tv CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello CNN September 16, 2014 7:00am-8:01am PDT
week, american forces will not have a combat mission. instead, these advisors are supporting iraqi and kurdish forces and supporting the government's plan to stand up iraqi national guard units to help sunni communities defeat isil. the best counterweights to isil are local forces and the people of the area. and as you know, in june the president asked congress for the necessary authority for d.o.d. to train and equip moderate syrian opposition forces and $500 million to fund this program. we have now secured support from saudi arabia to host the training program for this mission and saudi arabia has offered financial and other support as well. the $500 million request the president made in june for this train-and-equip programs refl t reflects centcom's estimate of the cost to train, equip, and resupply more than 5,000 opposition forces over one year.
>> good morning, i'm carol costel costello. you're watching live coverage of the senate arm services committee. testifying is chuck hagel, general martin dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff will also testify. so far, two major headlines. general martin dempsey will say he will send u.s. military advisors into combat if he decides it's necessary, which defies the president's promise of no ground troops. second, the new mission is to destroy isis in iraq but only disrupt it in syria. let's continue to listen to secretary hagel. >> a rigorous vetting process will be critical to the success of this program. d.o.d. will work closely with the state department, the intelligence community and our partners in the region to screen and vet the forces we train and equip. we will monitor them closely to ensure weapons do not fall into the hands of radical elements of the opposition.
isil, the syrian regime, or other extremist groups. there will always be risk. there will always be risk in a program like this. but we believe that risk is justified by the imperative of destroying isil and the necessity of having capable partners on the ground in syria. as we pursue this program, the united states will continue to press for a political rez tlugs the syrian conflict resulting in the end of the assad regime. assad has lost all legitimacy to govern and has created the conditions that allowed isil and other terrorist groups to gain ground and terrorize and slaughter the syrian population. the united states will not coordinate or cooperate with the assad regime. we will also continue to counter assad through diplomatic and economic pressure. the third element of the president's strategy an all
inclusive approach from preventing attacks of the homeland of the united states and our allies. the united states will draw on intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic, and economic tools to cut off isil's funding, improve our intelligence, strengthen homeland defense and stem the flow of foreign fighters in and out of the region. the department of justice and the department of homeland security have launched an initiative to partner with local communities to counter extremist recruiting. and the department of treasury's office of terrorism and financial intelligence is working to disrupt isil's financing and expose their activities. the final element of the president's strategy is to continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians displaced or threatened by isil. alongside the government of iraq, the united kingdom, canada, australia and france, u.s. troops have already
delivered life-saving aid to thousands of threatened iraqi civilians on mount sinjar and in amerli. in total, the u.s. conducted 32 air drops of food and supplies providing over 18,000 pounds of aid, including nearly 50,000 gallons of water and nearly 122,000 meals ready to eat in these operations. in addition to this assistance, last week the state department announced an additional $48 million in aid for civilian organizations to meet the urgent needs of iraqis displaced by isil. our total humanitarian assistance to displaced iraqis is now more than $186 million for fiscal year 2014. the united states is also the single-largest donor of humanitarian assistance for the millions of syrians affected by the civil war. last week, secretary kerry announced an additional $500 million in humanitarian
assistance. since the start of the syrian conflict, the united states has now committed almost $3 billion in humanitarian assistance to those affected by the civil war. all four elements of this strategy require a significant commitment of resources on the part of the united states and our coalition partners. mr. chairman, i think everyone on this committee understands fully this will not be an easy or a brief effort. it is complicated. we are at war with isil as we are with al qaeda. but destroying isil will require more than military efforts alone. it will require political progress in the region and effective partners on the ground in iraq and syria. as the congress and the administration work together, we know this effort will take time. the president has outlined a clear, comprehensive, and workable strategy to achieve our goals and protect our interests.
mr. chairman, senator inhofe, thank you for your continued support and that of this committee and your partnership. thank you. >> thank you very much secretary hagel. >> thank you, would you please leave the room now? we're asking you nicely. we're asking you nicely to please leave the room. we're asking you nicely. please leave the room. thank you. we're asking you for the last time. thank you very much. >> it's the u.s.'s intervention. u.s. military will not be a solution it is counterproductive. don't drag us into another war. >> we would ask all of you to avoid these kind of out bursts, they're not doing anybody any good including hearing what this testimony is and they're not doing you and whatever your cause is e, they are. thank you very much. would you please -- i'm asking
you nicely to please leave the room. we're asking you again. >> please, senator, we need to have people's voices being heard. we need smart senator, not smart bombs. we need to end this foolishness once and for all. you're breeding, freedomism. >> general dempsey? >> thank you, chairman. members of the committee, i appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning. secretary hagel has described in detail the elements of our strategy against isil, the role the united states military is taking is, in my judgment, appropriate. this is an iraq-first strategy, but not an iraq-only one. job one is empowering the iraqi ground forces to go on the offensive which they're already beginning to demonstrate. this requires a partnership with a credible iraqi government which is also showing positive signs of becoming inclusive of all of its population.
within this partnership are advisors are intended to help the iraqis develop a mind-set for the offensive and to take actions consistent with offensive. our military advise overs will help the iraqis conduct campaign planning, arrange for logistic support and coordinate our coalition activities. if we reach the point where i believe our advisors should accompany iraq troops on attacks against specific isil targets i'll recommend that to the president. as long as isil enjoys a safe haven in syria, it will remain a formidable force and a threat. so while this work in iraq is taking place, we will simultaneously pressure isil in syria. with coalition partners and contributions, we will begin building a force of vetted, trained, moderate syrians to take on isil in syria. we work to ensure that they have a syrian chain of command and report to a moderate political authority. this force will work initially at the local and community level
and help pull together syrians who have most felt the harsh hand of isil. in conjunction with that long-term effort, we will be prepared to strike isil targets in syria that degrade isil's capabilities. this won't look like a shock-and-awe campaign because that's simply not how isil is organized, but it will be a persistent and sustainable campaign. i want to emphasize that our military actions must be part of a whole of government effort that works to disrupt isil financing, interdetective the movement of foreign fighters across borders and undermine the isil message. given a coalition of capable willing regional and international partners i believe we can destroy isil in iraq, restore the iraq/syria border and disrupt isil in syria. isil will ultimately be defeated when their cloak of religious legitimacy is stripped away and the population on which they have imposed themselves reject them. our actions are intended to move in that direction. this will require a sustained effort over an extended period
of time. it's a generational problem and we should expect that our enemies will adapt their tactics as we adjust our approach. as the situation in the middle east evolves and continues to demand our attention, we're also balancing other challenges in other regions, ebola being the most recent, along with reassuring our european allies against russian aggression and continuing our mission in afghanistan. but our young men and women in uniform are doing so much more they conduct hundreds of exercises and activities everyday. actions that deter conflict and reassure around the world. they are performing magnificently. but i am growing increasingly uncomfortable that the will to provide means does not match the will to pursue ends. the secretary and i are doing what we can inside the department to bridge that gap but we'll need your help. if we do not depart from our present path over time i will have fewer military options to
offer to the secretary and to the president and that's not a position in which i want to find myself. thank you. >> thank you very much, general dempsey. we're to have a six-minute first round. we have a lot of us here and we all want to have an opportunity and then if we go around once and have reasonable hour facing us we'll try to have a short second round but we won't know that until we get to it. general dempsey, let me start by asking you for your professional military opinion of the military strategy which was announced by the president last week. do you personally support strategy? >> i do, chairman. >> can you tell us why? >> because the nature of the threat is such that as i
mentioned it will only be defeated when moderate arab and muslim populations in the region reject it therefore the way forward seems to run clearly through a coalition of arab and muslim partners and not through the ownership of the united states in this issue so the strategy does that. it seeks to build a coalition and encourage the government to address grievances. it applies u.s. military power where we have unique cape tonight do so and over time it allows those populations to reject isil. >> in terms of utilize ing ting on the ground the forces that are syrian and iraqi rather than western forces, is that part of the thinking at this time as well to avoid a western ground
force in an arab or muslim country for the same reason you just gave? >> well, i do think that the approach to build a coalition and enable it leads me to leverage our unique capabilities which tend to be, as i mentioned, the ability o train and plan and provide intelligence and air power. as i said, n my statement, however, my view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. i believe that will prove true but if it fails to be through and there are threats to the united states i would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of military ground forces. >> secretary hagel, how important is it, you've made reference to this but i'd like you to elaborate. that the coalition have very strong visible participation by arab and muslim states.
>> mr. chairman, you just reflected in your question to general dempsey on the point and i would pick whereupon general dempsey left off. this is not a west versus east issue. this is not a u.s./european coalition against muslim countries. or a muslim region. it's important that the world see, especially people in the middle east see, that the threat that is confronting them first and all of us needs to be addressed by the people of their region as well as all nations and all people in the world. to have arab muslim nations be present and public about their
efforts in this coalition helps that and it's critically important to the ultimate success of winning against all extremist factors and factions in the middle east specifically isil. >> and that same approach of having the people of these countries basically purge the strand of islam that is so poisonous that is trying to take over in their countries leads, i gather, to one argument for using indigenous national forces on the ground rather than outside and particularly western forces. >> yes. i said in my statement, mr. chairman, that the most significant, powerful force against extremism in the middle east are the people themselves
who will not accept this kind of barbarity and brutality. the muslims of the world know that -- what isil represents in no way is what their religion, what their ethnicity, what their background represents and to have local forces be involved supported by local people is the most significant thing i think we can do as we support them as we are doing and will continue to do in every way to defeat isil and other extremist threats i believe that you've testified that the goal is to -- on the equip and training of syrian people that the goal is to equip and train about 5,000 in one year. now, how is that first of all
going to match up against the isil numbers and -- well, let me just start with that. >> well, as i have said and the president said and general dempsey has said and i think in our briefings here in our closed session briefings we've had with members of the senate and the house and our staff last week -- this week, 5,000 is a beginning, mr. chairman. this is part of the region -- this effort is going to be a long-term effort. but we will do it right. we will be able to train and equip these forces through our ability to give them tactical, give them strategic guidance and leadership, the kind of equipment they need where they can move not just as bands of a few people but as legitimate
forces. 5,000 alone is not going to be able to turn the tide, we recognize that on this side. on the isil side on different estimates that continue to come out, those estimates float, mr. chairman, because it is hard to pinpoint at any one time exactly what the strength of isil is. we know it's significant. we know because of their successes over the last few months they have picked up significant support. we also know a lot of that support is forced support. you will either be part of this or your family is killed or you will be killed. so it is an imperfect process. but the 5,000 per year -- and we may do better, we might be able to do better, but we don't want to overstate or overpromise because we want the right
people, are part of the overall strategy that i articulated here as outlined by the president. >> thank you very much. senator inof? >> thank you, mr. chairman, i would ask you turn the maps over. this is just for reference. we put this together with the help of the military, with the help of some think tanks and the colors represented there, the orange, would be what is under isil control right now. the gray would be the kurdish control and then the brown would be the ambitions of isil. do you look at that map and find any problem with it, either one of you? >> actually, senator, in terms of their mission i think that's probably understating their mission. i think if left unaddressed they would aspire to restore the ancient kingdom of al-sham which includes the current state of israel and runs down kuwait. >> we're trying to be conservative on this but to let
people know this is a big area and it's a major -- secretary hagel, do you have a problem with this? >> no, i think general dempsey stated exactly right. >> okay, some of the reports, the u.s. intelligence agencies believe isil does not represent the immediate threats to the united states. in fact, president obama's top counterterrorism advisor during his first term, he said -- and this is a quote, he said "members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are just not justified." i appreciate, secretary hagel, the statement you made when you said that isis poses "an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in iraq or any place else." do you still agree with that statement? >> i do. >> and do you, general demp sni. >> i do, senator. >> one of the things that i was
glad to see is that the american people -- there's been a wakeup call. last week there was a poll that was the cnn poll that 70% of the american people said it was a threat to our homeland. yesterday another one came out, a "wall street journal" poll, the same thing. 70% of the people. so i think that wakeup call has taken. now, when president obama -- and this gets back to some of the statements you made in your opening remarks. he said "our objective is clear, we would degrade and ultimately destroy isil through a comprehensive and sustained counterterror strategy." it's clear we've talked about this. this is an army and i outlined in my opening statement six basic differences between al qaeda and what we're facing right now. do you generally agree with that? >> what i generally agree with, senator, is that they have been using conventional tactics until such time razz we applied air
power. they're beginning to adapt now. >> so now you don't agree that strategy that we would impose against a terrorist -- some group is appropriate today with looking in terms of the giant army that we're facing? >> no, i agree we have to build the capability of the isf and the pesh while-to-address it and also while including a counterterrorism component in our strategy. >> okay. secretary hagel, i'd like to get into the record as to who's in charge of the war because we hear people like ambassador beekroft and the state department saying they are -- a lot of the control. if it's centcom commander austin, then i feel better. is that who's in control of this? now military? >> yes, as i said in my opening statement, senator, i tried to frame some of that up in -- for example, what i mentioned about
general allen's role, initial role as a coordinating role. but i also said he would work directly in that coordination with general austin as the centcom commander. that's why president obama will be with the centcom commander in tampa tomorrow to go over the plan. >> sure, sure. well, mr. secretary, my concern is i don't want people to be under the delusion that this is just another effort, another terrorist effort that we're going to be pursuing. asked by a reporter on september 11 to define victory against isil, the white house press secretary said "i didn't bring my webster's dictionary with me up here." secretary hagel, you didn't bring yours, either. can you define what victory looks like in the united states against isil? >> well, i believe victory would be when we complete the mission of degrading and destroying, defeating isil.
just as the president laid out, that was his objective. >> i understand that. that's not -- i got a different interpretation when i listened to his speech when he said on the fight against isil "it will not involve american combat troops fighting on the soil, american forces do not have a combat mission." let many ask you two questions, general dempsey. in your opinion, are the pilots dropping bombs in iraq as they're now doing a direct combat mission? and secondly, will u.s. forces be prepared to provide combat search-and-s redpu a pilot gets shot down and will they put boots on the ground to make that rescue successful? >> yes and yes. >> good, well i appreciate that. the last thing is -- i know i've gone beyond my time. we've been complaining about what's happening in the funding and now we're looking at the sequestration. in light of all of this that's occurred since we originally started talking about the
funding that will be necessary, do you think we're adequately funded now to take care of all these things that we -- i stated in my opening statement and you have also agreed to? where are we on our funding? are we adequate? >> well two answers to your question. no is the first basic answer but the budget we will be coming up here presenting as you know in a few months will con taun what we believe is going to be required to carry forward for the longer term this effort but in the short term this is why we're asking for the $500 million authority for the train and equip plus as you know the president had asked a few months ago for a $5 billion counterterrorism partnership fund plus a billion dollar european initiative fund as well. so i think what general dempsey
said? his closing comments in his statement probably summarize pretty well as you have noted all of the different pressures that are now coming down on this country reside ago good amount of it at the defense department. one of the things we've been warning about is sequestration over the last year and a half. so we will come forward in our budget for the next fiscal year with some new requests. >> in fact, could i he lab rate on behalf of the joint chiefs because we've discussed this frequently about our ability to balance capability, capacity, and readiness. last year, we said that we -- the size of the force that was projected over the course of the future year defense plan was adequate to the task if the assumptions made were valid. and some of the assumptions we
made were about commitments and some of the assumptions we made were about our ability to get pay compensation, health care changes, infrastructure changes and weapons systems. we didn't get any of those, actually, or very few of them, and the commitments have increased. so this -- we do have a problem and it will -- i think it will become clear through the fall. it's not a problem we can solve just with oco, that is to say the operational contingency funds. there's a base -- >> i know that's true but you mentioned the chiefs and odierno and the other chiefs have come and testified in this room before us that even before these things erupted it was not adequate. as we all know, risk increases when adequacy is not met. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. we have a quorum here now and so i'm going ask the committee to consider the list of 2,458 pending military nominations. they've been before the committee the required length of time. is there a motion?
the nomination -- is there a second? all in favor say aye. opposed nay. motion carries, thank you very much. senator reid. >> well, thank you mr. chairman and general thank you for your testimony. general dempsey, we've had a debate going on and on about no boots on the ground, some boots on the ground, no boots on the ground but military personnel on the ground. it might help us all if you could clarify precisely what our forces are doing in iraq today and if the situation changes you suggested you might recommend -- will come to us with recommendations that they would enhance their mission or change their mission. can you clarify what they're doing? >> yes, i can. thanks for asking, senator. first of all, i think everyone should be aware when we talk about combat forces, that's all we grow. when we bring a young man or woman in the military, they come in to be a combat soldier or a cot bahama reen or combat -- we don't bring them in to be anything other than combat capable. but that's different than how we
use them. and in the case of our contributions in iraq right now the airmen, as the ranking member mentioned, are very much in a combat role. the folks on the ground are very much in a combat advisory role. they are not participating in direct combat. there's no intention for them do so. i've mentioned, though, if i found that circumstance evolving that i would, of course, change my recommendation. an example. if the iraqi security forces and the pesh were at some point ready to retake mosul, a mission that i would find to be extraordinarily complex, it could very well be part of that particular mission to provide close combat advising or accompanying for that mission. but for the day to day activities i anticipate will evolve over time, i don't see it to be necessary right now. >> one of the presumptions -- and i'll just raise it -- would be because we are using air
power that there is sufficient capacity in iraqi forces to coordinate that air power on the ground. is that the issue you're looking senate. >> no, we have, senator. let me use the mosul dam operation as a great example of that. on the ground we had the peshmerga and the counterterrorism service from the iraqi security forces and then in an operations center in erbil we had our own folks using predator feeds and a system we called the rover to be able to help the iraqis manage the battle on the ground. incredibly complex, three languages -- english, kurdish and arab -- and we worked through it. it was a real challenge. but we worked through it and as we did we learned some things about how to used a visors from remote locations. i'm not saying this will work every place every time, but we pulled that mission off and i think it's a good template for future operations. >> and i presume one of the
areas you're looking at is these capable iraqis who who can communicate and coordinate on the ground? their special forces particularly. >> trained by us, that's right. >> mr. secretary, you are proposing, the president is proposing to train about 5,000 individuals a year to go back into syria. the soyuz have agreed to host in the some manner. how do you integrate these forces back into syria. will that go in as a unit? will they -- what's the plan after they are trained? because i think that's part of the issue. >> senator, one of the points that i made a couple of minutes ago in answering senator inhofe's question was the point about training them as units so they can operate as units. which is, as you know with your military experience, critically important as you build an
effective opposition force. not just a hit-and-run group of rebels but an effective force. command and control tactics, strategy so, yes, that's the fundamental training principle of how we begin. the length of time here depends on a number of things but we're probably talking about eight weeks per psych that will might move on within a week or two. but that's the intent of how they would train up. the centcom leaders are already focused on that, are already structured to do that, are preparing. and one of the things the president will get tomorrow as he spends the day with general austin and the centcom planners and commanders in pham is taking him through that entire
structure. >> thank you. general dempsey in your remarks you suggested the immediate operation would probably be most likely in iraq we're already partnering with them, we just conducted strikes but that will put isil in a position of -- as we hopefully become more effective of making a decision to reinforce or to respond in iraq and weaken them in syria or to pull back in syria. so i think your strategy is probably the most effective use of what we have at the time. would you like to comment on that? >> well, the strategy is to squeeze isil from multiple directions so that they can't do what they've been doing which is maneuver places where they're not under pressure. so if we can get the government of iraq to reach out to these
populations that have been disadvantaged during the maliki regime that isil doesn't have a free-flowing stream in which to float and if we can get iaea receive and we've done -- we know which ones are capable of partnering, if we can get enough of them to go on the offensive west and north, get the peshmerga to squeeze from north to south and then find a way over time in syria, initially to disrupt using air power and eventually to pressure using a moderate opposition then i think we place isil in an untenable position and in the middle of that, restore the board sore they can't flow back and forth free. >> i thank you, thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator reid. senator john mccain. >> thank you, mr. chairman, i thank the witnesses. i understand that according to your testimony that we will be training and equipping approximately 5,000 in one year.
is that correct? >> yes. >> and isil now, the estimates are there are some 31,000 metastasizing in a very rapid fashion into a much larger force. to many of us that seems like an inadequate response to what -- >> would you please, please be quiet. i'm asking you now to please leave the room. please remove this woman. the disruptions are not going to be accept to believe anybody. they're not helping in any way. please remove the lady from the room. >> i always appreciate special attention from this group, mr.
chairman. >> we don't want to go to war again. u.s. out of iraq and syria. shame on you, senator mccain. >> and obviously this group of 5,000, as you mentioned, in unit size deployments will be back in syria fighting against isil. they'll also be fighting against bashar al assad which they've been doing for a number of years before isil was ever a significant factor. now they will be fighting against bashar al assad and bashar al assad will attack them from the air. which he has done with significant success. not only against them but there's been 12,000 people who have been slaughtered in syria since the onset.
if one of the free syrian army is fighting against bashar al assad and he is attacking them from the air, would we take action to prevent them from being attacked by bashar al assad? >> senator, let me begin the first part of your question, the 5,000. >> disbenz that. i'd like to answer the question will we if the free syrian army units are attacked from the air by bashar al assad, will we prevent those attacks from taking place and take out bashar al assad's air assets, both helicopter and fixed wing that will be attacking the free syrian army units? >> well, first of all, we're not there yet but our focus is on isil and that is the threat to our country and to our interest and to the people of the region. so what we are training these units for, yes, is a stabilizing
no, sir syria as an option. but the first focus is as i just said as the president laid out in his statement to the country -- >> i take it from your answer that we are now recruiting these young men to go and fight in syria against isil but if they're attacked by bashar al assad we're not going to help them. >> they will defend themselves, senator. >> will we help them against assad's air? >> we will help them and support them as we train them. >> will we rappel bashar al assad's air assets that will be attacking them? >> any attack on those that we have trained who are supporting us we will help them. >> i guess i'm not going to get an answer but it seems to me that you have to neutralize bashar al assad's air assets if you are going to protect these
people that we are arming and training and sending in to fight. is that inaccurate, general dempsey? >> the coalition reforming, senator, won't form unless -- if we were to take assad off the table, we'd have a much more difficult time forming a coalition, but i think what you're hearing us express is an isil first strategy. i don't think we'll find ourselves in that situation given what we intend to do with with -- >> you don't think that the free syrian army is going to fight against bashar al assad? who has been decimating them you think these people you're training will only go back to fight against isil? do you really believe that, general? >> what i believe, senator, is that as we train them and develop a military chain of command linked to a political structure that we can establish objectives that defer that challenge into the future. we don't have to deal with it now. >> that's a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire concept and motivation of the free syrian army that it is
bashar al assad that has killed many more of them than isil. >> i agree. >> and for us to say that we are going go in and help and train and equip these people and only to fight against isil, you won't get many recruits to do that, general, i guarantee you that. and that's a fundamental fallacy in everything you are presenting this committee today. general as secretary hagel -- was the president right in 2012 when he overruled most of his national security team and refused to train and equip the moderate opposition in syria at that time? >> senator, i was not there at the time so i'm limited -- >> well, i'll ask general dempsey then, he was there at the time. >> i'm sorry, senator, when you asked the question -- >> was the president right in 2012 when he overruled his secretary of defense, secretary
of state and director of the cia and refused to equip the modern opposition forces in syria which, according to your testimony, we're doing today. >> senator, you know that i recommended that we train them and you know that for policy reasons the decision was taken in another direction. >> thank you. are you concerned secretary hagel, about our southern border? we received testimony from our homeland security people that our border is porous and the people who are now free to travel to the united states and alsoor radical elements might cross our southern border to attack the united states? >> i'm always concerned about -- >> i mean is that a serious concern of yours? >> i think we have to always look at these things. >> in other words, do you think we have to improve our border security, especially on the southern border? >> we can improve our border
security. >> thank you. my time has expired. >> thank you very much, senator john mccain. senator nelson? >> senator mccain, you're aware that there were published reports of covert training? co-verlt training. >> i am aware of it. i'm also aware of the scale of the training that was required and i'm also aware of the situation today and i'm also aware that 192,000 people have been slaughtered, a lot of them with the so-called barrel bombs which are -- and the use of chlorine gas which has caused a humanitarian disaster of incredible proportions. yes, i'm aware of that. >> general dempsey, are you aware of the published reports of covert training? >> senator, we don't comment in public about any aspect of
covert training. >> mr. secretary, as you know i believe that the president has the constitutional authority to go on and attack isis. this is going to be for the long haul and eventually this issue will have to come to congress for authorization for the use of military force and you all have an appropriations request right n now. my question is, if congress does not approve and i've heard some members of congress say they're not going to vote to approve this $500 million request, if they did that and refused -- >> we're going to jump away.
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good morning, i'm carol costello. you're watching live coverage of the senate arms services committee. testifying this morning, secretary of defense chuck hagel, also testifying general martin dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. so far, two major headlines. general martin dempsey says he
will send u.s. military advisors into combat if he decides that's necessary which defies the president's promise of no ground troops. second the new mission is to destroy isis in iraq but only disrupt in the syria. we'll pause to listen for a moment before we bring in our panel. we're going to bring in our panel right now. jim acosta, senior white house correspondent, jim sciutto chief national security correspondent. maria cardona, democratic strategist, ray han salaam, political commentator and contributing editor to the national review and spider marks, cnn military analyst, also senior correspondent for the daily beast. jim sciutto, i want to start with you. it sounds as if there will be boots on the ground at some point. >> or at least the chairman of the joint chiefs martin dempsey will recommend them. i think those were remarkable statements from general dempsey. one as you note he says he will
recommend to the president u.s. troops in what he called a close combat advisory role. he even went into specifics as to what kind of mission they might be used for. he mentioned the mosul dam. he said if iraqi forces were attempting to retake the mosul dam, a key piece of infrastructure there used in key for the whole country that he might put those advisors not just in rear positions where they are now, they're in command-and-control centers, et cetera, but into a close combat support role where they're up this n front in danger in attacks on isis. this would seem to contradict the vow that the president has made of no combat troops or at least that the administration is splitting airs finely here as to what constitutes a combat role. also as you mentioned, in effect redefining the mission to say that destroying iraq, disrupt in
syria, the administration the president to this point has said their goal is to disrupt and destroy. now specifying that well, in iraq it will destroy it but perhaps acknowledging that in syria the idea of destroying isis is a much longer game, much less easy to accomplish. that's very interesting. again, for an administration who on this war so far has had some trouble specifying exact play the end game is, exactly even what to call it, it is a war, it is a counterterror mission? again, you have some mincing of words, some splitting of hairs here that will raise real questions not only for the lawmakers today but also americans watching this back home. >> so going back to the possibility of boots on the ground, jim acosta, it didn't take long for the administration to speak out about this, did it? >> that's right. and it's interesting to point out what general dempsey said. he talked about advisors accompanying iraqi forces.
i'm not sure if that means they will be engaged in combat but it puts them potentially in harm's way if they're fired upon. i suppose they could be in combat. they might be a combat position but i want to point out what a senior administration official e-mailed to me in response to dempsey's comments because we wanted to ask them what their take on this was and this person wrote back to me quote/unquote, the president's speech still stands, no u.s. troops engaging in combat. and so while it appeared that the chairman of the joint chiefs was providing a little wiggle room there for future use in the event they have to come back and recommend these advisors start going in with iraqi forces, more on the front lines than where they are right now, where they're kind of helping call out air strikes and that sort of thing, the white house is essentially saying, or the administration essentially saying no, the president's speech still stands, the president has said time and again that there will be no combat boots on the ground engaged in combat against isis
and i asked white house press secretary josh earnest about this yesterday. because as you know over the weekend lindsey graham was calling this into question as to whether or not it was a good idea to limit that element of the strategy and josh ernest said very clearly, very definitively that the president still believes that no combat troops will be used in any kind of capacity when it comes to taking on isis in iraq and syria. so they seem to be making it very, very clear although general dempsey's comments muddied the waters a bit there. >> it did. so let's go to general spider marks. you heard general dempsey. you know, just give it to us straight. what exactly did he say and what does it mean? >> carol, polemics in politics are an invitation to struggle and we parse words, but words are very important in combat. what marty dempsey said is in the fight against isis in iraq, we have u.s. soldiers on the ground right now providing support. those lines and those battle
engagements shift as a matter of routine. somebody who's in a support role today could be in a combat role two minutes from now. and that's what marty dempsey is describing and he very precisely laid out that there may be an ends and a means mismatch. if there's a gap between what we want to try to achieve and what's available he'll go back to the president and say, look, we need more. we need to alter how we describe this thing right now. so that's what marty was laying. >> rehan, why doesn't the president just say that? was he twrong lay out this clear line and say no troops on the grou ground? none? >> the president's political career was built on his initial oppostion to the war in iraq. he has continued to be very reluctant to use force. he has used it on occasion but every time he has he's done so, frankly, after a lot of hesitation. so i think that that's a core part of his political identity. it is his core as a person and i think it's entirely natural that he would continue to express that. now, do i think there's a
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bring you back to the senate arms services committee testifying. you see him on the screen right there. also defense secretary chuck hagel. asking questions now, a member of the arms services committee senator claire mccaskell, a democrat from missouri. let's listen. >> the point i'm trying to make is it's a much different situation now in terms of getting maliki to step down. iran was very concerned about isil taking over iraq and what that meant. clearly there was pressure being exerted for maliki to step down by iran. so us getting -- i think for us to take credit for getting maliki to step down is unrealistic in light of what the geopolitical forces were in their neck of the woods at that point in time. >> i was -- i was here on this episode and i can tell you that it wasn't the united states that pushed maliki out. it was his own people iran being
part of that. so it wasn't the united states dictating that maliki stay or not stay. let's not forget that iraq is a sovereign nation. it has elections. we may not like the outcomes, but it is a sovereign country. that was the entire point when general -- when president bush signed the december, 2008, agreement to leave iraq. it was a sovereign nation. so the united states didn't force or push through some new system of influence it was the people that made that decision. >> i want to touch on the issue of the shiite militia. as we looked at the surge, one of our successes in the surge was certainly our ability to bring over moderate sunnis. that was noted at the time and talked about a great deal about our ability to finally get the cooperation of a lot of moderate
sunnis. clearly the sunnis have thrown in with isil because of the political problems they were thrown in this terms of exclusion from the iraqi government. so the clerics put out the call to rappel ie still to the shiite militias and they have been partially responsible for the successes that have occurred on the ground what are we doing? this is one of many complex problems that presents its in this tang that will we're in how are with going to deal with the empowerment of the militia as we try to get a political solution which is a unified government and security forces that represent all parts of that country? >> a couple things. one is i'm reluctant -- i try not to talk about the sunni as a mono lithic block. if the senator's chart was still up theret