tv Hearing on Syria Before House Foreign Affairs Committee CSPAN October 24, 2019 2:30am-5:46am EDT
turned photojournalist in his book "dignity" about the plight of those living in the margins of society in america. because all of the semis were gone. it was the industrial part of hunts point. intelligenceher just kind of came right through. we spoke for about an hour, half an hour or so, she told me her just -- it iss like a cliché of everything wrong that can happen to somebody. eventually, i asked her what i what everybody, which is is one sentence -- how do you want me to describe you? somethinghot back, ofe, as what i am, a mother six, a prostitute, a child of god.
>> in the u.s. withdrawal from syria with james jeffrey, who serves as the state department special representative. he joined secretary of state matthew palmer and how the u.s. withdrawal could impact efforts to combat isis. >> committee will come to order. without objection all members will have five days to submit statements, material, and questions for the record. all members will have five days to submit statements, material, and questions for the record. there is subject to the length, limitation, and rules. we meet today to discuss president trump's decision to withdraw from northern syria clearing the way for turkey to attack kurdish partners. the decision i view as disastrous. to our witnesses, welcome to the foreign affairs committee, welcome to the members of the public and the press. welcome to our friends from
c-span who are broadcasting this important proceeding. i recognize myself for an opening statement. this committee has a long tradition of bipartisanship. we work on that every day. i think we are the most bipartisan committee in congress. the main reason is that members on both sides tend to share a vision of american foreign policy that is rooted in and guided by our values. supporting human rights and human dignity. leadershipt american can and should be a force of good in the world. we know that on the world stage our country thrives on the power of partnerships and alliances. limited in, we are what we can do to make foreign policy. andan advance legislation conduct oversight that we hope will push power in the right direction. , the toolsof the day
largely reside with the president. what we have seen is just devastating. president trump had a phone call with turkey's president erdogan who more closely resembles an autocrat. despite the administration, we that trump gave erdogan the green light to charge into northern syria. it is predicable for anyone who has paid attention. a brutal campaign of violence, our partners who courageously stood alongside us in the fight against isis. or the worst case scenario played out at stunning speed. , we handed them over to be slaughtered and ethnically cleansed from the region they have lived for generations with no warning and with no good reason.
how could the united states do something so senseless, disgraceful, contrary into our values? what message does that send to our other partners and allies? adversaries? to our brave men and women in uniform who served alongside the kurds? we have to address the humanitarian crisis this has created. already tens of thousands have been displaced. families, women, children. these are their stories of gruesome killings, and abuse. all set into motion by the president's horrific decision. this decision was a body blow to our national security. president trump has handed a isis, russia, -- and iran. territories and put thousands of isis fighters in prison. who ran those prisons?
our kurdish partners. now the kurds are fighting tooth nail to survive. the fate of those thousands of isis fighters is dangerously up in the air and more than 100 have already escaped. it is safe to say isis is celebrating president trump's foreign policy. he has handed them their biggest victory. they are not the only ones rejoicing. forces are now filling the vacuum left by america's withdrawal. russian backed forces triumphantly moving in, taking over our american bases is just disgraceful. it is embarrassing. putin knows this -- this. the president's to paper over this has only done more damage. the administration announced last thursday they had
a cease-fire with turkey. this is a pattern of president trump's presidency. really he is the arsonist who started the fire in the first place. i know mike pence worked hard on this. it was impossible to put out the fire. pause is thatthis turkey got everything it wanted and the arrangement ended yesterday with no real plans in the administration for what comes next. this is the worst example i have seen of what i call this administration's flyby the seat of your pants foreign policy. is minute the president shouting from the rooftops. the next he says he will destroy turkey. one day he is bringing our soldiers home. the next he is moving them to continue their mission. just over the syrian border in iraq. the next day he is saying some will stay in syria after all.
kurdish fighters who stood shoulder to shoulder with our personnel to protect the oil fields, it is all a mess. there is only one thing certain here, the president once again has created disaster. a stunning defeat for the united states. doingeve the president is serious damage to american leadership around the world. today we have to hear how the administration grapples with the consequences. what sort of signal to our friends take with this sort of foreign policy? what kind of message does it send to the world when the president cannot be trusted to act in the interest of the united states? how could america be trusted to keep his word. when we betray one of our close partners? how do we handle isis, iran, russia, now that they have been
handled a remarkable victory by the president of the united states? let me recognize our ranking member, mr. mccall of texas. mccall: the american led campaign to destroy the caliphate was a great military success in the ongoing war in terror. this achievement wouldn't be possible without the kurds any sacrifice of our partners on the ground including the kurds, arabs, and others. our military partnership with the syrian democratic forces is vital to our ongoing counter isis operations to fight isis' insurgency. that is why i have been so concerned about the possibility of withdrawing all u.s. troops from syria. i believe we need force in syria to continue counterterrorism operations so that we can
protect the homeland. i'm worried a full withdrawal will create space for isis to regroup. obama's from president reckless retreat from iraq the vacuums are exploited by america's worst enemies. we do not want to repeat the same mistake. we must learn from history. i believe our syrian partners deserve better. what kind of signal doesn't send to the international communities of the united states that we will turn our back on our allies who have suffered so much? we cannot achieve our goal if we undermine our credibility. i'm deeply concerned by turkey's decisions to begin military operations in syria. killed -- over 170,000 inple have been displaced two weeks. the only people who benefit from more violence and chaos are
america's adversaries, vladimir ,utin, bashar al-assad sponsoring dictatorship in iran and islamic extremist in the area as shown by the deal that erdogan struck yesterday with .utin we will have the opportunity to ask our witnesses questions about the administration's approach to these critical issues such as what are the implications of the past two weeks of the future of counter isis operations and the global coalition to defeat isis? fromill we prevent assad expanding his war to northeast syria? what are we doing to prevent turkey from forcibly displacing kurds and resettling syrian refugees along the border? andcan we prevent iran russia from exploiting the situation to their benefit? last week i was pleased to see a strong bipartisan majority
passed a resolution that i authored with chairman engel calling on turkey to end this operation. vice president pence and secretary pompeo were successful in brokering a temporary cease-fire. if turkey continues its destructive campaign we will quickly pass new bipartisan legislation that will bring hard-hitting sanctions against erdogan's government. i hope the cease-fire works. i look forward to ambassador at jefferies testimony. you will give us some insight within the administration as to what has taken place the last five days with the cease-fire. i want to thank you for being here right now. there will be a press conference at the white house in probably 35 minutes. manlieve you are the right for this job at a very
challenging time. thent to thank you for public service to this country. thank you.n: thank you, i will introduce our witnesses. he has held several senior national security positions including deputy national security advisor, ambassador to iraq, turkey, and albania. mr. matthew palmer currently serves as the deputy assistant secretary in the bureau of european and asian affairs with responsibility for turkey, the western balkans. directorusly was the of south central europe and has
served in belgrade, the u.s. mission to the united nations, and various positions in washington including the planning staff andy national security council. we also requested that the department of defense provide a witness given their role in syria and the jurisdiction over war powers. they failed to follow through. which is unacceptable. i don't intend to let it lie. we are not going to accept it. i want to thank the witnesses who have appeared here today. it will be made part of the record. i will recognize the witnesses to summarize their testimony. mr. jeffrey: i thank you very
much mr. chairman, it is an honor to be here today. agreeing withith the chairman that the turkish and kurds in syria is a tragedy. it was a long-standing u.s. government policy in two administrations to keep that from happening and we clearly were not successful. i would like to explain what we did when we were faced with this threat and what we have done. first i would like to turn to the larger situation that this is all embedded in. together therings three disruptive forces in the middle east. who as rankingr member mccall says is a threat to his own people more than a beneficiary to them.
with half the population having fled. thedeological state on march that has dug in syria. including israel. various islamic fundamentalist forces that have also grown up in the midst of this syrian civil war including isis, but there are others as well. policy has been to do three -- pursue three objectives . the enduring defeat of isis, secondly, other terrorist voices in syria. secondly to work with the community on this civil conflict aat would produce different kind of government than we have right now with
president assad. three, to see the removal of all a rainy and commanding forces from syria. they have no positive role whatsoever to play. in pursuing that policy, much of our attention has been in northeast syria, where we our very successful campaign against isis. friction fromwith neighborith important to the north, turkey. turkey was very suspicious of the alliance we had with the local, largely kurdish force. an offshoot of the pkk. the recognize terrorist group that has been trying to conduct against turkey. various other allies that are organized into what we call the syrian democratic forces.
it has been a great ally against isis. for turkey, this was a threat to their borders. our policy had been to find a turkey'srd to balance legitimate security concerns, our and the people of northeast syria's security concerns against isis, but also to keep turkey from going in. and our own interests in pursuing isis and finding a solution to the syrian conflict that would see the withdrawal of iran. turkey acted unwisely and against our advice. , it represents another phenomenon we run into elsewhere in the middle east.
that is powerful neighboring have different interpretations of their own security interest than we do. we provided enough security that turkey did not have to worry about its southern border in the northeast. turkey beginning with its leader, president erdogan and most of the population thought otherwise. that was tension we dealt with again over two administrations. after we actually worked an agreement with the turks to do joint patrols and other joint in a band that reached 30 kilometers deep. at that time, on the sixth of october, president erdogan in a call with president trump said
he was going forward with an offensive. president trump indicated later in that day in a press release that we have long known that turkey was preparing for this. they had troops in place for almost a year and had been threatening to do this. provided to turkey countless times including on the sixth of october. approve all, we did not of and would not in any way endorse such an operation. we would not provide any support of any sort of operation. counter we would act to such an operation and do so through diplomatic and other means such as the sanctions that were mentioned that were immediately slapped on turkey.
we would not oppose a turkish inclusion by military means. to use military force to deter turkey from going into the northeast. we had done patrols across the euphrates at one point because we were concerned about turkey coming in. we never communicated that we would stop them up from moving across the border. use the economic and other tools to persuade them that this would be a bad decision. at this point, what we are focusing on was trying to stop this with the cease-fire we ofotiated on the 17th october. we succeeded in getting forces to freeze in place. the called it a pause while from theorces withdrew
central portion of what we call a safe zone. essentially 130 kilometers wide and 30 kilometers deep in the middle of the northeast. forces lived up to that as did the ypg. last night the turks announced that they would make this pause permanent by ending their whole operation. meanwhile, turkey tried to find ways to penetrate other parts of the northeast. president erdogan yesterday went to sochi russia to talk with president putin. the turksd not allow to penetrate into the other areas. they agreed on a joint patrolling regime similar to to pullhad with the ypg
back supposedly. we have to see the details of that agreement. quiet othert is than some minor shooting and movements between the turkish and the ypg forces. we expect it to stay quiet. we expect it to urgently determine what our future policies are. we are considering options for our voices. deliberate in a withdrawal that will take some time. there looking at what options are for military and other support through the stf to continue the fight against isis and maintain stability in the northeast. no final decisions have been taken. i cannot tell you what the decision will be. simply what the basic parameters are.
in the various ways we are trying to achieve such a success. i will stop there. palmer.el: mr. mr. palmer: i do not have a formal opening statement but i look forward to answering any questions members of the committee may have. rep. engel: thank you very much. let me ask you this, according to media reports including fox news, president trump went off callt during the october 6 in which he was supposed to tell erdogan to stay north of the border. instead, the president capitulated and gave the green andt for turkey to invade announced the united states would withdraw troops ahead of a turkish operation. ,et me ask you first of all were you consulted ahead of the october 6 call?
could you push the button? mr. jeffrey: i was consulted almost daily by secretary of state pompeo. issue we discussed this on almost a daily basis with president trump. this is something we have been working on since the issue was raised publicly. of course, he had taken a decision to do so that we were slowly executing in december of 2018. in that sense, yes i was consulted. rep. engel: do you agree with the decision to abruptly withdraw the forces in syria following the call? is the duty of a commander in chief make such with the support or consultation of u.s. congress and the american people. it is not my job to decide
whether we should keep troops in a dangerous situation or not. my job is to explain what will happen if you do pull these troops out. the president was well aware with the troops being withdrawn we would have less ability to the with the sdf against evidence of -- remanence of isis. we had a situation we knew the russians ask for the and syrians to come in and they did so. we told the turks that would be a direct result if they came in. turkish support very dangerous and extremist opposition elements coming in. ae president had responsibility to keep his forces out of the way. consideration.r
i'm glad vice president pence was able to negotiate a cease-fire temporarily so that our turkish allies would get out of their territory with their lives intact. are we really aiding and bending -- aiding and abetting them by allowing them to do this? mr. jeffrey: we haven't seen any ethnic widespread cleansing since they have come in. incidentsen several that we consider war crimes that we have is part of the agreement with turkey. on monitoringage responsibility that we have work with the turks to show that doesn't happen in that area. rep. engel: as a result of turkey's actions over 176,000
syrian kurds have been displaced. again, it sounds like ethnic cleansing to me. mr. jeffrey: the numbers are correct. is area the turks came into mainly an arab area. we did not do a survey of who these people are. most of the people are ethnic arab, not ethnic kurdish. they withdrew on their own. could be the behavior on the incidence that we saw and the other incidents we may learn -- we sign no widespread effort to try to push people out of homes. will the u.s.w counter increase the assad
regime's control which are directly from the u.s. withdrawing? what is to present the turkish military from continuing to ethnically cleanse the northeast area kurds? mr. jeffrey: through diplomatic , the thing that provokes ,ll of this was the very unwise very tragic turkish insurgent into northeast syria. that provokes a series of events we are discussing today. movementtemmed that and we are going to work with the turks and the russians. we don't work with the syrian regime and our partners to continue the fight and do exactly what you said to maintain stability. with them inuccess
syria and had some failures with stabilizing areas. in testimony to the senate you confirm the state department is aware of dozens of detained isis fighters that escaped custody following the turkish incursion. yesterday the secretary stated to cnn that a bit more than 100 isis detainees have escaped. we know from previous briefings these isis detainees are among the most dangerous fighters in attacking the united states and our allies. how many isis detainees have escaped? do we have an idea where these individuals are? is the u.s. able to operate against isis given the withdrawal of u.s. forces? mr. jeffrey: as secretary esper said, we would say the number is over 100. we do not know where they are.
that theof the prisons sdf were guarding are still secured. the sdf has people there. we are monitoring that is best as we can. one of the top priorities is this prison -- these prisons. rep. engel: let me say in didlusion, i think what we is so catastrophic. it affects our ability to operate in that part of the world. it affects our ability to be effective in that part of the world. i always speak my mind on foreign policy. i don't care what administration it is or what party the administration comes from. like theparticularly iranian agreement and spoke out against it. ishink what happened here
catastrophic. absolutely catastrophic. the worst repercussions for this country for days, weeks, months to come. i'm just sick over it. i think that is why we have bipartisan resolution in congress condemning it. i have been here a long time. policy thatember has been as bad as this in my opinion. 90. i want to give you an opportunity to clarify what has been very confusing over what took place the last week or so. the chairman and i are in the white house with the president, secretary of defense and the joint chiefs of staff chairman. i know the president had a conversation with erdogan.
there has been this talk of green lights being given to allow the turks to come in and invade syria. the general told me it was his recommendation because the turks were threatening our soldiers and that they were in harm's way. could you perhaps add some clarity to how this decision was made and what actually happened? little hardit is a to do this without a map. rep. mccaul: we want to turn to that in a minute. this is more of a sequence of events in the turkish invasion. mr. jeffrey: to either turkey or to our partners that we would use american military force to
stop a turkish incursion into northeast syria. on a stephanopoulos show on sunday, former secretary of defense ashton carter said that explicitly. our commander at that time in the field, tony thomas, a little bit later made similar comments when he was pressed, he said we about athe kurds possible role that we wanted in a future democratic syria. of no commitment to protect them by military force. i haven't seen any indication were usingrks military force to protect them. most of the american forces in
euphrates along the south of that reservoir because that is where isis is and that is where most of the forces were fighting the remanence of isis. you have a small american force across the euphrates to the west and just to the east you had an american airbase essentially and a logistical and command and control. that is where many of the forces were. the areae no forces in that is kind of blue where the turks came in other than two outposts that were put there back in november of 2018. sideg into the turkish from syria with accusations that they wanted to return fire. put some observation post out to see who is firing who. we never told the turks those were our observations.
defense against turkey coming over, had about 12 people in each covering a perimeter. it was about 300 kilometers. that was a signal that we would stop the military. going toul: my time is expire and i have several other question. maybe you could clarify for the record the sequence of events and how the decision was made to withdraw. was no green light given to the turks. they were going to invade one way or the other. what i did express was i don't want to make the same mistake we did in iraq. promised that we were not going to withdraw from syria.
there would be a residual force homeland.tect the that still the case today? mr. jeffrey: we are working on options. i cannot commit to a final decision. keep our force in the blue area at the bottom of the syrian map. that decision has been taken. we did not take a decision one way or the other end a decision whether we would keep some the easternally in half of the yellow area is still under review. rep. mccaul: he said he will recommend where the oil fields are in the northeastern quadrant of syria, correct? mr. jeffrey: that is my understanding. these are recommendations. rep. mccaul: i hope the president takes that advice. who will fill the vacuum? is one reasonhat
why we are doing this review to see how we and our sdf forces, almost all of whom are intact, the fighting did not -- we think the casualties in the sdf were in the hundreds in the battle with the turks. they are still a force in being of many tens of thousands. at one point they were 100,000. rep. mccaul: i think the russians will fill the vacuum. is there any threat that turkey will dump 4 million refugees in this northern zone? mr. jeffrey: we never thought that was a realistic option. we told the turks that. rep. mccaul: there has been some discussion and you could clarify, 20 kilometers -- 30 kilometers into syria in the northern buffer zone.
thatis the final agreement was reached between proven and erdogan with respect to how large we are talking about. where you see the blue in the middle that is roughly where we have the agreement. the way to the euphrates and the iraqi border. and the areas to the west of the euphrates. a small area near aleppo. the agreement is that the russian military police would toort or find some way depart. in the case of the northeast they would pull back 30 kilometers -- 10 kilometers south of the turkish border.
there would be russian turkish patrol. rep. mccaul: it has gone from 30 kilometers to 10 kilometers? mr. jeffrey: having done patrols with the turks and seeing how difficult it is, the turks have no territory as part of this agreement. rep. mccaul: the prisons, who were securing them with 10,000 of the worst of the worst of isis? mr. jeffrey: the sdf is securing them. we are confident at this point that they are doing that. rep. mccaul: i yield back. rep. engel: thank you. before i call on our next member. , ambassadory jeffrey you have a very hard job in defending what defendable. discussedvoice my with what the president did and allowed to happen. forink that will affect us
years and decades to come. we will go down -- that will go down as one of the major american blunders in history. what we have done their is shameful. you.ank have a picture that was yesterday in the "washington post." i know you can't see it, it is trump, putin, erdogan. the president has his arm around him. i find this picture disgusting. hell-bentman who is on destroying democracy, destroying america, we always seem to given to him. that is going to
move in there. he is creating problems around the world. he is in the western hemisphere creating problems in venezuela. it is all to destroy democracy. i cannot for the life of me --erstand why this president it is like his best buddy. help.s not someone out to it is out to destroy us. in a communist country. guy who was in the kgb. he was going to put nuclear weapons 90 miles from the
country. when is this president going to wake up? when will he accept this guys not ever friend? i think he is playing him like a fiddle. this decision to abandon the kurds placed right up to him. iran and erdogan. maybe there is no cleansing going on right now. turkey ofistory in doing things, especially with the armenians. i am concerned that maybe not now. sooner or later he will start his cleansing. what are we going to do about it? no real way of stopping
them. you know it is more disgusting? i saw pictures yesterday, people throwing potatoes at law enforcement. someone who relishes this , it turns my stomach that armed forces who defended this country forever, defended democracy, we have people throwing potatoes. i don't know about this president. the military cannot be happy with this guy. i have a ton of questions, what are we going to do? down and figure out the policy from now on. it does not make any sense. one phone call and changes.
he doesn't take advice from the people. a casinocan't even run in new jersey, let alone a foreign policy. that is so important to this country. wen you say to me what are going to do? you are at it professional, you are a smart man. you are accredited credit to this country. you have a very hard job to do. i just don't believe that anything or any policies people put together will make any difference to this president. i'm very concerned about america. very, very concerned. people look up to us. world, no around the one is trusting us because of
decisions being made by the white house. ambassador, i feel you have a very difficult job. again, this picture turned my stomach when i saw. i apologize for the tirade. my instructions from secretary pompeo from day one and i have every reason to believe they were from president trump was to counter russia's effort in the syrian conflict to obtain a military victory for assad and his arabian henchmen. that is what my orders remain to do. people. to ask other i'm pretty occupied with that
one. a big part of my mission is to contain russia. >> back in 1981, tens of thousands of kurds traveled to the turkish border. they were blocked gaining entry with george herbert walker bush largely organizing that. it provided massive amounts of food, clothing, and shelter. they saved thousands, certainly hundreds from exposure and sickness. i travel with a group of members to the border back then. we just take away, the turks absolutely refused to help men, women, and innocent children. secondly, they were seething with animosity. most people i think know it as well.
i was struck by that animosity. it was seething. man shot him in cold blood the day after we left. they will seize it. had, i the questions i would like to ask about the use of a white phosphorus, a terrible chemical agent. when it is used for camouflage that is one thing, when it is ,sed to kill innocent people six people have inhaled it, the -- if so,d crescent this is a war crime. wanted to tell us about that. billnctions, we have a introduced by liz cheney that makes clear that we want sanctions.
one goes further and says early gown be sanctioned. executive order 13894, can you speak to that and how well that is being implemented? i would respectfully submit. i know the kurds and the christians fled for their lives from isis. they are very much concerned about an incursion that. if you could speak to this use of weapons. in isy, in both bills republican sponsored, i'm proud to be a sponsor as well. talk about denying military assistance to turkey, both bills do it. do you think that is a prudent act? we remember back in 74 when they went into cyprus.
i do hope section four, both bills have sanctions on providing any kind of military assistance. on the white phosphorus, we have seen one report of the use of it. white phosphorus is tricky because as you indicated it has military uses. you have to determine not what happened but what the intent was. sanctions that we imposed on three ministers and two ministries on the 14th thectober on the basis of executive order that was published that day for sanctions because of the incursion. we started implementing it immediately as part of the
agreement with turkey on the 17th of october. last thursday we agreed to not impose any new sanctions under that order. based upon the fact that the turks declared that their offensive is over as of last night. we are about to lift those sanctions. the sanction executive order remains in place. we can just as quickly as we did last time, impose new sanctions if we are not happy with the behavior of the turks or anybody else covered in that broad, powerful sanctions. in terms of congressional sanctions, there are a number of them out there. i saw how helpful they were in getting the turks to a cease-fire. i have to say we would want to look at these very differently.
concerned about very important military relations. , we see sanctions as incentives to change behavior. involves themaking executive branch with such sanctions. it is very hard to get these things lifted. we have the worst of two worlds. withe punishing people places that we want to work with. here.nk you for being thank you for your service. were you on the october 6 call? mr. jeffrey: i was not. mr. palmer: no sir. >> do you have a list of who was on the call? mr. jeffrey: i do not. >> can you get that list? mr. jeffrey: it is a general rule we do not publish she was
on the list of people. >> i understand. is it possible to get a transcript of that call? mr. jeffrey: that you would have to ask the white house. >> we have asked. there is a request. is there any reason not to provide that? mr. jeffrey: executive privilege covers that. >> i understand as a general rule. i hope you understand why we think it is so important. ambassador jeffrey you stated in may that it is pursuing strategic objectives the defeat of isis, the removal of a rainy and forces from syria, and the resolution of the crisis through political solutions. rapid removal of u.s. troops in northeastern syria make a revival of isis more or less likely? troops were those sent -- >> i'm just asking, does it make
it more or less likely that isis will be reconstituted. mr. jeffrey: it was u.s. government policy. >> do you think it is more or less likely that isis will reconstitute? mr. jeffrey: if those troops are withdrawn fully, an important tool we had to keep isis under control will be gone. >> that would make it more likely. expelling ine and a rainy and influence more or less likely? mr. jeffrey: that is a tougher one. that was not the mission. >> i understand. you're in charge of syrian policy. in syriat iran poses is a vital interest to me in this committee. mr. jeffrey: i will stick with to troops were there legislate and beat isis. challenge to prevent
iran from establishing greater influence? mr. jeffrey: it is a challenge to maintaining stability in the pushesst which in turn syria in a good direction. >> does the removal diminish or strengthen our ability to shape the resolution of a conflict? mr. jeffrey: the troops were not the primary tool. >> i understand. i have great appreciation for all you do. i am asking about this decision and whether the decision to remove the troops, to turn our back on the kurds, everything we have discussed already, doesn't diminish or strengthen our ability to shape a political solution? mr. jeffrey: i will focus on the troops withdraw and what we might do including the withdrawal was mainly focused on the isis issues. we can find other ways.
beauty --lomatic and strong is just a today as it was before we removed our troops? yesterday you told the relations committee that the president did not consult you, his point person on syria before this decision. when was the last time you brief the president on syria? mr. jeffrey: i have not brief the president, nor would i be expected to be, i work for mike pompeo. >> when was the last time you brief secretary pompeo? mr. jeffrey: almost daily for the last 14 months. >> including october 5 or sixth? mr. jeffrey: i'm almost certain that between the fourth and the sixth i had one conversation with them. >> was he consulted before the president made his decision? to jeffrey: you would have
ask secretary pompeo that specific question. what i can say is secretary pompeo has been consulted very frequently, almost daily by the president. i appreciate it. before we wrap up, i want to flag a few things that you said today. betweenhe contrast seeing it as a success that putin would not allow them to go into other areas. , turkey acted unwisely and acted against our advice. it was our advice that they not do what they did. that throughout this entire presidency in syria, all we were doing is advising in the moment. ourever intended to use
troops to defend the kurds. a phonent erdogan made call to president trump and said i'm going in, this was always the inevitable result. mr. jeffrey: i knew i was going to get in trouble when i said putin would not allow. he has certain diplomatic and economic -- >> leave putin out, was this inevitable? defend never going to the kurds. was it simply inevitable that eventually this was going to be the result of our policy? mr. jeffrey: not at all. quite the contrary. the president had very powerful tools to be used both as turkey.es with including the $100 billion trade package. the visit to the united states.
these were all raised in the october 6 call. ultimately, if we had all these tools the president either failed to utilize them or he simply rolled over for erdogan, is that right? mr. jeffrey: the turkish ,overnment made a terribly bad very dangerous decision. >> that resulted in not butspread ethnic cleansing, at least apparently some ethnic cleansing. there was a reference to war crimes. takingsideration of turkey to the hay if war crimes had been committed. mr. jeffrey: we are looking into those allegations. we have a set of packages. levels sent high demanding explanations.
you're absolutely right. the one reason we tried so hard to stop the turks was we knew it could lead to all of the things you mentioned and more. chairman, i mr. have the utmost respect for you and my colleagues on the others. isind a level of hypocrisy nowhere close to bipartisanship. what i see is you don't like president trump, his policies, i hear that coming out. said throughmp you his actions created humanitarian crisis. that is terrible. there has been a civil war going on over there for over eight years. in hundred thousand people have died. the largest exodus of people on the planet since world war ii. i will yield if i can reclaim my time. more than willing
to engage in a discussion about whether his action to withdraw our troops turning its back on the kurds has created a humanitarian crisis. i reclaim my time and i've happen to do that. i think we should do a special order on this. to say president trump has caused this i think is erroneous. you were saying that the picture of putin, trump, and early was terrible, you feel that way about this picture with president obama and raul castro? >> may i answer you? it. don't hear >> you're on the committee with me. >> i'm reclaiming my time. .mbassador jeffries beentated that turkey had staged for approximately a year,
is that true? mr. jeffrey: had what in the northeast? >> they had been staged. mr. jeffrey: along the border they had threatened to go in if they could not get certain concessions that we would not make. to deal with what they saw as an existential problem of 100,000 people and what they thought was pkk. you because you look lonely. how many trips did they have? i apologize but i cannot give you a hard number. mr. jeffrey: i think it was 25,000. at this point they had the numbers fluctuating between the fall of 2018. >> how many trips to
the u.s. have in that area when turkey was going into do what they did here? >> again, i will get to the answer. >> wasn't 1000? >> it was less than 30. this is not even apples and oranges. it's kind of apples -- i don't rye. -- dry when we talk about withdrawals and all this discussion, we are talking about two, very specific on a recommendation on those tiny outposts. then there was the overall withdrawal of everybody which was the second decision taken some time later. >> i just want to get this in perspective. this was not a massive troop withdrawal in the area. there are 2000 troops that will be removed later on, correct? have to bee kurds
protected in some form. how long have we talked about creating a safe zone in syria and turkey? >> we've had conversations on doing something like that since the obama administration. >> right. i've been here seven years and we've talked about a free safe that they are protected. is that what is happening between russia and erdogan now? they are talking about a safe zone in that area? >> i have to be cynical about this agreement -- >> i'm real cynical about it, but if they can accomplish that, is not that what we are trying to do? >> they are not going to accomplish anything good with that. like goes to the underlying problem. there is not a good solution trying tou have assad fight the isis rebels, doing genocide over there. then you have turkey trying to get aside out for their reasons.
you have russia propping up assad for their reasons and they will work with turkey that wants to get rid of assad, and you have iran for their reasons working against us. i think any way that we can get out of there with protection to the kurds and give them as much support, but god help them and the other people because we have to look at the genesis of how we got into syria and why we got into syria, and it was the rapid withdrawal of massive amounts of troops coming out of afghanistan and iraq that created the void that isis build and then the no-fly zones in libya that took defense that allowed isis to have training camps and recruitment camps that went into syria that allowed them to get to where they are at, so we are dealing with the aftermath of poor foreign policy. we need to get the hell after there as quick as we can and let russia own it. they did such a great job in afghanistan, let them do it again, and the americans need to come back and we need to focus on the western hemisphere and
other things. i rest my time. >> thank you. mr. better. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i think my colleague did articulate a little bit of how i think president trump is looking at this foreign policy and looking at u.s. engagement in the middle east. that thehave to guess president has wanted to get out of syria for a while. he campaigned on it. last december, i happened to be in the region, met with our commanders in the field, met with our special envoy at that , returned back home, and the following week, the president issued his famous tweet now that said we are getting out of syria. nobody seemed to know that was coming. nobody in the field. special envoy certainly did not because he rooted in an op-ed.
there were some moderating forces that were able to slow the president down and walk that back and try to think about it strategically. while i was shocked by the decision a few weeks ago, i was not surprised. we are going to change our foreign policy approach to the middle east and the region, we ought to have a concrete discussion that involves this body. the fact that, you know, we took a big vote last week and the majority of republicans expressed their displeasure with the decision, suggesting that this body, both the house and senate, are not in favor -- i do not disagree that the president has the ability to set out and change foreign policy, but there do iteal danger if we rapidly and then if a new administration comes in and tries to reverse it. we ought to have a real, honest conversation about how we approach this region.
the reality is what has happened in the last couple of weeks has strengthened assad. if our policy as we are not going to do business with assad, we are not going to support a syrian solution that includes assad, we just went in the wrong direction. russia as ank of adversary and do not want to see influence and control in the middle east to russia, we just went in the opposite direction. our foreign policy this region is changing. when the president says it's not or 9000e, that is 7000 miles away, the reality is yeah, they are fighting over there and committing atrocities over there, but they are also very effective in the use of propaganda, very effective in the use of identifying individuals in europe, individuals in the united states, building a relationship
with those folks online and creating homegrown terrorism. that and wented backwards on our ability there. we have to have an honest conversation about what our .ong-term strategy is this is a long-term issue, and i syrian expert or ambassador -- and i think you would probably agree with this solution. not an easy ifld you disagree with me -- we are rethinking foreign policy, the middle east and administration not to have this conversation with congress and we ought to all get on the same page.
>> absolutely. given its impact on our own security from world energy supplies, which still impact us, despite our energy situation through the threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction forces, and we cannot do our job without the the legal basis, and other authorities. before this here committee three times in a little over six months. we do believe in this. obviously, as i said, we did not want this to happen. this has been a significant setback, and that is obvious and clear and how we put out the .xecutive order it is clear how this event came about, what we did right, what we did wrong. that's what i'm trying to do
today. what i want to underline, though, is two things. whatever else we may have done or not done, he did not give a green light to this operation and secondly, on this one issue, u.s. policy in syria and u.s. forces and if they should be in syria or not, there was almost obsessive reviews, consultations , and discussions at every level of the u.s. government. it was not something that was -- certainly,ty it was part of my discussions appear to three times. >> congress and the administration can be on the same page so that when we are projecting to the rest of the world what our foreign policy objectives in that region are, we are all speaking from the same page. >> i understand, sir. >> thank you. let me express my frustration
again that congress was not part of that discussion. mr. ken's air? -- mr.cleansing or kensinger. >> i don't envy her sitting in that chair right now, but i appreciate your willingness to do it. i think this absolutely was a green light. maybe the phone call did not say yeah, go do it. it was a proverbial green light, if we want to parse words. the leader of european nato country told me turkey may have attacked 100 of my troops there, but he said they never would americancked 24, 25 troops backed by american airpower and american security, and we all know that's true. i don't think anybody really would think that had the president put a hard line down that they would have attacked. this is a moral question to me. a couple of points i want to make, than i do have a couple of
quick questions. the idea of being told over and over to us, like when your grandma tells you you're tired and need a nap, eventually you feel tired and need a nap -- that is what is happening in the political discussion. this country is not forfeiting. forfeiting came after world war ii when we should have or could have let your and lifted to those people 5000 miles away, and instead we made a commitment after entire towns of young men were lost in world war ii to stay and stand for american values. the military's job is not to be protected only. the military's job, when people say we want to protect the military as the chief goal, the military's job is to do what 99.9% of americans do not want to or should never be asked to do. these are young men and women that voluntarily sign up to do the dirty work of american security to make sure that americans are not hurt, so using military troops as the excuse to
reinvigorate isis -- and the president did not intentionally reinvigorate isis, i want to be clear, but that is not the end goal. we have the luxury now in this country of not thinking about terrorism because we have not been attacked on our soil in a big way in 19 years. that's not because the intentions of the terrorists changed. it's because we have destroyed their ability to do it. we hear the forever war caucus that uses cheap slogans and sayings, come out and say things like forever war. by the way, this is the exact model they advocated for so we did not have to put 150,000 troops in syria, but the forever war caucus forgets that it's not their choice. the terrorists that decided to commit a forever war against us, and we can do that in spurts every time we get hit, 20 years later, we pull back and get hit again, or we can stay on the offense, which is my preference. i think this was a major
mistake. mr. ambassador, i totally respect you are doing your job defending this, but i do have a couple of very quick questions on this. specifically, our visibility on isis after the pullout -- did we lose or gain visibility on the location of isis and their objectives after this? >> again, the pullout has just begun, and the troops that we pulled out -- you saw the convoys and such -- were not the folks in the field advising, assisting, and accompanying. out controlling two indications, you lose certain things, but i want to underline today we have certain people out there with the sdf pursuing isis. secondly, is this a moral victory to isis? i guess if you are a recruiter to isis and you say the caliphate was defeated, but now we are going to be reinvigorated, this is exactly what was foretold, we would go
through tough times, but we are going to invigorate now, do you think our pulling out helped in recruiting members? >> isis is pitching this as a victory for them. >> is it true -- let me ask this -- did turkey threaten to attack even if we did not withdraw our troops? maybe you don't know. >> i do. some of it i cannot say here, but everything i know including the things i cannot say here is absolutely consistent with what i'm telling you and from the open sources, there was never a consideration in the turkish decision chain about u.s. forces being in the way or anything feltbecause they never they were being blocked by u.s. forces. >> i would take that as a threat. that first off is a nato ally. as we talk about sanctions and discussions about maybe we should not do it, nato basically threatened to overrun u.s. position. that did not change with a
cease-fire. i look at that and i'm like, that is interesting to me. it is interesting when we look at what a nato ally did as we talk about they have a cease-fire with russia now, not with us, maybe we could have negotiated something but probably this was bad enough that we never would be party to it. it is an interesting thing to keep in mind as we deal with what to do. we are in a tough position now. a lot of tough decisions. i could not even give you an answer i think is right right now and where to go forward, but i think as this body decides what to do in terms of future behavior, i think taking a strong stand and saying the united states will not be pushed over without consequences is important. to both of you, again, deeply respect you being here in your hard work. i know you have put a lot more time into this than i could ever imagine doing myself, so god bless you and thank you for your service. i yelled back. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you both for your testimonies.
mr. jeffries, ambassador jeffries, could you shed light, a little bit more detail on how thec or how conflicted is historical relationship between turkey and the kurds? >> i could, but technically, my colleague, mr. palmer, is responsible for turkish things, and he is dying to answer this question. >> ok. >> thank you, congressman. there has been a long-standing confrontation between turkey and last fourer the decades. there has -- there been as many turkey00 casualties in of turkish civilians, turkish police, turkish military as a function of that conflict with the pkk, which turkey considers an existential threat. the pkk is not the same thing as the kurds. there is a very large kurdish community in turkey, much of
which is very well integrated into turkish society, considers themselves turkish citizens. >> with the turkish military clearly has a great military advantage over the kurds? >> congressman, i am not .ntirely certain what you mean is a nato turkey member, has a significant military and significant military capabilities. >> given this historical conflict between the kurds and fact that turkish military has this clear advantage, it is safe to say forces on the border aren't clear and imminent danger if they were to stay there and face a turkish incursion or military action? >> congressman, i think there's
sensible reasons why the sdf has chosen to withdraw. obviouslysence there contributed to providing some level of safety and security for those minority groups that are at a clear military disadvantage, correct? congressman, i think ambassador jeffries' testimony was quite clear on the point that there was never any commitment that was made on the part of u.s. military or u.s. haveian the leadership to u.s. military in place in syria to defend the sdf ypg from turkey. >> but our presence there, since a message to the turkish a message to sends the turkish government that that is a troubled region of the world and we want some level of peace and coherency, correct? >> we have an ongoing conversation with turkey and turkish authorities about the
issue of northeast syria. our issues in the region and concerns about turkish aspiration. at,ou are not off the hook ambassador. what is your opinion, either of you, of the potential for what many have described as either ethnic cleansing, maybe even genocide in the area? syria? >> in the conflict region. >> in that region in particular, you are always facing the possibility of something that approaches ethnic cleansing to borders shaped so only your people are in those kinds of borders. this is something we have faced in many conflicts. >> so the u.s. pullout has basically created a vacuum of leadership and has allowed for the russians and syrians to have an upper hand in that region.
is that your sins? >> they were not in that region three weeks ago. they are in the region now because the turks came in, and the sdf, our partner, seeing the turks coming in, decided that they would form essentially an alliance with the russians and syrians to see what kind of deal they could get from them. >> my final question. y are stillk that the in peril, still in danger? we have not projected what will happen to them in the future. >> one of the complications i have had to deal with since taking this job and had to deal with it as a foreign policy writer when i was outside of government was we never did have a long-term answer to that other thata political process
they and everybody else in syria would become part of. that is we did not have an agenda. we neither said we would protect you militarily, nor did we say we will endorse your particular vision, which as they told us, was an autonomous region in the area we have seen on the map that was yellow up there a little earlier. we did not take a position as a not take a position as a government on -- well, we took a position not to provide military force to support them against the turks. we did not take a position on the long-term solution to their political issues within syria or syria as a whole other than it has to be a democratic process run by the syrian people, which human --- which is the which is the united nations resolution that is relevant. >> i am along with many of my colleagues deeply grieved by turkey's outrageous offensive in
northeast syria. i remain worried about the consequences and long-term effect turkey's actions will have on our national security and kurdish allies who made immense sacrifices to defeat the islamic state. our top priorities must be to contain isis so terrorists cannot regroup, to prevent a genocide of the kurds, and conduct a safe repositioning to ensure stability in the region. be inot our troops to syria indefinitely, but we must act wisely. consult with diplomats and certainly defense officials and ensure we are not creating a bigger mess for ourselves and others in the region in the future. ambassador jeffries, turkey wants to clear kurdish people's protection units or ypg fighters from a swath of land nearly supposedly 20 miles deep and 270
miles long. ypg leads the pro-democracy syrian democratic forces, the sdf, which have been the heart of the fight against syria's brutal dictator. evacuation of kurdish forces from turkey's so-called safe zone affect the sdf, and is the u.s. continuing to cooperate with sdf forces, and in what capacity? >> first of all, the sdf generally was not fighting the assad regime but rather was focused on fighting -- -- fighting daesh. at time, there were engagements or firefights, but that was not their primary responsibility. in terms of the withdrawal from the zone, there has been for a good number of years no real strong isis presence in that area. according to the russian-turkish agreement, the ypg is also to be
withdrawn. i have big questions as to if that will happen, but if it did, i would be worried because there are some isis elements there. are of the isis elements south of that reservoir. the euphrates down to the iraqi border. sdf has most the of its forces and where we still have our own people. as i said, we are executing a deliberate and strong withdrawal, but we are doing this in a way that allows us to consider if we should keep some troops on. >> the cooperation is still ongoing? >> the cooperation is still ongoing as we work our way through what the longer-term situation will be. >> i know you touched on this a bit with previous question is, but hours before the u.s.-brokered cease-fire expired, we know now turkish president erdogan held talks with vladimir putin. what do we know about the
content and outcome of the talks , and how are we engaging with turkey to prevent russia from increasing and improving its long-term operating ability in syria? forhe agreement calls russian military police and syrian to move into those areas along the strip you describe to the east and west of where we worked the cease-fire deal with , to supposedlykm negotiate a withdrawal of the ypg, not a military action, but a withdrawal of the ypg, and then to allow joint turkish russian patrols 10 km deep. this is somewhat similar to what we negotiated with the turks back in august, that they then
theyally reneged on when launch their offensive. frankly, our deal was a better deal for the turks and the russian one is, so i'm very cynical or skeptical about what the turks are going to get out of this deal. this we do believe that agreement, so to speak, has done 'sre to increase russia long-term ability to operate in syria. would that be a fair assessment? >> anything that allows russian forces or assad to move into other areas is a problem for us in trying to find a decent and democratic solution to the overall syrian crisis. >> thank you. thank you both for your service, and ideal act. i yelled back. >> thank you. ms. wilde. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
gentlemen, i am so deeply distressed about the situation, first and foremost for our allies, the kurds, and for the syrian people, but equally so for our troops who have essentially had to endure the humiliation of abandoning their friends and comrades and then being pelted with rocks and .ottles as they left it literally makes me cry to imagine. my family has a long history of military service. my father was a career air force pilot. i lost an uncle in vietnam. multiple other family members have served, and just the thought of those troops who have served this country being put in saidposition of what, as i , is literally humiliation. it is just so wrong, and i do put this squarely at the feet of the administration in terms of its actions. i want to ask you this,
ambassador jeffrey. notedr testimony, you that president trump told president erdogan that u.s. armed forces would not support or be involved in a turkish operation in northern syria and that the united states does not endorse such actions, but then we would not put u.s. forces in harm's way. is there any reason to think that if the united states had maintained its military presence in syria, if we had not abruptly withdrawn forces from the region, that turkey would still to launchemboldened military operations there? >> that's a very good question because it allows me to, this from a different direction. the turkish troops crossed over the border before the president went public with the withdrawal of all our forces from northeast syria. that was something that he was in the process of thinking through. he had been in the process of thinking through that since spring of 2018, and that
precipitated the withdrawal. the turks did not face going across on either the withdrawal -- did not base the withdrawal or the decision to withdraw forces from all of northeast syria, almost all of whom were nowhere near where the turks were. in fact, what we did in response to your colleague's question was we gave the turks the coordinates of where our forces were, and the turks carefully avoided -- >> right. i'm going to reclaim my time because that leads me to this question -- if it was an ongoing process the administration was so aware of, why, then, did our closest allies not get consulted about this decision? alarmingly, president macron of france has publicly said he found out about the decision on twitter, and the u.k. government reportedly was not consulted about the decision, either. my question to you is if we
don't consult our closest allies on decisions that directly affect their troops as well, how do we expect them to trust us in the future? >> it's a good point. it's basic diplomatic hygiene to consult with allies. we did not do that in this case. frankly, this is not the only case and not with this administration, but in every administration i have been with. it is something our allies criticized us for fairly frequent and, and it's not a good. >> were there any foreign at all? >> absolutely. you put your finger on it when you use the word process. it is not only ok, it is necessary on something like this to look at whether it was a good thing.
this is something that had been one of the major debates within the administration that the president had talked about at various levels. including replacing american troops with coalition troops from france and other places. at least advising them an advance so they don't learn about it on twitter. that is bad for diplomatic relationships. >> i just conceded that .2 minutes ago. >> all the more reason if they had been involved in an ongoing
>> the betrayal is to send our troops off with marching orders but no final destination. thatve them a mission never reaches mission accomplished. i will ask this question rhetorically. but more specifically in a little bit. bodywas the last time this offered that? that is one of the lanes of this committee. when is the last time this body went out there and undertook those actions? and expressed a sense of support for an independent kurdish
state? that is something i wholeheartedly support. when is the last time this body or your staff went to work to actually write that? even though it may not have gone through. the did this body offered left and right limits to what our engagement should be in syria? when did we go out and do this? here has gone out and mf insed some sort of au turkey should someone of our soldiers be attacked from someone from turkey. when did that occur? outlining that authority? not just to provide assistance or counter isis. my point here in all of this is this. if you want to support action in
make your case for what you want to see. take the time to do what is in our lane. have the stones to outline when we reach mission accomplished. if you are worried about the ,ignals that might be spent send a clear signal from congress about what it is we authorize. not just through state but specifically militarily. will this body, as some people
, workxpressed support for aumf.ward an >> i think congress has been .egligent the aumf is now being used as a catchall to allow any administration to do what they want. it is something they need to put by the wayside. quite frankly, you know as well as i do, it is very difficult to get consensus to find that middle.
to ask it again. will we in this committee work to authorize an aumf. knifee with you, that cuts both ways. >> if you would like to work with us, i would like to delight to work with you. >> 100%. >> i would like to chime in on these comments. obviously his patriotism is demonstrated to us every day. we taked an aumf that was for .oing against al qaeda+ is an offshoot of al qaeda. i would not vote for an aumf
saying america should go to war with turkey over the control of the 30 kilometers trip in syria. president came to this country and said we were voluntarily withdrawing. that was his philosophical believe. what may have actually happened is the turks threatened us with war and we blinked. rather than tell the american people the truth, which is as powerful as we are, we are not going to go to war against land, for this strip of as loyal as we are to the kurds we are not that loyal. iftead he packages it as this is some great machismo exercise and withdrawal. on october 11, 20 19, turkey launched multiple artillery the u.s. space in syria, effectively bracketing the base.
troops there, our with turkey have been willing to kill them to achieve its goals? >> absolutely not. turkey never thought -- again, ,he trips we are talking about it was an outpost along the border. they never thought they were a threat. they never thought they had to get the americans to withdraw. all they wanted to do was know the grid coordinates for those in any others. >> if we had left our troops there, turkey would have gotten the kurds outcome of they just would've bypassed our forces? >> absolutely. >> so turkey would achieve its objectives.
we might get called upon to fix it. >> that is one condition for us providing any stabilization assistance. >> i came here 23 years ago. one thing i thought was morally incumbent upon congress was to recognize the first genocide of the 20th century, the armenian genocide. but we were told turkey is a great ally of the united states. don't put that at risk. how is that working out for us? thank you for that question. america dishonoring of
and the undercutting of our reputation for speaking the truth, was that worth it? help, get some great alliance, love, or loyalty from erdogan. >> that was never the calculation. >> that was one of the great crimes of the 20th century. that is not in dispute. when we look at the relationship with turkey, i'm reluctant to attach the word great to that relationship. but it certainly is consequential.
>> in context to the question you asked, i'm wondering how much has changed between turkey and the european union. they went on record of recognizing the armenian genocide. it is fraught and complicated. >> and so is ours. >> that is correct. >> ok. french exports to turkey tripled despite the one ra said franceka would face was that diminution of those exports. we have dishonored ourselves in front of a paper tiger that the french had the courage to
peshmerga and how they act as a divide? >> i have worked with their political leadership since the late 1990's. we have the utmost respect for them. peace.ve found their economy is in pretty good shape. they took in hundreds of thousands of refugees from isis and treated them well. they have a good relationship with turkey. part of a constituent the iraqi body politic. they were able to defend themselves without help. >> the president just held a press conference and announced
permanent cease-fire and the end of sanctions. even in the press conference he admitted permanent is a strong word to use. i want to to comment on the confidence you have in ending sanctions. and in a permanent cease-fire. >> i am chuckling about the word permanent. we looked at this statement and said, it is ok. it was not in the agreement with the turks. describe the way they presented to stop the operation. it is as permanent as anything else. we differentiate that between the five day pause. we are using all of these words because that is what you have to do in the primacy -- diplomacy.
order,s of the executive we have lifted those sanctions that were imposed on the 17th of october. but the executive order that was passed that they remains in effect. it is aimed at anybody who challenges the piece, stability, security of the territorial integrity of syria. or the political process to try to find an outcome. that is a very powerful administration tool. is ready totration use it again. we are happy we have it. i want to say again how much i hold the people in high regard. it's important to me as a
veteran. many of us are determined to supporting them. >> thank you for your public service. meant tohat i say are impugn you. i know you're trying to do the best given donald trump's disastrous decision in syria. i don't oppose withdrawing troops. i oppose how it was done. no planning or coordination. set isis terrorists were free. it has emboldened iran and russia.
tweeted that he did this to bring our great soldiers and military home. our troops in syria did not come home. the exit went to northern iraq. >> that is still under consideration. the ones who came out by road obviously went to western iraq. there was nowhere else to go. some of them will stay in iraq. some of them will come home. some might also stay in syria, isn't that correct? >> we will have some great soldiers remaining to the south. that is very fortunate for my standpoint. at theare reviewing
highest levels of the government exactly how we are going to do this. if there is going to be any residual force. last time when the president announced a withdrawal in september of 2018, in february he said he would still keep a residual force. that discussion is back-and-forth. an actively debated issue right now. ofwe were given images russian forces taking over at least one u.s. military facility. >> that is true. >> it was also reported that the had to prevent a weapons depot from getting into enemy hands. >> that is true. >> those incidents are an embarrassment to the united states. i never thought that would happen.
i would like to talk a little the president's of interest in turkey. forve an article to submit the record from the daily beast. donald trump's huge conflict of interest in turkey. if we could put that in the record. >> without objection. >> do you know if donald trump's business interests and turkey were a factor in his decision? syria?draw troops from >> i am sure that was not out of the decision. >> how do you know? >> i am basically sure as far as i can say. >> what basis do you have? >> on the basis of being involved with his top advisers
on all of the pros and cons of this question of keeping troops on. >> you weren't on the phone call with the president of turkey, where you? >> no i was not. >> you don't know what was said. >> i have a pretty good idea. >> you don't note the presidents mind. you have no way of knowing if business interests were a factor. official, irnment can explain to you as best i can. >> did any business interests factor into the president's decision to have the g7 at his resort? >> i cannot say anything about any business decision ever coming up. i've never heard of one. not even the slightest rumor of one. >> but you don't know. were you informed of this decision?
before the phone call? you were surprise, weren't you? >> we were informed and consulted on the presidents weighing of the options to withdraw forces almost daily for 18 months. >> that me just say this. it should never happen that the american people and members of congress even have to ask that question. you have no way of knowing. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you all for being here. sir, how do we ensure the situation on the border of northeast syria and turkey is not abused by iran to expand its presence in the country and solidify a wedge? >> that is one of our concerns.
it is one reason the president decided to keep u.s. forces on the ground. that is the reason they are there, to continue the operations against isis. mainso sits astride the east-west road between tehran and beirut. are working very closely with the turks on this cease-fire that has just been announced by the white house. ago.gotiated six days while we don't deal with the regime, we do deal with the russians. sometimes successfully, sometimes not. we have a very extensive military and deconfliction. and political exchange on syrian
issues. we have every intention if things work out to continue our relationship with the sdf. >> when you look at everything turkey has been up to recently, purchasing weapons from russia, evade sanctions and firing on her troops, can we even trust and rely on them as an ally? the relationship between the u.s. and turkey is complicated and multidimensional. we are going through a particularly difficult patch right now. we have identified some of the key challenges in that relationship. our goal is to work on that problem and come out the other side in a position that is stronger and more stable, more productive and positive than it is currently. we are committed to working through all of those issues and building over time to strengthen
and improve the quality of the relationship. troops in our u.s. northeast syria, does anyone have the capacity to make sure that isis does not resurface? >> again, as i tried to say earlier, i cannot convince this body or anybody that we had troops there for no reason. we obviously had troops there for a mission, defeating isis. if you remove those troops were for that mission is complete, then you have a problem. we do have a problem. right now, we are working our way through it. we are looking at various options. what kind of military coalition? how we can do this by other means. it would be nonsensical for me to tell you that it makes no
difference whether we had troops there when we have had troops there three weeks ago risking their lives to carry out a mission. of course, by taking those troops out before that mission is completely and decisively done means that we have to deal with the consequences of that. we are doing that right now. >> thank you. >> i have to start by saying i share my colleagues grave concerns. break, discussed, heart over our country's recent actions. the world notices how we treat our allies. i believe we have compromised our ability to affect our foreign policy over the years to come because of it. we have heard from a lot of people in my district. a lot of warriors.
one of them said at the core of this issue is american values. trust, commitment, sanctity of human life, human dignity. willke commitments that we prevent harm. we should keep those commitments. this is an example that will be used at west point and war colleges. an example of how not to conduct ethical and strategic decision-making. mind, in your opening remarks and your ourimony, you shared strategy toward syria. what you shared in your testimony is congruent with the actions of president trump in recent weeks? >> considering the fact that president trump a few minutes ago announced that we would be keeping some troops on in northeast syria, it is a bit congruent now.
>> so it was incongruent until a few minutes ago? >> i said it is even more congruent. >> mr. palmer, how do you feel? congruent or incongruent. >> i will go with congruent. >> interesting. do you believe our country is better off now than we were three weeks ago? i don't want to leave the impression here as a representative of the administration that we did not think that turkey coming across the border was anything other tragic disaster for the situation in northeast syria. that is why this administration, beginning with the president, immediately wrote a letter to on adent erdogan passing
request for a cease-fire and political talks. that is why the president then had a discussion with president erdogan that i delivered. the viceatched president, the national security advisor, and the secretary of state to demand a cease-fire. along with very strong sanctions that we immediately rolled out after the incursion began. this was a bad thing. we took very energetic efforts to try to contain it. with all due respect, i concur it was a disaster. it is hard to say it was an unanticipated disaster. would you say so? >> it was always planned. the turks always had that option.
we did not have a military option. we took the decision not to have a military option. i absolutely think that was the correct decision. but we did have a policy decision to use every means short of the military to deter the turks, convince them not to come in. we thought we had succeeded. we had done a deal with them. we had joint patrols, joint aviation missions. we know that met their security concerns. they then took a decision to come in on their own. >> you are testifying that we used every tool in our toolbox to the best of our abilities to prevent what we are seeing right now? >> everyone but military. we did not succeed. >> my last question is relative to turkey. both of your perspectives on what you believe their long-term strategy is in the region. ensureyria, it is to
pressure on the assad regime. askey sees the assad regime a threat to them. and to deter iran operating in the south of turkey. these are all congruent with our interests. >> their goals are to play a leadership role in the region. >> i want to thank the chairman and the ranking member for holding this meeting. thank you for your distinguished service.
i want to ask you through each of these, beginning with the their has furthered strategic national security interests for us? >> it is an honor to serve my country. this administration. overall it is doing its very best to secure america. the one that has hit the hardest by what has happened is the defeat of isis. that was the purpose of our forces the minorities.
the president has been thanked for his tireless efforts to stop the brutal turkish attack. he discussed a willingness to keep working with us. we have a complex situation. it was pretty easy for. we have all three of those and about six more actors. >> i saw the statement from the general. when someone relies on us and we allow them to be attacked by an ally and then we stop the attack, then thanking us for those actions does not ring as true. objects were thrown at our troops as they were pulling out. me ask a follow-up question.
operations against isis have stopped. will make themat reengage with the cease-fire? what is our approach to work with them? what are the prospects of that work? forces remain along the euphrates. new operations and such. whenever you get a dramatic shift in a military situation in an area of operations, nobody has the time to do new operations. have toy people continue doing what they were doing. that is what happened. the fighting with the turks was over so quickly. forces that were not pulled to the north. now we are seeing what will
happen to the forces in the areas of the northeast. there was very little action against isis because there were no isis forces to speak of their. in that strip along the northeast. what is your assessment of how this will impact isis? of the isis detainees are still detained. based upon how we work with the thati just gave you encouraging statement. i reiterated the president's commitment to keep some forces on. believe very, i strongly that we can continue a campaign against isis. and continue to pursue the other two goals that you asked.
>> thank you. >> thanks to both of you for coming in. i want to know if it is correct that turkey's president wants to expand turkish control over northern syria. >> absolutely not. as i said yesterday in the senate, i differentiate between turkey and iran. turkey is not an expansionist country. turkey is trying to ensure that it does not face a long-term
threat from the pkk in northern syria. >> that is another country. >> right. just like the threat it faces out of northern iraq. >> is it fair to say that this is to remove kurdish people? from that section of syria that he is invading? and using violence to force them out of that geographic area? violence?orce, arms, >> we have written commitments from the turks that they would not do that. i would not assume they are out to do ethnic cleansing.
they want to get elements linked to the pkk out of syria. >> i want to talk about the meaning of this. this description sounds a lot like what reporters and human rights investigators are saying what has happened to the kurdish people. international reported, the turkish military offensive into northeast syria has reached the, lives of syrian civilians.
>> the president literally use the words cleaned out. he suggested it was justifiable. , turkeyin all fairness had a legitimate problem with this area. he called the grape legitimate. does he not approve of turkey's actions? >> he is trying to explain to the american people why a nato ally took that action. it was not to clear out the area of the population. it was to clear out people associated with the pkk. we thought that was not a wise decision.
but turkey has legitimate material concerns. i have to say, last week, the president of the united states gave a thumbs-up to an active ethnic cleansing. can try to tell us otherwise. theory will be clear about reality of what is happening there. >> thank you for being here. i went on a bipartisan congressional trip to afghanistan, turkey, and the border.
when we arrived home, we realized through news alerts turkishhad related entry into that same area. sdf has been are staunch allies. they have lost more than 10,000 soldiers. they have been the first line of defense in maintaining the gains we have made. you said we had three goals in syria. defeating isis. political solution in syria. and the removal of iranian forces.
does that impact in a positive way the enduring defeat of isis? the turkish incursion into northeast syria has not been positive for the fighting and ices. i keep having to come back to this point. the turks were not waiting to get permission from us. announcement that we would remove u.s. forces from witharea, does that help defeating isis? thef we are talking about removal of all forces from northeast syria, it was the considered opinion of most people in the administration that that is not going to contribute to the defeat devices. isis.
that is why the president made an adjustment. he will leave some forces. the political solution in syria, we have created a circumstance in which our allies in the fight against isis has now turned its attention toward assad. entering into a positive relation with russia. has this been helpful toward the american goals? >> it is a good question. we are looking into that. has long had relations with russia and the assad government. we don't control the political future of that group or any other group inside syria. other than what we are allowed to do under human resolution. u.n. resolution.
>> leaving our previous allies to their own defenses and potentially victims of genocide and northeast syria, does that lay the groundwork for a political solution? guaranteespolitical to try to keep the turks out and keep their situation stable. decided not to heed us. have our efforts been helpful ? health -- our overall
effort in syria has been placing pressure on iran in many ways. >> i am a former case officer with the cia. my perspective is one of human intelligence. we have now lost access to intelligence. we are withdrawing all of our troops. president has now said we will leave some of them to keep the peace. the frenetic nature of this , is it in any waystated to rem?
i would not use the word frenetic. a rapidly changing set of circumstances poses challenges to us. we have been able to handle them. >> certainly rapidly changing. it seems a little bit more frenetic. thank you. >> thank you to both of you for coming. some of herback on questions because i was also on the bipartisan trip that went afghanistan,n, turkey. people, when we
asked that question about what , manyyou up at night people responded with the incursion of turks. we landed on the ground at about 6:00 a.m. to the news that we had made that decision. my question has to do with the decision processes. do those discussions include some of the state department people who we might have met within the region? do they include military people that we might have met within ?he region
i personally review up to 300 andls and telegrams telephone conversation today with those people. >> are you saying that those folks, when we left the ground on sunday, did know that this was happening? the potentially disastrous effects were passed on to the top. >> i would like to go back and get some clarification.
had we kept those troops there, this would not necessarily have happened. misspoke or i was misunderstood. forces had no bearing on any turkish decision to the best of my knowledge. >> my next question has to do with some of the prisons and camps that are being managed by sdf. how can they continue to do this when they have been effectively been betrayed by us? >> they are not doing that as a favor to us. they are doing that to secure their own populations.
they have done a really good job under fairly chaotic circumstances of keeping 99% of them under guard. >> do you believe they will continue to stay there. >> i am more confident today than six hours ago. >> your last question has to do with war crimes. it struck me that when syria was conducting what amounted to war crimes, using chemical weapons, there was a human outcry from our country and our administration about that. i have not heard anything about that. what do we need to know other than what we already know for the american people to understand that the turks are probably committing war crimes as well? was considerable public commentary and a great deal of media focus on the two incidents, the killing of a civilian kurdish organization woman along the main east-west
road. a similar incident by the same opposition group supported by the turks. the killing of several people who were defenseless with their hands tied. we immediately reached out to ankara and asked for the highest level explanation of this. b, when the syrian allies go in, we see dozens of these a day as a deliberate policy, not as a possible offshoot. we see it as deliberate policy. >> i would definitely like to have us follow up and get more detail on the crimes that you leave have been committed. >> thank you mr. chairman.
you have heard from a number of my colleagues about our decision . i fully agree with those concerns. i will not add much. i think they have covered it. i want to stress something even more important. this cleared the way for turkey to attack the kurds. it has cleared the way for the assad regime and russians to move back into a larger area. , feeling like they could no longer have protection from us, turned to the devil and made a deal to ensure their long-term protection. peoplere about 3 million living in this part of syria.
kurdish.t 25% are this is not gotten enough attention. civiliansppening to in areas that are being reoccupied by the regime? what is largely to happen in these centers? who will be pursued and killed if the russians are able to go back in? i seldom am complementary to the russians. the russian military police units who are involved in this 10 to treat the population rather well. they are doing this in coordination with the sdf.
they have a vested interest in making sure their people are not harmed by the regime. >> they are largely a kurdish militia. they are not the 70% who are not kurdish. this is real world stuff. ypg is now dependent on the russians in the regime for protection. if the russians in the regime say we will only keep you secure from the turks if you allow the regime to basically reconstitute ,tself as the dominant power what are they going to say? they are not going to fight the regime under those circumstances? >> we are looking into what the circumstances are. what the relationship will be. you are correct that that could be a danger. >> i just saw the statement the
president made. there was no reference to any of this. the only thing he is saying in an effort to reassure us is we have secured the oil. i have not heard him say a darn thing about securing people who live in these cities that we helped to liberate, who struggled against the assad regime. rest is sand. that is his quote. that we arere me going to use whatever that of tiny influence that we have left whorotect 3 million people could now be subject to the assad regime? can. will do everything we to achieve our objectives in syria and maintain the
well-being of these people. there are limits to what we will do with military force. >> of course. we cannot do very much. we were able to do something because we were aligned with the sdf. they had no reason to cut deals with the devil. how 300 troopsee can secure these oil fields. as if that were our primary national interests. the population from which isis recruits. some degree, yes. amb. jeffrey: the key thing is, what is the legal mission they have been given? if they have been given a legal mission to secure one area, that is one thing. if they have been given a legal mission from this body to pursue an al qaeda offshoot in
northeast syria, that is a different set of authorities. they cannot use that authority serendipitously. >> with permission of the chair, i want to ask you about the stabilization funding. hundreds of millions of dollars have not been obligated. >> the gentleman's time has expired. amb. jeffrey: the president just approved $50 million for stabilization, much of that from that bucket of money. of additional stabilization for the white helmets. >> i now recognize the gentleman from maryland for five minutes. >> thank you for your service for being here today and all you have done for a long, long,
successful career. my complaint today is with the administration, not you, mr. jeffrey, but it is clear that today's talking point that came out -- there is no commitment to protect the kurds. i heard that a number of times today. i would like to point out we have a moral commitment. we fought together with the kurds. congressman watkins himself was over there. they helped fight our war. 11,000 kurds died for us. we are clearly on the same team. the fact that there was "no written commitment" to protect the kurds, i don't think anyone should care. the other talking point that bothered me that came up repeatedly -- there is no green light. i thought my republican
colleagues pointed out quite correctly, there was a green light by the administration. i would call it a very green light that came from the president. he gave the green light, and now the dictator in turkey has been given everything he ever wanted. it is all his. i am very disappointed. the rest of the world is disappointed. god bless you with the impossible job you have been given, to justify that. 6.2 million people have been displaced, largest internally displaced population in the world. two weeks.the last welcomedato ally, once syrian refugees and now is invading a neighboring country. russiansdeal with the
on the buffer zone. turkey, nato ally, cooperating with russia, as the washington post pointed out this morning, russian succeeding in -- russia succeeding in accomplishing its game. assad is gaining control of more territory. he is propping up his legitimacy. russia has taken our military bases. hundreds of isis detainees have escaped. how is it possible any of these developments serve the interest of the united states? amb. jeffrey: the turkish incursion and all of the things that have flown from it -- and you summit them up -- summed them up pretty well -- are tragic. we send this in our order that
we immediately rolled out. you said this in congress. i will say this administration did not encourage or in any way indicate to the turks that it was ok for them to come in. we told them it was a bad idea. >> we told them we are not going to stand for it. mr. putin told the turks he is not comfortable with them coming into northeastern syria, but we did not stand up and say no, our advisors are there, and you cannot come in. he did not say that, and that is why they came over. that was weakness. amb. jeffrey: we did not say we would use military force, we said we would use every other tool in our quiver to do so, from sanctions to visits to the united states. >> and they didn't care, they have their territory.
sanctions are gone. i am sure he will be here to shake hands with mr. trump at some point. we have not imposed sanctions for the purchase of the s400 missile defense system. now they are pushing the boundaries more. is this acceptable for a nato ally? >> absolutely not. i would underscore that at the beginning of this turkey paid a significant price for the acquisition of the s400 system. they have been removed from the f-35 program in terms of turkish tradition -- turkish participation in the program. that is a significant price turkey paid immediately upon acquiring the s400 system. we opposed turkey's acquisition of this system. we made that clear up to president erdogan. ourey moved against
admonitions, and that -- and there were costs imposed immediately on the turkish administration. it is a complex question particularly with the implementation of sanctions against a nato ally. secretary pompeo has made clear we will follow along as appropriate. i cannot give you a timeline, but that issue is under deliberative review. >> thank you both for your service. >> i now recognize the gentlelady from nevada for five minutes. >> mr. ambassador, your valiant attempt to describe what this administration has done through deliberative, diplomatic efforts is in total contradiction to what the president himself said after this occurred. he said even while pence was on his way to do something that
there is just a lot of sand over there, that sometimes you have to let them fight like little kids before you separate them. the kurds were no angels, they did not help us in world war ii. isn't this contradictory to the image you are trying to present today? i think you are here because you are such a respected, knowledgeable ambassador to do damage control for what the president said with this whole atrocious situation. amb. jeffrey: first of all, the president's public comments are his attempt to explain his decisions to the american people. that is a political decision. i don't have any real comment on how he goes about doing that. that is something in the political realm that everyone
who runs for office has to decide. comments other presidents have made privately are often very shop during certain issues. i am not too surprised by the president making those comments. >> if anyone heard those comments, when they think protecting the kurds would be a priority? amb. jeffrey: president made those comments. he also sent his vice president and secretary of state and national security advisor. i think that is unique, not to give away the store, but to tell turkey we needed a cease-fire or we would take further action. that was not giving away anything. that was taking a strong
diplomatic position. that set the stage for the cease-fire we got then and for the additional russian ability to persuade the turks not to go into other areas. the good news is we are quite along the entire -- quiet along the entire front. >> you said previously you don't think turkey is a real trusted ally, and it is not a good deal they are getting with the russians. what makes you think they will live up to this deal? amb. jeffrey: it is semipermanent. it is as permanent as anything is in this diplomatic world. intoits into -- this gets turkish thought process and decision-making. in a way it now didn't when it went in that it would suffer nonmilitary
consequences if it took that action. we took those strong nonmilitary actions, including actions underway in this body. that is a different situation, and thus turkey is aware if it us,ates agreements with that we will lower the boon on t hem with sanctions. the section executive order is still in effect that we issued on the 14th of october. we are ready to do this again if necessary. i think that is a process of us learning what the turks are capable of, despite our warnings, and learning what we are capable of doing, to hit hard if they take that action. >> i think we should know what the turks are capable of. ask cyprus.
i'm surprised we did not know what the turks were capable of. erdogan said if you describes his -- europe describes his military as occupation, he will release millions of refugees into europe. is the u.s. ready to help with this refugee problem? i know we are lowering our cap on the number of refugees to some ridiculous number, last to 18,000.0,000 where is our responsibility there? >> we have seen the statements from president and one and others regarding the threat -- gan and others regarding the threat of opening the floodgates of refugees. i would describe that position
as rhetorical rather than an expression of turkish policy. amb. jeffrey: we have provided $10 million for syrian refugees in turkey and elsewhere. that is the largest contribution of any other country. we just took another decision for another $100 million plus. >> the gentlelady's time has expired. the chair recognizes the distinguished gentleman from massachusetts for five minutes. you said earlier that we didn't consult with our closest allies when the president made that phone call with president erdogan, correct? amb. jeffrey: i said we did not tell them in advance of the decision. phoney did not know that call was going to happen? amb. jeffrey: correct. >> fair to say that was a
mistake, ambassador? amb. jeffrey: no -- >> it wasn't a mistake? amb. jeffrey: it was a mistake not to tell them before they learned about it from the media. >> there will -- were there allies that had troops on the ground at that time? amb. jeffrey: yes, they should not have learned about that from the media. >> so you think that was a mistake? amb. jeffrey: i am joined to get around -- >> why are you trying to get around when it is a mistake? the best thing you do when you make a mistake is recognized it -- recognize it. amb. jeffrey: i recognized it five or six times today. >> can you say it was a mistake? amb. jeffrey: it was a mistake. >> thank you. even after that, did the
president relies that -- realize that was not a mistake? here is my other question, he been toer on, i've europe, i have checked the path of foreign fighters. what he said to europe is, you will have to figure out the situation and what you want to do with the captured isis fighters. we are 7000 miles away. we will crush them if they come near us. do you think if they are in europe, they are no threat to the u.s.? amb. jeffrey: the president thinks they are a threat to the united states. he has done an excellent harry job defeating the isis -- an extraordinary job defeating the isis caliphate. >> i have little time.
is it a mistake for him to say that is how we treat our allies, they will have to figure it out? amb. jeffrey: our allies will have to take back as citizens those who have committed crimes as terrorists, that is the point. >> we have been told by another iraq, they -- ally, do not want our troops there permanently. they want us out of there. iraqis want us out. amb. jeffrey: we have a large number of u.s. and coalition forces in iraq working against isis. i have every certainty we will be able to continue our forces there. >> don't agree with that statement reported, that iraqi officials said we don't want
your troops here. amb. jeffrey: some iraqi officials say that every day. the additional troops we were putting into iraq, we had not yet explained to the the -- to the government of iraq what missions they will be doing. once we do that, we will get a better answer. >> you were not on the president's phone call. what did secretary pompeo say to you in terms of next steps? what did he say in relation to that phone call afterwards? what did he tell you going forward? amb. jeffrey: maintaining the confidentiality of internal deliberations, going forward, get this offensive halted. look at every means possible, working with congress on sanctions, diplomatic
initiatives. the president took two separate initiatives. can you sit -- there today and say as a result of the president's phone call with president erdogan, that that did not affect in any way erdogan's decision-making? can you say that? amb. jeffrey: i believe that erdogan had taken the decision -- in fact, i pretty much know he had taken the decision before the call. isso the president -- this very enlightening. re --ntly, people were awa even the comments of the president himself indicated that the president took credit for bringing the troops back. he thought that phone call
affected erdogan's decision. amb. jeffrey: no. the purpose of the president's phone call with erdogan was to persuade him against something in the days before we decided was not a possibility, but a probability, then a minute. the president implemented sticks and carrots in order to get erdogan met to do that. he made clear when erdogan said he would do it anyway, we would be against it. we would not act militarily. >> i recognize the gentlelady from minnesota for five minutes. >> thank you, chairman. it is clear we are here for one reason only today. three weeks ago, president trump held a phone call with the present -- with the turkish president, who by his own
admission gave the green light to enter syria. this set off a cascade of destabilizing events that has endangered u.s. national security, the stability of the middle east and the world. turkish troops have invaded northern syria. more than 100,000 people are displaced and hundreds of isis supporters have escaped. turkey and the turkish backed militia have been accused of atrocities against the kurds, including the alleged use of chemical weapons. the trump administration bragged about a cease-fire, but turkey says their operation is likely to continue. these actions are indefensible. i believe, as in any conflict in the world, our response as a committee charged with overseeing this administration's foreign policy must be guided by our values, respect for human
rights, self-determination, and dignity for all involved. what is missing in all the conversations about great power competition and diplomatic norms and sanctions is the most important and fundamental sanction of what is happening. this is the question of human rights and democracy. it is a question of whether kurds have the right to exist as kurds. we have to stand for the rights and dignity of human beings. we have to stand for the dignity of the kurdish people. we have allowed this. we need to talk about accountability. accountability does not mean freezing bank accounts. it does not mean crippling the turkish economy, interacting m -- enacting mass punishment on populations that did not choose
this. it means thinking seriously about atrocities. it means thinking about how we stop arming brutal regimes in the name of national interest. it means looking with clear eyes in foreign policy that threaten entire groups of people as tools to be used and then discarded if we believe it serves our narrowly defined interests. it means not using the lives and suffering of human beings halfway around the world, suffering that we have permitted, that we have encouraged as a card we play in our the mystic political arguments -- domestic political arguments. outbassador, if it turns the turkish backed forces have used chemical weapons on civilians, what responsibilities does that trigger for the united states? amb. jeffrey: again, we have
taken a position with the assad regime on chemical weapons. we are opposed to it. we made an announcement. secretary pompeo at the u.n. general assembly, now about a month ago, on the latest use of it, chlorine near idlib. we looked into one accusation made, the use of white phosphorus, which under some circumstances is a legitimate military ordinance. under other circumstances, it is not. >> when we had the hearing on syria, i talked about how i felt. felt turkey and russia were guiding our policy, and that was alarming to me. i want to know whether you had
input on the letter president trump sent to president erdogan october 9. amb. jeffrey: i was involved in receiving the letter from the commander of the sdf that then passed the letter on to president erdogan. this is the problem of consultations. we consult with the secretary, the secretary with the president all the time on a variety of issues. these presidents then take decisions based on the sum of all that, and stinks, gut -- instincts, gut feelings, and everything else. that is what produced that letter. >> i wish more of you had direct input on that letter, because it is a to say that letter is humiliating to the united states. i know you will not be able to agree with that publicly, but it
is. both of you know there is art to diplomacy, and "don't be a tough guy, don't be a fool" is a national embarrassment and a disgrace. thank you. >> i now recognize the distinguished gentleman from virginia. >> welcome. agreedassador, you have the turkish incursion into northeast syria is a disaster and has further compromised u.s. national security interests, is that correct? >> i was heading that way. >> we have a hundred 76,000 civilians displaced -- 176,000 civilians displaced, possible war crimes committed, prisoners jeopardy.t in
allowing assad and russia to protect themselves from turkey. and u.s. credibility damaged worldwide with our allies. would that be a fair summary of the consequences? wouldsibly harsher than i put it. >> let me ask you -- was the president advised not to withdraw u.s. troops, thus avoiding the invasion from turkey and the movement from the south by sdf and assad? one,will try again on this congressman. the president received a whole variety of advice on troop presence in syria, troop presence in afghanistan, and troop presence in other areas where internal conflicts make our presence less than obvious,
like in south korea. this president takes that issue seriously, as they should. a decision on withdrawing troops and not withdrawing troops is separate from erdogan's decision to go in. the turkish incursion was a decision taken by the president of turkey. it was not a decision that he took because we said we would not oppose him. we said we would oppose him. >> mr. ambassador, there is, however, a sequence. mr erdogan, despite many threats, has not undertaken this kind of incursion until the president of the united states informative we would not withdraw our troops and stop providing protection to the kurdish forces. is that correct? amb. jeffrey: totally incorrect.
i have done this for two days. those troops were not there to protect the kurds. is there a asking connection between our decision to withdraw and the turkish incursion across the border? in looking at --usands of it was the drug's decision to -- the turkish decision to come across. >> you believe the turks were willing to go across the border even if it meant going through u.s. troops? are two outposts that did
not have the mission of stopping the turks other than observing both sides. >> did they have determined value -- deterrent value? >> no. >> so why did the turks not go in sooner/ -- sooner? amb. jeffrey: the conversation that the president had with briefed-- again, i was on how it went down, but not the specifics. my understanding is the president only said after he could persuade erdogan not to come in that our troops would the out-of-the-way. the president, like any other in a decision like that, correctly has to think about the safety of the troops. >> so it is your contention that where we have troops in others -- in other hot spots, like
south korea, should be willing to withdraw if kim jong-un threatens invasion of the south? or putin wishes to trigger article five of nato and wants to introduce troops where we have troops in nato allied countries? your position is they are not therefore that -- there for that value and should be drawn out of harm's way. >> however curious it may appear, there is a fundamental difference that we don't make clear as a country between putting troops under treaty obligations to defend territory and people against someone else and the troops we had in northeast syria fighting isis. i agree theredor,
is a difference between having a treaty and not having a treaty, but there is also a matter of national honor. we have fought side-by-side with our kurdish allies, who were successful. in fact, the only allied group in syria that was successful in destroying isis and its caliphate. the and management of -- the abandonment of you are an honorable man defending something that looks on her. i feel bad for you. i feel that for your career. that is no way to end an honorable career, defending the and defensible. it is only fair to allow the ambassador to respond. ambassador jeffrey: first of all, i know of no responsible american official who has the authority to make such
commitment. on sunday, as did tony thomas, allies we would use military force to protect them against turkey. in fact, knowing the turks had a major understandable problem with the links of the sdf. we, again, very often made the point that there had to be a political reconciliation of one sort or another and try -- committed to doing that. the entire organization of the sdf had been in turkey until 2015. ort ofld do everything sh military force to hold off a turkish and version. -- turkish incursion.
that includes the dramatic, a cease-fire and we negotiated. nobody any physician of authority that i know of -- a position of authority that i know of should explain on what basis here she did that ever told the kurds that we would protect the militarily against turkey. it is not just my assumption they made that, because we were explicit, i was, for the last 14 months saying we wouldn't do that. expired. my time is man just ask one follow-up question? -- may i just ask one follow-up question? is it my understanding the president of the united states told president erdogan don't do it even though we are not going to fight? ambassador jeffrey: it is my understanding he told erdogan not to do it. it is my understanding the president made that clear, as well. >> and get, mr. chairman. -- thank you, mr. chairman.
>> i now recognize myself. this position by the president was immoral, reckless, and undermining the american leadership in the world. most significantly, made us less safe. i want to start, ambassador jeffrey, you are the special representative for syria and special envoy to the global coalition to defeat isis. the reason we create special envoys is because we want someone with special expertise and a lot of knowledge about a complicated issue to be a resource in informing policy in that region, correct? ambassador jeffrey: exactly. >> you are telling us you were not aware of the decision of the president prior to his making it to american -- withdrawing american troops from syria. you are not consulted by the president to get your best thinking on this. ambassador jeffrey: i was
consulted by the president through secretary pompeo. literally dozens of times in the weeks and months before. >> the decision that was made by the president after seeing president erdogan, before the decision was executed, where you consulted? ambassador jeffrey: very frequently. >> about american withdrawal of troops from syria? i presume you argued against it. ambassador jeffrey: i can't indicate internal u.s. government deliberations, but i am generally in favor of keeping troops on the ground when it makes sense. >> in this case, it made sense, i take it? ambassador jeffrey: that would be getting into -- >> in your written testimony, use a president erdogan had a conversation with president trump on the phone, and you say in that call, he indicated that the turkey -- that turkey
intended to move forward with the operation and syria. we have had american troops in this place for five years. the only thing that changed in those five years that caused turkey to actually execute this was the withdrawal of american troops. what else changed? for five years, president erdogan has the clear he wanted to do this, but didn't it would, in part, you would agree, because of the presence of american troops. is that fair to say? ambassador jeffrey: absolutely not. he washat phone call, told clearly by the president, this is your testimony, ambassador, that u.s. armed forces would not support or be involved -- that is a really strong statement,, we actually will help you killer allies who helped us defeat isis, that is a strong statement. i, and the u.s., will not endorse those actions, he said.
i should hope not. but you never say the united states would oppose it and do everything we can to prevent it. you said, our troops would be out of the way. you're saying when president erdogan said we are going forward, president trump can't endorse a, we are not going to help you, but we will get our troops out of the way. is that your testimony? ambassador jeffrey: the president said all of that, but the context is incorrect. he was not saying the troops will get out of the way, he meant the little detachment out there will be out of the way, so don't do anything back to them. ambassador jeffrey: in that conversation -- >> in that conversation where the president said we won't endorse it, we won't support directions, and our troops would get out of the way. it was after that phone call those conversations were made that turkey began their invasion
and the slaughter of the kurds. ambassador jeffrey: turkey took their decision before the phone call. >> it is after the phone call the executed it. -- they executed it. is that correct? ambassador jeffrey: that is true. >> it was reported yesterday turkey and russia agreed to a panel and -- to a plan to push the turks south of the border as u.s. troops depart. the you agree with that assessment? -- do you agree with that assessment? >> not completely. -- ambassador jeffrey: not completely. that is true. >> its immense vladimir putin's significant role in syria now, correct? -- ambassador jeffrey: putin has played a long, prominent role in --ia and >> you do as well as an expert
in the region, don't you? it increases the role of turkey -- the role of turkey and russia, both in this region. ambassador jeffrey: there are many reasons. >> that is two of them, is that right? ambassador jeffrey: probably. >> you also said we could continue our relationship with sdf. they wouldto imagine have much confidence they can rely on the u.s. in light of our conduct. and the notion that because there was not an explicit promise. sometimes in international affairs, as you know best than anyone in this room, when you have people who acted on your behalf, on your interests, more than 10,000 fighters, really skilled fighters, from the kurdish people that helped us defeat isis, that doesn't require written conflict, there was an expectation we would acknowledge that. i hope that they will continue to work with us, although i can
understand they decided not to. ambassador, you are familiar with the serious study group recommendation, correct? they gave us detailed readouts on how the president decision -- the president's decision will impact the issue. one of the assessments was the deliberation of isis doesn't eliminate the groups' threat -- group's threat to the u.s.. ambassador jeffrey: the president this morning said he is not withdrawing all the troops. generally speaking, withdrawing troops from his situation, be it iraq in 2011, be it syria in 2019, does not enhance our ability to deal with internal threats. >> but it is complicated by the fact turkey and russia are containing isis. ambassador jeffrey: at one
point, he may have said that. >> is of the policy of the administration? ambassador jeffrey: we have an agreement with the turks as part of the cease-fire to work with us in containing isis. area,rks actually, in the did that quite successfully in 2016. the russians have been successful against isis and palmero, for example. >> you said you were not on the telephone call between the president and -- president erdogan and president trump. you testified a lot about the call, have you seen a readout of the call? >> have been briefed extensively on the call. -- ambassador jeffrey: i have been briefed extensively on the call. >> you received a transcript of the call? ambassador jeffrey: i have not. >> you made reference to a letter that was subsequently sent three days later. presidential message. did you deliver that message? ambassador jeffrey: i delivered
a message that the president had cleared to the turkish leadership, to president erdogan , that if they did not accept a negotiate, we would very quickly. we had good information that they sdf would turn to the russians and the syrians. therefore, they could get a cease-fire with us, and minimize the damage, or, they would wind up being faced with more russian and syrian government involvement in their area, which is exactly what happened. now didn't listen to assume have a more difficult situation on the turkish standpoint. >> did you participate in the , i don't even the know how to describe it, the letter that the president wrote? the only thing that was missing was a should have been -- was it should have been written in crayon.
" don't be a tough guy, don't be fool."" -- a ambassador jeffrey: the president's decision, diplomatically, in the wake of that letter, the president -- president erdogan referred to with publicly in a dismissed way. he then spent five hours with president trump's emissary negotiating an agreement. they had a very positive call with president trump the next day, which i was on. whatever we say about the letter, the letter turned out to be a pretty effective tool of diplomacy. >> i will lend with this. -- and with this. i hope you hear from this committee a partisan sense. and has harmed our standing in the world, betrayed an important ally in the u.s., which undermines our ability and leadership are of the world. it has created a greater opportunity for isis to
reconstitute and those a threat to the u.s. although all of this can be educated to the turkish invasion, you will not convince me and any member of this committee that that was precipitated by the president's conversation with erdogan and not being forceful enough about keeping u.s. troops in that region. and the consequence of that is what changed five years of erdogan threatening that, but never doing it. when the president said i will get out of your way, i cannot it, it was an invitation to do it. it was a dumb idea for the president to do it. it brought chaos to the region, undermined the interests of our country, i hope you will take administratione tries to figure out how to mitigate the damage this decision has brought upon us and the world. and with that, this committee has adjourned.
announcer: here's a look at our live coverage thursday. , the:00 a.m. eastern casket of the late congressman elijah cummings arrives at the -- at the capitol. then democratic presidential candidate marianne williamson speaks. on c-span three, the senate armed services committee holds a confirmation hearing for vice admiral charles richard to be head of u.s. strategic command. night,er: live friday two candidates challenging
president trump for the republican nomination. a conversation with former massachusetts governor bill weld and former south or marka govern sanford. part of c-span's campaign 2020 coverage. andh anytime on c-span.org, listen wherever you are using the free c-span radio app. former vice president and 2020 20 democratic presidential candidate joe biden was in his hometown of scranton, pennsylvania to talk about his economic proposals and other issues facing middle-class families. mr. biden: my name is joe biden