Skip to main content

Trump Administration
  Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  January 9, 2016 3:09am-3:54am EST

3:09 am
guantanamo bay prisoner detainees. this is his final briefing before he retires. he served as commander since november 2012. this is 45 minutes. i'm very happy to be here. many friends over the years. as you might know, i'm about to go over the side for the last time. i retire at the end of the month. it is next thursday. i will tell you it was very unique. it is a remarkable organization. very different mission. it is all about broadening and deepening partnerships down there to say the least. i would say the partners we have in latin america and the caribbean like the united states want to be associated with the united states. there is a few down there who didn't get the memo about democracy and human rights and that kind of thing but some of
3:10 am
that is even turning around. they really do like and associate with us. they very much like, and are very proud of this, that southern command doesn't point the finger but work with them. we deliver an awful lot of good advice, education, and assistance. the other thing we do a lot of as an inneragency partner is c n confiscate drugs. we have taken nearly 109 metric tons of cocaine after it left latin america. our number one partner with this and a country we have a special relationship with, remarkable people and remarkable military, is columbia. they themselves took a couple
3:11 am
hundred metrics ups tons of cocaine before it left their country. they errat eradicated hundreds of cocaine fields and labs that are destroyed. other partners are the people from panamma and the peruvians. the corruption it brings and the violence it brings has devastated some of our really good partners like honduras and el salvador. there is good news throughout most of the region. as i said, i get ready to hang it up -- when i left the pentagon i was getting options and tired of the war spending so
3:12 am
much time in it in the early 2000s. i thought southern command would be a place that would allow me to unleash other energies and talents. it has allowed me to do that. you may or may not know this and it may not be an issue but i read that guantanamo bay, directly for the president of the united states and secretary of defense, i do not do policy whether it opens or closes, i do the detention ops. my mandate from the president through the secretary of defense is to make sure we are in accordance with all laws and regulations with the detainees and make sure they are treated well, humanely and taken care of medically wise. we do that and do it supurbly.
3:13 am
i will end there and open it up. >> a few questions. one, on gitmo. later this month we are told that we can expect a large number of the detainees will likely be transferred out. more than a dozen. i am wondering if the recent releases which have been in some chunks lately grieve credence to the argument that the military has been dragging its feet over previous years and whether this amounts to a sudden new effort that could have actually happened earlier. just a second question, you mentioned some of the interdiction you have been doing with little u.s. military.
3:14 am
there was additional talk about drones being used. have you seen any increase in the amount of other help for the drug war? and is that still an unmet need? >> well starting off with the drug question. again the partnership issue can't be overstated down there. particularly when we don't have u.s. military assets in that i count the united states coast guard. we have some guarders. we have partners like canada that provide a ship. the dutch will frequently provide a ship. these are not war ships. they tend to be coast guard ships. the french occasionally and the uk. a hundred metric tons wouldn't have happened had it not been for our partners. i don't count columbia in this because they do so much before the product leaves their
3:15 am
country. i can see, the joint inner agency task force in key west is probably the best tactical fusion center in the world. i think the cia and others would say the same thing. it brings the entire pow of the u.s. government to get up through drugs as they flow up through latin america and the caribbean. it is a long way from washington and i think you would agree the further you get away from washington the better things work. people actually talk to each other, people socialize with each other, they work together. there is no rice bowls. when i say partners cia, dea, homeland security, fda, it is phenomen phenomenal. to a dea agent and fbi agent
3:16 am
working with partner countries whether it is lima or honduras and shoulder to shoulder to men and women of those country's drug equivalent. that is what much of our human intelligence comes from. sometimes, not unusual to know plus or minus an hour or two, when a ton of cocaine is leaving a given port and head north i might know the guy's first name and phone number. that is the human intelligence. most of them we pick them up with p-3 aircraft flying down there sometimes often times homeland security and i cannot say enough good things about my number one partner and that is homeland and jeh johnson. he can see it move. what i cannot do is interdict it. it is very simple. all i need is a helicopter.
3:17 am
once we locate the movement of one, two or five tons they know what is coming and throw the electronics over the side and wait to be picked up. we take the driver of the boat and he goes into our legal -- typically into the federal leak legal justice system and that completes the cycle of human intelligence. i don't get much isr but i don't need much more. drones would be nice. but we have not seen any increase. certainly no drones. a lot of countries down there want to acquire drones and we encourage them to do so but they don't need the high end drones or armed drones. just reconnaissance drones. they buy that from somewhere other than the united states because it is hard to deal with the united states in terms of purchasing things for a lot of
3:18 am
different reasons. they tend to try and default to israel or yeah russia or maybe china. so i don't know if that answers the questions on the drug side. on the guantanamo bay side, i can speak personally the last three years, because that is how long i have been there, 38 months, the resident memory of guantanamo bay is the detainee staff and they can talk with a lot of authority back to about 2006 and then less so before that. the fact that there was reporting about this building, secretary of defense, people in uniform, people in detention offices, any way shape or form slowing down to try to impede the release of the detainees from my perspective is
3:19 am
non-sense. it is an insult frankly to serving military officers or civil servant in this building to be accused of whether we can agree or disagree with any of the policy we would in any way impede the progress. the president wants to close it i have a role, not in closing it, but detention ops. my only role in transfer is give me your name, country, time frame and i will get that person to that country. that is my role. we facilitate the movement of foreign delegations that want to come down. we never, ever, ever do anything but facilitate the movement when they want to come to guantanamo bay. we typically the process is a delegation wants to come, or even if they don't want to, when
3:20 am
there is a country interested in a transfer they are provided a detailed summary of the medical condition of the individual. they do come to guantanamo bay sometimes with questions because they were given an advance medical copy and always when they come down and they can talk to the detainee for any length of time they want, typically the conversation goes about 30 minutes, and it goes something like do you want to leave guantanamo bay and the answer is yes and that is about the extent of it. then the foreign delegation will typically talk to my doctors. they will talk sometimes to the guard personal and just ask how did this guy behave and whatever. then they leave and we eventually typically get word the country will take them and
3:21 am
that is where i take over and execute the transfer. there was some reporting about medical records. we have never had a foreign delegation ask for the full medical record. they always, always, satisfied with the summary we give them. in one case i recently read, and this wasn't the reporter's fault, the individual in question his medical record is at least 15,000 pages all of which has to be redacted by every intelligence agency in the united states and that would take two years. i thought it was a better idea to transfer the guy than hold them two years unnecessarily. we have never been asked and they never com plained about the
3:22 am
foreign delegation access. i welcome the press and foreign delegations to come down frequently. >> there was a report in the wall street journal about a hell fire missile that was delivered to cuba. it has been -- it was sent as a nato exercise in 2014 and somehow it wound its way through europe and made its way into cuba. i was going to ask you if you know where that missile is right now? >> no i don't. since you bring up cuba, we look forward to, you know, increasing our relationship with cuba, but for right now, and certainly for the last what? 50 years? we had zero relation with cuba with the exception of guantanamo bay.
3:23 am
one of the things provided by the state department is we do a lot of conferences and that is how we do a lot of engagements. some of it is, very seldom is it about drug and addiction, which it on the high seas it is not there. but disaster or humanitarian relief. we invited members of the cuban military to come to that through the state department. baby steps. when i was in haiti, there is a fair number of cuban doctors sprinkled around, a lot of cuban doctors that do this engagement, some in port of prince, and we offered them the opportunity to come board -- aboard and see what we do.
3:24 am
they took us up on it. we had cuban doctors from the port of prince area come on board and invited by docs on shore. but i have zero involvement with cuba right now. >> your son was killed in afghanistan in 2010. you served time in iraq. can we get your assessment of how the wars in afghanistan and iraq have been prosecuted? >> i can talk iraq. i did three tours there. i am a military man professional and i understand how these things can be done.
3:25 am
when i was in iraq, anbar province, there was remarkable improvement in security. we are proud of the two iraqi divisions we trained, organized and equipped ended up being the best iraqi divisions and they could operate on their own. but we always had advisors with them. i would say to keep sufficient numbers of intel people to provide the advisors to critique the commanders and nco's after they are out on operation. not to command but critique and suggest and whisper in their ear
3:26 am
we know how to do this. when they move one of those divisions down, when the 14th collapsed, we had advisors with them. it was the 8th division and they did a suburb job. the mentalship advising is what makes those things. the equipment is important but it doesn't come close to having people that are with them and less and less involvement until you come to a steady way. >> are you saying it was a mistake to pull out of iraq? >> i am saying there were other ways to do it with much smaller numbers than we had there at the height of the war. tom? >> along the lines, you talk about the apache attack helicopters in iraq with the iraqi forces and having u.s.
3:27 am
advisors accompanying iraqi forces. would it make sense to have those advisors going forward? >> we have a whole new war over there. i should add lord austin was there toward the end, a remarkable man named jim jeffries was there, he was a former vietnam war army. they had unbelievable influence on the prime minister and his team there at the time and obviously on the military people. there was a lot of learning to be done and advising to be done by those two gentlemen and their team to iraqi civilian leadership as well as -- it was like if you tried to teach a young person how to drive a bike and once you take off the training wheels, when i left iraq the training wheels were
3:28 am
coming off. butt if you are a parent teaching a kid to run a two wheel bike you are running behind him ready to grab the seat if they start to go over and over time they learn how to drive the bike. that is one way to look at what we could have done. >> what about today? >> we have a new war on our hands. i would say if we want the iraqis to get good enough to fight this fight i believe we have to reinforce them in terms of not only the equipment but as well as advisory capability and that kind of thing. there is only one way to advise. >> i have a question. in combat, the marines were against opening all combat jobs to women but were overruled by the defense secretary. they were slower and prone to
3:29 am
injuries. talk about the way ahead on this. how can they put this into affect and what concerns you in the way they had with this? >> i would just offer that i believe given the mission the united states armed forces to fight the nation's wars i believe every decision we make whether it is a personal decision, new airplane or whatever, i think every decision has to go through one filter and that is does it make it more lethal on the battlefield.
3:30 am
if the answer is shouldn't hurt i would not suggest doing it because it might hurt. the way i think we should do this is simply do it. my greatest fear, and we see this happen a lot over the 45 years i have been in the armed forces, is right now they are saying we will not change any standards. there will be great pressure, whether it is 12 months from now, four years from now, because the question asked is whether we let women into the other roles and why are they not staying in the other roles? why are they not advancing as infantry people? why are they not becoming seniors? the answer i think will be if we don't change the standards it
3:31 am
will be very difficult to have any real numbers coming into the infantry, rangers or seals but that is their business. we will have small numbers anyway and the only study i know on this is the study the marine core contracted with the university of pittsburgh, i think, and the other aspect is because of the nature of infantry training and combat there is a higher percentage of women in this scientific study that get hurt and some hurt forever. so i think it would be the pressure not for the generals here now but the common admirals to lower standards because that is the only way it will work in the way that i hear some people, particularly agenda-driven people in washington, the way they want it to work. >> thank you.
3:32 am
general kelly, last year when you were here you talked about the islamic state and how there are about a hundred islamic state fighters going to syria from the caribbean and venezuela. can you give us an update on the status of those at the airports
3:33 am
terms of checking the comings and goings of people. we do the best we can to help them. i am more concerned -- it seems like the islamic extremist and terrorist have shifted a lot of
3:34 am
the message and that is whether than coming to syria stay at home and do san bernardino or boston or fort hood. my concern as the commander is they can even just a few of these, you know, nuts, can cause an awful lot of trouble down in the caribbean because they don't have an fbi, they don't have law enforcement like do. and many of those countries have very, very small millitaries, if they have militaries at all. they welcome the help from the united states. oh, the expense of guantanamo bay. it depends on how you cut the cost. guantanamo bay is a functioning base and has been for years. when they come up with the cost estimate or cost per detainee and all of that we were never asked here. someone else came up with the
3:35 am
number. but i know if you look at, my gitmo budget is plus or minus a million dollars. but that is an approximate. the facility up and running if you keep counting the cost of the facility, which i guess you should, it is an expensive place, i support the commissions and they have a budget, too. but as a nation you make a decision what you will spend your money on. if to detain a detainee at guantanamo bay cost more than saying take that person to the united states if that is the policy decision so be it. i don't have an opinion on whether it is too expensive or not. i just know that, you know, the money i am given i spend
3:36 am
frugally and as i said they are very well taken care of. yes? >> thank you, general. i wanted to get your opinion something on guantanamo bay related and something that has been in the news. what did you think of the swap for beau bergdahl and the five senior commanders at guantanamo bay? >> policy decision. it was an unusual transfer and when i got the call, these are very administrative things. my staff gets a piece of paper from the joint staff saying acquire c-17 and move 23 to a certain country. in this case i got a call directly from a senior official in the building. it was get these guys ready to go and having worked up here
3:37 am
before this transfer issue was brought up initially and my involvement in it -- this was a couple years ago. has to be four years ago, say, and the transfer wasn't done obviously at that point. but i know when they called and gave me the five names and i said is this the bergdahl crowd and they said yes, same crowd. i followed orders. my question was am i getting the paperwork? and he said you will but it will be after. it it was a dicy transfer because there was a lot of press there because there was a commission period. lots of press down there. when the press were waiting for their airplane and the families of the 9/11 crowd and all of us were down there we were doing the transfer and it never got caught.
3:38 am
anyone down there at the time i am sure was probably, you know, should have been paying more attention. but that is a policy decision to transfer them. i know it caused a lot of angst in a lot of areas. but here again i don't try to slow down transfers. i facilitate transfers. i did by the way get the follow-up paperwork and when the airplane took off we deposited them and they are still there. >> were you concerned it was illegal since congress had not been notified? >> no, i am not involved in that process. i would never assume that anyone in this building for sure would break the law. the up and up was more in terms of is the paperwork ready? am i going to see? jennifer, we work on procedures and sop's and that kind of
3:39 am
thing. i didn't assume anyone was doing something illegal. >> maria for radio columbia. the president will be celebrating 15 years of leader in columbia. i would like to know your expectations for the future? and the president from venezuela said the opposition is planning an international intervention and the united states is leading it and he mentioned you. >> it is crazy what leaks. how did he find that out? remarkable story in the last 15-18 years, columbia. a lot of people in washington and other places if they know about it at all think the united states gave massive amounts of assistance and all of that. but the columbians did it all themselves. we provided intelligence, advice and back to the question about
3:40 am
advising and how long to do it but it takes a long time. there were never boots on the ground. human rights training was huge. how do we change our military to be better than it and it was very good at the time. they raised money through a war tax and frankly the elite of that country -- are you from columbia? your country was standing at the edge of a cliff looking down into hell. and your people decided to change that. and it is not perfect like we are not perfect but decided to change that. the congress and other people in wash washington i think four or five cents from the dollar came from the united states but the effort came from you. you are that close to ending this war. my feeling is the process of ending this war, and the first time i talked to president santos and the ministry of
3:41 am
defense and the military men down there three years ago now, my first trip, my recollection was to columbia, i said if you think the previous 50 years have been hard the next 15 years will be more complicated. you are trying to do something that is not done often. you are ending an internal conflict. once you get the treaty you have to figure what to do with the young fighters that have been kidnapped, not recruited, from the villages. young kids at 12, 13, and 14 years old. what do you with them after they have been fighters and that is all they know? you need to train them. downsize the military and gi bill thing. you need to train them. i use the term the gi bill for the fork because if you don't all they will do is stay in the
3:42 am
drug business because they are up to here in drugs. so, it is going to be hard. i hope my country, i have been vocal about this, maybe too vocal, but i think people understand on the hill, that is where i have pitched this more than anywhere else, we have to stand and continue with columbia for another ten years. it gets smaller and smaller and smaller. we still have, and again it isn't a big money thing, it is more involvement in the process. i think with all due respect, and i am not out of line to suggest this, but the peace divdened is not going to be immediate. it will be there -- dividend -- and the idea once the peace treaty is over and the lambs lie down with the lions is not going to happen.
3:43 am
i spend about 40 seconds a day contemplating the situation in venezuela and that is in prayer for the people. any people at this time deserve better than what many people in venezuela have. it is democracy. we just saw a great election. that democracy is getting stronger but i can tell you there is no plan of any kind that i know of to do anything but leave the venezuela problem to the venezuela people. >> thank you. happy new year. >> going back to guantanamo bay, do you believe that some of the detainees were released in the past and they joined the siege, and right now we have isil and isis. do you think they are inspiring the young people because of their regional and there is no,
3:44 am
what you call, freely running those countries. oration oather oultherer orationoratio >> i suppose it depends on your agenda. a certain percentage of them have returned to the fight. so be it. i don't have any specific numbers. but some return to the fight. as far as gitmo, did you ask about them instigating isil? honest men and women can disagree on everything.
3:45 am
the role is joined to things that happened in other places. i would say i am proud of what they do down there. sometimes i am the only person making that point and sometimes i wish other people would make that point. the security in afghanistan and what this says about where we stand. >> i don't believe we can allow islamic extremist, which is a small percentage of people that follow that great religion, i
3:46 am
don't think we can afford to let them have a safe haven. we know how to do these things. some might be out of the box in terms of policymakers. but if you take the point of not letting them have save havens you have to do political action to prevent that. this is hard. this is really hard. we know how to do it. but it generally translates to more expensive and longer term than what maybe the nation hopes for. yes, ma'am? >> i believe that you are the most senior gold star father in uniform. i wanted to ask do you believe gold star families are
3:47 am
supported? is there anything you would like to see the nation do or continue to do for them and following your retirement what is your planned involvement in that community? >> well, i think one of the things about loosing any child, and you cannot imagine until it happens, and i hope to god it never does for you or anyone, and it doesn't matter how they die, to lose a child is -- i cannot imagine anything worse than that. i used to think when i would go to my trips up to walter reed or go to the funerals with the secretary of defense that i could somehow imagine what it would be like. or when i would send young people back from iraq that died under my command somehow you write those letters to try to sympathize. i lost a father, i lost a
3:48 am
father, so you think it is something like that. but it is nothing like that. and so as a person that has lost a child in combat and the strong one in all of this is my wife, karen, and my two kids. but when you lose one in combat, in my opinion, there is a pride that goes with it that he didn't have to be there doing what he was doing, he wanted to be there, he volunteered, generally speaking there is no encouragement in our society to serve the nation, but many, many people do in uniform in the military as well as police officers and cia and fbi. i think they are special people but they are doing what they wanted to do. and they were with who they wanted to be with when they lost their lives. but i can tell you it is the most -- caught me by surprise
3:49 am
the level of emotional impact and every day it continues. gold star families are special to say the least. they don't have for much. i get occasionally letters from gold star families asking was it worth it? and i go back with it doesn't matter. that is not your question to ask. that young person thought it was worth it and that is the only opinion that counts. they don't ask for anything as i say. i think the one thing they would ask is that the cause for which their son or daughter fell can be characterized to a successful end as opposed to this is getting too costly and too much of a pain in the ass and walk away from it. that is when they start thinking
3:50 am
about it might not have been worth it. >> following up on the narrative, you know, seeing what is going on right now does that give you pangs of frustration and anger for your wife, family and kids? i wanted to ask about gitmo. is there a general amount of time when a foreign government acknowledges they will accept a detainee and when they are actually transferretransferred? what is the general time frame? >> it is pretty quick. i cannot put a number on it. when i first got to the job there were not as many foreign delegations. they seem to be common now. i had no idea what these countries depict these guys. zero idea. none of my business. when they come, i think they are going through the motion.
3:51 am
i think they decided if there is a deal and they come to the western countries. we went to gitmo, met with the guy and he seemed honest and he would be willing to be a good boy. it is pretty quick. i think they come in and get the check. as they say, they always talk to at least the docs and to my senior guys to find out about behavior and all of that. the vast majority of them are very compliant.
3:52 am
they are all bad boys. some were more effective in being bad boys than others. i don't think we can quibble on 15, 12 or 8 years in detention is enough to pay for whatever they did. they are bad guys. they were senior guys. i was happy to see their year of restriction was extended and the administration fought hard for that in the receiving countries. i read the same stories and you are right about whether on the phone and doing their thing and i don't know about that. but these are senior guys.
3:53 am
they were just senior guys and kind of not very difficult to deal with. there is a few down there i would like to punt because there are a few. but the vast majority are working with us. i took the job it was 166 and i think it is reported one went to kuwait today, two yesterday, day before one to ghana. you know there is more coming this month. if they go back to the fight we will probably kill them. that is a good thing. i want to end with that. i should end with that. ...
3:54 am
i will probably not talked to another press corps again. it is a mission the president has given them. they do it honorably, decently. until that facility is closed, those men will be taken care of in exactly the way i've been told.