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tv   Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on U.S. Policy in Syria  CSPAN  September 25, 2019 2:02am-3:12am EDT

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it was on but didn't get picked up. this hearing on the subcommittee on the near east south asia central asia and counter to those on welcome to order. today we are holding a hearing on the findings of the bipartisan syria study group. the study group was established by congress with a purpose of examining and making
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recommendations on u.s. military and diplomatic strategy with respect to the conflict in this area. i want to recognize my colleagues particularly senator shaheen and my friend the late senator john mccain for their efforts to establish this working group. we also wish to honor the american men and women who have died as a part of operation inherent resolve the campaign against isis in syria and iraq. i want to thank the witnesses here today for their willingness to take up the task of examining an extremely accomplished problem with no easy solutions as the report states optimal outcomes are left behind long ago. it's never easy to devote time and resources to the task whose goal was to prevent worse things from happening. i have been to believe this comes at a very timely point in the nations history according to press reports, isis is regrouping.
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there's some 15,000 fighting individuals on the ground and some 70,000 in refugee camps in isis's supporters. mr. asad has repeated attacks despite the fact that we once drew a red wine and it seems to be more like a green light. turkey is hostile to the intent towards the kurdish individuals and this area led the defense force and present a threat to them. apparently a province that is being held by various terrorist groups including al qaeda. iran has 2500 located on the ground. russian mercenaries have launched or did on a surprise attack on the troops, so there's a great deal of swirling on in this part of the world. we have as a nation the administration announced the withdrawal and one of the questions is whether this is a
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political interest that is being pursued or national interest and particularly the recommendations that are going to come forward from the group are of most interest to me and i'm sure other members of the committee and administration. your report concludes thoughtful recommendations to address the challenges and how to address this strategy to minimize the threats in the future and i look forward to hearing more of your thoughts today. with that i will turn the tide them over to senator murphy for his comments and questions. >> thank you both for joining us here today. the civil war on syria has raged on for more than eight years. swaths of the country are decimated and millions have been displaced. though the crisis may have faded from the headlines it is due to the fact and part the community has accepted these events as the new normal. it's now in international law and the rules of the war has gone to die. the crimes considered once
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thought outrageous are now commonplace. the administration has declared three goals of the policy, the political settlement and withdrawal of thwithdraws the id forces but at the same time that we supposedly want to accomplish these big goals, the administration cut stabilization comic pulled out by military officials into negotiations in geneva and is off to push the file of the partners rather than lead and i think it's an incredibly important time for us to consider this very well-timed report. i also think it's time for us to admit that our policy in syria over the course of the administrations has been a failure and we need to do some postmortem about the overall lessons learned. it's clear that the policy has
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failed and despite the significant covert military support for this continued to rage for over eight years and the decision to provide enough support to keep going but not to defeat serves to drag this out and kill thousands more innocent people damned if we had limited our involvement at the outset. some would argue the mistake was not intervening sooner which would have kept russia and iran out of the theater and force us off to step down and allow the political process to move forward. it would be nice to think that they could accomplish these worthy objectives. unfortunately, mr. german history provides scant examples of where the u.s. directly intervenes in a foreign civil war and achieves its policy goals. these type of interventions always sound good on people. the paper often get us in a quagmire as they confront the reality of insurgencies and unreliable intelligence and
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unintended consequences. sometimes military restraint would feel unsavory in the face of evil and sometimes the best policy if the action would ultimately create new problems than it solves and i hope that we are able to talk about these broad realities as well as the path forward. we have a lot to discuss today and i look forward to hearing from the witnesses. >> thank you. senator murphy we have one panel with two with us as today. the cochair of the study group is that a senior fellow at the managing director for the washington institute. former senior director for the middle east affairs at the national security council. previously served on the task force of extremism and fragile state. in the institute that had david program on arab politics. she previously served as a senior professional staff member for the committee and spent five
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years work in the office of the secretary defense. we will now turn to the first with this. thank you for your willingness to testify here today. your statement will be included in the record without objection. if you could keep your remarks to no longer than five minutes, we would appreciate it so we can engage with questions after that. >> thank you chairman romney, ranking member murphy and members of the committee, i appreciate this opportunity to present the final report of the congressionally mandated study group. i was honored to cochair the group of experts along with my colleague. i want to begin by talking about why policymakers in the american public should care about the conflict. it's not something our group took for granted especially in the day and age when all of us face questions for good reason about the u.s. role in the world. then i will defer to discuss the study group assessments and
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recommendations. i understand the policy and i think that it's important to reach back to the beginning of the conflict in 2011. it began as a peaceful uprising against an autocratic dictator, one of many such uprisings at the time that made up the so-called arab spring and it seemed eight years ago that this uprising might usher in positive change, those hopes have been dead to say the least. they've turned into a crucible for the complex intersecting at i would argue go well beyond the middle east into europe and the united states and elsewhere. for years the senator murphy alluded to sheltering ourselves from the fallout of the conflict and many of you wel will remembr the notion that was once popular but they could be cauterized, quote on quote and its effects would become find and the rest of the region in the world could be spared from the fallout from the conflict. but what happene happened to hio stay, nor could the effect be
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easily contained. in april, 2013 committee moved from iraq into syria and established in august of 2013 the regime forces killed hundreds of innocent people in a chemical weapons attack in its efforts in damascus. august and september of 2014, american journalists were brutally executed in september of 2015, the russian military intervention began and that persists until today. along the way, nearly 7 million were driven to countries. today syria opposes a spectrum of threats to the american interest i would argue. it provides a safe haven to a dangerous terrorist groups for example home to the greatest concentration of the foreign fighters in afghanistan in the 1980s, the u.s. officials have said. isis has been driven from the territories but it is returning now as an insurgency. iran exploited the conflict in the economic and social fabric
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and would have turned into a forward base for the missiles were it not for the air strikes, but those come with a cost into the increased risk of war and we have seen the conflict between the two spread in recent months in the region. russia has exploited the conflict through its intervention and moscow has established itself brutally and cynically as a major player in the middle east for the first time in decades. u.s. partners across the region are taking the role seriously we would judge and have expanded their ties with moscow across the board. the list goes on. every norm of conflict by targeting hospitals and schools deploying chemical weapons in the payroll bond and using starvation and mass murder as buttons oweapons of war. refugees of the politics in europe and strained economies throughout and beyond. it's only become more
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deleterious to our interest and it could grow worse we could see it occur in the exodus where you have 3 million people holed up with forces on the free side. you could see the renewed civil war in the area where the regime is taking control but it's very tenuous. the conflict matters to america whatever one's strategic framework i would argue this is a conflict where the strategic concerns of international terrorism on the one hand, great rival combines very great power conflict on the other come together. it's not a conflict he can contain or ignore. we were also unanimous in the view that there remains much that we can do to help shape the complex outcome and shape the interest of people go into in more detail. i do want to take a few seconds that remain just to say thank
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you first to senator shaheen for her leadership in creating the group into the congressman thornberry for appointing me to the caucus for the honor of being named cochair of the group and thank you to the congressional leadership for naming such a thoughtful expert colleagues to the study group. i want to echo your thanks to all the civilian and military who fought and especially those who died in the course of what i think is an important conflict. the value of the repor report, o conclude is that it represents a bipartisan consensus toomey and washington today that is no small thing. thank you. >> members of the committee, thank you for inviting us to present the final report of the study group. last year congress directed the study group to form an assessment of the military and
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political status of the syrian war as provided recommendations for the way ahead. today we are delivering a document that represents the consensus of all 12 men are as and echoing that is no small feat. riddled with crime and poverty, civilians are subject to conscription, forced disappearances and execution, conditions are set for the next conflict area to the political process has stalled. yesterday's announcement on the formation of the committee may hold promise, but it is too soon to tell. to date, they haven't a demonstrated willingness to make meaningful compromises. it makes it painfully difficult to build momentum toward a negotiated settlement. number three, isis is not defeated.
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the us-led military effort successfully pushed isis of the territory it held, but the group transitioned to an insurgency. meanwhile, al qaeda is still active and therefore, the isis population is a few prison breaks away from reconstituting the next area to the u.s. supported forces are strained and securing the population area five, the boots are not leaving syria despite the sanctions and strikes. in addition to the military campaign, iran is entrenching itself in economic and social fabric fo or long-term influenc. number six, russia has exploited its intervention on behalf of us wanted to contest the u.s. influence and leadership. the tires are strained and other support for the defense forces is a leading factor. the turkish military incursion will provide isis the
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opportunity to reconstitute and the military patrols in a mutually agreed-upon area prevented us area over the time being. number eight, the scale and scope of human suffering for this conflict set up a new standard for the 21st century. the parties responsible, al-assad, iran and russia. torture, starvation and intentional targeting of civilian infrastructure. for the significant increases in military or financial assessment, therefore we propose a strategy that strengthens key elements okeyelement of the cur, the call for reinvigorated leadership and prioritized as resulting the underlining conflict. the tools for the strategy are already on the table. a us-led international coalition
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against isis limited u.s. forces on the ground, capable partner forces, sanctions, assistance and diplomacy at the start we recommend the following steps, reverse the military withdraw from northeastern syria, strengthen the sanctions to get them multilateral. leave the ongoing isolation of the regime. spend about $200 million in u.s. stabilization funds already proven by congress. continue to withhold reconstruction to the parts under their control. concurrently, the u.s. must continue to provide humanitarian assistance inside and outside of syria while shoring up the vulnerable refugee hosting partners and hosting communities on the borders. our group acknowledges the strategy will not lead overnight to the elimination of isis.
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but this next combined with high-level bubble leadership will provide leverage to shape the outcome for the protective national security interest and when the conditions are conducive for the negotiated settlement. this is the end state envisioned by our group. the government viewed as legitimate population capable of ending dependency on the forces and able to dominate the threat. russia, iran or isis. such an end state will require an updated political and social contact. to conclude, just i a few thank you us. the work wouldn't have been possible without the support of congress and in particular, senator shaheen.
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thank you for pointing me and the democratiin thedemocratic ce the democratic cochair. facilitating the group it's been nothing short of tremendous in particular thank you to the executive director and her team and my personal thanks to my fellow cochair who has been a partner as well as a friend as i balance my role in this group and i thank him for that as well. >> thank you so much for both your comments today. i'm going to ask a few questions and then we will turn to the ranking member. you mentioned briefly at the end might look like and i would like to have you elaborate on that. i'm not sure that we have a say in software we are headed for what we hope to have done what
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success would look like and perhaps there is near and long-term success but what do you think is a realistic objective for our involvement because they describe the kind of things that might happen, some calamitous outcome is. what is the realistic positive outcome but our involvement should be aimed to achieve. what we are not saying is the removal of a al-assad is a realistic objective for the policy at this point in time, so what we are doing is calling not for the removal, but for meaningful changes in regime behavior as a way to address the underlining causes of conflict.
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the history is collaboration with al qaeda. it is the enabling the communities in north and eastern syria the time and space to demonstrate an alternative model of government to the regime so some of the changes. revising the property of all to have access to the real estate and rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
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the only party in the conflict that has a vision for how they see it and he don't think an independent analyst would say that he had the ability to do that in russia and iran it is not a realistic option for them and they have to accept compromise, because right now it doesn't seem he's willing to broke or any kind of compromise when it comes to sort out reestablishing his absolute will. the u.s. says it is now aimed at trying to put pressure trying to get him to accept the reform that is needed. in my own view and the view of the group is that that is the right strategy, but it's going to take a more concerted effort than leadership as long as there is a question for example whether we are really committed
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to doing this, whether we are committed to maintaining for example our military presence to what is quite small, i think that may get him to believe the realistic objective is that there would be a unified syria with representation of minorities and so forth come something of a coalition of the government of times or is it your view one part held by one group of people and one part held by the other. >> what we hope is the choice could be left to the people themselves rather than something that is opposed by us or the international community. i think that what we need to do, and this is the broad strategy that the report lays out is to have a strategy in place that aims at bringing them back together with the reformed
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government, may be decentralized system of government, so for example, the kurdish in the northeast have a greater say in how they are governed, but that we also need to be postured in a way that allows us to protect our interest and keep and consolidate that is how it needs to be pitched in this question. >> thanks for instigating. it seems as if over the course of the u.s. policy we have had two overarching goals. one is to end apartheid in. this is a war that is absolutely decimated and second, to delegitimize al-assad our stated goal was the removal today. i think you reflect a consensus within the administration that that may be unrealistic but
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legitimizing the behavior that he has engaged in. those goals to to me it's an invitation for the status quo to persist if you insist that he's hanging around, then i'm not sure why a limited u.s. military presence and slight uptick in humanitarian focus and public engagement is going to correct for his behavior given that his patrons that are going to stick with them through thick and thin are making such demands on him and in the foreseeable future it doesn't appear that there will be an ability to change their mind. i've heard before the panel over and over again that putin doesn't really care about all solid and they will get him to do the right thing. that has never proven to be the case.
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your report is a slight variation on the u.s. policy and there is no pressure point in your proposal that will change the behavior and in the end, we are faced with a decision we either apply enough pressure to overtake the regime or are we accept it's going to control the country and pursue a policy to make the inevitable happen sooner rather than later to preserve the lives of those if it drags on and on. >> thank you, senator, for that question. the first thing we ask ourselves the same thing about the policies. advocating for continuing the military presence in northeastern syria we see this as a form of leverage if not right this minute, down the line because northeastern syria which we hold his resource rich but
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from hydrocarbon in agriculture and number two, another factor to consider here is what are the objectives and russia as objective as we understand them in our consultation is not the status quo but to legitimize and reintegrate him into the international community and to demonstrate to the international committee that syria is normalized and economic recovery. none of that can happen with the current tools on the table. most governments are not returning embassies to damascus given the status quo goes toward re- engaging the contracts are not going to do that for the threat of u.s. sanctions. russia knows that they need aid that comes not just from the united states bilaterally but from the european government with financial institution all of which at this point in time are following the u.s. lead in holding the line on those issues. what we are seeing is over the
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time horizon at this point in time it is unlikely to change the calculus but does russia tire of him and its regime and its current behavior when it wants to be done with the current state of play, perhaps. we also consider the alternative, which is if the withdrawal of the forces are just allowing the acknowledgment that he's going to stay but not insist the regime behavior change without save lives. we think they were going with his security forces with russia and iran to have another type of situation on the local partners that fought and bled and died in the counter isys fights with us and number two, all of those under his control right now also are not looking to him as a legitimate form of government and i will give the rest of my
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time. >> i think you are right that group didn't look at the administration's strategy and say this is a fundamental strategy we need another one. we looked at the alternatives, things like let's throw out our hands and leave, let's accept it and somehow you know, just kind of reengage with him and accept that he's here to stay. and we found them worse than the strategy we are perceiving. what we did see hi is number on, it is hampered by our own seeming hesitation about it. this kind of sharp reversal and twist and turn where today we are withdrawing and now we are back. other countries also suffer the strategy and what we heard from europeans and our allies in the region as they also think it is the right strategy they just wonder if we are committed to it. we have to spend money.
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where i would challenge the premise i don't think our goal is to delegitimize. we didn't take any territory. he lost it to his own citizens in many cases or it was lost because he couldn't govern it legitimately. they want us to recognize his legitimacy and we are saying we need conditions under which we would be willing to do that. >> that maybe is not good while. our purpose is to be seen not as an or sing the illegitimate actions that he's taken. my only quick comment is i agree that both of the alternatives to withdraw in the engagement or unsavory. i've heard of this before russia
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wants to legitimize. i think the actions in venezuela and ukraine speak more likely to the goal of the constant chaos. i worry that this may be a misreading of their intention. >> for the leadership that you have provided after you took a very long time to get the report underway so it is satisfying to see the actual product and to hear you talk about the recommendations in the report. one of those recommendations i am pleased to say we are in the process of actually accomplishing. there'there is language in the e authorization bill for the
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detainee coordinator which is something that is recommended in the reports. so hopefully that will get through without any trouble and i think it is a sorely needed. when we visited, we went to several facilities that doesn't include all of those folks that are in the detainee camps, the largest one close to the iraqi border. i was in iraq in april and they are very concerned about what happened in that camp not just with any fighters that may be in
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the camp, but with all the women and children who are being radicalized. so, what happens with those detainees is a huge concern. and what we have heard from forces is that they don't have the will or the resources to continue to take ownership of the detainee facilities. so, can you speak to what happens if the international community continues to refuse and to repatriate the foreign fighters that have come from the west and what the potential consequences of that are? either one of you or both. >> thank you so much for that question. one, the issue of the isys detainees was alarming across-the-board and we explicitly dedicate a significant part you asked a
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question about the foreign fighters and if they are not repatriated, there are two options. the state to fight another day in syria where they go to another theater of the war to fight another day there. those are the two options. the democratic forces model may lack the will but the capability. they've never dealt with a challenge like this before. we are providing some technical assistance. the bottom line is this is a threat that is only going to get worse. there is no possibility that they stay like that facilities in northeastern syria given the uncertainty about the u.s. military commitment going forward and whether or not they will stay together and committed to protect the facilities and i would like to add the family members of the detainees still doesn't count the tens of
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thousands of fighters and other public facilities all over northeastern syria. they don't have these pop-up facilities often they are repurposed to schools or other civilian structures. populations are being met. the situation when some of the fighters are repatriated to send positive for human rights watch estimates when they got to iraq and then serious also it is just a regenerated issue for another day if we don't have a consolidated international strategy now. >> before you continue let me point out that at least when we were in iraq earlier this year, they were not anxious to take back those who were being held in the camps because of all of the problems that they bring with them.
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i think that we all had a difficult time but i feel we do keep running against this type of issue we know dangerous people are under detention but our options for prosecuting them and repatriated them are limited we are approaching it in an ad hoc way. this issue requires a broad look not just by the united states that the united states and our allies because despite having dealt with its bounds in 9/11, we don't have good solutions to this i would say. the other thing we don't have a good solution two is the question of the de- radicalization. we have 70,000 mostly women and children, mostly children who've grown up in the worst possible conditions. this again is something that
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removes us to get on top of. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator cain. >> thank you for the record. very important topic. i want to ask a question about the recommendation that is contained on page 47. one of the recommendations because with trying to reduce or end iranian influence in syria added then x. go in phases. you have a recommendation more specifically the united states should continue to support the israeli strikes on the assets inside of syria. explain that phrase, talk to me about what you know about the u.s. participation of strikes and what you mean by the recommendations that we continue to support. >> thank you, senator. yes. they believe and we agree having gotten some briefings from them that strikes have been important
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in limiting the activity. >> describe the strikes because we haven't had any testimony in the committee or the armed services committee about the u.s. participation in the strikes in syria. it's not a classified report and i'm curious to describing what you know about them. >> all i know from the open source is because we were not privy to any classified information i would say from the outset they focused on trying to prevent them from creating a missile network inside of syria that would allow them to create what they consider a second or third missile to missile service against them from iran. there is more diplomatic and political support and i don't know of any technical support that we may have or may not have provided. bui think the idea that we are t asking for the example to back
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off the coordination with russia were to back off the strikes because we see these as the only way so far that iran has been successfully deterred in russia. sanctions can play a role and political pressure can play a role but it seems to me they are prettarepredetermined to entrenf as deeply as it can throughout the region in lebanon and iraq and elsewhere. >> property i and the public source information, you have intimate briefed on u.s. supported military support for the strike reference. >> let me ask about the humanitarian situation. we have from the committee a bill pending on the senate flo
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floor. this bill is incredibly important to the hearing in the community invested in u.s. leadership on the issue of syria and the architect of the sanctions as that would impose secondary sanctions and the backers of the regime so we are getting at those that knowingly have the mercenaries like blackmer, etc. in the
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humanitarian situation, number one, the report calls for the stepped up diplomatic pressure and leadership. clearly through the process or through the russia and turkish negotiations, there's been no pressure on a al-assad to stop him. there are 3 million civilians it also talks about the reliable and credible threat of military force, not unilaterally but in partnership with allies and partners i'm not sure that those
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organizations that are there across the border for turkey sufficiently fund are positioned to handle that i think that is going to require more funding for the international community and it's going to require pressure to let people through i am pretty concerned at reports of nexthat next year's refugee t be even lower than this here's and something that is in our national interest to readers.
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>> you speak about the regrouping about the 70,000 or sso the bar that are at camps ag radicalized and we wonder why they are successful at radicalizing ann successful radicalizing and why we don't have the capacity. it could help prevent them from regrouping as you suggested and reestablishing itself off necessarily based on territory that reestablishing itself as a weapon against the united
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states, against the citizens and our friends around the world, what can we do, what should we be doing differently that we are not doing to combat the reemergence of isis box >> i think there's a few things we can do. i should say that there is a part in this answer that maybe i will leave aside in the study group but it's important to note for these purposes, isis considers iraq and syria part of one operation and so what happens in al anbar and iraq and what the iraqi government does is also important and that is something that this committee will need to pay attention to. i would point to three things we need to do better than we have or keep doing to make sure we don't stop and one escaping of the counterterrorism pressure on isis using u.s. forces. for every sort of briefer that
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spoke to us said that will give new life to so we need to keep that pressure on it is very much in our interest because that would help to keep isis from returning. i don't think they will be able to take that back and help them with the reintegration of radicalization process and they are the ones that need to do that. they were great fighting partners to transition to be great sort of governing partners
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to the links to the inclusive in the way they govern so that you don't have discontent among the local populations that they can capitalize on. >> i'm going to add a few additional things. this administration the international coalition to defeat isis will not just be about u.s. military pressure and activities by but also other lines affected as well, counterterror financing, working on foreign fighters, shoring up information sharing and intelligence and law enforcement channels across europe looking at the borders where they come across the end return and also combating the ideology. looking at the file that we are talking about two m. sure it isn't able to reconstitute, we
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need to keep the pressure through the coalition and finally it goes without saying one of the reasons i was able to move so fast is because it is a week ungoverned area without a legitimate government in damascus. they are not at some point addressed and resolved they will always have a pool of recruits in syria. >> i would note that when there is a tragedy that occurs in a different theater altogether, with regards to the gaza strip where perhaps there is an attack that leads to a civilian death or deaths that that makes world news.
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how do they apply to the people of this country? they break the international taboo that has been against the use of chemical weapons and warfare, but i think that we have to acknowledge it's not just a chemical attack it is the deliberate targeting of civilians, hospitals, schools and so forth and it's important that the regime in russia that is complicit in this as well pay the price for what it's doing. the united states i think under president trump has undertaken the chemical weapons but it's probably not enough at the end of the day.
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especially exposing other actors like russia in the war crimes and then ensuring that we have sanctions and other measures in place that can exact a price for what they've done. as they look to the future there needs to be a process of accountability for what has happened. it's also important to keep the deterrence in place. there has to be that confirms in the back of the mind of the forces that we may be willing with our urge to strike again showeshould they target civilias online. >> mai tai is actually up. >> we talked about the effort to the political part is also his military partners for the large periods of this conflict while we have thousands of american soldiers on the ground, often times we have one single state
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department official on the ground and we have had officials from start forward. if we've learned anything over the course of the last ten years, we learned that our military however capable fighters they are are not particularly good at achieving political reconciliation in the middle east. so, how do we resource our personality in this area to make sure that we are effectuating the kind of political cooperation that we need. we have to come to the conclusion 20-year-old soldiers are not likely going to be the ones that are able to figure these difficult questions out. we've got to get experienced diplomats on the ground. >> thank you, senator. on this issue we attempted to shed light on the need for more
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in areas where our military is working with and we highlight specific issues of governance and allowing our ngos to operate freely, to allow independent media to conduct whatever oversight and reporting and journalism that it wants to. there are a lot of issues here and one issue i thought was great that we discussed in our consultations as the u.s. military actually bonds increased engagement so they would be happy to have more diplomats and more development practitioners and civilian experts working with them. some elements have already returned in for sure the platform needs to be expanded. the more we can get in there, the better. two things that can happen right now, one of the civilians working in northeastern syria are under a stabilization set of activities, not the humanitarian
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activities. we need to turn the stabilization system back on on board for bug resource reasons anthe resource reasonsand the le and number two, there is a security issue so we need to look at flexible ways in which our diplomats can work in our development experts can work safely and securely with our military on the ground. >> i appreciate that question. two iran focused questions for you. number one, the outcome measurements we should be looking at as we foresee the role that iran would play in a politically settled this syria. we can't expel their influence so what do we look to to decide if they have too much impact or input versus the right amount of input and number two, i have heard some concerns that we are perhaps too hyper focused when
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thinking about preventing this land bridge through syria. the expectation that just by controlling this one outpost we are going to be able to stop the iranians from moving people and goods through the country does seem to be a little far-fetched. so, speak to that concern as well. >> on the second point, senator, all i can tell you is that u.s. officials and others for the kind of presence in that sort of swath which might otherwise be one where our adversaries would be able to do more than they are doing now.
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i think it is right to think that we certainly don't want to see syria dominated by the iranian forces. for the study included as the we forces i think is entirely appropriate it has to be
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approached and stop it from getting much worse. >> i think that you said that some of the start team folks are beginning to move back into northeastern syria. so does the study group have an accurate what you believe is an accurate understanding of the current status of the forces in the international forces in northeast syria and the stabilization funds in that area? and if so, can you describe what that is?
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>> extending the platform very much relies on security and also availability and the funding to do the project that make sense if we want a civilian element of engagement. >> when you say the funding is that the stabilization fund congress has already appropriated. the $200 million. there was an effort to encourage other governments to provide funding for stabilization activities to the three governments that did that, the government of saudi arabia, the government ogovernment of the ub emirates and the german
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governments, a lot of that money will run out very soon. >> so, one of the things i'm struck by in the report is that it says, and i'm quoting, throughout the study group's briefings and interviews, no one has argued that withdrawing u.s. troops with the isis is likely to regroup or iran was likely to entrench itself. that is a quote. so, i just wanted to put myself on the record again as saying i'm one of those people that believes we need to leave the footprints that we have of the united states troops in northeast syria and provided a stabilization funds that that is an important step for us to reassure all of the people with us in this fight but we are committed and as the study group points out, our leaving doesn't
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help with the regrouping or iran presents or russia. it makes it more likely that we are going to totally feed influence in syria to those factors who we have committed to try to get out of syria. so that is a convoluted way of saying i don't understand the current administration policy at all, so i very much appreciate what the recommendations that you have in that report and one of those on page 48 is about turkey and suggesting that one of the things we could do because turkey is putting pressure on northeast syria as you all pointed out one of the things we could do is help and encourage turkey, who has legitimate issues with the pkk and turkey that housed in
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historic but they have been working on those issues. .. some of the peace talks or reopening those talks? >> i want to say one thing about your point of the stabilization funding and before i do, that is to say, i supplies with the administration to promote burden sharing. many people do and i'm sure many people on the committee do. i think how do you successfully do that and i think the way that you do that is by providing
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basic assurance to allies about minimal level of u.s. commitment to being there. in deeming that momentarily most of partly. that helps in the domestic debates and allies make the case that we should contribute to this. that's a harder case for them to make when they cannot be sure if we are going to be there tomorrow. that is just a fact, yes to. leadership with the request for burden sharing. on the kkk talks, i think a lot boils down to the politics inside turkey and where the president sees his best advantage in terms of the potable forces within turkey, and exactly where that was standard now, i do not have a good answer. we do have people, like jim jeffrey, the folks of you, who are very much following the issue and have the relationships and expertise to follow up on it
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and i have confidence in the ambassador jeffrey and the folks on the ground that they agree with this and will be pushing this as well. >> thank you. >> senator kaine, you'll be the last question are today and following your questions we will dismiss so we can go vote. >> thank you, mr. chair, i was going to ask questions about turkey and the man's questions about one topic. you use the phrase dogs breakfast in groups. we have worked primarily with stf which there is a slow between kurds and arabs and the syrians and they have been very good partners for us. there is also anti-asad elements that are not partners with isa and al qaeda. so the anti-asad but we have been battling them because of the tears connections. what is your level of concern
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about the funding of those groups by gulf state allies of ours. his foreign funding of the tears groups in syria still problem? and there is not recommendations about how we deal with foreign funders of terrorism in syria, but should we be concerned about that or that no longer a concern? >> thank you for that question. we should always be concerned about foreign funding for terrorist actors. as you know, the stf and those partners are northeastern syria and it's clear that both president are in the process and one is more focused on galvanizing anti-asad support and the other one sees the lack of the legitimate government and in lobe as a valuable or fertile ground for external produc plot.
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external attacks against the united states and allies and partners. clearly the threat is such a concern to the u.s. government that central command has announced in the past several months two separate strikes on al qaeda in syria leadership's. we know they are still there and if they are of active enough for them to take military strikes against them when it's possible and they're still receiving foreign funding and as i understand it it's a constant area of engagement between the u.s. officials and all partners in the region and is not necessarily foreign government funded in the law is about foreign government tightening up their own domestic laws in learning the technical expertise to look at the monetary transfers -- >> if the funding is not coming from foreign governments but instead from individuals or groups within other nations, what is the sources or nations we have to be most concerned
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about and lean on them to crack down on foreign funding of tears groups in syria? >> all say, my impression that a lot of these groups, i'm sure there's foreign funding streams, i don't have a lot of specific information on that to share with you. my impression is that isis in these groups because they have managed to take and hold territory, it is effectively controlled by hcs and groups like that, that puts a lot of resources at their disposal. so they are less dependent on those outside sources. >> i understand that. can your consultation in writing this report, did you dig into the issue to what extent these tears groups that are counter to the interest of the united states receive foreign funding? is that something that you looked at? >> we did more for isis than the groups an and emblem.
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our impressions are not very dependent on all on foreign funding. basically like taking the territory, robbing banks, so forth, they build up a financial cash to some extent have access to today. amazingly enough. this is a concern, do they not only have those people inside prisons and elsewhere that could serve but they have the money as well. >> thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you to our witnesses for providing testimony responses in this extraordinary study group of report that you provided to each of us and i appreciate the work that is going into it and you made over such an extended time in the work that is been performed. it is great service to this committee and hopefully to other
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members of the senate into our foreign relations committee in total and also to the ministration. and for the information of members the record will remain open until the close of business on thursday including for members to submit questions for the record. so thank you to the committee the hearing is not adjourned. thank you so much. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] wealts
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ways to overcome those obstacles. this is about one hour and half. [inaudible conversations]


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