulf region to include yemen and its problem with the saw des. but, of course, the elephant in the room is its nuclear program. we've had the transition from ahmadinejad to rouhani, and we have seen a reignition, if you will, of the willingness of iran to talk in the p5+1 to engage.
all of that's extraordinarily important, but bob gates spent his whole career looking for the moderate iranian. we need to determine whether we have a moderate iranian now in the form of rouhani and what kind of real decision making does he have absent the immediate approval of the supreme leader to do anything. so it's, you know, we're getting the rhetoric. rhetoric sounds good. it's not about the rhetoric, it's about the action that backs up the rhetoric, and so we're all going to watch that closely not the least of whom will be our ally israel, who is enormously attentive to this as well. moving west again we have the difficulties associated with iraq. we weren't there long enough to provide the top cover for the solution of many of the political difficulties that might have resolved itself if we had been there for a longer period of time. so, consequently, as we departed, we have seen those tectonic plates begin to grind against each other again, and that has created instability, and the bloodletting is going
up, and the hope is that we can hold that society together against the increase in violation. but that increase is also a direct result of the al-qaeda elements that have been commuting back and forth across the syrian border to assist the resistance in syria which is the next large open sore in the region. and the strategic stakes in syria cannot be overstated. everywhere from the strategic relationship of the united states with russia and the west with russia and china, by the way, which doesn't get much play publicly, but we should all not miss the opportunity to insure we understand what china is doing in the region writ large and in this more strategically. coming down from the strategic, we have the governmental issues, the regional arab states and their roles in either supporting the resistance or supporting bashar al assad, and then the resi sis dance against.
it's 100,000 fighters or so which effectively line up across the spectrum of is salafists and jihadists and al-nusra to the other side. you know, what's it going to look like when it's done? syria, i think, will never look the same as it did two years ago, three years ago. we may see a governmental entity emerge, but we're likely to see satellite states in some form or another around the periphery. so syria is for a whole variety of reasons, whether it's moderate sign new -- sunni resistance elements against al-qaeda, whether it's the arab states lining up one against another conceivably to support a strategic level, syria is emblem mat you can of how bad the middle east problem can be and really a central point where the united states can certainly exert probably greater strategic leadership. and shifting to the west even
more, our very old and dear friend jordan, of course, is beset with the humanitarian crisis that has emerged out of syria with the large influx of syrian refugees. it already has a large influx of palestinian refugees, more palestinian refugees came out of syria, they've been displaced from there. a large iraqi influx of refugees. jordan is an old friend, we're doing a great deal for that friend to maintain stability and to help the king to maintain the demographic balance in his country for, to be that stable platform in the region. and then shifting around we have egypt. egypt has now gone through two major political spasms since 2011. it'd be difficult to overstate how important egypt is to the united states and to the region and to the west. but egypt has enormous social, economic and political challenges which ultimately
prompted the departure of morsi and the ascendancy of the military. the united states relationship with egypt is extraordinarily important. i know we're attempting to navigate the shallow water of where we are with that right now, but it's hard to overstate how important egypt's relationship is to the united states and to the west. and then in the center of all of that we have our old friend and dear friend israel. we have the emergence now of a potential for progress on middle east peace, two-state outcome. the conversation is underway, the negotiations have started. we're not talking much about it, but any occasion where the palestinians and the israelis can sit down across a table and seriously discuss progress towards a two-state outcome is a good time. the regional platform makes it a bit more difficult right now because the regional platform is, in respects, in chaos.
but any progress that we can make, any progress that we can point to on behalf of the emerging sovereignty conceivably of the palestinian people as a state, but the continued security of israel as a friend and an ally, any progress to that end is useful not just to the region, but ultimately to the united states at a strategic level and to the world. and we could go west across the northern tier of africa, but i think that generally is the snapshot that creates the global challenge for u.s. leadership today. >> we -- >> sorry to go on. >> no. you know, i'm tempted to say we have a conversation about every country that you mentioned, and you didn't mention turkey, we could go towards central asia -- >> absolutely. turkey's extraordinarily important to this process. >> yeah. but you also mentioned in your tour of the middle east the increasing role that china is playing there. one of the things that often repeated without necessarily
thinking it through is that this is a period where china has risen to be a great power and increasingly a global power. before you became a centcom middle east expert, your first job as a general was to run the asia-pacific desk. in fact, that's how many of us came to know, came to owe now. came to know you. it is a certainly the other open-ended power question -- >> right. >> -- geopolitical question -- >> it is. >> -- for our time, is what china's rise means to american leadership. and our conversation here at home about that is often paralyzed on the one hand the sort of only choices on the menu seem to be that sort of passive form of engagement, allowing the chinese to do as they will or the other sort of null set is
the, is sort of a reprieve of cold war containment when, obviously, neither of those answers is going to meet the challenge both of china's economic rise, but also its military and geopolitical influence. how come we can't solve this puzzle? and if you've got any answers, please, advance them now. >> well, happily, i'm out of government now. >> so you're free to -- >> to a point, exactly. because there is no clear path on this. when i was the principal director for asia-pacific affairs several years ago, it was very interesting at the time as chinese officials came through washington. as china was really embarking, really beginning to emerge as a force is not the term i need, an entity, a political, economic entity to be reck ped with -- reckoned with at a global level. there was a tendency to to want
to engage chinese visitors at a very high level in this country, to engage them in a discussion on an inherent responsibility of china to be a responsible stake the holder -- stakeholder in the international community. and i actually found it very interesting because, as you might imagine, the word stakeholder doesn't translate neatly or easily into chinese regardless of the dialect. and so we spent a lot of time, unfortunately, trying to understand, trying to convey the point we sought with respect to being a stakeholder. i think china has done, given its roots, its recent past, its really breathetaking development, it -- breathtaking development, it has done as good a job as anyone could have expected to emerge as a responsible stakeholder within
the many different world entities where it can play, the world trade organization, for example, and the united nations and the imf, in the various asia -pacific forums in which it currently exists or participates. now, it doesn't mean we agree with all that china would seek to do or accomplish or perform in any of those forums. but they've emerged, i think, pretty responsibly in all of those. often the discussion with regard to china tends to be a binary discussion. we are either going to give china free reign in east asia, or we must ultimately move to a point of military confrontation. and it doesn't need to be binary. i am not someone out of a school of thought that sees that we are inevitably on a course for confrontation with china or even conflict with china. i think it is unevident bl that we -- inevitable that we will
find ourselves, with respect to china, in competition from time to time. that's not necessarily a pad thing. but i don't believe we are inevitably on a path for conflict, and i hope we're able to conduct the kinds of diplomacy and military engagement that keeps us on a path that prevents confrontation. you know, we've had conversation about this pivot to asia, and i think that's an overstatement of what we're seeking to accomplish. and it also often in the conversation is framed and deployed as a military pivot to asia. and it's actually much more than that. it's a reinvestment of our national prestige, our relationships in east asia. it doesn't rely necessarily on military force, although we will be pivoting some of our military capacity to the region while we will sustain a presence in the
middle east, if you will, for good reasons there. but the idea of what we're doing in east asia is to continue to strengthen our relationships with the emerging southeast asian states, to strengthen our relationship with our treaty allies in the region. we have five treaty allies in east asia. and the rhetoric that we use, the relationships we seek to improve, the deployment of our forces to the region can sometimes be depicted or cast as our attempt to contain china and the reality upon examination or analysis that's not, in fact, the case. our military presence in east asia for a generation, you said seven decades since the, during the cold war and since, facilitated china's rise. it was very good for china. the stability that exists as a result of the u.s. military and diplomatic presence in east asia.
we are very much a pacific nation. and our interests have always been grounded very heavily in east asia and in particular given the economic development of east asia, our economy is tieder revocably to china and the other economies in the region. so the rebalancing or the reemphasis by the united states in east asia is as much about our diplomatic, economic and political reemphasis as it would ever be about the military reemphasis, and it's not about containment. it can be read that way, it's not about containment. and i would, you know, i would just say a couple of other things. we have sought to seek -- we have sought to bring china into our military relationships out will this as well. we've invited them to participate in a number of our exercises, and the more we get to know each other in those bilateral or multilateral exercises, the more confident china is that this isn't about their being targeted. i think it's also important, though, that china has learned some hard lessons of late, in
particular being overly muscular perhaps in its pushing against its territorial claims is the right word, i guess, but the claims against the south china sea and the conflicting claims with its neighbors in that regard. and having done that, it has created a level of alarm amongst those states which has, which has given them, i think, a regional view with respect to china that would probably not otherwise have existed. there was a recent development where the chinese, i believe, have come to an agreement with the vietnamese to do joint exploration in the south china sea. that's the sort of thing, on the one hand, that's the sort of thing we want to see, some sort of peaceful exploration conceivably of the floor of the south china sea. other regional states who have conflicting claims in that area might say, hear the chinese are
dividing is and conquering what might otherwise be a solid bloc of states seeking to bring china to the table for constructive, responsible talks about how you share the resources in the region. so there's, like all other things, it's a complex issue. we have strong relations with china economically, we have a strong relationship with the chinese people. we've got humanitarian issues that we still debate very vigorously, and we will not walk away from those. but our economies are inextricably linked in so many ways that i think we have some substantial leverage that doesn't rely on military power as a coercive element in order to keep china in line in east asia. so i'd like to see opportunity, i'd like to see opportunity there. i don't necessarily see that we're on a track for conflict. >> before we go to the twitter and audience questions, i do want to get in one last topic
that we would be absolutely remiss if we did not draw you out on. and that's the question of our military as an institution. >> sure. >> with you -- you know, anybodo commanded the basic school knows where marines come from. we've had just a phenomenal success with the professional all-volunteer force for, again, decades now. it's gotten smaller, it's apparently going to get smaller again, and if there's one thing that really was the most debilitating problem over the past 12 years was that we were insufficiently large to do iraq and afghanistan properly at the same time. and the fantastic weapons platforms that we've become familiar with over the past generation are reaching the end
of their service life with no obvious replacements immediately on step, and thanks to the miracle of sequestration, the magnificent training institutions and capacity that we once had are almost inevitably going to result in at least for the next 18 months or forces that aren't as ready as they know how to be and are used to being. this has been, without saying that our policy has been overly militarized, it is, military power is still the ultimate resort of states and kings, and it's been the central pillar of american leadership particularly since the end of the cold war, but certainly during the cold war as well. how can we expect to exercise leadership without sufficient military power to back diplomacy, to undergird the
conclusion of free trade pacts, etc., etc. >> sure. >> how's that going to work out? >> well, what has made and what has sustained us as a superpower has been the sheer capacity that we have across many of the measures of national power. you know, enormous political capacity, enormous diplomatic capacity, the strongest economy on the planet which in ways has dictated the international financial system which is incredible power, but undergirding all of that as you correctly state has been, in the end, the ability for us to exert coercive power. and no diplomacy in the end is, can be effective without the potential coercive arm necessary to drive diplomacy home if diplomacy fails. and so the value of the united states military has been twofold
in respects. it has, it has underwritten the strategic leadership of the united states by virtue of our ability to project power credibly to almost any location on the planet to avert crisis or to stem the potential for conflict and to do it very quickly and to do it with high levels of technology and enormously capable formations built around the professional development of a wonderful officer corps and troop corps. and then should conflict emerge, we have the capacity at a strategic level to deploy forces, sustain forces, to fight the large war, ultimately, to close the theater, return those forces and move into the steady state security environment which would follow a large conflict. so we had the ability really to do it all. to respond very quickly for a
crisis, but also if we had to fight the big war, we could do it both, we could do both of those. the challenges now that we face are becoming a series of challenges of choices and priorities. and i, again, as i said, 40 some years in uniform, and the previous occasion that looked like this was right after the gulf war in terms of the decisions that would need to be made about structure and operations and modernization. but this is worse. after the gulf war, we didn't have the levels of chaos that we see be in the middle east. it was generally a very stable platform. if you'll recall, many of the middle east states, kingdoms, countries had been participants in the coalition of the gulf war, and the outcome of the gulf war, desert storm, facilitated their stability at the same time we were able to solve the issue in kuwait. today, however, again from the
northern tier of africa, the african sahara across the middle east all the way to the border of india and pakistan, we've got some very substantial challenges with respect to stability. and the requirement for a crisis response force is to be able to move very quickly. i have watched the service chiefs, and i'll stop --ty greece more just a second to say that the service chiefs when i was in command in afghanistan even during the beginning of very austere times for the services denied me nothing. whatever i needed to fight that war in afghanistan to the very great credit of the service chiefs, some of whom are still in place today, i got everything i needed even recognizing that it created even more pressures on the forces back in the united states. so my thanks to them, and i will always be eternally thankful to the secretary and to the chairmen, mike mullen and now
marty dempsey. i have not seen the kinds of choices that our service chiefs have had to make ever in my career, and these choices are really stark this some respects. we're going to have to choose between comprehensive modernization programs that put the kinds of technology in the hands of our troops that they need to fight and win, or the operations and sustainment and maintenance funding necessary, as you pointed out correctly, to maintain the high levels of readiness think training and -- readiness through training and selection and development and school and the sheer size of the force. because manpower costs, personnel costs a lot of money. and so as the, as the budget pressures increase, the services are going to have to make choices between and among modern, readiness and size --
modernization, readiness and size that can permit that force at the end of 13 years of conflict in a very focused operational environment to reembrace in respects the core competencies that we need for the forces to have after having been fighting a counterinsurgency, to reembrace those core competencies on behalf of the national security objectives of the united states at a time when we're shaping the force to be smaller, at a time when we're desperately trying to insure the standards, the continuing high standards of our enlistment that we're putting the money against the training so that we can remain a highly ready force able to do deploy at a moment's notice but also giving the modernization to our troops necessary for them to fight and win in a high technology fight. these are tough choices, they're very tough choices, and not only do we have to make choices about the services, but you recall that as you well know from your own expertise in this area, our services provide forces to our
combatant commanders. our combatant commanders have war plans that have been developed with an expectation both in terms of how fast we can get there and the size of the force that are coming. as those forces begin to mature and change, we're going to have to think about the assumptionings with those -- assumptions associated with those war plans to determine what we can do as time goes on. to this constrained budget environment has effect not just within the services, it has really substantial effects on our ability to project force whether it's for a crisis or for a big war. that then goes back to the issue of what's the role of force for a superpower, can it really be the underwriting safety net, if you will, to enforce our political intent, our strategic outcomes, our strategic objectives and our diplomacy? i don't think we've with answered that question yet, but the trending causes me significant concern. >> i fear the future will answer. question for us, i believe we're
on time, but i would like to try to get one outside question in. i'm not going to try to attempt the name because i would only butcher it. >> excuse me. >> it's a question that reminds me that as you were retiring, there was a prospect that your last assignment would be in europe. and it's a question about the nato summit that's coming up next year and whether alliance end largement -- enlargement should be on the agenda, but if i could broaden that and ask you just to give us briefly your assessment of the security situation in europe. again, it's sort of unthinkablee that there could be a major war that's, you know, after 500 years of europe slaughtering itself and exploiting its wars around the globe, that's probably a good thing. nonetheless, the american security blanket is being withdrawn from there, too, and it's a continent that suffers from a compound fiscal, economic
and financial crisis. >> right. well with, -- well, i think none of us would have foreseen the crisis of the balkans in 1990. we would never have imagined that something like scherr i have in its saw could have occurred in europe. fortunately, we've moved past that. most of the states that have emerged in the balkans in the aftermath of yugoslav ya have become very stable, and many of them have become very successful. both members of the international community, but in particular members of nato and the european union. so i think your question is an important one. none of us today can, could visualize a major conflict in europe. so the question about nato is, has nato outlived its usefulness? and i think we have been here before in that conversation.
nato, i think, deserves to be considered and deserves to be measured beyond the simple security dimension of its original charter and why it existed. the aggregation, the confluence of values that has come together by the 28 states of nato, the willingness -- and i saw it at the business end, i saw the young troops from nato countries bleeding right alongside their nato partners -- the willingness of nato to share a security burden was a really important realization for me that nato is not just about a security relationship, nato is much bigger than simply the sum of its countries. it is, it has been a stabilizing feature, a global stabilizing feature for many, many years not
just at a security level, but at a political level, at a diplomatic level, at an economic level. the european union would probably not exist in the form or fashion that we see it today if it hadn't been for nato. and so while we may once again ask the question has nato outlived its usefulness, i would say that the benefit that nato accrues to the west in general by virtue of giving it a coherence and a common vision and a platform for common values is extraordinarily important particularly now where there is so much chaos in so many locations in the world. so i do see that there's a role for nato. it is less clear that there will be out-of-area security deployments. i think it's going to be a long time before we see nato deploy outside on an afghan-type or a libyan-type expedition. but i see the value of nato in
its coherence. i see the value of nato as 28 states that are strong democracies, growing democracies that have common values, the sum of which is far greater than the simple capacity of its individual parts. and so in that regard, i think it still is a force for stability globally. it's a force for democratic principles and an emblem for democratic principles, and i'd love to see nato continue. and i worry that we are going to undermine its integrity and cohesion by making simple defense adjustments. not we the united states necessarily, but all of the states making defense adjustments that begin to dismantle unintentionally the can coherence of nato. >> i'm going to need a little bit stronger cow hook if i'm going to get for going over time, so somebody needs to -- >> i've seen the throat slitting over here. >> okay. wow, see, that's the kind of,
that's the kind of very simple hand gesture -- >> going to deal with you or me or both of us. >> no, no. i think she means business too. well, in that case, sir, thanks for sharing your time with us. it's sort of become dereger under these circumstances to thank people who aren't in uniform any longer for their service to the country, but it's clear that your service to the country has just changed form, and it continues. so thank you very much for sharing your time with us and look forward to renewing the conversation. >> great, tom, thank you. >> thanks, everybody. thanks fpi, cheers. [applause] >> more now from the foreign policy initiative. house intelligence committee chairman mike rogers gives an update on the situation in syria. this is 55 minutes.
>> good morning and welcome back. name's chris griffin, executive director here at the foreign policy initiative. i ask that you please make your way back to your seats as we get ready for our next conversation. it's an incredible honor to have congressmen eliot engel and mike rogers here along with david ignatius for our next discussion about the crisis in syria. before kicking off this timely conversation, want to welcome again everyone watching on c-span and invite you to join the conversation at hash tag fpi forum. for those in the audience, a reminder to, please, submit your questions with the preprinted cards at your table. you can see the question box in the center, and we'll bring that up when we move to the q&a section. david ignatius has written eight spy novels. i greatly thank mr. ignatius for agreeing to moderate this discussion and turn the mic over
to him to introduce our panelists who have done so much to advance the debate on syria. >> thank you very much. welcome to all of you, to what i hope will be a very good and lively discussion of a difficult policy issue, syria. you'll have a chance to ask your own questions so, please, do be thinking and writing on the cards questions that can be sent up to us so that you can play a part many this conversation. -- in this conversation. let me first introduce our paneltists. starting on my far right, as it were, congressman mike rogers from michigan. i often say the same thing in introducing mike rogers, which is that he has taken what is most of the divided and partisan committees in the house, the house intelligence committee, and made it function as a bipartisan committee that passes authorization legislation every year. congressman rogers has worked
with the ranking member, congressman rumors berger from maryland, and that thing you wish would happen throughout the congress in which members from both parties have each other's backs and trying to do the country's work is actually happening in the house intelligence committee, and it's terrific. so i want to say that in introducing congressman rogers. eliot engel, ranking member of the house foreign affairs committee, simply is somebody who has tried to work on bipartisan solutions to problems that matter to the country. he became ranking member after howard berman who for many years had been in that position left congress. he's been a member of congress since 1989 and has had a significant record of legislative achievement and commitment. so it's great to have two people who are really trying to do the people's business in congress on foreign policy to talk about syria. and i'd like to ask each of you to begin by setting the scene for us.
we've had a turbulent few weeks with syria policy in which it appeared that the united states was going to go to war, was going to launch tomahawk missiles after a very fiery statement by our secretary of state, john kerry. and then the president decided that it was wisest to take this matter to congress and get congressional support. and then lo and behold, the russian foreign minister and then the russian president, vladimir putin, announced a willingness to work with the united states to deal with the problem of the military attack it had been intended to deal with by having a joint russian-american program to destroy these weapons. so i'd like to, congressman rogers, ask you to begin our conversation by talking about where we are. there's some people who look at the situation and say, oh, this is terrible, the united states so weak, putin is the big winner and paint this in very dire
colors. what do you think? >> well, let's talk about the security footprint if we can and what's happening in syria and lead up to that very quickly. so you have an interesting trend happening now in syria. you have al-qaeda actually disagreeing with itself on the very issue of conducting external operations. so you have a large pooling of al-qaeda-affiliated groups in the east that is, certainly, cause for concern. and many that some friction -- in that some friction because they feel they're in a safe enough position in the east should they be conducting external operations to syria. that in and of itself is a concerning turn of events in syria. you have hezbollah still actively working on behalf of the regime in syria. you have some kurdish groups, you have some groups up along the turkish border, and they're looking for some territory that they can claim their own and
have autonomy is too strong a word, but they want to at least be able to influence events as it happens in the north and the east of syria. the one negative thing that happened when the ink dried on -- if there was ink -- on the russian agreement is that you saw that the russians and the regime and iran through heads blah used that -- through hezbollah used that opportunity to refresh the troops, to restock, the dig in, to take some offensive operations mainly through around tilley strikes and small unit movement, to try to take advantage of that position. i think most people would see that conclusion. so we are seeing a hardened position today, and, you know, the result of the russian agreement, listen, anytime that you can have an agreement to take chemical weapons off the battlefield, that's a good day. what worries me is that it was a very narrow focus. i thought we missed an opportunity by trying to stretch that to conventional weapons systems. you know, the rockets that they
have, the missile systems that they have in the assad regime mainly supplied, by the way, through russian and iranian means is really troubling. are they stepping over conventional weapons systems we don't want to fall in the hands of bad guys too? probably. and that's something i hope we can reengage with the russians pretty quickly. and i reject wholly the people who want to define this as a simple civil war in syria. we have gone well beyond that point. it is a regional conflict. you have regional concerns in the area trying to influence the outcome in a way that both includes money and arms and even back room diplomacy that is very, very concerning. jordan is at risk because of the sheer number of refugees. israel is obviously very concerned. they for the first time now have al-qaeda elements on their northern border near the golan heights, something they hadn't had to deal with to that
degree thus far. iran is feeling cornered by sanctions, empowered by the events in syria, and hezbollah for the first time has militiad up in a way that has caused us real concern. so they militiad up, departed to another country, engaging in command and control and fighting, candidly, very successfully. all of that is concerning. and the last piece of this that we need to worry about is the numbers of foreign fighters exceeds the number of foreign fighters we saw in iraq and afghanistan. ..
in assad's term. >> i want to come back, congressman rogers, to some of what you said, one point in particular about these entrenched al qaeda fighters and what to do about them. but i want to first ask congressman engel, if he would take us back to the days immediately after the presidents speech in which the president said, i feel it's important for this action to be fully legitimate, take it to congress and get congressional support. it's widely said that one of the surprises and the places, developers of that period was that it appeared increasingly that the president could not hold his own caucus.
the house democrats were unlikely to support the president in sufficient numbers. despite fairly strong lobbying on behalf of of his revolution in favor of military action by aipac, the pro-israel offering a group that is very well connected on capitol hill. some even presented the fact that aipac had been pushed into despite saying this is inappropriate. ask you first, is it true that the democratic caucus was if the? that it was increasingly unlikely they would support the resolution? second, were you at all troubled by the linkage of the to more traditional issues involving israel's security? >> i think you have to take the support or lack of support for a strike in syria in totality not just look at democrats but also look at republicans.
i think the united states is the war weary. we were all hearing from our constituents overwhelmingly that they did not favor any kind of action in syria. i was one of the few who publicly said i supported a strike in syria. and i supported it not because i like strikes but i think that it was a way of telling assad that the president said using weapons of mass destruction, gassing his own people, is not acceptable. i think that the situation in the congress was very iffy. i was one of the few people who felt the president did not have to, the congress initially. i felt and still do the war powers act is the president 60 days to come to congress. i still feel that way. the president felt otherwise. i respect that and i think that when he came to capitol hill, he
and his people found that there was a lot of resistance. i think there was frankly more resistance on the republican side and was on the democratic side. it seemed very strange to me that many of my republican colleagues who have supported the war in afghanistan, the war in iraq, desert storm, things like that, suddenly were supposed to supporting president obama on striking syria. it just seemed like a disconnect to me that it was frankly in many instances politically motivated rather than substance. but it was also a hard sell in the democratic caucus. i think ultimatelultimatel y, and we will never know, it's all conjecture, if they come to a vote i think the majority of democrats would have supported the president on it but i think it was iffy on terms of whether the president would get the support of the congress because the republicans were overwhelmingly opposed to it. i've always felt that foreign policy should be bipartisan.
i know mike's committee and rightfully so you've come to the way he's run the committee in bipartisan fashion, we have tried to do that on the foreign affairs committee with chairman royce and myself. we have made it a trademark this year to talk about bipartisanship because i think wherever possible foreign policy should be bipartisan. i think it strengthens us, our president, whoever he or she may be, and i think it's very important that we keep it in a bipartisan fashion. but i think that was really the reality was it wa was very, very iffy big undertake more so because the lack of republican support. in terms of aipac, i don't think it was wrong for aipac to get involved. israel is in that area. a very difficult area and a very bad neighborhood and, obviously, what happens in syria is very important for israel. golan heights is the border actually now between israel and syria. as you pointed out there are
lots of pitfalls for israel. so i think the pro-israel community, if they decided to get involved with it, did the right thing in the reaching of aipac is not just in the democratic party or the republican party. it's really across party lines but i think aipac has built the most effective lobbying force of any organization on capitol hill and they have strong ties and influence in both the democratic caucus and the republican caucus. i think it was appropriate, if that's what they deemed to do, to get involved. and i think again we will never know what would've happened because the agreement that the president agree to with russia and syria was a good agreement. it's a narrow in scope. i think it was good it happened but it troubles me that assad is
still in power after all these years. remember, i wrote the syrian accountability act 10 years ago. got it passed and signed with the republican congress and republican president because again i think the foreign policy needs to be bipartisan, and syria has been a bad players and assad has been bad place for so many years. >> let me ask you a brief follow-up. one of the things that was widely said at home and even more abroad was that the presence difficulty in getting congressional support -- presidents difficulty -- in getting congressional support told the world how war wary america is, and in that sense was a worrying precedent for the much larger and more consequential issue of iran and iran's nuclear program, that the
iranians probably looking at this we're thinking was less likely that president obama would take the country to war to stop the iranian nuclear program. i know you have heard a lot about that. what would be your judgment of that, whether there's anything to worry about here? >> well, sure there is something to worry that. i think the iranians were watching very carefully how the syria option played out in the united states. i think it was obvious that united states is war weary and i think that they watch us very, very carefully and that was one of the reasons why i was for striking syria. because i believe that assad has essentially turned himself into iran's proxy in syria. the war for assad was going poorly until hezbollah came across the border and fought on
the side of assad and one back all those towns and was very successful. of course, hezbollah is controlled, hezbollah is a terrorist group that is controlled by iran, and iranians want assad to win. so this is something that all intertwined. in fact, i think some of the dissatisfaction we are seeing with some of our allies, saudi arabia for instance, with what happened in syria place to the very fact that everyone knows that iran is there and is watching. so i think president obama, to his credit, has said that with iran all options are on the table. and just the way i believe that it was a credible threat of american force that forced assad or forced the agreement on the syrians allowed them to agree to it. i think it's a credible threat
of american force that would help if there is to be an agreement with the iranians, make sure it's a good agreement. and by the way, i'm for an agreement but i want a good agreement. no agreement in my opinion is better than a bad agreement. and begin to the president credit he continues to say all options on the table, and the negotiations that are going on now i support them. i obviously believe time is of the essence. the iranians are masters for playing for time. i think we should no frankly within a few weeks if they are serious or if they're just trying to string us along. >> this seems to be where time doesn't play in their advantage because of the impact of sanctions. i want to ask congressman rogers about the next big date on our syria calendar, and that is the so-called geneva 2 conference which seems to be tentatively
set for the third week of november. and for those of you who don't follow this carefully, geneva ii would be a follow-on to the transitional or seizures that kofi annan negotiated when he was the special representative for syria a year ago. it's a joint u.s.-russian project. it's been discussed at great length by secretary kerry and russian foreign and minister lavrov her and want to ask you, congressman rogers, whether you think it is possible to achieve anything significant at a geneva ii conference now? and innocence whether you support it going forward. and perhaps you could also take this opportunity to discuss one of the issues that's central to this geneva ii conference, which is how can the opposition get strong enough that it can
bargain effectively at geneva and depend on the battlefield? >> well, this is a problem, a problem with the first go-round and it's going to be the problem in geneva ii. once the deal was done with the russians it was done by two entities who are playing very different roles in syria. and so what happened is general interest is trying to hold together what we would understand as the free syrian army hopefully free of more radicals, not going to be the case given the ties of how things are turning in syria. they felt and probably legitimately so that they've got their legs cut out from under them. if somebody doesn't have the credibility to tell the opposition here's where we're going to go forward on a deal, we will get no deal that will hold, too. so we can talk all that we want. and so when we say it's the u.s. and russian led event in syria,
that tells me it will not be successful up front. they are the key players. they can be we the united states, they the russians because there's very few people who can walk into assad and say, that's it, right? no more spare parts, no more weapons, no more gasoline and no more finances. your days are numbered. it's time we move forward on an agreement. they are really the only ones, aside from iran who would have no notion to do that that can play that role. that's what i thought it was important to engage the russians in the whole process. who walks in the opposition and says, this is the way forward, assad is here for 14 months or whatever it is, here's how we do a transitional government, here's how we lay out, there will be a cease-fire for a temporary period of time. no government including the united states can now do that. the saudis are frustrated. i think the representative mentioned the saudis and how they're pulling away from
american interests and public is getting it. that's very concerning. so you all the things working against a successful geneva ii. and i think that's why eliot and i both cosponsored a bill that eliot offered on trying to find a way forward to arm the opposition, train the opposition in a way that allows us to have friends and influence for a peaceful conclusion. i know some people think that the dichotomy by getting weapons and arms and turning to the opposition to have a peaceful conclusion, but we believe that if they're strong enough and that influence enough and can turn the tide on the battlefield, that's the time the u.s., russians can sit down and broker a deal that can be a lasting peace that doesn't create chaos afterwards. and candidly today if assad was taken out today, we would have chaos in syria that we will all pay a price for.
and so i come to, believe assad needs to go. i think now we're in a very different place and we were two years ago, 18 months ago, 12 month ago. the situation at the treated so badly that we've got to find a way now to stun the chaos that will follow when he eventually, and he will, leave power. so that's what i worry about on geneva ii. i don't think we are there. you hear all the complaints from the opposition we thought we are promised x. i thought a lot of them thought that meant airplanes and tanks and weaponry that was no part of the discussion but their perception was different. so when all that didn't show up on the battlefield for the opposition in syria i think it created this credibility problem, we'll are perceived. if it's perceived it's a real. and that is the challenge they're going to have walking into geneva ii. >> but me ask you each quickly before i turn to some excellent questions from our audience. address the issue that's really at the core of this question of
how to make the opposition stronger, more credible. and that is programs, serious, hard nosed programs sponsored by agencies of the u.s. government that will work to train, to some extent arm, members of general idris force, help them create command again, helping create the kind of command and control muscle that they've needed. congressman rogers come you're so close to this you have to be careful i guess, but tell us what you can't about how this is going because it's so important in terms of the larger story. >> i can't talk about specific details but i can tell you early on, many of us in a bipartisan way believed that what can the united states bring to impact on the battlefield in syria early on. training. nobody does it better than the united states.
intelligence packages allowing a train the unit that learns command-and-control that his arm in the way that can effective on the battlefield to get to the right place and affect the right, on a mission. nobody does that better than the united states. and the other piece of this, which got lost in the question was the united states trying to corral and what is a whole bunch of countries who have large influence in the region, throwing weapons systems over the border and running like heck to add it have some series consequences. but we know that there are nationstates we work well with who don't really care where weapon systems and the. as long as it's pointed at assad, it's a good day for the that's not necessary at today for u.s. national interest. we've had a very difficult time around it, and part of it is without a reluctance of releasing of the table and showing u.s. leadership. you will hear that complaint from all of our middle east allies. which is why you see this
recent, fairly public discussion of saudi arabia pulling away from the united states, which hopefully we can get this fixed and turned around. i think it would be, have serious negative consequences in the long run if saudi arabia decided to keep walking down that path. and so what i think the perception problem was, as i said earlier, all of this good stuff is going to come, have well trained units and they're going to engage in the fight. the problem is this, that i think the u.s. rhetoric and u.s. resources is a huge gap. and as the situation on the ground has changed, i think both are u.s. rhetoric and our stated goals and intentions should also change. so for anyone that was 24 months ago saying we ought to be all in, we are to help, we are to do very big robust maybe even a publicly supporting the opposition in these ways, that
circumstance doesn't exist today. and so i think we need to change. we can't get the same rhetoric when we know on the ground that more extremist elements are winning the tide of influence amongst the opposition. why? better funded, better trained, better committed fighters. i think our intelligence services are doing a miraculous job of trying to make sure they understand who is who, who are the good guys, who are the bad guys, who can we trust that maybe when this all falls apart we will have some friends on the ground in syria, but the problem is that just isn't enough and i think that the longer it goes in our current stated public stated goal with what we are doing will only create more animosity. i don't mean to be cute by half, but it's a complicated situation on the ground. change a rhetoric. change our goals. change what we hope to influence when it's done and try to work
with our allies to keep sophisticated weapons away from groups that we know are radicalized. and by the way, in the east, we are not talk about four or 500 people. we are talking about an excess of 10,000 people committed al qaeda affiliates. this is a serious problem brewing for us and they argued on our current policy trend, we are not going to meet that challenge the way we are meeting at today. >> so what i hear you saying amid the necessary careful language is that the united states needs to have a more aggressive and focused, nonpublic program to deal with the reality in syria. am i getting that right? >> i think so. let's back up for a minute. the stated goal, both eliot and i agree on this, assad needs to
go. the administration's original policy is assad needs to go. great, we are all in. i have supported that position. time has changed the facts on the ground. i don't believe if that is our stated u.s. intention that we are configured to make that happen. i would argue we are not. we are not in a position to do that on the ground in syria. we have alienated both our allies and the opposition in our stated goals versus our resources position in see on the ground today. so i argue let's refocus this. let's sit down and figure out we are where we are, we know we have this growing problem in the east. turkish issues on the border with syria. and the pkk and others to give hezbollah in the west and in the south. we have got to change our calculus. what do we want to publish today? again, to change the position for me but not. i argued if assad goes today we are in serious trouble not
because he is gone but because the chaos that ensues. and everybody will try to get their hands on those sophisticated weapons cache. so we better change, we better reconfigure ourselves. and happen to believe in covert action. i think it's, it has played an important role since george washington engaged in in the revolutionary war. that it is a part of advancing u.s. national security interests. maybe that's a better place for us to do something that could influence the outcome there so we get a peaceful, less chaotic, more supportive of the allies in the region outcome than the path we are on today. >> congressman engel, i want to ask you a question that's been posed by one of our audience members, tom, identifies himself as a senate staffer and, what are the u.s. national security interests associate with syria? if i might expand the that just
a bit very -- chemical weapons which are u.s. national -- what we are facing in city is the breakup of the unitary state of syria. now, effectively can't nice. that's the united states have a national security interest -- canonized. in keeping the nation of serial with in its traditional boundaries together? >> you know, i've often question how much we should be committed to keeping peace, essentially colonial boundaries intact. we had that argument during the iraq war when many of us thought that the kurds in the northern part of the country should be allowed at the very least autonomy and essentially being allowed to run their own nation. and i think the same could essentially be said for syria. i think mike very correctly when
he was laying out what happened two years ago, we had a strong feeling that general idris and the free syrian army would emerge the tory is. as he mentioned, i even put in the bill that he cosponsored to arm the rebels. things have changed on the ground and there is a lot of chaos there as well. and so i think we need to reassess what we do know. i still believe that assad needs to go because i think that he is a brutal dictator. and i think, unfortunately, a lot of uprising starts with good intention. uprisings in syria started with people who are fed up with the weight of the assad regime and the way it was strangling the
people of syria. and they did want to have a free syria that we in the united states whitfield very compatible with and kinship with. but as far as jihadists have been pouring into the country, as mike mentioned, even to a larger degree than we saw in iraq. and again, our alpha allies -- our close allies, israel, saudi arabia, others as well are right there. we do have a stake in terms of what happens. so i think that our interest in the region are shifting and i think we're in the middle of having a shift. but i'll tell you, i really think that the united states still needs to be engaged. and that the canonization of syria might very well happen. the king of jordan came to see us a few months ago in the foreign affairs committee and to come out and started drawing and
showed how you would have a division of syria, and that is essentially what assad is plain for. i think assad at this point doesn't care about the north, doesn't care about a lot of the area. but he cares about this enclave, large enclaves including damascus, the capital which would about lebanon which would essentially be a shia enclave, which is why many of us believe he used gas on the suburbs outside of damascus to sort of ethnic cleansing the area of sunnis. and so if we think that what happened in syria doesn't have a spillover effect of these other countries, including iran as we mentioned before, very badly mistaken. and so i think that we do have an interest in trying to stabilize of syria and trying to transition to a post-assad syria and try to grab stood with the
russians. i think that it's a long shot, but i think we need to keep drawing. >> wonder if either of you here, and let me start with congressman engel, hear anything from secretary kerry or others at the state department that would suggest that in recent conversations with foreign minister lavrov, the russians have fun indicated and recognition to stabilize the situation, assad must leave when his term of office official expires next year. have you heard anything like that? >> i haven't heard that. it's something we would know hoe because i think it's true. and we are hoping that the russians will come to understand that assad has no future in syria. i think the agreement that we did with the russians in terms of hitting rid of the gas and the weapons of mass destruction was a good thing. i think something very good came out of all of that, and i'm under no illusions about putin
or assad but i do think that it's good if the united states and russia can cooperate on this. russia has also experienced jihadists islam and terrorism. they don't have a stake in seeing that flourish, and i think they understand, trying to put the lid on what's happening in syria is not only in the united states' asked interests but ultimate it's in russia's best interest as well. >> congressman rogers, what do your sources tell you? >> we knew early on that the russians were looking for an interim period of time for assad to stay in power. that's one of the main things that they wanted. i think in the beginning they were asking for complete, you know, staying as long as he could get elected. and trust me, on that system he would've gotten elected. and then they started adjusting and while back on a number of months that they were willing to negotiate.
that collided with the oppositions position that that's nonnegotiable. if we're going to cease-fire he has to be done. that was the trouble and that's where the friction i think started between u.s. interlocutor efforts and russian interlocutor efforts in syria. so this is not incompatible with their position. i think they feel they're in a pretty good place today because of the chemical weapons agreement, the fact that assad is pretty much untouchable now between when the end of the chemical weapons agreement happens anyway which would be pretty close to the election cycle. would they try to get him another election? i think they will start there. i think they will come to the position eventually that they don't have -- that he's going to have to go at some point as well. just on the national security interest real quickly if i can. i think this is a classic case of why we ought to be engaged in the world come our lease stand
up as the general populace about engagement in the world. our national security interest in the world were very clear to many of us from the very beginning. you have a place that has aided and abetted some estimate are as high as 600 through iranian cuts through syria and iraq taking the lives of 600 u.s. soldiers. this was a proxy state for a nation that was causing bad behavior in the region, including trying to kill the saudi ambassador in the united states capital. this is as serious as it gets. and so an earlier intervention and and we don't mean military intervention. we are talking of using the training and the assets we can bring that a very unique to the situation, or in our national secret interest. but because we defeated ourselves by saying we are tired of international engagement, we're not going to do this, we waited a very long time and now we have bad activity.
eliot engel is with us, had an earlier intervention with helping the opposition two years ago, he wouldn't see the circumstances on the ground. why is it in our national security interest today more than two years ago? we have a safe haven developing in the east of syria along the iraqi border where they are talking about conducting external operations, which is exactly what happened in afghanistan which led to 9/11. there are thousands now of people who have come from some western nations, united states, other places who are going to go back. you cannot have a safe haven operate anywhere in the world for people who are committed to acts of terrorism to advance their political goals. the only thing we think that are stopping that now is the fact that there is this a struggle between al qaeda court leadership saying, hold off, don't do it yet. we don't want foreign intervention in the fight yet. so they are being -- they have
shown that they have developed a level of patience and strategy that we haven't seen before. so in other words, let this cauldron go, try to secure some area in the east and then we will start and begin planning for external operations. and the fight is that there's a group they're not assess no, no, no. we want to do it now. we feel safe and comfortable. we would like to engage in external operations now. that's what our united states national security interest -- we said after 9/11 no more safe havens. we will never allow it. what we have happening in syria today is the development of may be the largest safe haven without our ability to conduct operations that we have ever seen. that should concern all of us. and again when we make, we don't make a decision thinking we are doing some international good or we're tired of being engaged in the world, what you get now is a worse problem. i hope people study this case and study from 24 months ago to
today. i think it might reinvigorate people's interest in engaging small and effective early so you don't get big and ugly later. right now we are at the big and very ugly state of the syrian conflict. >> let me turn to two questions from foreign guests that are both in the same direction. and do follow on the comments that you each just made. one is from the embassy of switzerland who asks, iran wants to be involved in the geneva ii conference. what is your take on that? and cornelius, who is with the german council on foreign relations, asks, how can you constructively bring iran into the syria equation? congressman engel, what do you think about that? should iran have a seat at geneva ii? what should be the requirements for their participation? canada help or will they heard?
>> i think the first pressing problem with iran is getting them to get rid of their nuclear weapons. i think that trumps everything else your and i think in large part how to act towards that goal will determine whether iran will be taken serious in terms of a player for peace in the region are as someone who has committed all kinds of inappropriate behavior in the region. i view iran as a major supporter and finance of terrorism in the entire world. and that is a record, again, i mentioned hezbollah before. i run has been a particularly bad player so i don't think they should be rewarded or elevated as someone who could be constructive in terms of syria. i think let them first show that they will be constructive in terms of dismantling their
nuclear program. and i think that's what we have to concentrate on right now. so i would be opposed to iran having any kind of a role in syria in the talks, unless they show that they are serious and trying to be responsible in terms of dismantling their nuclear weapons program. and i think it has to be more than just the charm, trying to act charming. the new president, it's unclear to me, what responsibility he has, rouhani. it's unclear to me if this is more just window dressing or if it's real. so if it's real i'm happy it's a real. but i have my doubts. let's wait and see before we start elevating the iran as peacemakers. >> i interviewed president rouhani one on one when he was here, and he said pretty much the same thing.
but this do the nuclear file first, then let's deal with these regional issues. the reason is that he seems to have authority from the supreme leader to do the nuclear file. he doesn't have authority to deal on syria, bahrain, other regional crises which are closely held by the irgc. mike, together thought about the wisdom of bring iran into this process? >> i completely agree with elliot. i would not have them sit at the table unless they had a very long laundry list of must -- of must do private. this isn't the first, just because it's rouhani, i think people with some sense of euphoria, this is great, he is with us. that's just simply hasn't been the case. so in all of the other nuclear talks the most productive thing was an agreement that more nuclear talks. that's it. as we got out of. see any change here today. remember where iran is today.
they are actively supporting hezbollah in syria. they have conducted well over a dozen political assassination attempts worldwide external to iran. again, including the attempt here in the united states of america, our capital. they attacked saudi aramco with a vicious cyber attack that nearly took it off-line and crippled their main cash flow basically in saudi arabia. that does all the oil and natural gas transaction with a very, very devastating cyber destructive attack. according to public reports, iran has been probing aggressively in the hundreds of times just this year alone our financial services networks. in a way that would give one pause. to say that we're going to allow those folks, the credibility of which that's what they want here, they want his international credibility that comes with sitting at the table so that they are in a better
position to negotiate their nuclear issues and ever eventually what's happening in syria. i just think it would be unwise at best, and really damaging to our ability to control what is the leading, largest supplier of international terrorism on the face of the earth when it comes to the state government. >> let me run through a few more questions from our audience just briefly. one is a twitter message from the twitter account is at -- the question is, how threaten is the jordanian monarchy by spillover from syria? congressman engel, that's the thing that i hear the most about when i talk to israeli sources about the situation that a sunni jihad gets stronger and stronger in syria, the consequences for the king in jordan become more
serious. what do you hear? what do you think? what should the u.s. do about it? >> first of all, i think the u.s. needs to get do everything possible to work with the king of jordan. jordan has been a loyal interest out of the united states for many, many years, not only in this crisis but many other crises. and jordan is feeling the weight of refugees, hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring across their border from syria into jordan. we had been helping with it. we have been helping a lot with that, by think that the king is very, very concerned and very, very work. never he comes to washington to speak with us i always feel it's like a breath of fresh air coming from that region. because he really i think has it all together, understands what's going on and has a very clearheaded in terms of what the united states and the west and the rest should do.
so i think anything if -- if anything happened to his regime it would be devastating to our policies. and we need to be looked upon as somebody who is loyal and the nation that stays with our allies and keeps with him and protects them. and i think jordan is one of those very, very important allies. that clearly in jordan they are feeling the strain right now of all these refugees and the war right next door in syria. >> is there something you that we should be doing, congressman engel or congressman rogers, to help jordan, to go to this question of jordanian stability? >> well, i think we should just continue what we'v we have done. we provide a lot of humanitarian relief. we to some degree or an umbrella of protecting the military, of protecting them. we need to encourage good
relations between jordan and egypt. between jordan and israel, between jordan and saudi arabia. we need to let them know that we are dependable. what mike said before is a very true. people rely on the united states. people have to know that we are a dependable ally. it's good policy for us to be a dependable ally, but it's also good policy for us in terms of what we need. al qaeda was planning and plotting when we were going after them. when the soviet union, when the russians were thrown out of afghanistan, we sort of packed up and went home and we allowed that country to fester instead of making sure that the taliban didn't rear its ugly head. we cannot afford to do that anymore. i know that people feel, well, we are all tired.
we are all tired but we have responsibility, not only as the leading power of the world, we have responsibility to ourselves. i'm a new yorker. i remember september 11, 2001, like it was yesterday. it's official moment in my life, probably in everybody's life. we have to be vigilant and we need to work to make sure that the people who would do us harm are prevented from doing it and that the people who are all lined with us, nations like jordan that are aligned with us like saudi arabia, like egypt, that we work with them. so it's a two-way street. it protects them and keeps them working with us but it also protects us. >> you can imagine if 100 million people showed up and the united states in the next three or four months, it would be a devastating problem for us to keep up with. that's basically what's happened in jordan. i've been in the camps along the
border. it's all they can do to keep up with water and sanitary issues. they built a camp in the middle, literally in the middle of nowhere to hold 10,000 people. they are trying to create a small town on the border. it's filled up in four days. and they have small towns along the border that have more than doubled the population because they have an interesting -- if your relatives across the border you can come and go and live in that community. they have doubled the size of the small tent in a very short order that already had water and sewer issues. it is a real problem. we are also seeing some, certainly the syrians are understanding that there is flamed to be fanned by penetrating these camps and causing trouble. and we see lots of trouble ruling in these camps. and i do believe that you can trace this right back to damascus and that behavior. and all of that is adding
pressure on the country that has very little resources to offer its own people, let alone literally hundreds of thousands of people who are not citizens of jordan. so we will have to continue to step up and help them. we need the international community to do more. and candidly one of the things we can do is help try to contain the refugee flow by trying to offer some areas of stability in syria that allow people to find a safe haven of their own. where they don't feel that they have to cross the border in order to protect their families. it is popular with young girls and kids who, their parents are telling them to flee. it is a tragic event to walk through these camps and meet these young folks have been displaced by some pretty awful combat fighting in syria. so all of those things need to happen all at the same time, and other than events like this we don't talk about syria much anymore.
after the big kerfuffle over she would to a surgical strike on their ability to deliver chemical weapons or not, we have moved on as americans and i think that's a tragedy if we don't put a little more effort and emphasis on trying to solve this problem. >> let me ask for one more quick response from congressman rogers, because this is an important question, and then we will conclude our session. this is from robert from the foreign policy initiative. and h ask you, how confident are you that assad will really give, and let me quote, immediate and unfettered access, which is what is demanded, to all chemical weapons sites and declare every chemical weapons transfer in or out of syria since 1946 as he is required to do by article iii of the chemical weapons convention. >> what's your confidence level in what we are doing? >> well, what we're trying to do, my confidence level is high.
they are trying to do the best they can. my confidence level is extremely low that will have access to all the sites that we need. remover at one time they were talking about as many as 42 sites. -- remember, the opcw has been to 14, 15 will follow shortly in the time that we been there they have found equipment used to manufacture but we have tons of this stuff left. and i think that we are fooling ourselves if we think that they haven't short shorted, if it is up likes of the books on the chemical weapons program, you know, i will eat at that table. clearly there is. they're going, they're going to try -- >> never make a bet you can't keep. >> look at the size of the. i think i probably could eat that table. i do worry that we think it's done and its need and it's clean
and we've got a clean solution. this is not something we should walk away from very delicately. we need to continue intelligence gathering to find the gaps. we are seeing some disturbing reports about moving some of the excess in certain places. in areas that would sort of benefit and the regime. all of those things are happening all at the same time. so i have very low confidence we are going to get it all as i said. am i glad we're getting our hands on some of the production equipment? you bet. i think that's a good out, but we shouldn't just close the book and think that we've done everything we need to do on their chemical weapons program in syria. >> so i just want to say as moderator come any day when you get a sensible bipartisan discussion about a big foreign policy issue and you end up knowing more than you did at the beginning, it's a good day. i want to thank congressman rogers, congressman engel for an excellent discussion to thank all of you. please join me in thanking them.
[applause] >> thank you very much. thanks, elliot. [inaudible conversations] >> more now from the foreign policy initiative. apennines, cbs news lara logan moderates a discussion on afghanistan. this is one hour. welcome everybody. i think you have had a long morning already so we will liven it up a little bit on the stage. if anyone still cares about afghanistan, i'm assuming that's why you're here and you're going to pay full attention to what these gentlemen have to say. it struck me when i was doing my research and preparation for today that was interesting about the panel that you have in front of you is that afghanistan is well represented, and each of these individuals have a good knowledge of the situation on the ground, everyone has a depth
of reporting in the region. but what you also have is individuals who are very familiar and specialists in all the issues that are at stake. seth jones was worked with special operations command. he has a very close view of the military strategy, counterterrorism. you also have ashley tellis has been a specialist for years and particularly india. he can bring in the indian perspective here because as we had a brief conversation earlier, india has a significant role to play in afghanistan and it has really not been at the forefront of the u.s. strategy in that region over the last decade. and, of course, he is best known for his work in iraq both staff and doctor kagan have both been that rand corporation. you can read south in the near times but you can read one of
his many books in the -- "in the graveyard of empires" and others. what you have here today is an opportunity to remind ourselves what's at stake in afghanistan and why the u.s. should care. the first question i was given was to ask what was at stake, but i want to put it in i think a much more pointed way. that is to say, over the last couple years, the term war has become unpopular in washington. in fact from the cia to the white house it has been made very clear that we have been using the term war on terroris terrorists, probably was a mistake. i am very conscious of the fact that every other day i get another casualty report from the battlefield in afghanistan where u.s. soldiers are still dying. and as far as they know, they are still fighting a war. and in that indictment you have an afghan election is coming up.
you have united states pulling out of afghanistan to a large degree, and you have a nation that has completely lost interest in what's going on over there. and is not given a reason to care by any of its leaders. so i would put to the panel and we will take sat behind the stage, we picked him to be our first victim. so he's going to begin this conversation. and i've interviewed him before. i can promise you he is not boring. >> wow, that's a very kind introduction. i'll be brief, and then we'll all discuss various aspects. i think will -- we'll have a useful q&a portion of this as we get into a lot of issues. let me highlight a few things. i think if you look at polling data, it's probably worth being up front about this. according to a july poll from 2013, conducted by the "washington post" and abc news,
28% of americans believe the war in afghanistan was worth fighting. not just is but was worth fighting. that obviously differ significantly from october 2001, the months after the september 11 attacks, when 90% of americans, 97% of republicans and 85% of democrats supported u.s. military action in afghanistan. so over the following decade plus we have seen a huge drop in support about whether we should, should have gone there in the first place. i'm going to argue here, might be somewhat controversially, that i still strongly will argue as we peered and the future of the u.s. has said it's going to stop combat operations i december 2014. still not clear what that means. there hasn't been an announcement with a force number will look like, if at all the
zero option hangs over the future u.s. role. but i'm going to argue that several, four major factors, should give one pause in exiting afghanistan. first is, you wouldn't know it by political statements but first is al qaeda's global leadership today is still located in this region. afghanistan, pakistan region. it has been weakened by drone strikes which we have seen this week with the human rights watch report and other reports that controversial step, it has been weekend. but in my view, a civil war or a successful taliban led insurgency would almost certainly allow al qaeda back into afghanistan and pakistan, more than it is today. i was just there last month along the border and will say up front there is still a presence
of terrorists, including al qaeda fighters along the afghanistan-pakistan border. virtually everyone i spoke to that's involved in targeting them, people that i've worked with in the past have said they will be there, after 2014. they may be there in larger numbers. so point number one is the global leadership is still there, and there are a number of sunni jihadists groups in this region that are not going away. some of them including the to ricci taliban pakistan put in issue the in times square to another fighting in afghanistan conducted a major terrorist attack in mumbai. so my first point is there's still a terrorism issue. second, a civil war or a successful taliban led insurgency would deal in my view a severe blow to human rights
including women's rights in this region. the taliban and remains deeply opposed to women's rights and would likely reverse progress in a country that has experienced an extraordinary improvement in the number of female business owners, government officials, primary, secondary university students. .. >> when you look at al-qaeda's statements recently, i'm going to leave you with one final
thought. an american exit from afghanistan, we've already seen this in the jihadist networks, if it were to happen -- it's not necessarily clear -- would likely be viewed and would be trumpeted by extremist groups including al-qaeda as their most important victory since the departure of soviet forces from afghanistan in 1989. that is a very, very, very dangerous legacy that we have to think very carefully about. now, we could talk about how to proceed later, but let me just leave you with that thought. >> okay. dr. sellers, you are, you're nodding your head at a few points there, and i know that the nuclear issue is one that you've spent a lot of time on, so could you take the floor? >> sure. i'd be amendment to start by actually emphasizing a point that jeff just made which is that the american and international project in afghanistan over the last several years has actually been far more successful tan people give either -- than people give either us or the afghans credit
for. remember, this is a country that went through several decades of violent war that every state and societal institution was essentially destroyed. and when you look at afghanistan today, what you actually have is a constitutional regime of the kind that was simply impossible to conceive at the height of the soviet occupation and the painful years after. so you're now looking at a country that actually has the potential to build on a structure that, if improved and if invested in, can actually provide more opportunities for afghans including those who are currently opposing the state. so just recognizing that this has been a fundamental success in terms of an ability to put in place a structure where all you had before was an anarchy is something that you can not overlook. >> i would just interrupt you
there to say that americans don't care about that because their leaders keep telling them that the afghans are corrupt and dishonest, unreliable, that karzai's an unreliable partner, and they're never given any reason to believe in anything the u.s. has achieved in afghanistan. >> well, i think the facts refute that on the face of it. development indicators in afghanistan today are better than they've been in a long time. and the simple reality is corruption is endemic to all third world societies. afghanistan is by no means either particularly egregious or particularly unique. the question is not whether one needs to bail out of afghanistan because it has the maladies of an underdeveloped state, but whether we can persist consistently in afghanistan not necessarily for the sake of the afghans alone, but because it fundamentally comports with our own interests. and what are those interests? those interests come back to the
same interests that we went into afghanistan to begin with in 2001. and that is there is still an unresolved security problem in afghanistan that directly affects the well being of the american people and those of our allies. >> so is there anyone on this panel who would disagree with that? dr. kagan? >> not me, for sure. i think that as we think about afghanistan and why it matters, there is a tendency to treat it in isolation, to have this discussion as though the discussion we were having is whether we should put troops into afghanistan or not. and when people say it's not worth it for us to be there, why should we go into afghanistan when we're not going into yemen or any of the other places that there's al-qaeda, the problem is you start from the reality of where you actually are. and the reality is we have been in afghanistan, and we have made enormous sacrifice and effort in
afghanistan, and as ashley said quite rightly, we've made an enormous amount of progress. there is an afghan national security force that is getting after our enemies, and they are getting after our enemies. they are the people that the afghan national security force is taking it to are al-qaeda and their allies. they're doing that increasingly. but they will not be ready in 2014 to take over that responsibility without any american assistance because they weren't designed to be ready in 2014 for that role any more than the iraqi security forces were designed to be ready in 2012 to take over responsibility for iraq -- >> these are domestic political deadlines. >> these are american -- >> american political deadlines. >> well, in the case of iraq, that was a little bit more complicated. that was a negotiated deadline with the iraqis. in the case of afghanistan, it also origin international airported with us, but it's become an international deadline that a the afghans hold us to. but, yes, they're arbitrary deadlines, and they weren't tied to the situation on the ground.
and i bring up iraq here recognizing how painful a topic it is, but just because something's painful doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it if it's important. and it is very important. people are talking about the zero option in afghanistan and a path to zero, the model for that is iraq. and the line that you largely get out of the administration leakers who talk about this stuff is that, well, iraq worked out pretty well, so there's no reason why we shouldn't do that in afghanistan, and the problem is that iraq is a catastrophe which is -- which has also gone unreported. and you have now an al-qaeda in iraq franchise that is backed, it's the level of car bombing that it was conducting at the height of the surge in 2007 before the violence came down. that has all happened since american forces withdrew. and the administration's line is that's not really al-qaeda, and we don't need to worry about, and besides, that's a place called iraq and we don't believe in that. >> even though they call themselves al-qaeda and they fly the flag of al-qaeda, they
release statements in the name of al-qaeda -- >> exactly. and today set up islamic emirates, and they fly al-qaeda flags, and they have foreign fighters. >> so we'll just ignore everything they have to say and who they are. >> right. exactly. and everything we know about who they actually are because what the administration is trying to do, and this is a very, very important point, i think. what the administration is trying to do is to define the threat from al-qaeda down to be only those individuals who were actually either involved in the 9/11 attacks or part of the organization at the time of the 9/11 attacks. and if you want a picture in the white house somewhere a poster that has the faces of all of those people on it with xs crossed through the ones we've taken down with at the bottom "done" when we've gotten through it, i think that's pretty much administration strategy. the world has changed since 9/11, and al-qaeda has changed since 9/11 although in some important respects it hasn't, of course. >> but i would say to you, for
example, that's not even good enough because you have people who was a guantanamo bay detainee who's been with usama bin laden since the '80s, went with him from afghanistan to sudan, back to afghanistan, and when he was handed over back to the libyans, he was released by gadhafi before the revolution, he founded ann starral shah arena east of libya, and we no longer call him al-qaeda. [laughter] >> right. >> he's one of the original al-qaeda members, but we want to now say he's a linked group or some kind of associated group. so even having an al-qaeda pedigree that goes back 30, 40 years isn't enough to still get you called al-qaeda today in washington. >> right. >> so -- >> and we spend too much of our time thinking about who is currently planning to attack the united states and not enough time thinking about what capabilities does the global al-qaeda movement have to attack the united states over the long term and what are we doing to address those capabilities. >> and the spread of that
ideology. >> and the spread of it. >> so, okay. let's bring it back to afghanistan. seth, i want to put two things to you in regard to afghanistan. i think you and i were both there from the beginning, and we remember what people today in america seem to have forgotten, which is the promises the united states made when they came into afghanistan. to me, this is a very important program because it speaks to integrity and honor and loyalty and the nature of being a good ally. and this was raised a little bit by you. the reason i find it so significant is that i think when we think of the united states and what it's meant to stand for and represent, it's very hard to look afghans in the eye today and say that we are honorable people who keep our word because we've lost interest in keeping our word. and we've successfully blamed the afghans for that domestically in the united states, but the afghans are not fooled. just because you wear sort of traditional robes and you don't
speak any english and you live in a mud compound doesn't mean you don't get it. you know when you've been betrayed or let down, and that is pretty much how a large majority of afghans feel which only makes americans feel more resentful because they feel, oh, that blood and that treasure, how did we end up in this position where we feel that we've wasted our effort? >> well, it's a very good point. the u.s. has promised much, and it has given much, both treasure and blood. we can talk about how well it was used and what the right strategies were. i mean, i'll be the first one to say big mistakes were made over that time period. but we looked afghans in the eye in 2001 and said we will be committed to reducing if not eliminating terrorist groups operating from this region, and we will stay until that objective is met. what we've now said is, sure, that objective hasn't been met,
but we're still leaving anyway. and the blame has largely been placed then on the karzai government. now, i'll also say very bluntly that there have been massive corruption problems within the government as there have been in any government in south asia. there have been challenges with building national security apparatus. there have been corruption problems in the u.s. dealing with contracts in afghanistan. but i would say first and foremost not just to the afghan people, but can we look the american people in the eye and say that we have reached a point in afghanistan where the american homeland is safe for now and in the foreseeable future? and i think the evidence as i have spoken to operators on the ground from the region last month suggests, no, not at all.
there are foreign fighters that are continuing to come into camps in the region, there is still some active plotting. and the leader of this organization, ayman al-zawahiri, is still headquartered in this area. so this organization is not dead by any means. >> or decimated. >> or decimated. it is not on the verge of strategic defeat as some would argue. >> okay. fred's going to follow up on that and then, ashley, i'll come back to you, okay? >> yeah. i mean, on the contrary if you look at any portrayal of where al-qaeda is today globally, it has a much larger footprint and a much more advanced organization now than it did in 2001 and also than it did in 2009. it is absolutely unjustifiable to talk about this organization as having been decimated. but i want to just follow up on the issue of betraying the afghan people, because it's very important. that's not just a question of american honor, nor is it just a question of will other people believe in us which is also, especially after the syrian
debacle, extremely important. >> and egypt. >> and egypt and many, many other things and probably iran. but it is very important for practical reasons. what is al-qaeda? al-qaeda is not just a terrorist organization. it sees itself as the vanguard of an insurgency in the muslim world. >> it's a political revolutionary movement. >> that's right. and what is our ideal end state? our ideal end state is that the muslim world defeat this insurgency, not only reject it, but defeat it. in order for that to happen, we need people in muslim countries where there are al-qaeda to stand up and fight against al-qaeda. they have done that in iraq, and they have done that in afghanistan. and i know that seth and i anyway, i don't know about ashley, have been on the ground and spoken with iraqis and afghans standing up to fight against al-qaeda who look us in the eye and say are you going to be there with us when these guys come back and try to kill our families? and the fact that in iraq the answer has been, heck no, and
that we're now having a discussion in afghanistan about going to zero which would make the answer no undermines the best possible outcome we could have in this struggle which is muslim people rising up against this hateful ideology on their own. >> so, ashley, just before i come to you, seth, you and i both know the former spy chief of afghanistan told me years ago when i asked him when there were the first signs of america withdrawing were in the air and i asked him about that, and he said to me, he said afghanistan is a small, poor third world nation. we do not have any illusions about who we are, and we do not hi for one moment that we can -- think for one moment that we can influence the united states. he said but i will tell you this, i was fighting these people long before you came to my country. these mountains were here before you. these rivers were here, and they will continue to flow after you have gone. he said mullah omar, the leader of the taliban, osama bin
laden, these are truly forces of darkness, and they cannot engender a vision for this world. so i will be fighting whether or not you are. and i found that to be true then and true today, and what i love about it is, is that this articulate afghan man who was the person for intelligence in 2001 put it so perfectly. the afghans were fighting al-qaeda long before the u.s. was in battle with al-qaeda. and now we look at the afghans and say you're on your own kind of thing. i mean, i spoke just this morning to someone on the ground in kabul, and the sense that i have from the john kerry/karzai negotiations is that neither of them are particularly committed to this agreement that they've come up with. and that's not good for afghanistan, and it's not good for the u.s. ashley, can you pick up on that, please? >> i think it's very important to recognize one simple fact, we cannot afford to let