tv Central Command Operations CSPAN February 28, 2018 7:51am-10:10am EST
they look at efforts to combat the opioid crisis. on c-span two at 10:00 a.m. the atlantic council hosted a discussion on social and economic change in saudi arabia. the senate returns at 12:45 p.m. to consider consideration. on c-span three a hearing on what is ahead for the fbi headquarters and plans to build the new building on the current site. the 50 capitals to her. they will be the guest on the bus. general joseph hotel testified
at house hearing about ongoing military operations in iraq, syria in afghanistan. he discussed cooperation with regional allies to counter iranian influence. in the effect of russian operations. this is the public portion of the house armed services committee hearing it's two hours and 50 minutes. we come to order. we welcome back to the committee the commander of the u.s.s.of it brings to his area of responsibility.
where russian influence and presence is much greater now. a region and that that is one of the targets of the chinese whole of nation effort. to increase its way. in and emanating from. or our presence from this vital area. with a number of a strong allies and partners that are able and willing to actively defend. o when we withdraw.
that could rapidly grow more dangerous. has received the lion share. for some time. if we more need to be more active on other areas. the recenthe budget agreement helps but it will take time to rebuild and field needed capabilities. in the circumstances making anre that u.s. national security is protected. thank you. i ask with the consent. i would also like to welcome general of the hotel hotel and thank him for appearing today. the central command area responsibility remains critical to our national interest.
reports of continued military progress. it is encouraging but military achievements alone will not guarantee long-term success. we must work with the international community employee to foster and sustain political economic and social conditions to ensure long-term stability. we cannot allow that the region to fall into violent extremism again. to truly defeat isis we must be just indeterminate of durable peace as we had been. we have a longmi sought and stable. for more than 16 years. the united states is concentrated on illuminating terrorist threats eliminating terrorist threats while working closely with our allies to secure the country despite significant progress afghan forces are still in so wheressistance are we headed.
although our commitments to a post violent extremism are consuming t we must also remain alert to other security challenges. despite an agreement regarding the nuclear program i ran remains a designated safe sponsor -- state sponsor of terrorism. we must deter them from the online activities. it's increasingly involved in the regent as well. certainly a complex set of issues general. and i look forward to your testimony. thank you very much for joining us. thank you mister chairman. that objection your fault written statement will be made part of the record. welcome back. the floor is yours.ba
distinguished members of the committee good morning and thank you for the opportunity to appear today to appear and discuss the current posture and state of readiness. i come before you today on behalf of the over 80,000 members of the command is a dedicated team of military service members along with our coalition partners representing 70 nations and for international organizations many of whomon are forward deployed. they sacrifice in risk on a daily basis in many cases for the benefit of not only american strategic interests but also of the world. our people are the very best at what they do v in today and especially their families deserve our admiration and gratitude. it is my sincere honored to lead and be a member of such a fine team of dedicated professionals. i am approaching the two-year mark of my time in command. this has been both incredibly challenging during what has been the volatile timesbo h in e
complex region history. it has been 11 months since our last appeared before the committee and we have made considerable military progress however, we remain fairly clear eyed with the permanence of that progress and the challenges that we face in the future. in the past year we have achieved incredible success against isis and iraq and syria and the syrian democratic forces are operating at the most effective levels. and now over 98 percent of the territory is no longer under their control the destruction of the physical cal state is imminent and millions of displaced persons are returning home now we must consolidate our gains.
that will hold the territory based upon that progress sent, is conducting an operational alignment to achieve three specific goals. the first goal is to complete major combat operations in iraq and syria and bring the defeat isis campaign to a responsible close. military success in the campaign up to this point sends us an opportunity in a manner that keeps the pressure on isis will we retain suspicion capabilities despite the decrease in complex situation across syria. and especially in the north west province of afrin. we are fully engaged. to carefully balance our objectives.
our partners on the ground and in syria had advanced a long way towards our objectives and we will stick with them through the completion of this fight. in iraq the security forces are rapidly consolidating gains s in preparing to support elections later this spring. the second goal is to prior to rice the strategy in afghanistan. with the enduring commitment to afghanistan. .. .. credible elections. part and parcel of this effort is our regionalized approachrt o engage all countries with a stake in afghanistan stability especially pakistan.
our goal is to develop a productive and trustful relationship that benefits both of our militaries and support our objectives in the region. the third goal is to ensure we have aligned our military efforts with our broader interagency and international efforts to neutralize, counterbalance, and shape the destabilizing impact that iran has across the region. make no mistake, while we continue to confront the scourge of terrorism, iran's allied activities across the region pose a long-term threat to stability in this part of the world. po view ourselves as supporting the many other more effective resources and capabilities of the u.s. government and its partners in this endeavor. the recently published national defense strategy rightly identifies the resurgence of great power competition as our principal national security challenge, and we see the effects of that competition throughout the region.
russia's support of the assad regime has not only prop him up but is also added complexity to defeat isis campaign. diplomatically and militarily, moscow plays both arsonist and firefighter, fueling tensions among all parties in syria, the syrian regime, iran, turkey, the syrian democratic forces, the united statess and other coalition partners, then serving as an arbiter to resolve disputes attempted to undermine and wen can each parties bargaining positions. despite the key role to our partners on the ground, they syrian democratic forces and the coalition have played in dealing defeat to isis, russia has placed this progress at risk with activities which are not focused on defeating isis but rather on preserving their own and control over the outcome of the situation. it is clear russia's interest in syria ares russia's interest and not those of the wider international community. china is pursuing a long-term
study, pursuing long-term steady economic growth intu the region through its one belt, one road policy but it is also improving its military posture by connecting ports in pakistan with its first overseas military base in djibouti, adjacent to the critical -- while beijing claims both locations support peacekeeping humanitarian operations, the new military base and port holsters china's projection into the region. both china and russia seek to fill then proceed gaps in u.s. interest by increasing defense cooperation and feels that equipment to our regional partners. cultivatinge also multidimensional ties to iran. the lifting ofe u.n. sanctionsf the joint comprehensive plan of action open the path for a rent to resume membership application to the shanghai cooperation organization. in addition, russia, supported
by iran, continues to bolster a friend of regime in syria, attempt to limit the use military presence in iraq and afghanistan and create friction among nato partners. against this backdrop of increasing great power interaction are the enduring issues of the region. social, economic and political challenges, high unemployment, falling oil prices, large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons. andic long-standing border conflict. we stand ready with all of our partners to defend u.s. interest against these and other threats. our strategic approach of preparing the environment, pursuing opportunities and workingnm to prevail whatever we can is working. we have had our posture for pu, are active in pursuing opportunities, and resolved to win. i'd like to close by sharing three dynamics that we assessed essential to essential in this region.
firstn as i pray this testified in the context of our campaigns in iraq, syria and afghanistan as well as our operations in places like yemen, lebanon and egypt with adopted by come with and through her approach. places a heavy reliance on digit his partner nation forces. our partners did not always want us to solve their problems for them so we enable them to stand on their own. while this approach does present its own challenges and can be more time-consuming, it provides local solutions to local problems. this approach is not without risk as we are seeing unfolding in syria today but in general it is proving very effective and will likely pay significant dividends going forward.ni secondly, successful pursuit of use objectives in this region only comes from an integrated approach a with inter-organizational partners. defense of the nation is a team sport. this applies not just within the command but with our fellow combatant commands, our
component commands, are established combined and joint task forces, the central regions 18 country teams and other departments, agencies and organizations of the a u.s. government who have provide unwavering support for almost two decades of persistent conflict. our allies in the region and the wider international community are equally as critical to supporting our mission. they directly support the centcom headquarters of more than 200 foreign military officers from 49 nations, all of whom are part w of the success f the sick, and we're grateful for and largely depend on their partnership. as as a national defense stratey captures clearly, strengthening existing relationships and building new ones will be key to our future success. we are doing this incident, everyday. finally, we could not do what we do on a daily basis without the supportt of congress and by extension the american people. we sincerely appreciate this
committees continued strong support for our operations, authorities and resources, and especially the same to the services, special operations command and others defense eragencies that we rely upon for our military wherewithal. your support will remain important as we contend with what potentially our generational struggles to defend our homeland from the threats outlined international defense strategy. t u.s. government commitment to the centcom area of c responsibility is more important now than ever. for our part we will support the third pillar of the national defense strategy, business reform, but continued to be good stewards of the resources and authorities that congress providesou us. to close, i want to what's again think yesterday many women who comprise the united states central command, easily our finest and most precious resources. they continue to make great sacrifices and contributions to ensure the command meets our strategic objectives and
protects our nation's interest. we must ensure they have everything they need to do their jobs as effectively and efficiently as possible. we are also keenly aware and grateful for the sacrifices made by ourur families. they are vital members of the team and we could not accomplish our mission without them. they, too, make important contributions and tremendous sacrifices every day to support us. i thank them on behalf of the command and grateful nation. thank you again and look for to answering your questions. >> thank you, general. let me remind members that he merely upon conclusion of this open hearing we c will regather with general votel upstairs and classified session. so be in touch to know exactly when this open hearing ends. since general votel and i've had a chance to visit recently, , im going to yield five minutes initially to the gentlelady from wyoming, ms. cheney. >> thank you very much, mr. cha.
thank you, general votel, for your service and for being here today. i wanted to ask you to elaborate in particular threat from iran. one of the many grave laws of the jcpoa is the fact that it failed to deal with iran's ballistic missile threat, and we are now seeing across the region increasingly evidence that a van is transferring ballistic missile and other conventional equipment to its allies in the region. can you talk about exactly what you're seeing in this regard and what dignity is in a position to be able to do to defend us and our allies against that threat? >> thank you. i think you highlighted one of the principal concerns we have. there seems to be increasing not just quantity but quality of the ballistic missiles and the export and movement of those capabilities to other groups and locations around the region.
certainly as we've seen with ambassador haley and her demonstration was recently with some of the items recovered from saudi arabia, these weapons posed the threat of widening the conflict out of yemen and, frankly, put our forces, our embassy in riyadh,nd our forcesn the united arab emirates at risk as well as our partners. first and foremost about their threat is the f quality and quantity that they have had ben pursuing over the last severals years, particularly with respect to this. their direct introduction of asymmetric capabilities concerns me. as you look at places like -- will receive the m introductionf coastal defense cruise missiles, some data been modified can we know these are not capabilities the houthis had said they been provided to them by someone. that someone is iran. the presence of explosive boats, the increased presence of mind in
this area are all very similar to the layered threat iran has posed in the streets of vermouth, and we hold them accountable for the h -- streets of hormuz. the third is the continuing and changing power projection model. out on their own forces but the proxies and the partners they are tempting to create around the region. i think these all give us very significant concerns. with respect to your question of what we're doing, we're working with saudi arabia and some of our partners to ensure that their optimizing their capabilities they have picked many ofus them u.s. provided capabilities to ensure that they can defend themselves. and i would report to you in the session that we are seeing some progress in that regard. >> thank you, general. in respect to syria that have been reports we've seen facilities, for example, being built inec syria, reports
open-source iranian missile facilities. obviously the threat is significant not justsl a u.s. interest but also toif allies le israel, and could you talk more about what we might be able to do particularly on the ground in syria as we see the challenge of we've been very effective against isis but obviously our interests are still significantly threatened, given the failed state situation we are facing. >> as you know, it's not one of the coalition mission in syria. that said, i think one of the most effective things that we can do in this particular area is built strong relation -- >> i'm sorry, i understand it's not potentially formally part of the mission but it seems to be if we're focused on countering iran we need to be doing every place our interests aren threatened. >> absolutely. and one of the key ways that we are doing that is through our strong relationships we are building with the government of
iraq, military forces. that include not only forces that are in injury but certainly along the border. our strong relationship with the syrian democratic forces in the east and the northern part of the country put us in a position where we can impede iran's objectives of establishing lines of communication through these critical areas and trying to connect tehran to the root, for example. first and foremost some of these correct things were doing -- beirut. important to that. beyond that i think also continue to highlight and illuminate their activities is extraordinary important,vi so tt they can be addressed not just with military means but certainly with the of the means that are available to us across government. >> thank you very much. i will yield back the balance of my time. >> ms. davis. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
general votel, again thank you for joining us. as you just mentioned and certainly in your written statement and national defense strategy stated the great power competition not terrorism is not the primary focus of u.s. national security. couldd you elaborate for us on those comments, and also talk about the ship in this national strategy how exactly will impact centcom -- shift. what changes will materialize as a result of the shift and how would a central command capacity to perform its mission the affected? >> thanks. congresswoman, i think that shifts that are outlined in the national defense strategy are things that will take place over time,, and so one of the principled ways that we are trying to manage that of course is through the development,
continued relationship building we have on place, in place with partners in the region, continuing to strengthen those relationships. we learne things through this approach is that we can do aha lot to our partners y providing advice, , by providing expertise in areas where we have experienced and we can do that with a smaller footprint, and with smaller investment. i think one of the principled ways that we will address this going forward is continuing to build on these relationships and continue to empower our partners in the region. >> could you speak to the key challenges in doing that? >> certainly one of the key challenges will be making sure we don't create, make impression we are abandoning sick. this of course is a key talking, the region pics of this of course is a key talking point not only for me but for all
leaders. we recognize that the interest we have come the national this regionhave in for preventing tax onn homeland, for preventinghe proliferation f weapons of mass distractionr coe forgery freedom of navigation and commerce, for insuring other countries can't destabilize, those are enduring interest that we willl always have. this will always require us to continue to be engaged there to some aspect but, of course, the secretary will make decisions on shifting resources with the national defense strategy. >> thank you. you also talked about solutions were not critical that is and as youio just mentioned, i would if you could also talk with inclusion of women as a critical strategy that advances countering terrorism, national security and democratization and economic and social development? some of those programs have been successful, but there is more to be done.
how can we increase the effectiveness of thesese progra? >> the best we can do this by sharing our experiences. we learned by our inability to include women into many of our counterterrorism operations, back in the beginning of the cicely been involved in, that we are missing 50% of the population in doing that. when we began to introduce them into positions where they could have influence, we learned a lot so i think one of the key things we can do is continue to lead by example in this area and demonstrate how this is valued by us. we do see partners in the region doing this, the afghans, the iraqis are doing this. we see this with the democratic forces we are working with in syria. i would highlight to you one of the principal commanders they have come for successful command is a female. so it is very much recognize that contributions come from the
entire, entirety of the force. >> thank you. i appreciate that. i think a number of us participate in those efforts and i hope we can continue to do more of that. 90 very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. wilson. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general votel, recently the united nations released a group remarkably gruesome report outlining north korea's ongoing efforts to assist syria, building chemical weapons. this report states north korea has been shipping supplies to the syrian government including -- additionally north korea missile technicians have been observed working at chemical weapons and missile facilities in syria. are you able to comment on the u.n. report and if not could you describe them like disruptive role north korea currently plays in syria and whether or not you see that will expand in the coming years? edition what is being done topa disrupt this cooperation between of north koreapt
and the syrian government? >> congressman, i admit i've not seen that report so i can't comment specifically on it. obviously very concerned about the proliferation of these types of weapons in syria come with a country that has demonstrated the intent to use them. this will be in airy we will continue to pay close attention to. >> it so important, i was pleasantly surprised that the "new york times" covered it today. my experience with that newspaper is they frequently overlook threats to stability in the world, but i urge your consideration. also, primary concern, the long-termm stability of the middle east surrounds the return undefeated islamic state fighters who are returning home from fighting in iraq in syria. an estimate from the global strategy network have tracked 5600 fighters have returned to their home countries. specifically, sadly, turkey has
900 returning and saudi arabia has 760 returning. could you explain what threat the return of the defeated islamic state fighters to their home country represents to the long-term stability in the region? and can you explain the proposed ongoing efforts to work with allied nations in dealing with this flow of fighter? >> thank you, congressman. certainly these fighters that are able to depart these war zones are able to take with them experiences and tactics that could potentially be applied to other places. additionally, they are radicalized so they have the ability to bring others on board with this. these are they principled concerns. this has been at the forefront of our efforts from the very beginning. as you heard the secretary talk about our strategy ofin annihilation in the conduct of operations, we've always attempted to isolate these areas and prevent the escape of these fighters so they are either killed or captured where we take
them on. i think we have been successful in that, certainly there are some that have gotten away. we have with the support of some of the authorities, we do have an effective program to interdict foreign fighters as they attempt to depart the area. we are now working with the department of justice to ensure that these hundreds that are in the control of our partners in both iraq and syria are moving into a judicial process that holds them accountable and ultimately returns into the countries from which they came. >> what are child that is. speaking of not just fighters but their families -- challenge. i appreciate you bringing that issue. additionally turkey has beenn a valued ally for a century of the united states. a member of nato beginning with the korean war they've been fighting side-by-side with americans for freedom. what is being done to continue are important alliance?
>> thank you. and i would just like with your comments, turkey is an absolutely vital throughout the entire campaign plan. they certainly have serious concerns of pkk terrorism. of course this has screwed some tension with some ofur the partners we have on the ground. the principal way we're addressing this congressman is by being as transparent and clear and candid with the turkey for some of things were doing on a day-to-day with our partners. just this morning i i had a conversation with my counterpart in turkey, sharing information back and forth, keeping the communication channels professional and open as we discussed this very, very difficult challenge that we are working through. >> and with a multitude of issues you have to face yemen, what's the latest on efforts to provide security working with saudi arabia? >> i would say our effort in the setting is principally to help
them defend themselves, and i think we've made some very good progress in this area and i look forward in a closed session to sharing with you some examples. >> we appreciate your service. thank you. >> thank you. >> mr. veasey. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i wanted to ask you, there was a call in the "wall street journal" maybe about four days ago with the alleged there was a russian attack on u.s. special operation forces on the evening of february 7 and 8th. specifically i wanted to ask you what you know about that and how can centcom prioritize counterterrorism objectives are trying to avoid any sort of dangerous escalation withry russian? >> thank you, congressman. i think we had kind of characterize that as pro-regime forces. we are certainly aware of the amount of media that is out there talkingwa about this thatn this particular instance this was a very rare case of self-defense on our part, and so
i frankly am quite proud the way the force responded to this. quickly identify did, immediately got on the net with our russian, through our russian channel here to talk with them about this. we were talking with them before, during and after this, and very effectively brought together the right candidate to address this self-defense threat. they have continued to do that. what i would just tell you is we retain sufficient capability to protect ourselves, at the same time we're pursuing our counterterrorism objectives in syria. >> did you think russia is going to want to try to have more influence or diminish our influence in the region once we push isis out, or how gc that relationship playing out long-term? >> i think what i would say is
what we see is russia has failed to follow through on delivering the regime and a number of different areas. as we look at the u.n. sanction cease-fire that was put in place, one that they helped draft and agree to to implement and to cause the regime to comply by, they have failed do that. either russia has to admit it's not capable or it doesn't want to play a a role in ending the syrian conflict. i think think the role is incry destabilizing atct this point. >> i would also like to briefly switch and ask p you a bit afghanistan, too. i know there have been some that have been concerned about our deteriorating relationship with the pakistanis, and was wondering how important do you think it is for us to continue to have relationship with pakistan, keeping routes open so we can adequately provide troops
into afghanistan, part of the middle east and what are your thoughts on that our relationship and particularly how it lines up with afghanista afghanistan. >> my view is success in afghanistan and south asia will require a strong relationship and cooperation of pakistan. and since the announcement of the south asia strategy, this has been one of my principal focuses this year, is to help pakistan and as together achieve the specific things that we require for them. we have asked them to do in support of our strategy. what i would report to you and to the committee is i do a very frequent and routine professional communications with my counterpart. we talk almost weekly. we meet frequently face-to-face, and i think we are now, michael is to develop this very productive and trusting relationship that will help us move forward together.
i can't characterize the relationship as trussell at this particular point. or is a lot of history here that has to overcome. what i would also tell you is were now beginning to see positive indicators. through their communications, their reporting to us, some of the actions they are taking on the ground. these are positive indicators they are moving in the right direction. it does not get equal the decisive action that we would like to see them take in terms of a strategic shift, but they are positive indicators. it gives me hope our approach is the right one and that confidence in our approach, and gives me hope that we can begin to restore this very important relationship. >> thank you. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> esther lamborn. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general, thank you for your service. you barely mentioned lebanon and hard ever talk about lebanon but there are so many problems there and in any other part of the world it would be front and
center and inn headlines all the time. but with all the other problems in centcom it takes a backseat. but given that hezbollah is a u.s. designated terrorist organization and that the lebanese president has been public in support of hezbollah as a military partner with the lebanese armed forces, and given that we in the past anyway supplied high quality american arms to the lebanese armed forces, do you think we should keep working with the lebanese armed forces and giving them high quality american weaponry? and are they a reliable partner? >> congressman, i think they are a reliable partner and i think investments we've made over the last ten or 11 years, very moderate investment in terms of people and money compared to some of the of the things we do, have really paid off. they are helping us develop a very professional lebanese armed forces that is beginning to be
viewed as the principal security arm in afghanistan. i note your comment about the doesn't appear in the news but, frankly, lebanon is a frequent stopping place from it and for all of my commanders and we pay a lot of attention to this relationship is we have an outstanding ambassador there who is a very, very engaged in the activities. we are very proud of what lebanese armed forces are doing. they very effectively last fall on their own orchestrated a pretty effective operation against isis. they view us as a most important partner at a do think it is an investment worth continuing. >> but doesn't the relationship between the cozying up to hezbollah within lebanon to the conventional forces that are give you pause? >> well, i kelly, i frequently interact with the chief of defense there. i considered to be be a very professional military officer.
this is a multi-confessional arrangement here in pakistan that trips over into the political environment. but what i observe in lebanon is aon military that is answerableo the leadership, is doing a good job at staying apolitical and his focus on security of the country. >> okay.ng shifting gears to saudi arabia. are we doing enough to help them and the united arab emirates defend themselves as we discussed a little earlier from iranian supplied missiles to the houthi rebels? are we doing enough? >> in the setting i would say yes, we are. we are definite focus on this particular threat and i look for to sharing a few more comments with you about this in a closed session. >> thank you. in yemen, the u.s. military is conducted a much higher number of strikes against terrorist targets last year that in 2016, the previous year.
what positive impact, if any, at least strikes had on aqap and on isis in yemen? or excuse become an islamic state in yemen. >> thank you, congressman. it is is that i think a signift impact on aqap. certainly it has impacted their ability to conduct external operations. it's going to do the areas of which they've had sanctuary, and he discontinued to present them with multiple dilemmas that have to deal with. so not only are they continue with our strikes but also with partner operations that we work with our arab coalition partners on the ground andpe with our you many partners on the ground. this is become company very effective. i would kelly we are extending that isis in yemen as well. that is not as well developed as al-qaeda is but, of course, it is isis twitter stand i etiology. winterson where they're going so we're very concerned about them as well. >> thank you. lastly i'd likeev to ask about e
fourth infantry division at fort carson in my district. they are sending i a brigade combat team to afghanistan this spring. even though we've had budget shortfalls for the military in recent years, we made huge steps with this latest budget agreement to beef up military spending which i totally applaud and support. i think readiness will be less of an issue in the future but do you feel good about the current state of readiness with, for instance, the brigade combat to afghanistan this spring? >> congressman, i do. i haven't had an opportunity to visit that specific brigade but i just had an opportunity to visit one of the brigade coming in, the security forces brigade. i next-door don't appreciative of the efforts that are put off by the army, the marine corps, force, all the services here that we depend upon and in afghanistan to give us high-quality force. >> thank you. >> ms. gabbard. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
thank thank you, general votel,r your service. and for being here. i'd like to f talk a little bit more about what you begin with your opening statement, the comment you made since about u.s. military objectives in syria. you talked about how you're working to defeat isis and brain that campaign to responsible close. later you mentioned that countering iran is not a coalition mission, in syria. last month we heard from secretary tillerson about how u.s. military presence in syria will remain for an indefinite period of time. turkey went on to list a very expansive list of strategic objectives of the u.s. militaryry to include ensuring defeat of isis, to include diminishing influence of iran, advancing you and let political resolution, et cetera, et cetera. my question is what is the
objective of our u.s. forces in syria? and under what legal basis is this indefinite presence in syria planned under? >> thank you. so the principal reason we're in syria is to defeat isis, and that remains our seoul and single task that we are principally oriented on. part of the feeding isis though is removing their control of the physical caliphate, theng physil terrain as you're well aware. and in ensuring they can't we surge. that meet after we remove them from their control to train we have to consolidate our gains and we have to ensure that the right security and stability is in place so that they cannot we surge. that is part of being responsible coalition members and that will take some time beyond all this. our legal basis for operating in
syria was largely driven by the collective self-defense of iraq, when we first went there, that isis being an organization that did not adhere to sovereign boundaries, removing back and forth across and while were beginning to address isis in iraq we knew we also had to address isis in syria. i would also point out, congresswoman, a syrian regime itself is proved unwilling and unable to address this particular threat. while they did do some operations down in the middle of the euphrates valley several months ago a largely departed the area. i have taken the pressure off of isis and created more problems for the coalition. i think those are the principal speedy so our u.s. forces still operating under the 2001 aumf, correct? >> we are.
>> and how does countering iran, i'm just seeing some contradiction between what the secretary of state is saying that is now going to be part of the u.s. military objective in syria and what you stated today saying countering iran does not part of the coalition mission. just a follow-up to that. if it is, then how does that fall under the 2001 aumf that deals directly with countering al-qaeda and its affiliates? >> i think what, my understanding is the secretary of state basis, as he made it out not as use military objective but as as a u.s. objective. so there are other ways we can address iran's stabilizing activities and others through military means. the fact of the matter is as i mentioned a few moments ago, even though iran is a principal focus here, in this campaign, our relationship with partners both in iraq and in syria does
put us in a position where we can indirectly have an impact on the objectives that iran is pursuing in this part of the world. i think i would characterize it more in that regard that as actively doing something militarily against iran. >> thank you. i believe secretary tillerson was quite specific in speaking about this within the justification of a a maintained u.s. military presence there. my last quick question is about yemen, and under what authorization are we providing arms and direct military support to saudi arabia, and what essentially is approximate between saudi arabia and iran? >> will come in the arms salesf course go through our foreign military sales and military funding process that is managed by the department of state, so they have thehe principal oversight for that. the provision of fuel to saudi
aircraft is provided for under the acquisition agreement we have in place with saudi arabia. so that provides us the authority to provide that support to them. >> mr. wittman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general votel, thanks so much for joining us today. i wanted to begin by getting your perspective. you speak about navy presence in the gulf and the red sea. we think the sitcom is being banned centric but we also see as you specifically point out -- land centric -- we see a single reserve for the chinese navy. we see president xi jinping through modernization of the military looking to very aggressively expand and sustain operations around the world from your perspective there, at centcom commander in that they are, specifically what do you
see our u.s. navy doing to counter this chinese expansionism? what do you need as far as u.s. navy presence to makear sure tht we have what's necessary in relation to what we see as chinese aggressive expansion? >> thanks, congressman did i appreciate the question. i am an army guy. i would share what would you think about the land territory in centcom if t a much is a maritime theater. the three critical chokepoints that are so important to us in this area. i do recognize that. i would tell you the resources that are being provided, the maritime resources provide to me by the navy in the marine corps i think are adequate to the task we have. principal way we develop resilience against these types of great powerev influences in this area is through first of all our present, our constant presence and we do maintain a constant presence in both the red sea, the gulf of aden, into
the arabian gulf and the gulf of oman as well, and through our very close partnership with our partners. we have three combined maritime taskforces that are laid out of our naval headquarters in bahrain that include a variety of different nations. with a look at the nation's that are on our team and i look at the nation's that are lined up with some of these others that entering in the area, i think our teams are very strong i think this is a very key way for us to maintain our influence and pursue o our interests in the sitcom maritime environment. >> very good. last year the u.s. naval office of intelligence pointed out some challenges with potentially placing mines that would put at riskng commercial vessels near b al mandab straight. give me your perspective not
only on what the potential threatat is because we see houts operating in the area, shooting at u.s. ships. give me your perspective on what we are doing in minesweeping operations, looking to counter that potential threat for mines because we know that's a chokepoint that a strategically very important. >> thank you. we certainly maintain minesweeping capabilities in the gulf and, therefore, a number of years, so do our partners. i would just point out some of our partners like the emirates and saudi arabia have some very good capability in this regard. one of the things we do is work with them to optimize their capabilities. again by, with, and through getting to and use their capabilities and using our intelligence and some of our experience to help them be more effective at this. this i think is been very effective in preventing a major mine catastrophe, if you will, in the bab al mandab, one we're
very concerned about. 60-70 shipsps and they go throuh the bab al mandab. not just ours, everybody's. this is a very real threat that we have to pay attention to. >> do you, have an intelligence gathering operation look what's happening in bab al mandab strait about activities going on, what we think it may be things we we can do to convict? keeping a mine for being late is a lot better than having to go into sweet those areas especially from a time perspective. give us your perspective on what's happening. >> i was in the setting we have to do and i look for to sharing the details with i you in a different setting. >> very good. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> mr. carbajal. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general votel, thank you for being here today. america has been engaged in afghanistan for 16 years and it is difficult to determine what progress we have made. the administration increases troop levels to 14,000 troops.
however, unable to learn from history when investing more lives and resources without a clearly defined benchmark. i'm extremely concerned about the fact that significant information is being withheld from the office of inspector general for afghanistan to reconstruction, and ultimately, the american people. according to the inspector general, quote, it is hard to make a determination of how good a job we are doing because if the afghan military is not doing, not fighting that well, and there are not many of them, we can determine fraud, waste and abuse in afghanistan. because they can't get basic facts from the department, how are you measuring progress in afghanistan? please describe the in-state, what does success look like to you? currently, what is the amount of territory under the afghan government control? and help me understand how
withholdingg information has mae a a difference in our operations in afghanistan? >> thank you, congressman. i will take your last one. we are aware that issue and i think measures are being taken to address that right now. some of the information is not necessarily u.s. government information. it is information of the afghan government and so they control the release and classification of that information. this is something we have to continue to work with. >> if i could just interrupt you. it's great to parlay that to the afghan government that will get the ones with resources and the lives of our military there. we've got to be able to get some information from them to appease those of us that have to make decisions on what kindor of investment we need to make in the area. >> thank you, congressman. i'm committed to making sure you do have those details. you asked also about kind of how we are looking at the situation right now. what i would make you -- tell
you is the big idea what we can do in afghanistan is drive towards reconciliation. this is different than an approach we've had in the past and were trying to do that to creating not just military pressure with our military activities on the ground what we're trying to do is create social pressure with things the afghan government is doing like credible elections that they're pursuing this year, the parliamentary level and the national level next year. we are doing through creating a phonetic and regional pressure. just as a talk about with a few moments ago. the idea is create pressure on all those three will create enough pressure on the taliban when they come to the table. what's different this time as we approach this is that we're taking a conditions-based approach that is focused on reconciliation as its end state. it is a regional focus and we are engaging the partners in the region, not just pakistan but the central asian states as well
who were key to this. and we have changed the way that we are working with the afghan forces. so we previously advised down to a very low level with the afghan special operation forces. we have now, we are now with additional come up with the enablers and advisers that the department has approved for are taking that capability and extending out to their conventional forces. we are building out the afghan air force. we are doubling the size of the afghan special operations capability. so there are a variety of different aspects to this approach. this will give usap the abilityo measure the progress. you asked about how much of the population is controlled by the afghan government. today that figure is 64%. 12% of the population is in areas that are controlled by the taliban, and the balance are in contested areas. our focus, the focus of our
military operations, is on increasing and expanding population control by the government of afghanistan. what we're going to do this season is we're going, are intention is to break the stalemate, grabbed initiative can begin to expand population control this year and next year, and then ensure we create an environment that allows for credible elections to take place. one of the most important things at the afghan people need to see from the government. >> running at a time. whatos about information, the sharing of information to the inspector general? >> as i mentioned, congressman, we will do our very best to ensure that you the information you need to make the decisions that are necessary. >> thank you so much. i yield back. >> mr. scott. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general, thank you for being here. i want to talk with you about isr and the centcom area. i know you've got a lot of
partners in the area of what percentage of the isr does the united h states provide? >> i'm not sure i can tell you what the percentage over all is. i mean, it's very clear the majority of the isr in the region is being provided by the uniteden states. >> what about the dod capacity to make the demand for isr? do you have enough isr girly? >> i think i don't think you'll find any commander that's going to say he has enough isr. right now todays with the larget concentration of in q nines down in kandahar airfield, and i know adequate fort's what he needs right now but given his own druthers i'm sure he would want more. we would want more in all these areas. >> i s understand that the armyn some ways and i commanders are agnostic as to the different
platforms that isr may come from but i assume that when it comes to providing additional isr, the commanders would not be agnostic to the timeline to get usr to the field with itt be a fair statement? >> that'she right. i think the fast we can continue to provide those capabilities, the better. >> one of my concerns and i have tremendous amountr. of respect r the secretary of defense and the secretary of the air force as well, but as they have change the strategy to more of a china or russia strategy, they are canceling the procurement or propose to cancel the procurement of items that are not capable of flying against the russians or the chinese and are in a direct conflict with the russians or the chinese that one of these platforms is the new recapitalization of the jstars which was spent hundreds of millions to develop and are now currently ready to purchase
and a proposed to cancel the procurement of the jstars because they said they're going to use a system that is not been developed yet, which obviously changes the timeline when we can deliver that system to you. i guess my question is, do the systems that use in central command have to be survivable, if you will, in a conflict that would be as high-end as that between the russians and the chinese, a direct conflict?on >> well, they don't necessarily need to be. the environment is different in parts of centcom and a mighty in other parts of the world. some of the requirements that i have, the vibrant that we operate in our probablyy different than what admiral harris and others deal with in
pacom. >> yes, sir. i would appreciate any advocacy you could have. i i agree with you when it% and i'm not opposed to the dod developing the system that they want for the fight against the russians and the chinese, but even in developing that system we don't want to use that system unless we have to because we do what the russians and the chinese to be able to gather the intel that they're going to gather every time we fly it. certainly continue to be concerned about as we shift in the strategy to china and russia, abandoning platforms that work in other parts of the world which are very serious fights that we are in and that your commanding right now.ig i'm down to about a minute, but just briefly if you would again, i've been on the board, the board of syria and israel --
border. the military objection in syria, can you outline is what they are again very briefly? >> well, specifically principally it's to ensure an enduring that the isis, is what the principal objective is of our military campaign. right now in syria. certainly we are concerned about weapons of mass destruction in terms of some of the chemical capabilities as you see in the past. we are very concerned about making sure we can provide the humanitarian aid, the stability goes along with getting people back into their homes. we are concerned about making sure we protect allies that are on the flanks of syria, jordan, lebanon, turkey all feel the impacts of that and, of course, we are very keen to ensure there is a political resolution to all of this. that's be on r my military -- >> my time has expired but it's a tough situation.
i'm glad we have a leader like you over there, and thank you for your service. >> mr. brown. >> thank you, mr. chairman.n. general votel, 94 leadership and for appearing before the committee to discuss the readiness, the posture andic activities within centcom. so thank you. want to bring your attention back to iran and its activities in syria, perhaps covering some ground that's been covered and hopefully clarifying at least one point that you made. iran is doing a very large role in syria, providingla senior advisers to the assad regime, delivering weapons, cash, recruiting and encouraging foreign fighters. last month iran launched a drone that entered israeli airspace. a series of events resulting in the downing of an f-16. f-16. the situation is clearly escalating and at greater risk.
you mentioned in response to a question that we can impede tehran. and youo just identify what thoe strategic and/or operational impediments are that we are putting in tehran subway? can you buy with the effectiveness of an? >> i think as i mentioned, i think one of the things that we can do is we can build strong and resilient partnerships with our partners, with its iraqis on their side of the border of whether it's the syrian democratic force at this point. that's a partner on the ground. in many regards these partners share the same concerns we do with this, that they don't want their countries, they don't want their areas exploited by others for purposes of creating instability in this area. the relationships that we develop with them, iraqi forces,
particularly the border control forces i think help aid and prevent the movement of these types of activities and equipment back and forth across their borders. i think the iraqis are as concerned about that as we would be. as most countries would be. certainly i think in syria, although i do acknowledge our partners on the ground are very indigenous partner, they do control very important areas along the border between iraq and syria. and so they can as well through their own operations make it difficult for iran to pursue their activities through these particular areas. so i discover much more speedy if i may come that sounds a little aspirational and i appreciate that. and you evaluate the effectiveness of what you just
described? >> we are working on how we actually do that. i mean, most of these networks are very resilient, very savvy in terms of how they're doing things. so this is something that we are looking at now, how we measure the effectiveness of it. we are largely talk about ground routes. certainly iran past the ability to use a routes as well to basically go over or around all that. they have the to use maritime routes. they have the ability to go to africa to get to these areas as well. we have to look at this holistically as we try to address this. >> let me ask one of the question, in the time i remaining. i understand israel is in the eucom, doesn't do so to reflect the area of operations are different commands for can you talk about in the event,
regardless of the likelihood of a conflict between iran and israel, regardless of how it is provoked, can you just comment on what our readiness in this setting, , perhaps it's best c r the classified setting, readiness and posture to come to the individual? >> again, i think that's probably a question that's the best suited for general speedy the readiness and posture? that would involve -- >> given that it is in his area and is the principal responsibility for that relationship what i would tell you is this, that the centcom area, not just on the israeli border but certainly on the border of egypt come with libya, the border of pakistan with india, to the northcom central asian state with russia, it's a tough neighborhood. it is imperative for the combatant commanders to be very well nested across all these areas and i think under the
leadership of our chairman and with the national defense strategy that the secretary has put in place, that we are improving significantly our ability to operate, to be in cooperation with eachy other and seamlessly. it's not unusual for us to have a lot of coordination and talkingg across our common areas of concern. just like not and, for others to talk about things on his side. this is an area where we have really got to continue to pay attention to and i think we're doing a much, much better job. >> thank you, general. thank you, mr. chairman. >> ms. mcsally. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general votel, good to see you again. three important questions. i'll be as fast as i i can pick the first is about this attack on u.s. forces in syria. media reports alleging its by russian mercenaries. can you comment at all if there
confirmation that, in fact, those are russian mercenaries, number one? how many do you thinksi were killed? do we have any confirmation that was approved or ordered by the kremlin or putin? what you think the objective might have been? >> congresswoman, i'm not sure i could report anything different than using in the media and in the press onan this right now in terms of numbers and attribution of who this is. what i can tell you is that threat this entire event we were in communications on our communication channel with the russians before, during, after. what it does is these are not there forces about their military forces. i think that kind of speaks for itself, in terms of what they are. of course we've seen all the media that is, after this. to me it highlights, again, the unwillingness, inability of the regime, , pro-regime forced to
take seriously the isis threat, particularly if there is apparent contracted forces in the area attempting to do this. >> do you believe they were not russian mercenaries and we had in intelligence to confirm or to deny that? >> none that i would discussed in this particular setting. >> could we discussed in the follow on setting? >> be happy to. .. this point. >> we would characterize them as provisioning forces. the second topic is -- is in afghanistan kick in but. perhaps over all and attacking the poppy industry and drug-making facilities and how they're doing overthere?
>> they were within action of 24 hours on the ground here and i've had a chance to meet the squadron and the commander. and they're doing what we expect the a-10's to do. part of the reason why they're going to the lower level is a-10 to bear effectively in support of the aftghan national defense forces and that's what they're doing. you're correct, one of the things successful and tried to carry over from our defeat isis campaign is going after the revenue generation. in this case the narco trafficking that fuels the taliban. so, this is a key focus for general nicholson and our forces at this point. >> thanks, i want to note the last administration got their way all the a-10's would be in the bone yard now and as i told this president you're going to pry them out of my cold dead hand because we're working to keep the assets to be doing
missions like this. last topic, i'm really concerned about the buildup on israel's northern border, so southern syria of iranian-backed militias and forces and increased aggression we're seeing from there, as the assad regime seems to be shoring up controlling that area and the potential for escalation of a crisis with israel. again, i know syria is yours, but can you speak to the trends in the argolan area and the threats there? >> the concerns that you've highlighted there. and this is, you know, effectively in this southwestern corner of syria, we've been able to diplomatically been able to address that. so, working with the special presidents on mr. mcguirk and others, we continue to keep focus on that.
again, russia is a party to this and they have responsibilities to ensure that the-- that, you know, that the detractable partners are in control and they have to take responsibility for this a to be held accountable, not just iranians, but others down there that are much more akin to the extremists down there. i think we have to continue to address that in this particular-- >> can you share any of the trends that you're seeing increased in military capability we've seen, with escalation the last few weeks and any concerns you have that he escalating into a full-blown crisis with israel? >> in the southwest and places that they're becoming collection zones for a lot of unsavory organizations here and eventually have to be dealt with. i'm concerned that left unaddressed, that they will become bigger problems. in terms of trends and stuff
like this, i can't tell you in the southwest, particularly in this setting, that we've seen anything specific here in terms of this, but, obviously, there are some concerns, but what we have seen in places like idlib and others, and groups do potentially pose long-term challenges for security of the region, above and beyond syria. >> great, thanks. i'm over my time, but look forward to discussing further in the closed session. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general, great to see you again, thank you for your great service to the nation, it's a pleasure to have you back before the committee once again. i'd like to continue on the iran topic as well and do a little deeper dive on the topic. so, iran supports numerous proxies, hezbollah in israel, lebanon, syria, the--
upsetting the existing order and chaos, obviously, in addition to proxies, iran uses metric means like cyber operations and information to expand its influence in the region. can you explain how you've seen iran use techniques as centcom commander to bridge through iraq to syria and lebanon and if they've increased inputs into this strategy? >> thanks, senator. some of this discussion probably i think is best set for closed session here, but you know, i think what iran attempts to do is by creating proxy organizations that can go out there and do their bidding and operate in areas in which they have interest. i think they're attempting to do that and i think we see some instances of that as we look at some of the undisciplined shia militia organizations here that
are much more beholding to iran than iraq, that they're acting not on behalf of the government they say they're representing, but on behalf of another party. >> okay. i plan on following up on that question, too, once we're in closed session. so, the war in syria left hundreds of thousands dead, millions either internally displaced or seeking asylum as refugees, but as the fight against isil transitions to consolidated gains and stability, it seems that some of the groups that have formed partnerships of convenience may now turn their attention towards fighting each other instead. so, how do you see these various elements aligning themselves in syria and you worry about a potential shifting regional balance of power and you feel the syrian
might feel aligning more closely with iran to ward off threats? >> so, first off, congressman, we have not necessarily seen infighting among themselves in terms of that, it is a large organization, roughly half kurd, half arab and others involved in this group, but frankly, they have, in my estimation, have continued to be pretty coherent in terms of how they are doing this. i guess the way i would describe it, as we are completing the defeat of isis, i think what we are now beginning to see is the reemergence of many of the underlying issues that have always been in place in syria and as we have converging forces in the area, we are now seeing diverging interests and i think we see this down in the
middle u freigeuphrates valley what the regime is focused on. they are less concerned about looting out isis than they are about going addressing some of the opposition elements to the regime. i think what we have to be mindful of, as the cal why i -- caliphate goes away and isis is removed, we'll see the unlying challenges that really gave birth to this problem and other problems in the country and those are ultimately going to have to be addressed through some type of geneva process to establish some kind of process and arrangement that allows syria to be the country that it should be. >> it seems that we're more at the tippingpoint where the state department has to play a
stronger role in working with the powers that have interest there and try to bring about a political solution. so, i hope we are going to be pursuing that on dual tracks. i see my time's left, it's about to run out, so i'll hold my questions for the closed session, but, again, thank you for your service, general, and i'll yield back. >> mr. russell. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you, general votel for your testimony today. a couple of areas that i've not heard discussed, but could you give us your thoughts on turkish operations and its partnering with al qaeda affiliates, it's attacks on u.s.-backed forces and how that will impact the by, with and through strategy to make a stable security force. >> congressman, i think some of that would be for closed.
>> of course. >>, but turkey has significant concerns with the border with longstanding pkk interests. our concern, of course, this activity in afrahm is detra detracting from the activity on isis. >> and broader scope, what actions do you think are needed to are the erdogan-putin against isis? >> i think as i said in my opening statement, i really view russia at being at the heart of many of these issues here and i'm being very serious when i play the role of both arsonist and fireman. fueling tensions and then trying to resolve them in their favor and manipulating all the parties they can to try to achieve their objectives, their objectives and not necessarily the broader objectives of the international community here.
so, i think there certainly has to be more accountability and pressure put on russia to do what they said they were going to do. >> do you think that that pressure could come from the other instruments of national power from the united states on our nato ally in turkey? >> i think they can come from a variety of different, different sources, congressman. >> and then you guess, can you speak, also, to the need to interdict the isis-al qaeda migration into sub saharan africa, aq, boca haram and others as they're pushed out of one area they may drift over to the other and how that could be between the combatant commands? >> we're cognizant of what
africom is dealing with. and what we can do is continue to share information back and forth. frankly, we're not seeing the mass migration of these fighters. i won't tell you that they're probably not getting out with refugees and others that are doing that, that probably is occurring, but certainly, this is a concern long-term and so, i think one of the things that we are attempting to do is, particularly now that we have so many foreign fighters that have been captured and are in some level of detention with our partners here, is try to get the international community engaged in taking responsibility for their people and bringing them to some level of justice. there's a lot that could be learned from these foreign fighters, that we have to make sure that we've exploited that and learned as much as we can so we can prevent it, but we have to make sure that they're put back in the judicial process so they can be dealt with by the countries from which they game. >> i guess the last question i have, could you give your assessment of egyps and saudi
combined efforts on yemen and the status of yemen? >> on-- with respect to the status of yemen, i think obviously, yemen is very destabilized at this particular point. not only do they have a civil war going on. they have a proxy war playing out between iran and saudi arabia, with iran introducing advanced technology into there. we see the enabled houthi's trying to challenge the navigation and they have of course have a counterterrorism problem we are very focused on. so, i think from the counterterrorism standpoint thing we are making very good progress in this particular area. i don't see the significant changes in the civil conflict that's taking place, that's largely being orchestrated by
the arab coalitionists on the ground there. they certainly need to put some more effort into that. we're paying attention to the efforts by our diplomates and others here to try to address this politically. there have been-- there has been some opportunities in the past, that have not come to fruition yet and we still have to continue on in this area. but i think that yemen is an area that we should all be concerned about because we're seeing problems in that particular area. on top of it, huge humanitarian issues, the people are suffering greatly. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chair. >> ms. rosen. >> thank you, i want to thank the general for being here, thank the ranking member and the chairman for this important hearing. i'd like to speak a little bit about sanctions on iran and russia and what's your opinion and how is implementing sanctions or what level of sanctions, if any, do you think would influence activities in the middle east, specifically
russia and iran? >> well, congress woman, we don't really manage those within the department of defense and certainly not within centcom. i do know that the secretary has recently provided some information to senator corker and others on-- with regards to some things regarding sanctions out here and i think those kind of represent his interests. you know, i think sanctions are a very important part of this. most of these threats and i think as i tried to mention in my opening comments, this is a team sport and so, we can do things militarily, but we also need the other instruments of our national power, whether it's diplomatic, economic or informational to really kick in on these things and when we are able to bring all of those together to include things like sanctions, i think we often have the best effects. and so, you know, i think there
are certainly, certainly some very good areas where sanctions will make a difference. we do have to-- we do have to look at the impact of those on some of our partners and we have to be mindful of that. i do think granting waiver authority to the secretary of state with regard to some of these things is a good approach and gives us the flexibility that we need in these regards, but, you know, i look at it as a key part of the whole of government approach. >> so you feel you're getting enough support in this regard? >> i do. and i certainly know this is a continuing area of topic and other parts of the government. >> thank you. i also want to switch over and talk about syria a little bit. and so, where does the communication stand after russian aligned troops attacked our partner in syria in early february. how are things going there and our strategy of deconfliction with russian mechanisms, had as
that been helpful? >> congresswoman, there are no changes in the deconfliction channel. the military discussion, it was before and it has been since, so it remains an effective way to deconflict our forces and make sure our airmen stay safe and our people on the ground are safe. >> thank you, i yield back my time. >> mr. gallagher. >> just a follow-up briefly on something mr. russell said. what do we say to our nato allies regarding our support for kurdish elements in syria, ypg and other elements. what message do we communicate to them? >> the message that i have conveyed is that our kurdish partners, part of the syrian democratic forces, a multi-ethnic force that consists in equal measures and greater messages of arabs and kurds, has been the most effective force on the ground against isis and we need them to finish this fight.
so, i think that's the first thing and really, one of the principal things we have acknowledged to them. i think we have to acknowledge their concerns about this and so, our attempts to try to be as transparent and clear in terms of what we are doing and our way forward, i think, are things we have to continue to emphasize to them. >> and make no distinction between the pkk and the elements that we support on the ground in syria. >> they don't draw that distension, that's the tension. >> and you said in response to a question that it is not part of the coalition effort to counter iran in syria. how would you characterize our strategy in syria vis-a-vis iran? what are we trying to do to iran in syria? >> well, i think our broad u.s. government objective here is to-- is to limit iran's influence in
syria because as we've seen, they are attempting to arm and motivate fighters that could pose threats to our other vital partners here, and so, you know, i think as a government, we have-- we have interest in trying to limit, limit their influence and activities in this part on the region. >> i don't want to set my-- a semantic debate, if their influence is gaining in syria and we need to limit that, i sort of think that necessarily involves us countering their gains in syria. perhaps some clarity or let me rather say, what would you say is our strategy vis-a-vis iran in the rest of the region? >> i would characterize our strategy as deter, assure, and compete. we have to have capabilities in place to deter iran's use of ballistic missile capability against our partners and we
have to ensure that we can deter their ability to race to a nuclear weapons capability. we have to always assure our partners in the region. i think of' said several times here, our partnerships, when you line up our coalition versus their coalition, ours is much more capable. continuing to develop those relationships is really, really important and assuring our partners we're going to be there with them. we have to compete with them, not just militariry, but with our other instruments of power in the areas where we can and this is pushing back, rolling back on their influence, pushing back on their narrative where we can and in the areas where we must, preventing them from moving their weapons and other things around the theater that pose threats to our partners. >>, but does that rollback, that competition sort of reach a limit in syria? is there some reason we're being less aggressive there? you sort of mentioned iraq as an area where we're competing
more effectively with them. >> well, i think my point is only that as we form the coalition the defeat isis coalition, has both a military and political component to it. one of the objectives that's not been assigned to us is countering iran. it's specifically focused on the isis mission, that's what i'm trying to emphasize. >> in iraq, do you think we're actively or effectively competing with them? i'm thinking specifically of one of the biggest phenomenon in the last year is the rise of the pmf and some may be incorporated into the isf, and some are terrorists and-- >> certainly addressing pmf is something the prime minister will have to do and in many regards he has done that. but, again, i think one of the best things we can do on the ground in syria is being a good and valued partners to the
iraqi forces. i think that the united states and coalition did demonstrate that and my engagements with the security force leaders that i talk to on a regular basis, i think they deeply value that and they appreciate it and they look forward to maintaining that relationship in the future. >> i've run out of time, thank you, sir. >> mr. swanzey. >> general, i want to thank you so much for your service and the great work of everyone under your command throughout the regions that are under your command. my particular concern, sir, about afghanistan that i briefly discussed with you before the hearing began and the special inspector general's report on afghan recon construction reports said we're not making progress as far as population centers and how much we control, in fact, we lost a little bit of ground from the last report. and i swort what the red light is doing and support the increase in number of troops recently and i think you have a
clear point on the afghan army and helping afghan special forces to increase their size and effectiveness and the collaboration between the afghan air force and the army, as well as replace their plat with american equipment as opposed to russian equipment and help the police and it's a clear five-point strategy that makes sense and you're doing a good job of clearing and holding area. and the problem is the back-filling. in your prepared testimony you talked about how kabul's uncertainty political situation remains the greatest risk of stability. and you went on to say that the government of islamic republic of afghanistan continues to suffer from a professional, governmental capacity deficit, competing interests and corruption. and my concern is that your colleagues on the civilian side do not have a clear plan the way that the military has. so, i want to ask you, who do you see as being your clearest
partners with general nicholson on the civilian side in this effort and what do you perceive their strategy to be if you could put it in a suscinct way? i don't see them putting out a clear, suscinct plan on the civilian side. you're clearing and holding, but when it comes to rebuilding and transitioning, they're not laying out a clear plan so i just want you to comment on that, general. >> congressman, i think the principal partner we would a look to on the u.s. side is the ambassador in the country. and you know, i do think that we have a very outstanding ambassador on the ground and i think he's very engaged in this and i think we are beginning to address, address many of the things that you have talked about. as i mentioned to you in many regards, the military missions and many of these countries really are the easy part of the addressing the-- addressing the situation and the more difficult part is the political resolution that has to take place afterwards 'cause this is when you have to
address the deep underlying issues that often times gave way to the conflict that we just, just resolved. as he think i mentioned to you beforehand, you know, tomorrow in kabul, the president and support of our embassy will be hosting the kabul process conference that will address both reconciliation and counterterrorism and will be an opportunity with 25 nations brought in to help do that. there are efforts underway with our department of state interlo interlo interlockutors. it's complex, the taliban is not a contiguous group to deal with. it's broken, it's fractured, not only do we have to look at reconciliation we have to look at things like reintegration as well. so, the task in front of our diplomates to solve this i think is an extraordinarily
complex one as they move forward and i do think this certainly is a challenge here, but i think that they are moving forward in ways to begin to address this effectively here as we apply military, social, and diplomatic pressure to bring that taliban to the table. >> so, general, in your testimony-- thank you very much for that, by the way. in your testimony you talked about how pakistan is starting to share more information and collaborate more than they had historically. what's your prognosis with pakistan? what do you see happening in real-time other than the sharing of information? what can we hope to expect as far as progress regarding the governing of the ungoverned areas? >> you know, i would say that, first off, i think it's important to recognize that pakistan is actually $did you know, pakistan is a country that suffered greatly from terrorism. perhaps as much as anybody in the region and maybe as much as anybody around the world. and they have taken a number of
measures to address terrorism within their borders and that has contributed over the years to you know, in some increased security in the area. but-- and we have to recognize that upfront. so, our approach, i think, is to continue to be engaged with them. we want to have a candid discussion. i think i do, we want to have frequent communication and we want to build trust in this relationship. the history of the united states and pakistan is a very long history here and we do share many interests and they share many things in common with us, culturally, militarily, politically in terms of what we're doing, we have to continue to work with them to move them in directions that cause them to make strategic changes in their approach and that's really what we're aimed at. i don't know that we can put a time limit on that, but as i mentioned to you, we are seeing
some positive indicators and we have to ensure that we don't overlook these as we move forward and we continue to build on these and this is what my objective is with my counterparts. >> thank you, general, thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, general for your service and for being here. there's no place in the world where iranian-backed proxy forces are stabilizing feature of the terrain, is there? >> not that i would-- i would not characterize it that way, congressman. >> so, in july of 2015, we have the birth of the jcoa. from that point in time until today, would we say that iran has made the same investment in proxy forces, reduced or enhanced? >> i think i would characterize it as enhanced investment in prockies --
approximaties. >> and so since the jcoa, we have them enhanced proxy, in 2017 parliament votes to extend capabilities. and do we look at tactics that iran is investing in as they use more of the cash they now have access to to be a detab destabilizing-- >> as i mentioned earlier, when we look at iranian threat, we not only see an increased quantitatively, but qualitatively. they're using things like yemen, you know, like we go out to china lakes to test our weapons systems. they go to yemen to test their weapons systems. so they're taking advantage of these opportunities to improve their capabilities around the world. so i definitely am concerned
about this. >> you also test some great systems off my district in florida, and my home is to the group that return home and deploy to south com to find themself fighting a similar flavored enemy in radical islamic extremists funded in many circumstances by iran through the terror proxies, are there areas where recruits are brought in from the western hemisphere and redeployed after receiving train in the centcom aor. >> i'm not sure i can answer that in this particular setting here? i'm sure there probably are. >> okay, we may chat about that later today then. are there particular capabilities in the development of iran's terror proxies that we find them particularly investing in, whether that's
drone technology, whether that's guerilla capability, the development of explosives? >> i think all of the above. my-- i think these are all tactics we've seen in the past, certainly we're concerned about the increasing use of missiles of all-- short range, medium range missiles and that's concerning. their use of uas's as particularly concerning emerging threat that we're concerned about, but i think, you know, the other things is that, you know, i think as we look at what iran did in-- what it took iran to do, it took 20 years for iran to do in lebanon what the lebanese hezbollah they're attempting to do in five years with the houthis in yemen. this is concerning for us. i think they're accelerating their pace in their ability to do this and this is something to have to be very concerned
about. >> i completely agree and i would add to the list, activities in the western hemisphere where that same game plan we've seen iran, and in syria and the arabian peninsula and our own back yard, continue that troubling trend in volume and quality. as we look at the missile systems, and the areas where they may be used, i would particular to our ally israel as a point of vulnerability. do we see-- or in what capacity do we see the iranians hardening their positions in southern syria and what feedback have we got from the mid level of our ally israel with their discomfort with that? >> in this setting i would say we've seen in public, media releases here, israel has struck at some of these locations here, that they have posed a threat to them. so, you know, i think in this setting, i think i would leave
it at that, that there certainly are some concerns there. >> great. well, thank you, mr. chairman, i look forward to our next setting. yield back. >> thank you, general. we recently heard from admiral harris issues that have been concern for him at patcom. and centcom has been using counter missions. and describe the current state of emissions in centcom and are you getting what you currently need? >> congressman, we are, and i would be able to give you more detail on this, but what we did in centcom here with the support of the department was putting in control supply rates for our key munitions here and we've been managing that for some time. the certainly, the success that we've had in iraq and syria has resulted in a lower use of that, which has allowed us to cross levels in the theater in afghanistan to address our issues. i won't comment on the broader
department-wide challenge with this, but i think we are being well supported right now in centcom. >> so, to follow up a little on that then, from where you stand, are the other commands, their stocks, anticipating with the kind of-- . >> congressman, i think that's a better question-- i can't comment on their stock. >> switching gears then, would you call qatar a dependable partner? >> i think that qatar has been a dependable partner there, my forward headquarters is located in qatar, our air operations center there, and they've been good partners in the past. the discord between our gcc other partners outside of qatar and especially between saudi and qatar in regards to the block, has that affected any of our operations in centcom? >> it has not had a significant impact on our military activities and we've made this very clear from the beginning we would not allow that and i
think we've largely been successful in mitigating most of that. >> i yield back. >> mr. banks. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and general, thank you for being here today. can we go back to afghanistan for a moment and could you comment more specifically on how tenuous is our 39-member coalition? is it continuing to weaken or do you have more of an optimistic outlook on where our coalition is headed forward? >> i think our coalition remains very, very strong in afghanistan. you know, one of the things that underpins the, you know, the afghan president's road map for the afghan national defense security forces was the commitment made by the nato nations, the partner nations at brussels conference and warsaw, that the support would be continued. so we have seen the partner nation go into sustain, in many
cases increase their contributions to the effort. >> just to repeat, we're some a places an increase? can you mention which nations are increasing? >> i think the u.k., they've increased some of their recent contributions. . >> thank you, a moment ago. a moment ago in addressing mr. souzzi's comments, pakistan paid a significant price has suffered greatly was your quote. in your testimony though, you quote, say the taliban and haqqani leadership and fighters continue leadership in pakistan end quote and on the next page talk about our discontinuing of mff support to pakistan. can you dig in deeper? what is working to bring pakistan back to the table to thwart the taliban and other like-minded groups and
providing them sanctuary in pakistan? >> i think certainly the pressure that our government put on pakistan, as we brought out the strategy, i think contributed to that. i think what is also working right now is the approach that we have in place with them. i think we have tried to be very clear in terms of the things that we needed them-- we need pakistan to do for us, and what i endeavored to do, not always in a public way, but in a private way, is develop a relationship that allows us to provide feedback both ways. there are things, frankly, that pakistan asked of us as well. so, we are-- this is a two-way street here, so it's my responsibility, i think, to make sure that we have feedback loops in place that go back and forth between the things that we are doing to try to, try to support each other. and in moving forward this that regard, and so, i'd be happy to talk a little bit more about this perhaps in a closed session here, but that really
was what this is about. it's about building a bridge back, building a trust that has to underpin this relationship that has been missing from it for a long time. >> has there been a plan to recontinue fmf and support to pakistan? >> i don't think we have-- we have addressed that at this particular point. >> so we remain in a posture of the support-- >> a posture, i hopely in the future we-- >> has that been beneficial? >> again, i think it's created some of the pressure on this in many regards, you know, pakistan isn't necessarily looking for our equipment in all of these cases, they're looking for our understanding and respect in terms of what they've accomplished here. this is really about relationship building and that's principally my focus here with my counterpart. pakistan continues to provide a very important and strategic
logistical route for our efforts into afghanistan. have you seen these logistical routes continue to operate fully as they have in the past decade. >> i have, lines of communications, airlines communications, vital to us and they've continued to sustain that. >> thank you very much, i yield back. >> thank you. >> mr. roark. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general, could you tell us how many u.s. forces we have in afghanistan right now? i mean,service members or deployed there as of this moment. >> the force-- we generally don't talk numbers in public here, congressman, i'd be happy to-- >> what can you say that we can say in a public setting? there's lots of reporting on this? what's a ballpark you could talk about? >> the-- we are at the level that the department of defense has approved for us in this area and we'll maintain that going
forward. >> is that public information, a level that the department of defense-- >> i think that the office of secretary of defense has put some numbers out. i don't recall what their most recent one is, but i'd be happy to follow up on that with you. >> okay. and so i'd like to ask you how many u.s. service members are in syria or operating in syria? i'm expecting to get a similar answer. are you able to tell me? >> right, i think the department of defense, i think, has basically said around 1700 have been there, but, again, i would offer the same response to you in these-- >> and in answer to a question about what our purpose is, you responded that the sole and single task is to defeat isis. is that, in fact, the reason for our military presence? >> that is the reason for our military presence. >> and with the defeat of isis will we no longer have a military presence in syria? >> well, when we have completed
our-- when we've completed our mission here in syria, it involves not only kicking isis out of the areas in which they occupy, but includes consolidation and consolidation and gains and the stability that allows us to move forward with a political resolution to this, so, that's been defined for us by our leadership here and so that's how we are gaining our military support. that's part of the mission. >> the first part of your answer is clear to me if there are no longer isis combatants on the battlefield, if we no longer have a threat from them, i think that's probably something we can measure. the second part sound a little mushy. can you define that in terms that i and my constituents can understand so we will know when we have won and when service members can come back from syria? >> right, so what we will continue to do is support our partners on the ground to ensure that the areas we consolidate our gains, we can
stabilize the area, we can ensure that international organizations, humanitarian aid organizations can come back and people can get into their homes and this is about treating the security environment that allows that and provides the time for our diplomates to pursue the solution that we are seeking through the united nations in syria. >> so, even after isis is gone, there's an indefinite military commitment from the united states of america from the description you just gave me. what is the legal justification to be thereafter isis is no longer there? >> well, the fact is, isis is still there and that's what we're dealing with right now. but the question i asked you is after isis is defeated what is the legal justification for u.s. service members to be deployed in syria? >> well, the principal thing
will be to ensure that isis does not reemerge in this particular area. even though they have been eliminated from controlling terrain does not mean that isis is not present in this area, i think we're clear on that so we have to ensure that isis isn't given the opportunity to reserge here. with regard to your question on the -- on the legal authority of this, again, i would cite that, you know, the principal legal authority here was self-defense of iraq in terms of this, and the unwillingness and inability of the syrian regime to provide for-- to address this particular threat that posed a threat to not just the country of syria and iraq, but really, to a much broader group of countries around the world. >> my understanding is that the administration has used the 2001 authorization for the use of military force, whose justification is premised on
the attacks of 9/11 and stopping those who attacked this country from being able to do so again and i think the logical conclusion to your question about our presence after isis is defeated is that the u.s. military can be in any country where there was an isis presence just so there will not be an isis presence going forward and i think that's a recipe for disaster. we will not have successful oversight or accountability or prosecution of that war because we cannot define its goals or the strategy. i yield back. >> general, what happened when we left iraq completely in 2009 after we had supposedly defeated al qaeda in iraq? >> well, chairman, we saw the rise of isis and we saw the inability of the iraqi security forces to effectively address it as it was growing. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> general, according to the
worrell worldwide threat assessment, director coates and the intelligence community assessed that iran's support for the popular mobilization committee and shia militants remain the primary threat to u.s. personnel in iraq. do you agree with that assessment? >> congressman, i do think they certainly could pose a threat to our forces on the ground. this is something we are very vigilant for and are paying very, very close attention to. we have not seen that threat manifest itself at this particular point, but it's certainly something that we are very cognizant of. >> how is the centcom working with the iraqi government and other regional partners to try to address this? >> well, certainly the iraqi
government has a place for paramilitary forces. what we're doing as part of our broader security sector reform, that we provide to the government of iraq is encouraging them to take the step to bring those forces to the right size and to ensure they have the right leadership and they are beholden to the government of iraq. the principal way to do this is through our advice and where necessary our systems to the government of iraq. >> okay. i'd like to follow up a little on mr. gallagher's questions a little while ago and just kind of an overall perspective. what is centcom's role in trying to curb iranian influence, particularly in iraq, but in the entire region? >> well, i think one of the principal roles that we have is, as i mentioned, is assuring our partners and building partnerships around the region
and helping our partners be resilient against this particular threat and make sure they have the wherewithal to protect themselves. so, certainly assuring our partnerships is a key piece of this. another key piece is making sure we have the right military capabilities in place to deter iran from taking action, particularly with their growing and increasingly capable missile capability that they're developing. so we have a role. and finally a competition role, we have to challenge them for some of the things that they are doing and we certainly could do that militarily, but we could also do that with our other instruments of national power that we have available for us. >> thank you, and that actually raises some questions, i think, would probably be more appropriate in our next session, but with that, mr. chairman, he'll yield back, thank you. >>. >> thank you for your leadership and i appreciate and thank the men and women serving
in the united states central command. i was a four time deployed veteran of the command and proud of that. i had a he like to drill more into the influence of syria itself and the specific problems, that iran has propped up assad, i think maybe more so than russia, but the two together have clearly been working together. they've got advisors, they've sent fighters to syria and encouraged hezbollah to be supported, and shia militants from other countries sent there, weapons, cash, petroleum. they've recently launched a drone it appears being i think an iranian drone versus a syrian drone so what i'm hearing from you and please correct me if i'm wrong if my characterization is not right, we have a grander strategy that focuses in iran aor, but in syria itself we really don't have a strategy that limits ir iran's influence in syria, is that a true characterization? >> i'm not sure i would necessarily characterize it that way. there are things that are appropriate for the military to
do and that's the angle that i talk about, but there are certainly other parts of our government and other capabilities that we have within our natural resources that can address iran's malign activities whether they're in syria or other places. >> you would agree it would be unacceptable for iran to have a long-term presence in western syria? >> with it would be unacceptable if that presence resulted in threats to our other partners or further destabilization of the region. >> would you say it's acceptable or unacceptable for iran to build a land bridge from iran through iraq, syria, to the borders of israel? >> i would say it's unacceptable, if the purpose of that land bridge is to move lethal technologies and capabilities in the hands of other fighters who may use those to attack their neighbors. >> what would you say was the purpose of iran launching that drone into israel?
was it indeed iran or could it have been syrian? >> you know, i'm not sure-- i think that's probably a better question for the iranians here in terms of that. >> there seems to be a recent decline in iranian harassment of our ships in the persian gulf and the straits. is that true? ap why do you think that may be? >> it is true, we have seen a decrease in some of the interactions that we've seen. i think that this is principally because of some of the strong rhetoric or the strong discussion we've had about the lack of professionalism of iranian maritime forces and how they operate in this region. i think that that has got their attention. i also do think they are perhaps concerned about our stronger position on some of iran's activities beyond just their nuclear weapons program here, so they're paying attention to that. i would tell you, mr. congressman, that one of
the things we are concerned about is their increasing use of uav's, so, while we may see decreases with some of the activities in this area, i'm equally concerned about their increasing use of uav's that could pose a threat to our maritime activities in the region. >> thank you. are we actively interdicting shipments to hezbollah and lebanon from iran? >> i think that's probably beyond the discussion in this room. >> okay. >> going to a previous question on joint stars, and asked by the air force to determine should we recapitalize the joint stars with the new air frame or let that go away and go to some new capabilities and we're getting conflicting advice and counsel on that. i'd love your perspective. do you need more joint star capabilities or less or-- >> you know, from, as a combatant commander, you know,
i'm very dependent upon the services to provide us the right capabilities and they almost-- they always do and we're very, very satisfied with that so i'm less concerned about which platform is on and more concerned with the capability that's coming our way, certainly, the joint stars provides not only ground movement targeting indicator capability, that's very important in my theater and other theaters, but it also provides you know, battle space management, command and control, that comes along with these. these are key capabilities. what i'm trying to achieve with our use of isr is layered isr. i want to be able to draw all of these capabilities into an isr scheme that meets my requirements or meets our requirements in this particular theater. >> again, thank you for being here today and i'll yield back. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general, thank you for being here, that proves if you stick
around long enough you get to ask a question, whether you're good enough or there. we have been working on getting uav's or predators or whatever to our allies in the middle east, whether it's saudi arabia, the emirates, uae and we've even offered them the ability to use u.s. contractors to do it so that they can prosecute their own targets and we can use them instead of using ours. can we tolerate a reality where because of self-imposed constraints, we can't sell our allies our uav technology, but the chinese can and you've already spoken to that point. but when it comes to technology, i think we're missing a big advantage there. could you comment on that? >> i think it's-- i think it's, you know, as you're alluding to here, i think the opportunity for us to improve our inner operability
through common systems or others that we have out here, these are always opportunities that we have to pursue wherever we can. >> do you support power-- us sharing our uav technology from our allies? >> i think it deserves serious consideration. >> thank you. >> the second question is, in terms of iran and a line that goes down through syria down to israel, i've got big poster boards with him with his arm around every army corps commander, and he's picking the guys they're training and that's the fight we're in now. and the question is, you've spoken to this, specifically, do you think it's going to be possible to extract iran out of syria and iraq, if there's an end to what's happening in syria? because they're dug in deeply
now. >> i think there certainly is an opportunity in iraq through our strong relationships that we're developing here and i think that, you know, one of the things that i've observed about iraq over the last year has been their outreach to other partners across the region, whether it's jordan, whether it's saudi arabia, whether it's kuwait, turkey, the other key sunni nations in the area and they're very much emerging as a-- you know, trying to be much more involved in the region, which i think is a very positive thing and i think it-- i think it connotes the fact that iraq is for iraqis, and while they live in a difficult neighborhood with difficult labors and they have to deal-- neighbors and they have to deal with that, that they're-- right now we're playing the enemy of our enemy is our friend. that's what we're playing at now. the iranians are the major
power players with weapons ap our training and our gear right now with their hand picked militia guys. the iraq why is -- iraqis could reach out all they want to the power is with eye rain -- iranians. and power by force. >> there's influence here, no doubt about that, but, again, i do see within the iraqi leadership, very strong, very strong sense of independence and a desire to protect iraq, and so, i think these are things that we have to continue to build on. >> so, let me just lay it out one last time. you're confident that in the next ten years, we're not going to see an iranian controlled rat line where iranians can go from tehran through syria down to israel on a high speed road with m-1 abrams tanks? you do not see that happening? >> congressman, i wouldn't
speculate in that particular regard. what i would tell you is i think our best opportunity to prevent something like that is to stay engaged. >> i wouldn't disagree with you on that. >> and to continue to be the valuableable partner that we've been for them and to continue to professionalize their forces and their capabilities so that they are beholden to themselves and not to others to do things for them and they don't allow their terrain to be exploited. >> as you see, general, we pick sides, we're not always right who we're helping and turned around to bite us a few times. i hope with the iranians we're not doing that in a much bigger way than we've messed up in the past. thank you very much. >> mr. chairman. >> general, i want to follow up with two questions i don't think you were asked directly. you started the hearing talking
about considerable success in the fight to eliminate isis from controlling any territory. is there or will there be a reduction in u.s. people and u.s. capabilities from iraq, especially, due to that success? >> well, as part of our lineman process there already has been and the success has given us the opportunity to move critical resources whether it's isr, or fighter aircraft, or engineering or medical capability that when they're required on the ground. we've been able to reposition that within the theater, afghanistan in particular making sure the general has what he needs to be successful. so he we've already seen that and of course, as the situation continues to mature, we will continue to make smart decisions on this. we don't want to keep one more soldier, one more piece of equipment there than is needed to support the mission and
that's what we're-- that's what we're pursuing, what we're trying to do it as smartly as we can. >> we also don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past and leave completely. the other thing, at one point shall the assessment we got was the most capability terrorist enemy we faced was aqap, especially in bomb making and so forth. you've talked a little bit about al qaeda and isis in yemen. is there still a terrorist threat that emanates from yemen? >> there is, chairman. and he think our-- fru frul-- first of all, i think our efforts the last year have been effective in addressing many of the concerns that we had with al qaeda in the arabian peninsula and i think we have addressed their leadership, their media capability. their external operations capability and some of their explosives capability in the
organization. >> with al qaeda, it's to understand what their long-term objectives are and they're savvy and we always have to be concerned about al qaeda. so it's absolutely vital to not take the pressure off now, but to keep the pressure on them and make sure that we complete this effort against them. ... . >> you talked about the humanitarian and everything that is going on but don't lose sight they continue to have a terrorist threat. >> i think we are good for now. thank you for being here and we will adjourn the open session and in about five minutes reconvene upstairs. [inaudible conversations] >> thank you.
[inaudible conversations] >> what you make of that? >> number one, they have to be very careful about what they say. it has to be based on facts and they are still gathering facts. some of the press reporting has been remarkable in its specificity. even some quote from some of those involved. and so, i do think that we ought to be alerts for the potential that russia uses some sort of mercenary force is as a way to camouflage their activity. not only in syria, that we may see another places. >> are there any hearings or dates in afghanistan in the
future? i look in the past schedule. i am just curious if you're looking to kidnap it on that. >> well, we will obviously have overall responsibility for afghanistan. general mattis has been particularly sensitive to polling combatant commanders out of afghanistan and north korea and iraq because of the importance of their job. so we are having conversations back and forth about our ability to ask the question, but in the meantime we have the overall combat commander. >> what is your assessment after hearing -- [inaudible] i know the administration about us being on the same page. >> part of what you see is what
russia says is not necessarily what russia does. so they may dress up in firefighter sues, but they are the arsonists and they believe the syrian regime and the iranians to continue and expand the conflict. they commit terrible humanitarian disaster is good sometimes if it's been a while, we lose sight of the fact of how many people comment innocent civilians haveve been effect did by this conflict that the russians have fueled. so, i would say to me they are more arsonists in firefighter. we do have communications with amy says about the confliction and don't run into each other and so forth. but they are clearly trying to exploit the situation for their benefit. >> mr. chairman, you brought up some concerns at the end of the hearing about withdrawing from
iraq. are you concerned that it's going on right now? >> i think one of the reasons i asked that at the end is there has been significant success in iraq. he says we have withdrawn. people in capabilities from iraq as a result of that success. so i think that is appropriate. on the other hand, i don't want to leave completely because the saudi disaster that was when it was done during the obama administration. continuing to be engaged with partners, to ensure we don't have an isis three-point no is important. i think, you know, all or nothing sort of approach is not wise and we've seen that in the past. >> what about in syria? are a lot of questions about the u.s. role inhe countering iran d whether we need to stay.
>> syria is such ayr difficult situation that i think there are a lot of legitimate questions of whether doctors are there. and so it is clear. his assignment from a military force standpoint has been to defeat pacers. but obviously coming of the larger u.s. policy goal of containing and limiting iran. maybe not necessarily with military force at the moment, but we are going to have to -- there's a lot more discussion to have on that topic i think. anyway, thank you call. >> what about the lines of saudi arabia? are they destroying enemy and we are helping them do it? [inaudible]
>> the reverend billy grahamm who died last week at the age of 99 lowlight in honor of the u.s. capitol today for the public to pay their risk backs. a memorial service will also take place with house speaker pauline come as senate majority leader mitch mcconnell and president trump. live coverage begins at 11:00 a.m. the eastern today with our companion network c-span.
[applause] >> it is an honor to introduce our first speaker, buddy roemer. [applause] buddy roemer is a louisiana native. he's a former member of congress and serves as governor of louisiana from 1988 to 1992. u.s.a. presidential candidate in 2012, a platform center at unreadiness system. please welcome, governor buddy roemer. >> to get here the politicians in washington for these facts. >> washington has bought and sold. >> what they don't want you to hear. >> special interests control washington d.c. >> a congressman and governor. who hasn't been invited to a single to date.