Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 17, 2015 4:00am-6:01am EDT

4:00 am
pushing into kurdish territory in northern iraq and pushing towards baghdad. over the past 12 months, isil has lost territory in both syria and iraq, despite advances it's made in ramadi and palmyra. progress has been slow but steady. there are definitely been setbacks in the past year. while not 10 feet tall, isil remains a thinking enemy that adopts to evolving conditions on the battlefield. our train and equip programs in iraq and syria have faced challenges. in iraq, the pace of our program has moved more slowly than we'd like, and in syria, the stringent vetting criteria we're using at the outset of the program has contributed to smaller numbers than we'd hoped for. as the military campaign continues in both countries, we expect there will continue to be challenges clearing and holding territory. but we've also seen progress in the past year. you're all familiar with the successful operations to take back kurdish territory in iraq to defeat isil in kobani and to
4:01 am
more recently to retake tikrit as well as other successful engagements. on the political front, prime prime minister abadi continues to demonstrate the resolve necessary to confront isil and he's striving to manage what is a very difficult political landscape in baghdad. in syria, we've seen some opportunities emerge that we didn't envision a year ago, particularly in the northern part of the country where syrian kurds working with syrian arabs has successfully pressured isil along the turkish border. over a year ago, the president outlined a whole strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat isil and he emphasized it would be a multiyear campaign. when secretary carter was here outlined a whole strategy to in july he outlined the nine lines of effort that comprise our strategy so i won't go over them in detail but i will emphasize that it will take more than the military campaign to be successful. we also need to dry up isil's finances. we need to stop the flow of foreign fighters into iraq and syria, in particular, protect the united states from
4:02 am
potential attacks from isil, provide humanitarian assistance in areas that we are taking back from isil and find a way to more effectively counter isil's very successful messaging campaign. as secretary carter said to the committee in july, the administration believes we have the right strategy in place. we're now focused on implementing the strategy as effectively as possible. this is a very much an interagency effort with increasingly better synchronization across all of the departments and agencies that are involved. and in fact, secretary carter and secretary kerry had been meeting together with their senior staffs to monitor and identify issues in the campaign, and they're meeting tomorrow with nctc to focus in particular on foreign fighters. d.o.d., as you know, is responsible for two of the lines of effort inside the strategy. denying isil safe haven and building partner capacity. so i'd like to speak briefly to those areas and general austin
4:03 am
will also elaborate. the campaign has degraded isil's capacity, has removed some of the key leaders and enables gains by local forces in iraq and syria. the i.s.f. has regained control of tikrit from isil earlier this year and sunni kurds have taken the key boarder town which severed their key line of communication and supply and put isil on the defensive and also put more pressure on its strong hold, raqqa in syria. these examples demonstrate how when we have credible ground forces and we support them with our airpower isil can suffer. we're also working hard to build the capacity of our partner forces on the ground. since we began our efforts, we have now trained and equipped more than six brigades and provide training to more than 13,000 iraqi personnel. iraqi army, kurdish peshmerga, and we have more in the pipeline. as secretary carter said in
4:04 am
july, however, training for the raqi army has been slowed by a lack of trainees coming into the training sites. over the last several weeks, we've had better participation from iraqi units at the training sites and iraq has actually expanded the pool of units that are eligible for training. some of the units we've trained are now participating more directly in the fight in areas such as ramadi. and early indications are they're performing well in combat missions. as you know they face a difficult fight ahead and strong leadership of these forces is going to be essential. our forces on the ground at al-assad airbase are advising in anbar province to train the trainer type of assistance with the iraqi security forces. and in terms of equipping these sunni tribal fighters, we recently delivered a battalion's worth of equipment to iraqi officials working with us on those two airbases to get the equipment to fighters.
4:05 am
we're also now overseeing the distribution of the government of iraq's equipment to these sunni tribal fighters from these bases. so through these kinds of efforts we now have more than 4,000 sunni tribal fighters in anbar province. we're also still in the early stages of our train and equip program in syria. this effort, i think it's important to highlight, is just one element of what we're trying to do in the larger campaign in syria which includes an increasing number of air strikes as well as supporting partner forces on the ground, like the syrian kurds, the y.p.g., sunni arabs and other local forces to try to put pressure on isil in northeastern syria. these efforts have substantially rolled isil back in this area, and have had significant impacts on isil's freedom of movement and supply lines. as of september 15, our train and equip program, the specific program we have, we're now currently training more than 100 fighters and we have additional recruits in the pipeline.
4:06 am
this number is definitely smaller than we'd hope for in part, because as the chairman and others noted, we put our trainees through a very rigorous screening process to meet standards that are appropriately laid out in u.s. law. we closely aligned all of our efforts in all of these areas with our 62-country coalition and as an example of how we're doing that, turkey's recent decision to provide us access to bases has enabled us to expand the fight and is strengthening the cohesion of our efforts in syria. before turning to general austin, i want to address russia's involvement in syria. we're closely tracking russia's recent efforts to deploy additional military equipment and personnel to syria and we're in close touch to our partners and allies with these developments. both russia and iran have
4:07 am
continued to support politically and militarily the assad regime which has systematically murdered its own people. and helped create the conditions. what we need in syria urgently is a political solution to the conflicts through a transition away from assad. and any actions that empower the regime to escalate the conflict are unwelcomed and would be destabilizing and counterproductive. this is clearly a very difficult challenge that we face. we're not going to solve it quickly, but we have the right components in place to advance our objectives and we're dynamically adjusting our campaign to a rapidly changing battlefield. achieving a lasting defeat against isil is going to require a continued commitment, strong leadership from us and the global coalition as well as commitment and sacrifice from local forces in iraq and syria. thank you. general austin: good morning, chairman mccain, senator reed and distinguished members of the committee. i want to thank you for this opportunity to appear here today to provide a current update on a progress achieved over the past year in support of the ongoing campaign to counter isil or da'ish in iraq and syria. 'm pleased to appear here this
4:08 am
morning alongside christine wormuth. ms. work muth is widely respected throughout the department of defense and we're most grateful to her for her continued and strong support of our efforts at centcom. i'll join christine in making a few brief opening comments and then we're prepared to answer your questions. before providing a brief update on a counter-isil campaign, i did want to quickly address an important issue. wormuth. ms. work muth is widely respected throughout the department of defense and we're as the chairman mentioned, there is an ongoing d.o.d. i.g. investigation looking into allegations of the concerning of the processing of information by centcom intelligence director. because they are currently under investigation, it would be premature and inappropriate for me to discuss this matter. what i will say is i welcome the d.o.d. i.g.'s oversight and once the investigation is complete, based upon the findings, you can be assured that i will take appropriate actions.
4:09 am
again, i cannot speak to the specifics of the allegations. however, i would like to take this opportunity to provide some clarity with respect to how we use intelligence products and the critical work that we do. because of the nature of our mission at centcom, we do have and rely on a robust intelligence enterprise to support the command. there are over 1,200 seasoned intelligence professionals that make up that enterprise, and they do exceptional work. there is an ongoing d.o.d. i.g. and as the commander, i greatly value and seek their input and insights. i use the assessments that they provide me together with the inputs that i receive from a variety of sources that include my commanders on the ground who i talk to almost every single day, and i consider this broad range of inputs when making my decisions. you know, there's been a lot of speculation in the media about the allegations made to the d.o.d. i.g. and one in particular i believe should be addressed and corrected for the record.
4:10 am
some have expressed concern that centcom intelligence reports were sent directly to the president. this is not accurate. as the office of the director of national intelligence put out to the media last week, and i quote, none of the combatant commands are permitted to engage directly in the president's daily brief process. rather, reports are produced by the combatant commands and funneled through the d.i.a. to ensure that all substantive deliberations and final contributions are appropriately coordinated, end of quote. again, i cannot comment on a specific allegations. we will need to wait for the d.o.d. i.g. to complete its investigation, but did i want to provide this additional clarification. ladies and gentlemen, with respect to the ongoing operations in iraq and syria today, despite some slow movement at the tactical level, we continue to make progress across the battle space in support of the broader u.s. government strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat isil. key to the enduring success of the military campaign is
4:11 am
sustained pressure on isil, both from the air and on the ground. and the approach that we adopted relies on indigenous forces to create and sustain this pressure while also curbing the flow of foreign fighters and cutting off the ability to rearm itself. in recent months, iraq's security forces have experienced some setbacks and this is to be expected in the early stages of a fight as complex as this one. but overall, coalition air strikes and our advise and assist in building partner capacity efforts, the iraqis continue to make progress. in northern iraq, the kurdish pershmerga have performed well and the kurdish arabs in northeast syria are achieving substantial effects. in fact over the past several months they've retaken more than 17,000 square kilometers from terrain from the enemy and the effects they have achieved served to create significant
4:12 am
opportunities that if pursued could prove devastating for the enemy. the intent of the military campaign is to degrade and ultimately defeat the enemy through our own actions and by enabling and supporting the efforts of our coalition partners and the indigenous forces in iraq and syria. again, progress is being made and this is evidence by what we see happening in the air and on the ground in both countries. i would also point out that the progress reflects in large part the many contributions made by our coalition partners. the 60-plus nation coalition represents the strength of this campaign and we main grateful for their strong support. success in this campaign will require the continued support of our coalition partners along with support of other elements of the u.s. government and the international community. more importantly, it will require that the iraqis do what is necessary to address their political challenges, and national reconciliation is absolutely essential to the success in the counter-isil campaign. we said at the outset that
4:13 am
military campaign to counter isil would take time and it ill take time. and we should expect there will be occasional setbacks along the way, particularly in the early stages. we also need to keep in mind that we are supporting and enabling this effort, and our partners, not us, are in the lead. it is taking a bit longer to get things done but it must be this way if we are to achieve lasting and positive effects. fortunately, amiss the many be occasional setbacks along the way, particularly in the early stages. we also need to keep in mind that we are supporting and hallenges that exist in iraq and syria, we find opportunities and we remain confident that our actions in pursuit of these opportunities will continue to produce positive results in the coming days. mr. chairman, senator reed, members of the committee, i want to thank you, once again, for the strong support that you show to our service members, our civilians and their families. they are truly exceptional, and they are making important and lasting contributions to the overall effort. again, we appreciate your support and i look forward to answering your questions. senator mccain: well, thank you, general austin and ms.
4:14 am
wormuth. i've been a member of this committee for nearly 30 years and i never heard testimony like this. never. general austin, on september 9, and syria, we find one week ago, chairman dempsey , the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said that the fight against isil is practically stalemated with no, quote, dramatic gains on either side. so obviously you and the outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs of staff have a very different view of what the situation is. and so with all this progress that you're citing -- and how ong do you think it's going to take for us to defeat isil and to restore stability in iraq and syria? general austin: sir, it will take years. if i may -- senator mccain: years. ok. general austin: if i may comment on the chairman's comments.
4:15 am
as i spoke to the chairman yesterday, and we did talk about this issue. when i went back and took a look at what he said, he also said, isil's future is increasingly dim as more nations join the anti-isil effort. although it is practically stalemated with no dramatic gains on either side, isil will move at the speed of its governance, not at the speed of its military capability. and i agree with the chairman, sir, on the issue of there haven't been any dramatic gains on either side. ccain: dramatic. that's different than from, quote, tactically stalemated, please, general. that's what chairman dempsey and chairman dunford said. exactly the same thing. so there's clearly a disconnect between your view and that of our outgoing and incoming chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. really in your view, everything should remain as it is.ccain: d that's different than from, for example, do you think we
4:16 am
should have a no-fly zone in syria? general austin: that's a policy decision. senator mccain: would you recommend a no-fly zone in syria? general austin: i would not recommend it at this point, sir. senator mccain: not at this point. four years later. would you recommend setting up a buffer zone in syria where these refugees might come and be protected from the attacks and slaughter of bashar assad? general austin: it would take a ground support to support the refugees. senator mccain: would you upport a buffer zone which would protect these people who are being barrel bombed and slaughtered by bashar assad? general austin: i would not recommend it at this point in time. senator mccain: we won't be able to shoot down bashar assad's aircraft as they barrel bomb and slaughter innocent men, women and children, is that correct? we don't have the capability to protect them? should have a no-fly zone in general austin: we clearly have capability, yes, sir, we
4:17 am
do. would protect these people who are being barrel bombed and enator mccain: but you would not recommend such action? general austin: i would not recommend a buffer zone at this point, sir. senator mccain: i see. so basically, general, what you're telling us is everything's fine as we see hundreds of thousands of refugees leave and flood europe, as we're seeing now 250,000 syrians slaughtered, as you see more and more iranian control of the shiia militia that are only ones that are really doing the fighting, besides the peshmerga. as i say, i have never seen a hearing that is as divorced from the reality of every outside expert and what you are saying. does the massive flow of refugees from syria have any effect on what you think we should be doing in syria? general austin: sir, i want to be clear that i believe that this is a horrible tragedy and this is a thing that the entire international community is not recommend such action? general austin: i would not
4:18 am
going to have to continue to work together on. and so there's always -- we would hope that as as these refugees continue to be disadvantaged that we see more countries joining in to ssist. senator mccain: so you would not support a policy that would help these refugees that are being slaughtered by bashar assad with his barrel bombs? general austin: sir, it's always in our best interest to protect civilians. again, i would this is, as i see, i have not attended a hearing that is so grossly distorted as the view of a errible and tragic situation as i've seen from the witnesses.
4:19 am
the refugees are the result of it. this is the result of leaving iraq and you were there at the meeting when maliki told senator graham and i that if the others agreed he would agree to keep a residual force there and we never gave him the forces that we wanted to leave behind which set and train the departure of u.s. completely rom iraq and set the table for the catastrophe that we are seeing. again, i would this is, as i see, i have not attended a hearing that is so grossly distorted as the view of a terrible and tragic situation as i've seen from the witnesses. and by the way, senator graham and i predicted every single thing that is happening now. and i predict unless we do
4:20 am
something different it will remain, as general dempsey said, stalemated. which means tragedy. senator reed. senator reed: well, thank you very much, mr. chairman. both madam secretary and general austin, about a year ago or more there was real concern that essentially baghdad could fall to isil. that they were virtually unstoppable. at this point, your assessment of the security, at least for baghdad, has that been mproved? general austin: sir, it has been greatly improved. senator reed: and going forward now, one of the fundamental issues is, and i think it's related to the comments both ou and general dempsey made, who is -- who will have the advantage going forward in terms of the use of time, isil or iraqi forces supported by the united states? what's your view on that?
4:21 am
general austin: sir, i think clearly it's the iraqi forces supported by not only the who is -- who will have the united states but the 60-plus nation coalition. senator reed: now, one of the things that has been suggested but not only suggested but recommended strongly to the iraqi government is they create a national guard unit, sunni units as well as others but formally aligned with the overnment and that legislation is bogged down in their is bogged down in their parliament, is that accurate? general austin: that's correct, sir. senator reed: so we are -- we could do more essentially if the iraqis were willing to make some changes in terms of their policies. for example, we could at least contemplate the use of advises with these national guard -- iraqi national guard units to be brokers in terms of distributing equipment as well as tactical advice, is that something that's possible if we get cooperation? general austin: it's clearly
4:22 am
possible, yes, sir. senator reed: is that something you would consider? general austin: yes, sir, it is. senator reed: one of the factors, too, and this is a constant source of inquiry is that in fact recently the iraqi parliament, i think, rendered a scathing report about prime minister maliki's leadership or lack of leadership effectively sort of suggesting that whatever he said couldn't be trusted, is that your estimate of his role leading up to this crisis, in fact, over many years? general austin: sir, what we saw from the former prime minister was increasingly sectarian behavior and a number of bad decisions that led to the atrophy of his security forces. senator reed: and in fact, according to this report, as i've seen in the media, they attributed mostly of the blame of the disintegration of the security forces at maliki's doorstep, no one else's, is
4:23 am
that at least accurate for the feeling in iraq? general austin: i'd say it's primarily his responsibility, and those he appointed in key leader positions enabled that as well. senator reed: in terms of your campaign plan, the sense i have is that you have tried to exploit the area where we have the most interest against isil and that's iraq while maintaining as much pressure as possible in syria. is that the general outline of the campaign plan so that we would expect and frankly i agree, i don't think anyone's seen the progress they'd like to see but the first progress would essentially be in iraq and then lead to isil in syria, is that accurate? general austin: it is, sir. in iraq there is a government for us to work with
4:24 am
essentially. -- initially. there were some forces for us to begin to work with. and, of course, we had access to things that could -- that could enable us to get our -- to get the work done. our shaping operations in syria enabled our work in iraq and are still enabling it. and as we get increasing resources, we're able to increase the tempo in syria and so i think we'll have greater effects going forward. senator reed: and just finally, any general comments, because one of the recent developments is the fact that turkey now is allowing operations. they seem to be much more cooperative in an operationally sense. what do you expect in the next, say, six months that will translate to on the ground? general austin: i think it will translate to a lot more pressure on key areas in syria, sir, like the city of raka,
4:25 am
which has long been an isil strong hold. and so because of that access, we'll have the ability to increase the pace and focus on key places in syria. senator reed: thank you, chairman. senator fischer: thank you, mr. chairman. when secretary carter was here n july he testified there were only about 60 syrian fighters that had been trained in our train and equip program and easserted. we heard reports about attacks on those individuals when they ere reasserted back in syria. can you tell us how many rained fighters remains? general austin: it's a small
4:26 am
number. the ones that are in the fight is -- we're talking four or five. senator fischer: a "new york times" report on september 6 indicated that among the lessons learned from that experience was that these fighters should be returned to syria in larger numbers than the 60. obviously larger than the four or five that are there. do you agree with that? general austin: i agree with that, senator. whenever that's possible, it is in our best interest to make sure that we have an element that can protect itself and also can go in and combine efforts with other elements that are on the ground. senator fischer: how do you plan to achieve that? how are you going to increase the number of fighters when we're looking at the really
4:27 am
tough security screening processes that are in place now, how are we going to achieve that? and how long will that take? and you mentioned earlier about increasing resources. i took that to mean increasing the number of fighters that you would place in syria and the also can go in and combine efforts with other elements that are on the ground. senator fischer: how do you plan to achieve that? how are you going to increase the number of fighters when ffect they would have. because i don't think it's been at all successful yet. so we're going to use and we are using every tool that we have available to us in our inventory. our strategy is, our approach is to utilize indigenous forces to complement our work from the air on the ground. as we -- senator fischer: if i could interrupt you on that point, and i'd like to get back to your answer. when you say to complement the
4:28 am
work on the ground with air strikes, did i hear -- did i just hear you say that? general austin: the -- they have to work in tandem. senator fischer: so if they're going to work in tandem, there is a new article out today, are so what's the time period we're looking at here? how are you going to do it? we going to change strategy? i think it's in "foreign policy today, it says the united states is drawing up a new plan that will send these trained fighters into syria that are going to help direct air strikes. is that report correct? general austin: i would just say that, ma'am, we'll continue to look at the best ways to -- the best means to employ these forces as we go forward. we'll capitalize on lessons learned. and, again, it is really about the full complement of indigenous forces that we have available to work with. as we mentioned earlier, the y.p.g., or the syrian kurds and some arabs have done tremendous
4:29 am
work in northeast syria and they have pushed isil back from the border. there are currently somewhere 40 kilometers or so north of isil's capital city of raqqa and they'll continue to pressure isis. so the new syrian force is added to that effort. senator fischer: so with the fighters we're training and quipping, is it still the goal to have about 12,000 of them there, is that still the goal? what's the expectation, then, for them? general austin: well, we certainly won't at the pace we're going won't reach the goal that we had initially established for ourselves. but the overall goal is to make sure we have enough mass to be able to get work done on the ground. and whether it's y.p.g. elements or other elements they're able to help us, we can still achieve and are achieving to have about 12,000 of them the same effects.
4:30 am
it's not aspirational. we are actually doing it today. senator fischer: and is the strategy changing for the work on the ground you're asking -- you're asking for these fighters? general austin: we're looking at the best means to employ them and we will do, ma'am, what you would expect us to do and make adjustments as opportunities present themselves. senator fischer: thank you, sir. senator mccain, just to fol -- senator mccain: just to follow up, there's an article, it says anxious to avoid another damaging setback for the training effort the white house and pentagon are looking at attaching small number of fighters in northern syria tone sure the rebels are better protected on the battlefield by more numerous troops. can you confirm or deny that that option is being looked at? ms. wormuth: senator, we are reviewing the way forward.
4:31 am
senator mccain: i'm asking if that option is being considered? ms. wormuth: we are looking at a range of options and -- senator mccain: i'm not going to -- i'm asking you a direct uestion. is the pentagon looking at that option, yes or no? ms. wormuth: we are looking at that option as well as others. senator mccain: thank you very much. senator nelson. senator nelson: general, it's my understanding that general dempsey recently said if the u.s. really seize control of the campaign against isis we could speed up isil's defeat but that it would come at a great cost to our service members and that another group with another name and ideology would just be back in a couple of years. isn't that what you understand general dempsey to have said and that you have reaffirmed that here today? general austin: yes, sir, it
4:32 am
is. i think it's important that the people in the country and in the region take ownership and work to put in place lasting solutions. and if we don't do that we will be back in another two or three years. senator nelson: and because of that campaign against isis, it must be won by our coalition partners and the iraqis, not just us. general austin: that's correct, sir. senator nelson: would you care to read that statement again for clarity in your response to the chairman's question that general dempsey had said in its ull context? eneral austin: yes, sir. what the chairman said is
4:33 am
isil's future is increasingly dim as more nations join the anti-isil effort. he further stated that although the fight right now is tactically stalemated with no dramatic gains on either side, iraq will move at the speed of its governance and not at the speed of its military capability. senator nelson: mr. chairman, i have the transcript here in ront of the committee. i would like to reinsert this transmit of general dempsey with your permission. senator mccain: absolutely. nd along with that we will include the assessments by senator keane, general petraeus, the architect of the surge and all of those who observed this debacle. senator nelson: of course.
4:34 am
general, give us your assessment that russia is building up the military base and sending soldiers and weapons into syria to prop up assad. under, i might say, the guise of fighting isis. general austin: sir, we're witnessing a buildup of forces in syria by russia. as you know, they have been there all along but they are increasing their footprint. what they stated is that they want to focus on helping to counter isil, as i understand it. that's left to be seen. as you know russia is not very transparent so we really don't know what their true intentions are. but the introduction of potential introduction of
4:35 am
additional capability and operations, utilizing that capability could increase the friction in that battle space significantly. senator nelson: general, the senate defense authorization ill calls for 30% reduction in headquarter staff across the department of defense starting with a 7.5% cut in fiscal year 2016. what impact will that have on your ability to conduct operations and what is centcom, f you want to submit for the record, planning to do to make that cut? general austin: sir, if you take a look what's going on -- and from pakistan to afghanistan to yemen to iraq and syria and to increase tensions in other places throughout the region, it's
4:36 am
clear that we have a very active region. and so in order to manage the hings that we need to manage and work with our partner nations in the region, we need an appropriate staff to be able to do that. i fully understand and and work with our partner appreciate the pressure that the departments -- the department is under in terms of the reduction of the top line on the budget, and so we have to do what we can do and need to do to tighten our belts. i appreciate that. but it makes it increasingly difficult to get things done. senator nelson: thank you, general. senator ayotte: i want to thank both of you for being here today and for your service, i want to follow up and ask about, general, i believe you testified about the effectiveness of the syrian kurds right now in syria in pushing back isil. are we providing support and weapons to the syrian kurds?
4:37 am
and what assistance are we giving them given that as i heard your testimony when senator fischer asked, we only have, as i understand it, four or five of u.s.-trained syrian fighters in this fight, so what are we doing to support the syrian kurds as they are effectively pushing back isil on the ground? general austin: we are providing them a tremendous amount of air support which is what they wanted most. as you will recall, ma'am, this is the element -- a portion of this element where the folks that hung on at kobani valiantly. there was question if they could survive and continue on. they increased their size and activity and they made a significant difference in the northeast part of the country.
4:38 am
and so what they asked from us over time is sustained airpower, sustained strikes and they have benefited from those strikes. because of their aggressiveness, they made a tremendous difference in the northeast. senator ayotte: so just to be clear, they haven't asked for arms? and how does turkey -- how is turkey acting on the ground here in terms of obviously -- first, i want to know what have the syrian kurds asked for that we haven't given them? i understand air support. how do you view turkey's role in all of this? because as i see it these four or five u.s.-trained fighters, let's not kid ourselves, it's a joke. if they're the only force on the ground doing something, what more can we do to help them? general austin: up to this point they have not asked us or arms, but it doesn't mean
4:39 am
that they won't, ma'am. i think -- and, of course, you know, as we go forward, there are things that we can do to continue to help as they try to get supplies into northeastern syria, work with the kurds in northern iraq to help make sure that we have lines of communication that facilitate that. and we're doing that. they will also need to partner with syrian arabs in the area, and they're doing that and we are working with syrian arabs, developing relationships as well. and so i think it's the combination of all of these forces that are going to make a difference going forward. and, again, we expect our footprint with the new syrian forces to grow over time. senator ayotte: sir, can you help me with turkey, what role that turkey is playing that we would like them to play? general austin: senator, turkey has recently come onboard and given us access to their bases which is a tremendous capability. it shortens the legs that our
4:40 am
fighter pilots will have to fly. it allows us to be more responsive, and they also are flying strikes in our formations and focused on elements, isil elements in syria thus far. and so they are adding value. what we asked them to do, as well, is continue to tighten up or abate the flow of foreign fighters and lethal accelerants coming across the border. senator ayotte: what role is iran playing in this, and also their support for hezbollah, what role is hezbollah playing in terms of supporting the ssad regime? general austin: well, we know that iran has been -- has been
4:41 am
instrumental in providing support to syria throughout. and we see increasingly that they would like to provide -- they want to provide more support. what that will mean in the future i don't know, but they are active in syria. senator ayotte: so perhaps if they had more cash and money, they would like to provide more support to the assad regime? general austin: that would be -- my assumption would be that would be the case. senator ayotte: i wanted to also ask our issues with these trained fighters. are we going to provide, if they're under attack, i guess we got four or five of them, but if we're able to get more of them trained what are we going to do to support them or protect them? general austin: we will protect -- provide air support and i.s.r. to overwatch and air support to protect them. with the first class we put in, we've done that already. so we are committed to doing hat going forward.
4:42 am
senator ayotte: thank you. senator mccain: senator mccaskill. senator mccaskill: i'm worried, like the rest of my colleagues, and there have been a number of questions from my colleagues, about the train and equip mission. there are good news and bad news about america's military. the good news is you give them a job they'll figure out a way and get it done. sometimes you give them a job and they're not willing to say it's not going to work. at what point in time, general austin, do you envision us admitting that while all good intentions and on paper all of the work was done but the job of finding willing fighters that can be screened appropriately when you have the vast majority who feel ictimized by the current situation in syria are running for the exits?
4:43 am
at what point in time -- and what is the discussion ongoing about the $600 million you're requesting for next year? that seems very unrealistic to me in terms of a request. if at this juncture we successfully completed five to six, and i believe you said the last information you had, ms. wormuth, more than 100. what is the number? ms. wormuth: senator mccaskill it's between 100 and 120 basically. senator mccaskill: so we're counting on our fingers and toes when we envisioned 5,400 by the end of the year. six, and i believe you said the 'm just worried that this is one of those instances where the good news about our military is dominating. we can do this. we can do this. and the practical reality of this strategy aren't being fully embraced. general austin: thank you, senator. you know, i absolutely agree
4:44 am
with you. we have the finest troops in the world. and they will figure out a way to get the job done one way or the other. nd again, what our special operations forces have done in northern syria is they didn't wait for the new syrian force program or train and equip program to fully develop. at the very outset, they began to engage elements like the y.p.g. and enable those one of those instances where elements, and they are making a difference on the battlefield. and there are tens of thousands of the y.p.g. out there. they're right now fighting isil. so because the syria train and equip program is slower getting started than we'd like for it to be, it doesn't mean we're not creating effects on the battlefield. senator mccaskill: i want to make sure, general austin, i know they feel strongly about the surge and there are a lot
4:45 am
of incredible american heroes that were part of that surge, but the other part of the surge we don't talk about as frequently is we paid a lot of people. we paid a lot of people to help us during the surge. is this money that we're setting aside for train and equip, would it be better off in direct compensation to some of that y.p.g. force? ms. wormuth: senator mccaskill, can i address this a little bit? as general austin said, we're reviewing the program and we're looking at a range of options. our train and equip program is part of a broader effort that we're prosecuting with the y.p.g., with the syrian arab coalition and so on, and we're looking at how to have our train and equip program effectively enable those other efforts and i think as we go forward and look at what our options are, we absolutely want to look at the resources we requested for the next year and
4:46 am
ow that fits in. but the forces we are training, while right now a small in number and leerily are not going to reach the numbers we had planned for, are nevertheless getting terrific training and very good equipment and as such will be able to really be force multipliers of those other groups on the ground that has been very effective, line the syrian arab coalition. senator mccaskill: if we get to the end of the year with us bragging about the difference between 100 and 120, it's time for a new plan. ms. wormuth: and i do not mean to be bragging. it's not as wig as we thought it would be. senator mccaskill: i know there's pressure on analysts to change the the nor of their report -- tenor of their report. it's a serious allegation. i want to say at the end of this investigation when you can discuss it, i want to put on the record that i for one will be watching very carefully for any potential retaliation against any of the men and women that came forward with allegations. it's incredibly important that whistleblowers be
4:47 am
protected. depending on what the investigation finds, i nderstand that maybe there are other factors i'm not aware of. ut i want to put on the record that i will be playing close attention to how these whistleblowers are treated in the aftermath of this investigation. general austin: i share your concern, senator. you have my -- i will assure you that we will do everything within our power to ensure that the whistleblowers remain protected and there is no retaliation. this is absolutely important.
4:48 am
and again, you know, we need oversight by organizations like the i.g. and so we welcome that. and we're going to cooperate fully and we'll make sure we abide by the spirit of this investigation. senator mccaskill: thank you. senator sessions: thank you, chairman mccain. i think the grim nature of your remarks are justified. ms. wormuth, how long has it been since we've had this train and equip program in effect? ms. wormuth: we started the actual training earlier this spring. we started the program in december when we got authority from congress. senator sessions: you have to say we started in december. that's when it was authorized, and funding was provided. and we have to acknowledge, this is a total failure. senator sessions: it's just a
4:49 am
failure. i wish it weren't so but that's the fact. so it's time, way pastime, to react to that failure. i just would say the whole idea that we've got to wait for the locals to take ownership and to take the lead and do this kind of activity without any leadership support sufficient from the united states or our allies is also a failure. they're not able to organize well. mosul has fallen. there's divisions within iraq that make it very difficult. so i just wish it weren't so but i'm afraid that's the reality we are dealing with. we now have, i believe, the u.n. says, four million refugees, seven million displaced persons. it's obvious to me that this is a humanitarian catastrophe. we need to deal with it in an honest way and the most effective and honest way is to keep people as close to home as
4:50 am
possible. if they can't stay in their homes because of violence and war, then they ought to be kept as close to home as possible. i talked to a senior european official recently, he told me that this refugee crisis is the greatest threat to europe since world war ii. and i don't see any plan to make it any better. general austin, we've got to consider creating safe zones within syria. i understand there are some places in syria now that refugees can stay. and we're going to have to keep, we can't have millions and millions of people walking into europe. t's hardly worth discussing. but i am really worried about this. and wish that we could -- we had already done much
4:51 am
better. y being so slow to act initially this is what resulted. now the situation is far more than it should be in my opinion. general austin, i do tend to agree with you that a defeat of isil is not the end of the problems in the middle east. we've got extremism that witnesses told us may be going on for 50 years. would you agree with that? general austin: i absolutely agree with that. senator sessions: there'll be another crisis. we need a strategy, an understood strategy, bipartisan, with our allies around the world, to confront this long-term, multidecade threat to the western democratic order. and to try to help protect people in the middle east from this disaster.
4:52 am
so i want to ask you, do we have a strategy of that kind that our allies in the united states and congress and republicans and democrats understand and agree on? ms. wormuth: we have a strategy to defeat isil ultimately in the middle east, it's largely in the middle east but obviously spreading to other areas. there are other dynamics in the middle east obviously that are part of this. there's a broader sunni-shia sectarian conflict that's gone on for decades. there's the fact that many of the, excuse me, governments in that region are not very representative and have internal policies that don't give much freedom too their people, so that's part of what's creating problems in the middle east as well and a big part of our relationships with these countries is talking to them about the importance of more democratic approaches. senator sessions: well said in one sense, how however, does that -- however, does that mean we don't support the king of jordan?
4:53 am
just asking rhetorically, ok. we've got to have a more realistic policy than that. i was just reading in the book on order he hit the part about the containment strategy that maintained western unity gainst the communist totalitarians. it went on for 50 years almost. ended up ultimately successful. this was the way it was expressed. soviet expansion, according to kinnon, was real and inherent. the conflict was inherent in the two ideologies. it's income pat tart, totalitarian communism and constitutional democracy. he said, but it could be, quote, contained by an adroit
4:54 am
and diligent application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points. close quote. and i don't sense we have any such strategy and i'm sorry we don't. i think also that radical islam, sharia law, an essential component is incompatible with constitutional democracy. we need to work better. thank you, mr. chairman. senator shaheen: thank you both or being here. senator session's comments about containment is a good segue. ms. wormuth, why do you believe that four years into this conflict that russia is deploying terrell and increased ship -- is deploying materiel and increased shipments and setting up shop in syria in a way they haven't over the last four
4:55 am
years? ms. wormuth: russia has been a supporter they have assad regime and putin has spoken more publicly about the role russia has played to date. part of what may be happen, part of putin's calculus may be that assad regime has been under greater threat in the last several months as isil has advanced in places like padmar or palmyra. so putin may be nervous about the stability of the assad regime and trying to shore it up. senator shaheen: given that, how do we assess the possibility that the assad regime may fall? ms. wormuth: at this point, the assessments i have read are that the regime still has considerable strength in terms of military forces, it's still the most powerful military force on the ground and the support it receives from iran
4:56 am
and russia remains significant. so there have certainly been battlefield losses that are concerning, but -- and we are looking at obviously how to deal work we are planning and thinking about the potential for a significant retrenchment. but i think the assessment right now is the regime is not in imminent danger of falling. senator shaheen: are we concerned that they'll threaten our coalition aircraft? general austin: if they're trying to operate in the same space, senator, that possibility is clearly there. senator shaheen: and how are we thinking about responding to that? eneral austin: well -- senator shaheen: for either of
4:57 am
you. ms. wormuth: we are still in the early stages of what russia is doing. but at the diplomatic level we are making clear that deployments to shore up the regime and draw out the conflict are counterproductive and destabilizing and if this is about russia joining the fight against isil we expect the kinds of military they deploy to be consistent with that. senator shaheen: how are we making that clear to russia? ms. wormuth: secretary kerry speaks to his counterpart very relationly and has been making that point clear and on the military side, i'm sure general austin can elaborate on this, if in fact it gets to a point where we see russian aircraft operating in that area, we would, i imagine, need to set up some sort of mechanism to continue our counterisil campaign there. senator shaheen: general austin? general austin: we know how to do that, senator. my utmost concern is protection of my -- of our troops.
4:58 am
and we're going to make sure we have the ability to protect ourselves at all times. and you know, there are on occasion syrian aircraft that are flying in, you know, spaces that are not too distant from where we're operating but we're able to make sure that number one, we maintain vigilance and number two, we keep the battle space -- we work in the battle space in such a way that we avoid conflict, avoid encounters if at all ossible. senator shaheen: so i appreciate that that has been our policy to date. given the total failure of our ability to influence the outcome of the syrian civil war, are we assessing whether we should take a different response with respect to assad? and engaging with the syrian troops? ms. wormuth: i think we
4:59 am
continue to believe that what would be the best solution is to get a political transition and get assad out of the government while retaining the governance structure so you don't have a situation of chaos on the ground. russia, with its relationship with the regime, could potentially contribute to helping find that solution. that would be a valuable contribution from russia. senator shaheen: it would be but there's no incentive at this point for russia to do that. what's the incentive? ms. wormuth: they want more han anything a more stable syria and they are quite fearful of isil as well. i mean, they have many, many chechens in russia. they are just as concerned about foreign fighter flows
5:00 am
from isil as we are. i think russia does have an interest in having a more stable syria and a construct i way for them to engage would be to work with us and other countries who would like to see a transition there to try to come up with a diplomatic way to make that transition happen. senator shaheen: i certainly think that would be a positive outcome, but it's not clear to me that we've seen any action in the last 4 1/2 years to suggest that russia is going to play a more positive role. thank you. senator rounds: thank you, mr. chairman. general austin, thank you for your service. in both syria and in iraq we have individuals that are clearly part of the conversation, i'm curious in senator rounds: thank you, mr. terms of numbers right now, this one a -- would be a question for either of you, do we have an update on the total number of individuals who are displaced between syria and iraq that you can share with us this morning?
5:01 am
ms. wormuth: i believe, senator, it's around four million. it's a very large number. there are more than a million. senator rounds: that would be from syria. ms. wormuth: i thought it was from both syria and iraq. there are hundreds of thousands in jordan, the neighboring countries are already hosting very large you were ins of refugees, lebanon, jordan, and turkey. senator rounds: could you just check and see if the numbers you are providing are up to date? i'm curious about the number of individuals displaced in syria and the number of individuals displaced in iraq but still perhaps in iraq. ms. wormuth: we can get you that senator rounds: general, the reason for my question is that check and see if the numbers it would appear this is a significant number. senator rounds: our desire not
5:02 am
to do more harm than good in what we provide yet at the same ime one of our expectations is that we're doing ongoing air operations throughout the area. we don't want to get into areas where we're going to cause more damage. yet, right now, you're challenged because you don't have the forward air observers that would make it more efficient than what you've got today. can you share with us a little bit about what you're doing to try to improve that situation and how you would like to see that handled? general austin: sir, we routinely use all of our intelligence surveillance and it would appear this is a reconnaissance assets, u.a.v.'s and manned aircraft, to make sure that we are understand what's going on on the ground before we employ weapons. and we are diligent in our efforts there, not overly cautious to the point where we
5:03 am
- where we're not able to take advantage of opportunities to engage the enemy, but we're very, very mindful of, you know, the possibility of committing civilian casualties. senator round: but we're not using any of our own forward air observers at all? we don't have any forward air observers on the ground at all? general austin: that's correct. our jtacs are operating in the command center. it allows them to have visibility over what's going on in the target area but also enables them to gain visibility of where the friendly troops are. this is one of the biggest challenges we encounter throughout this battle stage. in a lot of cases, the folks we're trying to help don't have a good handle on where their people are. and that slows down the -- our
5:04 am
ability to engage. senator rounds: currently when you're training individuals in iraq and those who want to fight back in syria, we understand, and i think -- i don't think there's anybody out here disagreeing with the fact that we're not on schedule for getting the number we want to have trained, that is a fair assessment in terms of the number of individuals we want to have trained that are both iraq iowa -- iraqi initials and syrian nationals? general austin: sorry, struggling with my sign here. you're right, sir. we would like to see a lot more forces available to be trained and we're encouraging the government of iraq to recruit those forces, bring them on board so we can get them in training centers. what we discovered, not discovered, we knew this going on, those forces that have been trained by us are doing pretty well on the battlefield. senator rounds: fair to say,
5:05 am
though, general, one of the problems we've got particularly ith syrian fighters is our ability to actually discern which ones we can use and which ones we're not using based on our review of their background and what they intend to do, if they want to go in and fight assad, eliminating them from being part of our team? fair to say at this point? general austin: that's correct, we're focusing on countering isil. senator rounds: thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. senator hirono: thank you, mr. chairman. both of you testified that a very strict vetting process has resulted in far fewer fighters for us to train. does this mean we're turning away thousands of potential fighters? ms. wormuth: senator, i would say two things. one, because the authority we have focuses our program on fighting isil, there are a number of individuals who might like to receive training from the united states or equipment, for that matter, but they want
5:06 am
to fight the regime and that's not the focus of our program. and then the other way the standards affect the recruiting pool is obviously we want to make sure that we have confidence in the people we bring in to our program and that we can give them equipment and trust them to use that appropriately, trust them to fight on the battlefield in way -- in a way that's consistent with the laws of armed conflict. in many cases, people who might be interested in volunteering fight on the battlefield in way on't meet those standards or are younger than -- are under the age of 18, for example, or who are otherwise not medically qualified. senator hirono: so is one of the assessments that you're doing is to review whether or not we're being unrealistic regarding the kinds of factors we want you to take into consideration before you train particular individual, is
5:07 am
that one of the areas you are looking to which may require congressional action? ms. wormuth: we are looking at our recruiting and screening process all the time. even before the first class was reinserted we were looking at how to speed up our recruiting process and speed up the screening process. we are looking at the kinds of criteria that we have in place but i think our view is that right now, our criteria are very consistent with the requirements that congress gave us and if we were to loosen them, for example, i think we would absolutely have to come back to you all and ask for -- senator hirono: that's my question are you seriously asking us to re-evaluate the criteria congress established. i know we're talking a lot about what's going on on the ground but a concern is also, and you mentioned this in your testimony, that you're looking for more effective ways to counter isil's very effective that one of the areas you are looking to which may require essaging campaign.
5:08 am
there are concerns about isil's ability to motivate lone wolves who will take action without ever having direct contact with isil. so taking action in our country as well as elsewhere. so what are some of the effective ways you are countering isil's messaging strategy? ms. wormuth: we are taking some step it is that are effective but need to do more. part of what -- we have been working, for example, closely with a number of countries in the coalition to identify communicators inside those communities who have credibility with muslim populations and who will be able to lay out a compelling reasons why isil's theology is completely bankrupt. we have been working with governments to counter violent extremism, we have been working to get our messages out about military successes that we have
5:09 am
more effectively. but a lot of it is working with the private, sort of the private sector and civil society to try to get the right kinds of messengers to speak to these kinds of groups. it's a very challenging part of our effort and i think we need to do more there. senator hirono: i agree with that. i think the lone wolf phenomenon, and the problem is one we don't have a very good handle on. general, i think you mentioned you thought there were signs that iran would like to be more active in supporting syria and possibly that -- because of the agreement and they were getting their hands on more money as the sanctions get lifted, you said you saw some signs of that. that iran would like to do more system of what are these signs that you are referring to? because we know that iran is already supporting syria.
5:10 am
so -- are you expecting that they're going to put billions more into their support of assad? general austin: they are already supporting sir ark ou're exactly right. as things become more die nam i think in syria -- more dynamic in syria and the regime is increasingly challenged, it's my assessment that iran will want to continue to try to shore them up in a greater way. senator hirono: it's not as though our country will stand by idly as iran proceeds with that kind of program, correct? we're not going to just sit there. ms. wormuth: certainly not. we are very focused on countering iran's maligned activities. we have sanctions of our own that are in place to try to block arms, for example, going to countries. we have interdicted or worked
5:11 am
with folks in the coalition to interdict weapons going from iraq to the sue fees, for example, and we -- to the sufis, and we would continue to try to use those kinds of tools to limit iran's ability to support the syria -- the syrians. senator hirono: thank you. senator lee: thank you, mr. chairman, for calling this important hearing. thank you, secretary wormuth and general austin for taking the time to answer these questions. it's deeply appreciated. it's been one year since president obama announced to the world that the united states would undertake a strategy to degrade and defeat isis. in order to return some semblance of stability to iraq and create an environment that could lead to a negotiated end to the civil war in syria. it was my belief that president obama's overall goal and strategy he outlined to achieve that goal may have been beset from the outset by some flawed
5:12 am
assumptions of some contradictions and perhaps an excessive reliance on political forecasting in a region of the world that is anything but easy o predict. this, compounded by a string of recent events, is why i think it may be time for us to reassess the way the united states views this conflict and chooses to respond to it. and i think we need to start by making clear-eyed threat assessments and prioritizing u.s. national security interests. general austin, what's your assessment of the most significant threats that the conflict in syria and in iraq pose to the security of u.s. citizens and our freedoms? in other words, at the end of the day, what needs to be accomplished for the u.s. government to fulfill, perform its constitutional duty to protect the people of the united states and our
5:13 am
interests? general austin: thank you, senator. this is a transnational threat. if left unchecked, it will continue to expand and to try to take up occupied territory and govern it. and in doing so, it will try to erase international boundaries, it will try to do a number of things that will cause tremendous pain and suffering throughout the region. it will also export terror. in my belief it will export terror to other parts of the world and particularly to laces like our homeland. we see the beginnings of this in this lone wolf activity that we talk about. we also see what we're concerned about, individuals who go into iraq and syria and fight as a part of this effort
5:14 am
and return, potentially return back to our homeland and bring those skills back with them. so this is -- it is a threat to us. i think the threat will continue to increase. senator lee: the administration's strategy is to create an environment in syria that will be likely to lead to a negotiated settlement of the civil war and removal of assad from pow for the damascus. in your professional military opinion an given your knowledge of the region what level of pressure would need to be leveraged against mr. assad and his supporters in order for them to capitulate? especially as many -- especially as many minority groups, some opposition -- view some opposition groups as a threat to their survival and how much investment would be eeded from the coalition
5:15 am
countries in order to provide security and stability in hypothetical post-assad syria? general austin: i think that ssad would only be willing, as you have stated, senator, to come to the table to negotiate a settlement if he feels like he's threatened. and as things continue to develop in the country, you know, we see a number of elements, al nusra and others fighting the regime, isil, their efforts come together and place increasing pressure on assad. he is lose he still has significant capability but he's losing capability every day. now, the wild card is, when countries like iran or potentially russia would -- could possibly move in and shore him up. it could extend things for a
5:16 am
you have stated, senator, to bit of time. in a post-assad environment, we have to consider that there are a number of elements there that will continue to be there, will continue to fight. al nusra is one of those elements. if there are remnants of isil there, they'll continue to fight. it will require some sort of stability force to go in and make sure that whatever the transition government looks like, it has the ability to do its job. senator lee: thank you, general austin. i see my time has expired. senator reed: on behalf of senator mccain, i recognize the senator. senator kaine: let me start with a compliment. i was in kuwait, jordan, turkey in late june and early july, i was in president barzani's office in, and he said if president obama had not started
5:17 am
the bomb, we would not be here today, he meant we the kurd, people. he wanted to extend his hanks. however, everywhere else i traveled, to baghdad and to the other parts of the region, it seems like there's major problems, the effort to retake ramadi that was begun in mid july is apparently not going that well and in syria, absent some successes in the kurdish area near kobani has been disastrous. i was not an original supporter when senator mccain raised the idea of a no-fly humanitarian zone, but by the time senator king and i went to lebanon in february of 2014 and saw a illion refugees already into
5:18 am
lebanon, i became converted. when senator mccain pushed the idea of humanitarian zone first, there was only about 750,000 syrian refugees in turkey. now there's 1.8 million and it will be two million soon the number is four million syrians have fled outside the country. there's 7.8 million internally displaced syrians in the country and they could easily leaf the country as well. a humanitarian zone in northern converted. when senator mccain pushed the idea of humanitarian zone first, there was only about syria would be difficult to do but i think the benefit of that compared with four million and then climbing to could be six or seven or eight million refugees, something could be very, very dangerous leaving he country, i think we would have been wise to do it when senator mccain suggested it and i think we would still be wise to do it and from having met with a number of syrian refugees, an awful lot of those who fled the country would go ack if they felt there was a place where basic needs would be met and they would be
5:19 am
safe. i could encourage -- i would ncourage that. that's not your decision to make, i encourage the administration. general austin, you said the war against isil would go on for years. is that correct? general austin: it is. senator kaine: i don't think go on for years and the chances of success for isil are dimmed, i don't think those are compatible statements. i don't think those are really compatible statements. not recommend a buffer zone at his point in time.
5:20 am
>> that is correct sir. >> so the potential battlefield is expanding. and we're actually maybe engaging in some new activity my understanding general austin you indicated we have undertaken air strikes to support trained southeasterns in syria when they have been threatened by almussra. correct? >> that's correct, sir. >> and we are also prepared as a change in policy to undertake air strikes to protect those rian fighters if they fall under threat and attack by the assad regime in >> that's correct. >> now, i tactically completely agree with that. what is the legal predicate for the united states undertaking military action against forces of the assad regime? >> senator, our determination is that as you know very well
5:21 am
we can defend against isil and amuf. a under the 2001 forces are attacked under particular circumstances the president could exercise his article 2 rights turned constitution. >> if our forces. if the u.s. attacked. >> i'm sorry i meant our forces meaning the force that is we have trained. >> i will just say i have not seen an interpretation of article 2 ever that would allow the united states to undertake to on under article 2 protect others' fighters. you can take action under article 2 to protect the u.s. the president doesn't need to ask anybody's permission for that. but to you can take action under article 2 to protect the u.s. the president doesn't need to ask anybody's permission for that. but to undertake action to protect others' fighters i have never seen an interpretation of article 2 that would do this. the last thing i will say. there's a lot more criticism that i would get into here and that a lot of us have. but i worry that congress is
5:22 am
criticizing you as if we were editorial writers. we have a lot of opinions. we're acting like fans in the stands. we still have not authorized this war. we still have not authorized this war. i believe it is circumstances the president could exercise his article 2 rights turned constitution. >> if our forces. if the u.s. being carried out in violation of basic legal principles because congress has not done what congress is supposed to do. we can be fans in the stands and throw all the criticisms we want but we are in the 14 months of an undeclared war based upon a legal justification that is speeshes in my view. but congress has allowed it to happen complete live giving up their article 1 responsibilities. and no we have been told that the war is going on for years my question is how long are we going to allow a president to wage an executive war without a congressional autsdzization? i think we're afraid to touch this. so we can criticize this all
5:23 am
we here? eneral austin, thank you for coming. for all the thousands of troopers you represent for your service and their service. i want to speak briefly about the report that is there may have been some efforts to cook the books about you represent f service and their service. i want to speak briefly about the report that is there may have been some efforts to our performance. i know your opening statement acknowledged this. there is ongoing investigations to include with the implet g. but you have an ongoing challenge and your intelligence reporting and the way that affects your operations as well as the command climate. putting aside the i.g. investigation can you tell us what steps you are taking to
5:24 am
confront those challenges that you face on a daily basis? >> i have recently and continue to emphasize, senator, to all of my subordinates that my expectation is that i get accurate from igence assessments my staff. i have also emphasized to my entire command, as i have in every command that i have had, that from my the welfare of my people is extremely important to me. and so i care about my people. my expectation is that they have a climate that is conducive to providing for a good healthy sound work environment for them. >> thank you. i would have to say, too, as someone who regularry consumes intelligence community products on the izzlalic state and our campaign against them as a member of this committee and a member of the intelligence committee, i was very surprised to hear allegations that books are being cooked because those
5:25 am
products are not painting a pretty picture of how this campaign is going. i want to move to events in syria, russia's buildup. reports have said to include admissions of senior russian officials that russia is sending missiles, tanks, in addition to live support systems. how many air strikes does the coalition conducting oba daily basis right now in syria? >> we're conducting overall or so air strikes in iraq and syria and about a third of those are in syria. >> what efforts, if any, do we have under way to deconflict this battle spaste now that we have hundreds if perhaps thousands of russians running around with battle tanks and
5:26 am
personnel carriers? >> from a military perspective we continue to look at what the iraq and syria and about a third of those are in syria. >> what efforts, if any, do we have encounters for are, senator. and we -- we make sure we have measures in place to ensure that we don't have an inadvert nt encounter with either a russian aircraft or a syrian aircraft. >> do our pilots have to have 100% pilot identification there is no russian on a target before they can strike that target? >> we have not -- the russians to my knowledge have not started operations as of this point. so we have not had to eent counter that yet. but clearly these are thing that is from a tactical perspective that we will continue to work and think through. >> assad's other main supporter is iran. and specifically the revolutionary guard corps and the cuds force. do our pilots have to have 100% identification that there is no iranian forces on a target before they strike that target?
5:27 am
>> our pilots have to have 100% -- well, they have to have certainty, senator, that there are isil targets there to be engaged. and since, as you know, we can see what we're shooting at or e're engaging, this is not an issue. >> there's a report recently in the media that russia offered in 2012 to help the west remove assad from power and that the united states declined that offer because we believed that assad would fall of his own accord. is that an accurate report? >> i don't believe that is an accurate report. but that is obviously from ago and i wasn't in this position at that time. so i don't believe it is accurate. but -- i don't believe it's accurate. >> do you believe that iran and are, their proxies can be a partner in the fight against the slamic state in any way in
5:28 am
iraq and syria? >> no. not really. i mean, we're not cooperating with iran right now. for example, we're deconflicting as you know well they certainly have a role with some of the shia militia on the ground, some of the popular mobilization forces. but we are are not cooperateling and i don't see iran as having iraq and a productive role in either iraq or syria. >> thank you. i would agree given the fact that their militias in iraq rely on u.s. air power and now they appear to be relying on russian forces in iran to back up their hapless efforts. they aren't going to be a partner in trying to rely on iran to defeat the islamic state is like trying to rely on gasoline to put out a frier. >> on behalf of the chairman, senator king. >> thank you, mr. chair. general, i just want to touch for a few moments on the intelligence issue. consider this extremely grave
5:29 am
. a grave issue. because if we don't have eliable intelligence as policy makers and if the president doesn't have reliable ntelligence, we can't make good policy. and this keeps happening. i mean, this goes back to the bay of pigs, vietnam, the iraq war, and good policy. and this allegation -- these allegations are extremely serious and i hope you will -- i understand we have an i.g. investigation but as commanding officer i would hope that you would just be all over this. and i want to ask you a direct question. have you ever ordered, suggested, or hinted to any of the intelligence command that they should sweeten the intelligence reports in order to portray a more positive view of the success of our efforts in iraq or syria? >> absolutely not.
5:30 am
absolutely not. >> well, i just hope that you will just stay on this. because as you know, better than any of us, if you don't have good intelligence you're not only going into the battle blind. if it's cooked intelligence you're going into the battle with one hand tied behind your back. so i just -- i'm extremely concerned about this issue. this is a question for the record. you used the term progress in your statement a number of times, progress here, progress there. not now but for the record i would like a very specific list of what you consider progress, where we are -- where we are succeeded. because generally it doesn't look like that. it looks more like a stalemate. and i think, again, we should have this information. and i know some of it is in your testimony. but i would like, if you could, just a one-pager on where you think progress has been made. >> build happy to provide that,
5:31 am
sir. well get that to you right away. a broad question of policy, and this comes off with a lot of the other discussion we've had. assad and isis are evil twins. isis largely came into existence in reaction to assad. and in retrospect, and like senator kaine, i was one who was very reluctant about getting involved. but in retrospect, the longer we've left assad there it has created a situation both humanitarian crisis and a situation that has allowed alnussra and isil -- isil didn't even exist when we first started having these hearings. it has allowed them -- it's given them an opportunity to make hey with the population. so a strategy that ig no, sir assad and for example trains troops to go into syria to only fight isil but not assad i just think -- i think we now need to recognize that is not a logical strategy.
5:32 am
and part of good strategic thinking is that you modify your strategy according to changed circumstances. and the circumstances are -- and you mentioned he's losing his capabilities every day. general, i've been hearing that at every hearing since 2013. assad is about to go. he's about to collapse. i know you didn't say that today, but we've got to find a strategy that allows us to move assad aside in some way, working with the russians if necessary or the iranians if necessary. because he's the irritant that's keeping this thing stired up. and then finally, in terms of our troops, the fundamental problem seems to me is we're not going to defeat isis with just air power. everybody knows that. we're trying to rely on a weak force in iraq and no force in syria. how do we refine this strategy, general? and you know that -- in order to root them out of mosul or iraq or any place else, you're
5:33 am
going to have to the have troops on the ground. we don't want them to be americans. how do we break through this? clearly the train and equip is too long too late. your thoughts. we're going to need a greater commitment from the partners that we're enabling, senator. again, if the iraqis make the combhiment to put more troops through the train and equip program, we'll get them trained and equipped and we'll get them into the fight. >> are there signs that the iraqis are willing to do that? do they want mosul back? >> i think so. i certainly think so. they want to stabilize anbar first. and then take on mosul. but, yes. i believe that. >> give me some thoughts on the overall strategy here. >> certainly, senator. i would say in terms of getting more iraqis into the fight, they are as i said increased -- they're opening the aptur in terms of which units they're putting into our training sites.
5:34 am
so that's going to help i think create additional troops on the ground. >> i'd like specific numbers on that but, by the way, for the record. >> certainly. we see them starting to now plan ahead in terms of which units are going into the training pipeline. which again i think indicates a greater sense of urgency on their part. and on the syrian side of the ledger i would say that it is clearly harder to find partners on the ground on the syrian side of the ledger. but one of the things we didn't envision a year ago is the partnership that we have of our air power with the syrian kurds and the syrian arab coalition that are operating with them. that group on its own won't be enough. but we are continuing to look for opportunities like that. even as we review our own train and equip. >> i would join in senator kaine's remarks that i think you need to rethink a strategy about a safe zone, a no fly zone, protection from assad's barrel bombs.
5:35 am
i hate it when the chairman is right but he's been talking about this for two years and in retrospect i think he was right. we've allowed this to atrocity to go on too long and it's impacting us. it's boo comb pacting the rest of europe. and i really think that there should be a rethinking of the nonintervention strategy not in terms of roops but in air power in order to level the playing field, putting pressure on assad and the russians so we can get a negotiated agreement. because it doesn't seem to be in prospect now. >> again, on behalf of the chairman, senator. >> thank you. you made in your opening statement i'm apologizing, i had to step out i had to go to a committee meeting. but you made a comment in your opening statement. you said that isis is not ten foot tall. the reason that i have a concern with that kind of
5:36 am
statement is that it kind of -- it's reminiscent of characaterizing them as a j.v. team. they are a very serious threat. before i go forward, general, i neglected to do what i always do when i see people in uniform. hank you for your service. i know you are a part of the solution. but when we say that isis is not ten feet tall, they are the richest threat group of this kind in human history. hrough the esure of assets from the iraqi national bank i think they seized some $820 million. last week we had a memorial for 9/11. it is estimate that had the 9/11 attacks cost about $500,000. through that one asset seizure, if my math is right, that equates to about 1600 9/11s having the resources to strike that kind of damage on our homeland and the middle east and europe and other places. i think that we need to
5:37 am
recognize them as one of the single greatest threats. of course russia, north carolina, iran. but they're at the -- north korea and iran. we have to figure out when we're making progress and when we're not. that leads to my questions. do you feel like you're over -- the last 24, 36 a part of the solution. but when we say that isis is not ten feet tall, they are the whatever time horizon makes sense to you. does isis control more or less territory or do they have greater or less influence in other areas that are merging as potential stronghold force isis in the future? more or less? >> less in iraq. >> what's the net? because we know they're expanding elsewhere. we know they are changing jerseys in afghanistan from al qaeda and other groups and taliban into isis. we've got them operating in other areas. so what's the net? more or less? >> it would be more if you consider -- >> ok.
5:38 am
do they have -- if he were to compare their resources, their economic resources over the last 24, 36 months, do they have more or less dollars to support their terrorist operations? less. we have targeted their resources. they make money, as yo know, off thinks like oil collection. >> antickty sales, kidnapping. >> right. so i have said on a number of occasions not only do we have to stop the flow of foreign fighters but we have to take away this enemy's ability to finance. >> another measure. i'm trying to come up with this concept of a dash board so that when we have the next meeting i can ask you the same questions and see where the trends are. do they have more or less seem to be they winning on social media in terms of reaching out to people in the homeland, to people in
5:39 am
europe about six hours ago posted some 15-year-old girl murdered her mother in europe. was convicted of murder as a result of being radicalized by some of the social media presence. have we stemmed the tide on their continued expansion on the use of social media to radicalize people internationally and in the homeland? >> i think they do have a more effective counter messaging campaign at this point. that's a area we need to work on. >> it seems like it's growing. the ground that tear taking the places they're heavily influencing social media, i mean, this is an organization that is trending in the wrong direction against the greatest super power that's ever existed. i want to go back to chemical weapons. do you think that -- there's been reports. i only want to talk about confirmed reports. do you think that their use of chemical weapons have increased over the last 24 months or beginning to see evidence that they're being used in certain
5:40 am
areas in syria and iraq? >> more or less? >> senator, given that they had no apparent use of chemical weapons at the outset there have been -- >> so now there's more. >> some indications. >> ok. and then the last question i have is how we're working -- i understand that most of the problem has to deal with the fact that iraq has failed to do what they need to do to engage the sunni population. it. hey haven't done so over the course of the last 24, 36 months, has the sunni population been more or less inclined to side with isis where the conflicts are arising in iraq? >> i think we've seen considerable outreach from prime minister abadie. >> does it work? >> there are now 4,000 sunni tribal fighters in anbar that we didn't have six months ago. >> so you feel like we're winning in terms of the hearts and minds of the population? >> i think we're bringing more
5:41 am
sunni fighters into the fight. >> i would agree that they're less inclined in iraq to side with isil. they have seen what isil brings to the table and most of the sunnis don't want that going forward but they do want to be included in the government of iveragete >> and i think they should be if we're going to have a long-term engagement. >> senator king has requested an additional question. >> this is not a question, mr. chairman. i want to submit for the record an extraordinary speech by robert gates in 1992, when he was head of the c.i.a. on the danger of the politicization of intelligence. it's prescient and brilliant, which is not surprising coming from robert gates. and i just want to submit it for the record. thank you. >> without objection, it is so ordered. on behalf of chairman mccain let me thank the witnesses and adjourn the hearing. thank you.
5:42 am
[captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption contents and accuracy. visit
5:43 am
5:44 am
then on thursday, september 24, the pope makes history on capitol hill becoming the first pontiff to address both the house of representatives and the senate during a joint meeting. follow all of c-span's live coverage of the pope's historic visit to washington. watch live on tv or on line. >> madison is probably the most famous case this court ever decided.
5:45 am
>> hair yet existed as enslaved people here on land where slavery wasn't legally recognized. >> putting the browne decision into effect would take presidential ordors. in the presence of federal troops and marshalls and the courage of children. >> we wanted to pick cases that hanged the direction and import of the society and also changed society. >> so she told them that they would have to have a search warrent. and she demanded to see the paper and to read it and see what it was. which they refused to do so she grabbed it out of his hands to look at it and thereafter the police officer handcuffed her. >> i can't imagine a better way to bring the constitution to life than by telling the human
5:46 am
stories behind great supreme court cases. >> the suit boldly opposed the forced internment of japanese americans during world war ii. after being convicted for failing to report for relocation, he took his case all the way to the supreme court. >> quite often in many of our most famous decisions are ones that the court took that were quite unpopular. >> if you had to pick one freedom that was the most essential to the functioning of a democracy, it has to be freedom of speech. >> let's go through a few cases that illustrate very dramatically and visually what it means to live in a society of 310 million different people who helped stick together because they believe in a rule of law. >> landmark cases, an
5:47 am
exploration of 12 historic supreme court decisions and the human stories behind them. a new series on c-span produced in cooperation with the national constitution center debutting monday, october 5, at 9:00 p.m. and, as a companion to our new series, landmark cases, the book, features the 12 cases we've select ford the series with a brief introduction into the background, high lights, each case.of landmark cases is available for 8.95 plus shipping and handling. >> in a meeting with business leaders in washington, president obama called on congress to avoid a government shutdown by passing a budget before the september 30 deadline. the president also discussed how he will address computer
5:48 am
security in a meeting with china's president next week. this is an hour and 10 minutes. president obama: thank you, randall, and thank you to everybody here at the business roundtable for having me here today. i'm just going to say a few words and then hopefully spend a lot of time taking your questions. seven years ago today was one of the worst days in the history of our economy. if you picked up "the wall street journal" that morning you read that the shocks from a.i.g. and lehman were spreading worldwide. the day before stocks suffered their worst loss since 9/11. and in the months after, businesses would go bankrupt, millions of americans would lose their jobs and their homes and our economy would reach the brink of collapse.
5:49 am
that's where we were when i became chief executive. here's where we are today. businesses, like yours, have created more than 13 million new jobs over the past 66 months. the longest streak of job growth on record. the unemployment rate is lower than it's been in over seven years. there are more job openings right now than at anytime in our history. ousing has bounced back. we have made enormous strides in both traditional energy sources and clean energy sources while reducing our carbon emissions, and our education system is actually making significant progress with significant gains in reducing the dropout rate, reading scores increasing, math scores increasing. and by the way, more than 16
5:50 am
million people have health insurance that didn't have it before. so this progress is a testament to american business and innovation. it's a testament to the workers that you employ, but i'm going to take a little credit too. it's a testament to some good policy decisions. soon after we took office, we passed the recovery act, rescued our auto industry, worked to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation for growth. other countries in some cases embraced austerity as an ideology without looking at the data and the facts, tried to cut their way out of the recession. the results speak for themselves. america has come back from crisis faster than almost every other advanced nation on earth, and at a time of significant global volatility we remain the world's safest, smartest investment. of course i will not be satisfied, and we as a country
5:51 am
should not be satisfied until more working families are feeling the recovery in their own lives. but the fact is that what i called middle-class economics has been good for business. corporate profits have hit an all-time high. slowing health care prices and plummeting energy costs have helped your bottom lines. manufacturing is growing at the fastest cliff in about two decades. our work force is more educated than ever before. the stock market has more than doubled since 2009, and 2015 is on pace to be the year with the highest consumer confidence since 2004. and america's technological entrepreneurs have continued to make incredible products that are changing our lives rapidly. now, you wouldn't know any of this if you were listening to the folks who are seeking this
5:52 am
office that i occupy. [laughter] president obama: in the ecochamber that is presidential politics, everything is dark and everything is terrible. they don't seem to offer many solutions for the disasters that they perceive but they're quick to tell you who to blame. i'm here to say there's nothing particularly patriotic or american about talking down america. especially when we stand as one of the few sources of economic strength in the world. right now we got the chance to build on progress that we have made and that is acknowledged worldwide. we have a chance to grow the economy even faster, create jobs even faster, lift people's incomes and prospects even faster. we just have to make some sensible choices. and i'm going to focus on one particular example. america's next fiscal year is
5:53 am
almost upon us which means that congress has about two weeks to pass a budget. if they don't they will shut down america's government for the second time in two years. democrats are ready to sit down and negotiate with republicans right now today as we speak, but it should be over legitimate questions of spending and revenue, not on related ideological issues. you'll recall that two years ago republicans shut down the government because they didn't like obamacare. today, some are suggesting the government should be shut down because they don't like planned parenthood. that's not good sense and it's not good business. the notion we play chicken with an $18 trillion economy and global markets that are already skittish all because an issue around a woman's health
5:54 am
provider that receives less than 20 cents out of every $1,000 in the federal budget, that's not good policymaking. the last time republicans shut down the government it cost our economy billions of dollars, consumer confidence plummeted. i don't think anybody here thinks that's going to be good for your business. i've always believed what our irst republican president, a guy from my home state named abraham lincoln, believed. that through government we should do together those things we can't do as well by guy from my home state named ourselves. funding infrastructure projects, educating the best work force in the world, investing in cutting edge research and development so that businesses can take that research and take some risks to create new products and new services, setting basic rules for the marketplace that encourage innovation and fair competition that help a market-based economy thrive, creating safety net that not
5:55 am
only helps the most vulnerable in our society but also frees all of us to take risk and protect against life's uncertainties, and welcoming, rather than disparaging, the striving immigrants that have always been the source of continued renewal economic vibrancy and dynamism in our economy. so my hope is that congress aims a little higher than just not shutting the government down. that's a good start. we'd like them to achieve that, but i think we can do better. we can actually do some things to help the economy grow. after the last shutdown, both parties came together and unwound some of the irrational cuts to our economy and military readiness that's known as sequester. that agreement expires in two weeks as well.
5:56 am
and for those of you who are not steeped in federal budget terminology, sequester basically is -- are automatic top-line cuts that don't discriminate, don't think through what are good nvestments and what is waste and if we don't reverse the cuts that are currently in place, a lot of the drivers of growth that your companies depend on, research, job training, infrastructure, education for our work force, they are going to be reduced effectively at a time when other countries around the world are racing to get ahead of us. on the other hand, if congress does reverse some of these cuts, then our own budget office estimates it would add about half a million jobs to our economy next year alone, about .4% to g.d.p. and keep in mind that we can
5:57 am
afford it right now. all the things i said at the front in terms of the recovery that we made, we've also reduced the deficit by 2/3. right now it's about 2.8% of g.d.p. we've reduced our deficit faster than some of those countries that pursued strict austerity policies and weren't thinking about how to grow the economy, and so we are well-positioned without adding to the deficit. i want to repeat. since i took office, we cut the deficit by more than 2/3, and the good news is we might actually be moving beyond some of the stale debates we've been having about spending and revenue over the past several years if what economists and people who are knowledgeable about the federal budget are listened to as oy posed to this -- opposed to this being driven by short-term politics. people in both parties, including some of the leading republican candidates for
5:58 am
president, have been putting out proposals, some i agree with, some i don't. i'll give you one example, though. you got two leading candidates in the republican side who have said we should eliminate the carried interest loophole. now, there's disagreement in this room around that. but i will tell you that keeping this tax loophole, which leads to folks who are doing very well, paying lower rates than their secretaries, is not in any demonstrable way improving our economy. in any way, if we close the tax loophole, we can double the number of workers in america's job training programs. we could help another four million students afford college. these are sensible choices that if you were running your business and you took a look at it, you'd make that decision. well, america should too. and this is an example of how
5:59 am
we can maintain fiscal responsibility while at the same time making the investments that we need to grow. so the bottom line is this. seven years ago, if we had listened to some politicses who stayed we could only cut our way to prosperity, the fact is we'd be worse off today. if we listened to them now, then we're going to be worse off tomorrow. i hope that you will talk to your friends in congress, democrats and republicans alike, as congress flirts with another shutdown, remind them of what is at stake. we will have some disagreements sometimes. i do not expect to get 100% of what i want in any conversation, including with my wife. but i do expect us to stay focused on why we're here which is to help the american people and businesses like yours and your workers do better.
6:00 am
that is our job, we are not supposed to impede progress, we are supposed to accelerate progress. if our leaders can put common sense over ideology and the good of the country over the good of the party, then we will do just fine. despite the perennial doom and gloom that is inevitably part of a presidential campaign, america's winning right now. america is great right now. we can do even better. the reason that i am so confident about the future is not because of the government or the size of our gdp or military, but because everybody in this country that i meet, regardless of their station in life, race,


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on