tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 29, 2015 6:00am-8:01am EDT
>> here is the question for this committee, how do we leverage assad leaving when russia is going to fight for him, iran is going to fight for him and hezbollah is going to fight and we are not going to do a thing to take him down and y'all both know that, when kerry goes over to geneva he is turning over syria to russians and iranians. is there any military threat now that russia, iran and hezbollah is on his side? do you see any military threat to take him down general
dunford? >> they're on assad's advantage. >> he is secure as the day is long. so this is what happened, folks, the strategy has completely fallen apart. russia, iran and hezbollah are going to fight for their guy and we are not going to do a thing to help the people who want to change syria for the better by getting rid of dictator. that we would fight along side people who want to take assad down? is that possible? >> approach to removing assad -- >> does it have a military component in. >> political effort -- >> so the answer is no. are we going to fight with people who want to take assad down or are we going to provide them military help? >> our trained and equipped
program -- >> the answer is no. >> supportive of people fighting isil. >> if i'm assad it's a good day for me because the american government without saying it they are not going to fight to replace me, russians and iranians, hezbollah, this is a really good day for him because their guy has no military credible threat. so now you tell me what kind of deal we are going to get, folks, i'm sure we will get a good deal. you've turned syria over to russia and iran. you told the people in syria who died by the hundreds of thousands, we are more worried about a political settlement than about what follows, all i can say this is a sad day for america and the region will pay
for this. >> since a quorum is now present, a list of 1,063 military nominations to require length of time. is there a motion so favorably to report 1,663 -- >> so moved. >> all in favor say, aye, the motion carries. >> thank you for your testimony. secretary carter you stated that the primary objective of our actions as you've described this morning is the defeat of isil, and then when we were on a -- during that week of congressional recess the president sent to congress a
power's letter indicating detachment of 300 troops to cameroon to assist in activities , have i omitted any country to a group that have pledged allegiance? >> we have had and director made this clear, americans who have self-radicalized -- >> that's going to be my next question. >> we are watching it around the world, not just ourselves, it's one of the reasons why isil needs to be defeated. >> in terms of kinetic activities from the military, it's currently, iraq, syria,
libya and deployment troops to cameroon? >> it depends on what you mean by that. >> we don't have operations against libya against isil and our supreme court is in support of operations. >> secretary carter -- >> we can get you what we are doing in each country. >> i don't want to ask about none dod activities. i'll omit that, public record about activities in this country is plain. we are watching isil in other countries, is it fair to assume based on your joint professional judgment that isil continues to mutate and find adherence in other countries and we may
contemplate dod activities other than the countries i mentioned. >> syria and iraq. >> is it -- is it fair to assume, you know, we pray that this is not the case but that the death of sergeant wheeler may not be the last death of an american service member to defeat isil. >> i think we need to be realistic. our people will be in positions, they are right now every day. there are people flying right now, there are people training and advising forces there and there in harms way, there's no doubt about it. >> and we lost service personnel before sergeant wheeler not necessarily in direct combat or kinetic activities but were in position of dangerous because of their support for this mission against isil?
>> make no mistake, they are there in harm's way, no doubt about it. >> in your professional judgment, your notion that the primary objective is defeat of isil, how long will that take? >> it needs to be -- i can't tell you how long it will take, but i think that the -- it needs to be soon, which is why we are so intent upon strengthening our effort, which is why we are working with iraqis and strengthening our training and equipping of forces and while we are prepared to do more with those forces in iraq. the president indicated that and indicated willingness for chairman and me to make recommendations in that regard to enable those forces so that they can take territories of iraq. that's why the syrian, coalition forces that are intent to get back to the question that
senator was raising, they want to attack rocka. occupied by isil and therefore deserve our support -- >> when you say soon, let's be realistic sitting here today. aren't we talking -- with all the countries that we mentioned and your acknowledged possibility that there could be more, aren't we talking about an effort that is likely to be a multiyear effort, certainly well into the next administration? >> that's probably the case, and the reason is that the strategy, it's an important part of the strategy, we said it right from the very beginning is to support capable and motivated forces that can retake and hold territory, not to try to substitute for them. that's the only way of lasting victory. that takes some time to identify forces, to motivate those forces
and train those forces and it depends upon the political circumstances in both iraq and syria, so it does depend on political circumstances, that isn't something that is -- anything other than a real factor there. but that's necessary in order to have a lasting defeat because we want isil not only to be defeated but stay defeated. the people who stay there need to govern themselves and restore the peace and order, that's what takes the time, to develop forces and it is hard work, but that's what we are doing in iraq and that's what we are doing in the new training and equipped program in syria. it will take some time. >> mr. chair, i'll just conclude and say that i think that that answer about the complexity and the fact that this under any circumstances is going to take significant is a very relevant
for us, the administration's position about the authority to wage this war is upon an authorization that was passed on september 18th, 2001, before many of us were here that specifically says the president is authorized to use force against those who plan authorized committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on september 11, 2001, i would renew my observation, that it would be far beyond the contemplation of congress that voted at the time and contemplation that those words are applied 15 years later in the countries i just mentioned that is by the admission of our witness likely to take a good deal more. i think it's very much time that congress revisits the question of this authorization and try to provide some underlying legal
justification for the ongoing military action. with that, mr. chair, i thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary carter, would you assess isil to be among the most capable rebel groups that are on the syrian battlefield? >> i would. they -- they're ferocious, extremely cruel and brutal and, of course, some of the forces that are not trying to brutalize the population but trying to fight assad are as been indicated more moderate forces, and they don't behave that way and that's why they deserve to be and will be part of the syrian political future after assad. >> are you concerned that the russian and iranian attacks are going to further polarize battlefield and we are going to
see more moderate fighters cooperate with isil because those groups are more capable? >> that's precisely the point i made to the russians. they are pouring gasoline on the civil war in syria by supporting iraq and they are -- they're going to enhance the very extremism that they say they fear, and they have every reason to fear because now isil and other groups including syrian opposition groups of all stripes are turned against russia, and russia has had very bitter experience with extremism in their own country, and this is why their actions are not consistent with their words and they are, i keep using their phrase, wrong headed. they are doing one thing and doing another. >> have you told russia not to attack units that have been takenned by the u.s. or to avoid
certain areas where affiliated groups maybe operating or have you indicated in to the russians that the united states will respond to such attacks? >> we intend to prosecutor our countercampaign unchanged and we don't intend to make any changes in it. we are determined to do that and we have. >> so you have communicated to the russians that if their attacks on u.s. trained troops or u.s. trained units in anyway that we will respond? >> i said earlier in this testimony, publicly that we have an obligation to our -- the force that is we've trained and equipped to protect them and we intend to do that. >> that does not include the coalition units; is that correct. >> this gets back to the earlier question, the training and equipped program, who are -- who
are -- oriented and that's why and because some of them deserve to be part of the syrian political future, that's a serious mistake on russia's part. >> would it be serious mistake on russia's part to attack any units that have been trained by other agencies beside the department of defense. would we have a response in that case? >> that's something that we would have to talk about separately, senator. >> under secretary stated that article two of the constitution allows the president to use force against assad if he attacks syrian rebels trained by the u.s. i would assume that a similar determination has been made with respect to using force against russian planes if they attack u.s. trained rebels, is that
true? >> let me just repeat what i said. for the department of defense forces that we are training and equipping in syria, we have an obligation to protect them, they're fighting isil, they are far from the territory is contested where the russians are operating, but we do have an obligation to defend them. with respect to other syrian opposition forces, that's something that we would have to discuss in a closed -- >> would the united states take action in russian planes if russian planes were attacking u.s. trained units? >> just to repeat, we have indicated that we have an obligations, options to protect our people whom we trained against attack. >> i would appreciate if you could provide us with some more information for the records,
specifically if united states forces have the legal authority to intervene if assad's forces attack u.s. trained fighters, but not if russia attacks such fighters, if you could provide some clarification there specifically legal authority. >> we'll do. the short form is we have an obligation, i believe we have a legal authority to do that but i'm happy to put that in -- in more detail, and then there are other aspect that is you are alluding to that we simply have to talk about in closed session. >> thank you. >> mr. secretary, before senator graham began his important line of questioning, i wrote in my notice, the opposition will never push assad out as long as russia and iran are all in. i think that's just the reality and the question is, what do we
do about that and there will be no -- we can't say well, they'll be a political solution, the negotiations will flow out of the military situation. they've already shown they are not going to negotiate as long as they think they're solidly in power which they clearly think they do. on the other hand, talking about a no-fly zone which would bring us in direct contact, raises very large political questions. give me some more thoughts on senator graham's questioning. let's be realistic, wishing is not going to make a policy. assad is going to be there as long as russia and iran are willing to stay all in. how do we change their calculus without addition of military power? >> two things. first of all, the russian
support to assad is having the effect of increasing and catalyzing and motivating the opposition to assad, and so i believe that both the russians and the syrians will see the effects of that on the battlefield, they will be conditioned by the military situation on the ground. with respect to the political transition and at what point russia would recognize that its actions were fueling syria's civil war and fueling the extremism at fears, i can't say, speak to that. that's what secretary is exploring with the russians. >> the russians have to decide -- >> they will reach that conclusion. >> they have to decide that isis
is a bigger threat than the loss of assad. i don't know when that's going to occur. that's the narrow diplomatic opening. right now they seem to have it both ways, they can, as long as they prop up assad, essentially they are propping isis. >> that is the logical con -- contradiction. i do commend secretary kerry talking to them but they have to reach that recognition and part of that will be learned on the battlefield and part of that in terms of extremism and how it has turned on russia. >> i think that the question that the administration has to address is how do we rach up pressure in a way that's going to move that -- move that
calculation. let me just change the subject for a minute. both of you used the term with regard to iraqi army, capable motivated iraqi forces. you yourself have pointed out that that's what's been missing in iraq, is there any likelihood that that's changing? >> there are some but not nearly enough. for example, the counterterrorism service, which has been drained by the united states over time is an effective capable motivated force. what we lack enough of in iraq are capable and motivated sooni forces, that is the type of force that is in short supply and that is why it's so important that the government of when i iraq continue to recruit and pay them, we will equip them and train them and we will support them in the battlefield, but it
will require soo incomer i -- sooni -- >> if this isn't real inclusion, we are sunk. >> he has been consistent in what he has told us. >> but are his actions fairing that up? >> i think you have to be -- i'd have to be candid and say that prime minister does not have his complete sway over everything that happens in iraq. we have insisted that anything that we do to support iraqi forces must be by and through the government of iraq, but very clearly, and you see it, there are malicious of various kind that are inadequately under the control of the government of bagdad and that's one of the
challenges there. but the forces we support are those under control of prime minister abadi and i have talked to him and i believe he is sincere in wanting to do the right thing there. but, again, wanting to do the right thing and having a complete authority are two different things in bagdad. i think the authority is growing in that regard, but we do not yet have all the sooni forces recruited, paid, enrolled and trained and so forth that we would need and want. >> i certainly hope we use our influence to the maximum, if that inclusion doesn't happen, this whole enterprise -- thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you for your service. it's a very difficult time. ii was in theater with
colleagues, you were in theater. chairman dunford you did state that we need to take the fight to isil and continue the momentum, we actually have to have momentum going forward and right now the only group that i see in internal iraq that has ms the kurdish, again, everybody knows how i feel about this, they've been great allies to us and in testimony before this committee over the past several months we've had many, many prestigious commanders and governmental officials such as general david, mike hayden and jack kean and former secretary, we need to enhance our support
to the iraqi curds as part of more comprehensive strategy against isis. i'm concerned that our strategy peace-meals, we have all kinds of weapons going to coalition partners to the kurdish, our forces in iraq, i know how difficult this would be for any -- any army that we are peace mailing so much. what is our strategy to develop force for the long-term fight for isis, secretary carter if you could address that? >> absolutely. you're absolutely right. the kurdish parmerga are a
excellent example of capable and motivated ground forces, and so they have taken and held territory. we support them and most recently, of course, in the operation conducted this past week. with respect to equipping them and you know from logistics background as you indicated very well that certainty of supply are very important to them and we have a policy of routing equipment to the kurdish through the government of bagdad and i think that's where the hinge on where you question turns for the reason to get back to what senator asked earlier, approach
to iraq to try to support a multigovernment. we are trying to do both. now, in the early days, that issue led to some delay in our supplies to the kurdish. those delays do not occur now. by the way -- it's not just us. 14 other countries that are shipping tons of equipment. i believe now it's a bottleneck to our supply to the kurdish. we still go through the routine of shipping through -- through and with the permission of the government of bagdad, for the same reason that we want to stick up to the reason --
>> i believe that we need to do a better job at this. general dunford, if i could turn to you, how did the iraqi security forces or iraqi army, how did the maneuver fire units compared to the kurdish units? >> we -- we trained compared, also have, you know, very competent forces. >> we are utah -- utilizing them to the best of our ability? >> there is a difference in performance. two bergades as well as cts also performed very well.
>> do you believe that training and advising and assisting below the division level would be very important in any future operations? >> i do from a training perspective in spectacular, yes, senator. >> i do believe it has to be part of our training going forward. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general dunford, in your testimony you went over areas to defeat isil, you said we need to cut the flow, can you briefly describe what we are doing now and what more we need to do in this area? >> we have a team on the ground, they're part of a ten-nation coalition working on foreign fighters right now. it's mostly a military view of foreign fighters, and so when i sat down and spoke to that team, one of the challenges that
became clear is we really don't have amongst all the coalition a common view of where the foreign fighters come from and how they move back and forth into the area, but more importantly not much of a track on where they go when they leave. from my perspective, this is an area that secretary carter and i spoke to secretary kerry last week, we need to do more, view of foreign fighters as a whole and make sure we maximize political tools available to us to cut off flow of foreign fighters. >> so is this an area that we are going to see measurable improvement? >> senator, for me when i came back from my visit, there are two areas we need to focus onto move the campaign forward. two of many. the two that i personally engage on is one foreign fighters and the other is intelligence. >> so we are going to see some
measurable improvement. i know you can't talk about the intelligent side of things in this setting. secretary carter, in response to a question you said that the time frame for defeating isil, it better be soon. from everything that we understand, this is -- this whole area of the world is a very complicated and so it is, i realize, difficult to really hone in on a reasonable time may be. with regard to assad, there were indications that he was about to collapse, his regime was about to collapse, now that russia has come in to bolster the assad regime, how long do you think assad can be prop up or is he
much more an interested long-term in stability of syria for russia's own interest? >> i can't say what vladimir putin is thinking about assad's future, but i can tell you what his behavior suggests. and that is that he is -- does want to support at least for now assad, avoid the collapse of the syrian state, which is you indicated, i think he believed could occur, and that was one of the things that spurred his support, enhance support for assad. i told you what i think of that approach. i think it has the -- it is going to backfire and the opposite of the effect that he is seeking.
it enhances the opposition to assad and enhances the extremism he says he fares. -- fears. it's in the a sensible strategy, but that appears to be what his behaviors suggest. >> that appears to be an immediate goal. he's smart enough that if he wants stability in syria, he may not be able to get it as long as assad is in power. i want to get to a no-fly zone. ..
for control -- >> that's probably one of the reasons that kind of comes with a snare it's probably one of the race as we hesitate creating a no-fly zone. >> and likewise zones on the ground would have to be defended as well so that our military implications to the declaration of such zones. we have thought them through but we've not made recommendations. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> what you are saying, the strongest nation in the world can't even establish a no-fly zone to protect people from being or a bond by bashar al-assad. it's an embarrassing moment. >> mr. chairman, we could do it. >> of course. people like general petraeus entity of the military leader that i knowof, we're talking by having to shoot down -- all we have to do is to protect them and tell them not to flood into. history shows that they won't if they're going to get shot down. >> general dunford, secretary
carter said that the russian presence in 10 success not affected the pace or the scope of just operations there. is that because the pace is slow and the scope is narrow? how does that happen when we have the administration saying that we are not going to have any sort of conflict with russian air presence in syria? it seems like it is affecting the pace and scope. you agree with secretary carter? >> i.t. because we're focused on isil and the russians are largely conducting operations to the west, we are not operating in the same area as the russians right now. we've had two or three incidents where we've had contact with russian aircraft and those preceded the memorandum of understanding that was signed. >> i guess it goes back to what chairman mccain said, a part of that is because we are not necessary providing support to those who are not trained, who are trying to take the fight to
assad but who were not specifically trained by us? >> that's correct. we are operating in two different areas. >> i want to get to iraq. intermediate in iraq, first unlike an update on iranian presence. secondly, i've only been here for 10 months, and the discussion about having the iraqi government reengage the sunnis is already a broken record. over the last year is there any tangible evidence that they've acted on the words of reengage in? >> with the caveat that we are not satisfied with the outreach of the sunni and very aware that a necessary condition for us to be successful is that we do have an inclusive government, inclusive of the sunni. there has been some progress. there was an agreement to train and equip 8000 sunni. we have had about 5000 that have been identified, recruited and
trained of the 8000 member. that's slow progress. >> sorry, want to be sensitive to time. is that more of a transactional win over or using any sort of systemic changes that are going to make sure that remains sustained and we build on its? >> i can't tell you that i've seen systemic changes. >> what about the iranian presence in iraq? what are they doing and what should we be concerne concerned? >> they still have the provisional forces that are there. >> the thousand? >> numbers have been bounced around. you say 1000? i think they're more than 1000 iranians on the ground in iraq. >> in syria? >> we think the numbers are probably less than 2000. our assessment. >> secretary carter, i appreciate you mentioning sergeant wheeler. i know that he was from oklahoma
but he and his wife and four sons, including a three month old, lived down in north carolina. in that particular operation he made a comment that those are operations that are probably occurring frequently. if not on a daily basis, frequently. american soldiers are at risk. i think think the peshmerga wod consider that a combat operation. do you consider what sergeant wheeler was doing a combat operation -- >> he was killed in combat. that wasn't the intent obviously. he was accompanying those forces but when he saw that they were running into trouble, he very heroically acted in a way that all the reports suggest spilled the difference between success and failure of that important mission. >> my final question that i want to start with general dunford. were you consulted by the president before he vetoed the
nba? >> i was not. >> do you consider the nba having been passed either positive or negative to the men and women in uniform, in your efforts? >> i think my job is to identify the requirements that we need to support the force. >> you think some were fulfilled by our passage of the ndaa? >> absolutely. >> those requirements are not going to be fulfilled? >> and leslie come up with a solution. >> were you consulted by the president? >> i was. >> what would your recommendation. >> support his veto. >> was -- >> i will tell you why. two principal reasons. the first is that i, i started saying this in march and i believe that -- >> mr. corker i'm going to be out of town. there may be people following
but let -- to the extent of the chair but you continue i will defer to him. but are you telling me than that you think the president of the to lead our military of the ndaa better off than with it? >> the president to veto of the ndaa is something that reflected to facts, just to get back to what i was going to say. one is that we need, and i believe the department of defense needs budget stability greater than anyone your horizon and a foundation of base something that is -- >> nobody on this committee disagrees with you. that's a well-worn path and discussion that goes all the way back to sequestration but i find it remarkable, given the circumstances we're in now and the testimony today, that we would take a step back with this ndaa while we continue to fight the fight because that will woud
require a willing administration but one thing is clear, this administration is not willing to confront the challenges that these men and women have been uniform today. taking a step back in these dangerous times i don't think make sense that i respectfully disagree with your recommendations for the veto. thank you, mr. chair. >> if i could just say, i will say what i think we need, what we need is i hope what is going on now, which is a true budget agreement where washington comes together behind an honest, straightforward budget with some multi-horizon. that's what the department deserves, and that's what i've been saying for months, and perhaps that is occurring as we speak. i can onl only be honest as to t i think is best for the department, and that's almost what we need. i realize that no individual member or individual committee can deliver that. it requires a coming together of
gridlocked washington behind an overall budget deal. i fervently hope that occurs. i know there's some indication, i'm not involved in it, over the last couple days but that might occur and that is what i've been urging ever since march. i fervently hope that can occur. that's what the troops deserve. that's what the world needs to see. >> i would point out that oco will be part of this agreement as well. mr. secretary, if you want to complete your answer, please continue, or have you completed it? >> just one of aspect that i would ask the committee also apropos the ndaa. there are a number of reforms that we have requested now for several years consecutively that have been denied in the authorization bill, and i would ask -- >> for example? >> some having to do with health care, some having to do with
adjustments in force structure. these are things that the relevant armed services have determined are the optimal use of their resources. and the authority to carry out those reforms has been denied. and i just appeal to you not to, to allow those reforms because it is the professional judgment of the department of defense that a better use for those funds can be had. in years when it's difficult to find funding for the federal government, and i understand all the reasons for that, we have to use every dollar we did get to best use. we are not able to do that with some other restrictions that are in the ndaa and that's another reason why i would ask you to reconsider some of its provisions. thank you for the time to elaborate on that, senator. >> i would also point out there's about $11 billion in savings, including mandatory
7.5% per year reduction in headquarters staff, which we will be glad to show you the dramatic growth in those, detail, and many other reforms that have been made. i look forward to looking out for the reforms with you as we begin new hearings, when we resolve this issue, and further very necessary reforms that we feel are called for. i'm proud of the reforms, frankly, that in a bipartisan basis this committee enacted. i am proud of the fact that we have dramatically revise the retirement system. i am proud of the fact that we are finally trying to get a handle on the cost overruns that is characterized acquisition practices. so you may have some concerns. i can't tell you after being on this committee for nearly 30 years how proud i am of the bipartisan product that we
produced here and to help that maybe sometime you might recognize that. senator blumenthal speed may i second that? i am proud, too. i think he i think it personal. there some additional ones would like to have but i salute the committee. the only way we can ask the taxpayer to give us more money for defense, which we need, is if we can show we use every dollar will. i appreciate your leadership. >> i thank you. we do look forward to it. will have hearings beginning this week on restructures the restructuring that a think are necessary. we want to work very closely with you and i'm very proud to work very closely with a graduate of west point. senator blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank both of you for service to our nation and for your candid and forthright answers today in
an area that is exceedingly difficult. as you may know i'm working with a number of colleagues who both supported and opposed the joint comprehensive plan of action to strengthen the united states policy toward iran. in other words, to improve and strengthen that agreement. among other ways by providing more military assistance to our allies in the area and anticipating that some of the financial windfall will go toward increased extremism and even terrorist violence in that area. so to bolster the defenses and military capacity of our allies in that region, this legislation will reassert the united states policy that nuclear-armed iran will never be permitted. it will reaffirm our dedication to a imposing sanctions where to
care financing and human rights abuses, it will ensure that our allies, most especially israel, will be provided with the assets that they need so that their defense will be bolstered. and they will be able to deter iran. general dunford, you have just visited the area. can you tell us what additional assets we can provide? can you commit, and secretary carter, i ask you to join in this question, that the united states will, in fact, a bolster assets going to israel and our other allies in the middle east? and comment on this legislation. thank you. >> i can't talk to the details that i can take the minister of defense from issue is here today. we will have dinner with him this evening. as you probably know they're developing their perspective on what cooperation for the we
might have with them. to include the details of capabilities open that i have some initial discussions with their chief of defense, minister defense and prime ministers last week during my visit. >> in the conversations that preceded our votes on the agreement, i was assured and i think by the colleagues were assured that in effect israel will receive all the necessary assistance to make sure that its qualitative edge is not only maintained but enhanced. is that the policy? >> qualitative military edge of the issue is an important part of our overall policy toward the middlmiddle east and that's exay what i will be talking to, along with the chairman, defense minister of israel, about to be. of course, that's one ingredient of our overall support for israel. and also i should add other gulf partners and allies. and i also need to add center
ask about the iran nuclear agreement, and maintenance of the military option, which we are charged with continuing to do. i continue to pay personal attention to the. i believe the chairman does as well. and our efforts to counter iranian malign influence around the region and protect our friends in allies. so there's a lot of dimensions to what we do there. all of that which is our activity remains unchanged with this iran agreement. all of those things, the military option, support to israel, support to other gulf countries, that is long-standing pursuit of america interest in n the gulf and we're going to keep going to spend i recognize the policy remains unchanged but the military assets will have to be increased, won't they speak with we will be doing more with israel. that's one of the subjects of my discussion with the defense
minister, as it was when i visited a couple of month ago and he hosted me the way i will be hosting them over the next couple of days. >> can you tell us whether you are satisfied with the progress that's been made in those discussions? >> he and i have a very good relationship, very easy relationship. these discussions our discussions among friends. we do things with israel and have a closeness of their that we have with very few other countries around the world that i can't go into all the details here but we can share them separately but it's a very close, trusted the defense relationship. >> i would appreciate your sharing those details and a different forum. i am very interested in the details of the discussions are underway now and i want to be satisfied that we're fulfilling the commitments that were made to myself and my colleagues in the course of our discussions
before the iran agreement about. thank you very much to you both. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator sullivan. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, gentlemen. like chairman mccain statement today, general petraeus was he recently, and in his attest that he also emphasized that i in the east there's no easy answers but that inaction has costs, whether it's others filling the vacuum like we're seeing with russia and the middle east and syria or whether you his credibility is undermined especially when inaction contradicts policy statements. i think this is, i think most members of the committee see us as a significant problem not only in the middle east but beyond. general dunford, do you believe that inaction has its own costs and how does the u.s. military weigh the cost of in action, doing nothing when you're presenting options to the
president for options on what we should be doing in the middle east speak was first of all, i agree that inaction is unacceptable. we talk about protecting our national interests so there's no question about that. with regard to when we provide military options to a particular challenge, absolutely i think it's my responsibility to could articulate both the opportunity cost and the risk associate with not taking action against a particular issue. >> secretary carter, many members of the committee have been concerned about u.s. inaction in another part of the world, in a south china sea. a lot of us on this committee saw that inaction was racing costs and undermining u.s. credibility. there were a number of us who are complementary of your speech at the shangri-la dialogue. i was going to express concern about that but just read in the paper about the freedom of a navigation operation that we
evidently conducted inside a 12 miles of up to build a chinese island just yesterday. is that true? did we do that? >> we have made a commitment, and i appreciate your support as part of our rebalance to the asia-pacific which is so important to america's future. we are doing more at cd. we are doing more in the way of presents and to give a general answer to that what you said we have said and were acting on the basis of saying that we will fly, sale and opera were ever international law permits speed did we send it to store yesterday -- >> there has been naval operations in that region in recent days and it will be in the weeks and months biggest inside the 12-mile zone of -- >> i don't want to comment on a particular operation.
>> is all over the press right now. >> i'm sure it is that we reserve the right to conduct a -- >> if we do that in a built-up islands that was undersea, some urge to rock, is that within, is that consistent with international law? >> yes, it is. >> should we be doing that on a regular basis in terms of the freedom of navigation speak with we will fly, sal, operate were ever international law permits and whenever our operation needs require. >> it would be good to know whether not the press reports are accurate what we did. let me ask another question about another area in the world what seems like u.s. inaction clergy seems to be inviting more russian aggression where russian actions are changing facts on the ground. in your confirmation hearing to talk about the arctic, a major areas of importance to the united states but strategically and economically i in the futur,
but you said it's fair to say we are late to the recognition of that. i think it's fair to say the russians are not light to the recognition of that. centura confirmation the russians have done the following in the arctic, a new arctic military command, for the arctic brigade combat team, 14 new operational airfields in the russian arctic, announcements of up to 15 airfields by 2020, and 30% increase of russian special forces in the arctic. 40 icebreakers. we have to, one is broken. huge new land claims in the arctic. increase long range air patrols, the most since the cold war. a major military exercise in march the call to use military completely off guard. 45,000 troops, over 3000 military vehicles, 41 naval ships, 15 submarines, 100
military aircraft, numerous elements of russia's western military district and delete airborne troops in that exercise. a lot of this concerns the committee. the ndaa which the president vetoed we had unanimous agreement here to have, tikrit and operation plan for the arctic. that's an important step to ensuring we have continued good options in the arctic. can't i get your commitment, both of you, to work with this committee on a robust, a robust military plan that will enable us to check russia's aggressions in the arctic, keep our options open and maintain our credibility and that of ordinary of the world? given that that is in the ndda right now? >> you have mine and appreciate your leadership in this regard. the arctic is an important region for the united states, inaction for the entire world. and so we need to do more there.
and i appreciate the fact that you are a champion of that and can consider me as a border, and we'll have a chance actually to discuss that in alaska letter this year. >> general dunford? >> yes, senator. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chair. >> esther secretary, sometimes are in this committee we have a sense of frustration. the news reports all day or about a u.s. destroyer, naming the destroyer, going inside the 12-mile zone. around these islands. why would you not confirm or deny that that happened? since all the details and the action happened? this is what frustrates members of this committee when it's out there in immediate, the route, saturated in the media and you won't even tell us. maybe you understand our
frustration here, mr. secretary. >> i do understand your frustration. i match it with my own frustration, which is these are operations that we should be conducting normally and -- >> by the american people should know about it and we are their representatives and you refuse to even confirm or deny something that is all over the made and confirmed by everyone? you come before this committee and said he will not comment on it? why? >> well, i'm going to not be coy with you. i don't like angela got to talk about our military operations, but what you read in the newspaper is accurate, and, but i don't want to say more than that and i don't want to say when, whether and how we operate anywhere in the world. one of the things -- >> i don't think the senator asked you how, when and how. he just asked whether you could confirm it or not. >> i can spin thank you.
senator donnelly. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i just want to get back to syria and to some of the questions that chairman was asking about safe zones. we seem lost. we seem lost and confusion about what to do next, unable to put any real marker down, or have any plan for success. the people are voting and they are voting with their feet. they are leaving. there are refugees all over the world. we have the opportunity to set up safe zones, and what i hear is we are worried about the russians, worried about the syrians, read about all these things. i mean, at what point would put a plan together, execute the plan, tell them what we're going to do and say stay out of the way? >> with respect to a safe, i distinguish a safe zone from a no-fly zone.
a safe zone is a zone on the ground. we have analyzed them and discuss them with partners in the region. they are principally not in regions where we expect them to be contested so much by assad so much by isil and al-nusra, so, therefore, they have to be defended against that threat and that's a military undertaking. >> and are we unwilling -- >> we have not made that recommendation. >> at what point, how many people have delete before we make that decision? >> senator, let me go back to come if you create a zone like that, then you do have to ask who is going to come into the zone. are the people who have left syria, who are going to return to syria from turkey or europe? to occupy a zone w