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tv   Politics Public Policy Today  CSPAN  December 12, 2014 5:00pm-7:01pm EST

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>> of the six, there are four unresolved -- >> no, two -- >> excuse me. four resolved and two unresolved. >> that's correct. >> but even the resolved, you've just gotten them to say that they want to do something, but you have no actions to back up their words. >> so, we still have, according to mr. starr's testimony, we have four places, very dangerous places of the world, where american lives are at stake because we don't have the proper security in place. >> congresswoman -- >> wait, this is for mr. linick. is that correct? >> i mean, have i to accept that that -- those facts because i don't know independently whether that's true. >> recommendation 6 of your report recommends that ds marine security guard program conduct a staffing and resources assessment and then judiciously allocate appropriate resources to facilitate compliance with the benghazi accountability
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review board report to upgrade security for personnel at high-threat posts. has this been done? >> not according to the facts i've heard. >> so, in fact, the department has yet to comply with benghazi arb recommendation 11, correct? >> we believe benghazi arb 11 intended for there to be marine security guards at all high threat posts. >> so i want to hear you say -- >> yes, that is correct. >> thank you very much. i've got 24 -- 22 seconds left. i did want to touch a little bit on the local guard force. real quick, mr. linick, if i can just get to the findings with you. a, b, regional security officers took it upon themselves to vary the vetting and approval process and failed to ensure that the security contractors provided
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all the required documents. that's correct? >> that's correct. >> so, did any of the security companies that had contracts fully perform all vetting required in their contracts? >> no. we looked at 87 personnel files and none of them -- none of the security contractors performed all of the vetting requirements. >> and of the six embassies reviewed, did any of them allow guards to work before being fully vetted? >> yes, a number of them allowed them to work without vetting. >> i just -- mr. charnlgs i do not understand how this can be. just two years after four americans were killed in benghazi, we have local guards that are not fully vetted that clear -- that clearly, mr. chairman, show that we have a severe security threat in very dangerous places where american
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lives are at stake today. thank you so much. thank you for being here. i yield back. >> thank the getlelady from alabama. the chair will recognize the gentleman from california, mr. schiff. >> thank you, chairman. thank you, gentlemen, for being here. appreciate your service very much. mr. starr, i just wanted to ask you for historical perspective, because i think many americans may be under the impression that what took place in benghazi was extraordinary in the sense we've never had attacks on our diplomats or tragedies. i wonder if you could shed a little light on the last 20
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years. how many times have our facilities been attacked? how many times has that resulted in injuries or fatalities? is the problem getting worse because the world is now more unstable? it seems like there are more high-threat posts now than ever. is that just an impression or is that the reality? and what does that mean in terms of the prioritization you mentioned at the outset? and that is, the priority is for a diplomatic post to implement the policy of the united states. that has to be done in a way where we can protect our people.
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but they're there for a reason. and there are many posts where we are, where we could ask the same questions. why are we in yemen? why are we in iraq? why are we in any of these places that are inherently dangerous. there are foreign policy objectives in these places, as there were in libya. we have increasingly difficult calls to make about where we post our people, what risks we're willing to undertake in furtherance of our policy. that's why i have such great respect for the people in our diplomatic corps because they're at risk. there's just no avoiding it these days. but can you set a little of the but can you set a little of the hstoric trend for us. what has been our experience with violence at our facilities? to what degree is that phenomenon changing and is it changing for the worse? >> we have more posts today categorized at high or critical threat for civil disorder or terrorism than at any time in my service in the department. i think we are seeing a lot of
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different threats emerging. i don't think that's a surprise to anyone. we are challenged in many ways, but again, going back to what we've been doing since nairobi and dar ra salam, which is when al qaeda first came in our view full face, that we had to recognize, that we had a determined nonstate enemy against us, a lot of the programs we put in place and the
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buildings we built have helped make us and balance that security. congressman, as you say, over the last ten or more years, we have had multiple, multiple attacks on our facilities and people in iraq. many, many attacks in afghanistan. in harat last year, we had a horrific attack with two truck bombs, eight suicide bombers trying to kill our people at the consulate in harat. our security systems worked. we killed all of them. we lost tragically some third-country national guards on -- security guards and afghan police officers, but no americans were killed in that. as has been eluded to here, at the same time as the benghazi attack, we had huge crowds and mobs that were coming over our facilities and attacking our facilities in cairo, in tunisia and in sudan. and in the last two posts, 8 1/2 hours before the host country
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came to our support, our facilities held and no americans were injured. we have had and lost certain foreign service officers in one-off attacks, lone wolf type attacks, including john granville in sudan, not too long ago. we've had rpg attacks, truck bomb attacks, car bomb attacks, car bomb attacks on our motorcades, we have had aircraft that has been shot at. we have had almost innumerable attacks on our facilities over the last 20 years. and you are right, they are going up. it is a challenge. i would first say that it's a testament to the foreign service that our officers still want to get out and implement the important foreign service goals that we have to. it is a testament to their willingness to take new types of training and for the department
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to take on these security risks. congress has been a very important partner in how we have met these risks, particularly since the 1998 bombings in dara salam and nairobi and we appreciate that. we'll continue to work on these things. i don't think it's a surprise to anybody that we are living in a world where there's a high degree of instability in many countries. there's a lot of open discussion about how extremism is drawing inqzqin new youth, disaffected personnel and has a calling that is being heard by certain people. we have our challenges cut out for us. we'll do the best we can to meet those challenges while still implementing the foreign policy of the united states government. >> thank you, mr. starr. let me drill down on a couple specifics that i think have manifested themselves in light of this increasing threat environment and increasing number of high-risk posts. and that is, more people that are on temporary assignment. and people that are of short duration in some of these
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high-security threats. many of us that have visited our diplomatic facilities overseas meet people that are there for short tours. you talked about one way of trying to fill the gap with retirees.
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why is it -- it may be desirable to bring in the retirees on who have great experience, but why is that necessary? are we having trouble to attract enough personnel to go to these high-threat snoes is there a mutually reinforcing cycle where people who go to a high-threat post, therefore, get recommendations from people in those posts for future assignments and are kind of locked into high-threat posts? what is the impact on our personnel of the proliferation of dangerous places where they work? >> congressman, the situation that we face is that most of these high-threat posts are unaccompanied. we're asking more and more of our personnel to take unaccompanied tours away from their families for longer periods of time. generally, these have been one-year tours, but we're now at a point where we're asking more of our officers to serve two-year unaccompanied tours overseas without their families. we have rotated many of our foreign service officers and many of my security agents and security personnel through multiple hardship tours without their families at these high-threat posts at this point. the foreign service has a certain amount of personnel. we have not had to rely particularly on very many tdy personnel. some of the other personnel available rat our posts overseas have greatly relied on temporary duty personnel. not so much the department. we have had officers that stood up and continue to stand up and serve at these places. but it is not without, you know, cost. it is not without, in some cases, fracturing families or, you know, are we putting people -- asking them to serve tour after tour in high-threat posts? multiple times at these places do we have behavioral problems and other things coming out of this. the answer in some cases is, yes.
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so in many cases where we have a need to put our best people in some tough places, where we're asking sometimes for cf1 o they're going to pay them for it. we would like to avail ourselves of that as well if possible. but i do think that the state department's been at the forefront of filling our positions with mostly full-time assigned personnel, although we, too, rely on tdyers occasionally. >> just one last question because i only have a minute left. i wanted to follow up on -- i think we all recognize the importance of having high-level attention paid to the arb recommendations by the top principals in the state department. and i feelly concur that secretaries clinton and kerry have embraced and even established this is a best practice. you had mentioned it was codified in the foreign affairs manual very recently, but the embrace of that by those top
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principals, that was from the very beginning. in fact, that was a standard they set, was it not? >> i think it was very evident from the statements of secretary kerry and our principles that we were in this together and everybody had to get on board. what we're now doing is bringing it around to putting it in the policy. as steve point out, that's important, we need to codify this going forward and we need to do that. but i agree with you, i have spent many hours in many meeting with the deputy secretaries and many others. and i've had discussions with the secretary about what security means to security means to us. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> thank the gentleman from california. the chair will now recognize the gentleman from illinois, mr. roscum. >> thank you. secretary starr and mr. linick, thank you for your time. i find your argument inconsistent in this sense. i just want to bring to your attention statements you made to my colleagues, some of the realities that i perceive and walk you through my thinking. a couple of minutes ago you told ranking member cummings there has been a culture change in the department.
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and if there has been a culture change in the department that presupposes that you basically offer everything up that's an obstacle and reflect, look, this is a problem and we're going to rid ourselves of every single problem that was an obstacle to a remedy. a couple minutes ago, you made the argument to mr. schiff -- not an argument, but you made the point, increasingly dangerous world. nobody here disagrees with that. it was compelling. you used words like extremism, disaffected youth and these
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posts are unaccompanied because they're miserable places to go, presumably. and yet one of the things that is the remedy to that is the waiver authority and recommendation number 13 that the department continues to cling to. so, the recommendation of the best practices panel in number 3 it is says, it says waivers to establish security standards should only be pursued subsequent to the implementation of mitigating measures as agreed by regional bureau or other program managers advised by ds and informed by the department risk management model.
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that is a great idea. now, here's the problem. the department -- and i don't know where you were in the discussion, but the department has said, we don't think that's a great idea. in fact, we think this, in certain cases involving national security -- i'm going to come back to that, because that's such an ambiguous term -- an exception can be approved based on the mitigating measures already in place. presuming there are mitigating measures, i might add. even though future mitigating measures may be planned to bring the facility even closer to or in con for answer with the standards. in such case when time is of the essence to further national security interests the department requires flexibility to grant exception of the planned mitigating measures.
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so, here's my point. that is a gaping exception. that is an exception, mr. secretary, that anything can get through. and i mean, anything. so if it is simply, look, this is national security. all of a sudden that becomes a laminated hall pass for someone at the department of state to say, we're declaring this a national security. yeah we've gone through the whole process. the process you described, that is, identifying the high-risk, high-threat posts, going through vp2. so far, there's no restraining include. then there's two choices. either recharacterize something as a special mission compound or something else, or go through another process. and even within the other formalized process, there's still this waiver authority and people around you, mr. secretary, are saying, give it up. and by your own argument, i might add, you're making the argument you should give it up. there's a culture change so big you're describing it to ranking member cummings and a world that is so dangerous that you're using all kinds of words that we all agree with. so why in the world hang onto this thing? >> for a very specific technical reason, sir. we pick a place. sometimes the best that we can get in a short duration if we're going to go back in. we have to make decisions on what needs to be done and what level of things we can't possibly do. i can't create 100 feet of setback when there isn't 100 feet of setback and we may have to accept that. >> what is different than the
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reasoning you just articulated to me just now from the reasoning that put us in benghazi and allowed four people to be killed? what is different? >> i will admit that there is some measure of risk in what i am saying. but -- >> huge risk based on what you're saying. >> i don't agree that it's huge risk. >> you just said it's a dangerous world filled with extremists and disaffected youth. that was five minutes ago. >> true. >> i think we have to be able to make decisions to progress. in some cases we are going to have to admit that we're going to have to give waivers to certain things in order to fulfill that. >> what's different about what you just articulated? >> the difference is that we have to do the waivers. there has to be a decision process. >> yeah, but then, why don't you agree to the mitigation? that was the key finding.
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>> in some cases we can't get the mitigation. i cannot get a glass proof building unless i build it. >> then why do we ask people to go to these places? >> because in some places the foreign policy imperatives of why we need to be there mean we're going to take reasonable rev levels of risk. we need to be careful that we don't take unreasonable levels of risk. there has to be an open and fulsome discussion about why we need to be there, what risks are we really running? do you really understand the threats? as you >> best practice panel recommendation is trying to codify that risk discussion. and if you rewind the tape today and you listen to the answers that you gave, and i was carefully listening to this, earlier in the last -- in our last discussion time, the last hearing, ms. robey asked you a question and you and i had an exchange about
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your answer. but just to refresh your memory, she asked, is it possible for the state department to open a temporary residential facility. you said, we don't have any at the moment i can't imagine we would or that i would approve it. you, singularly, mr. starr. earlier today in part of the exchange you said, i am committed to keeping our people as safe as possible. now, i get it. that's opening statement language. there's nothing wrong with that.
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you then told ms. sanchez, i turned that down. you then told mr. joer darngs i have access. your bristle was up a little bit because he was pushing you around but you were saying, i have access to the secretary of state. now, here's the problem. when you're gone, that next person will be confronted with the same discussion that you admitted is basically that there's nothing really different about the thinking that went in on benghazi, to your knowledge, because you told us you weren't there. i'm telling you that i think it is very similar, that line of thinking that says, yeah it's dangerous, we have to get them, we've got to go, there's no time, we have to check these boxes, yeah, yeah yeah, and you have this national security exception that the exception like i've described is this big and we're right back into this situation. notwithstanding the culture change that you've offered up. do you see where this is going? which is why people around you are saying, give it up. offer it up. you don't need it. >> i think that that -- relying on one recommendation -- >> this is not one recommendation. >> no, that's one particular recommendation we don't agree with. because of a technical reason that we have to be able to say in advance and write the waivers
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and say, we're going to accept wavering that security standard gives us the ability to do these things. >> look, in your answer -- >> but the larger issue, though, is things like vp2 and having processes in place. and i recognize that this one particular one is confusing in terms of, it seems like we don't want a process -- >> oh, it's not confusing to me. >> it doesn't seem like we want a process -- >> there's nothing confusing about this. you're basically saying we're not going to mitigate -- you're not basically saying. you're saying we're not going to mitigate. the answers the state department offers is presupposes mitigation in place and relying on a speculation of possible mitigation. in fact, it says it may be planned. may be planned. that's speculation beyond speculation. it's speculation upon speculation. do you see how it is people are coming to the conclusion that in a post-starr era that like it or not is coming, in a post-starr air remarks when special committees are not around, there's going to be every bit of possibility and pressure based on the national security
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exemption which as i described it, is this big. all of a sudden, we're right back into this situation and we're grieving the loss of life. i ask you to revisit this. i ask you to reconsider this. this is something you're clinging to and that you ought not. i yield back. >> thank the gentleman from illinois. chair now recognize the gentleman from maryland. >> the -- you know, mr. starr, ms. robey asked mr. linick about the vetting of local security guards. i'm really -- i thought she had an excellent line of questioning. i want to make sure i understand what's going on here because when the dust settles again i want to make sure what people are saying. in june -- when we talk about the vetting, can you tell me why
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there is no vetting in those -- i think it was four countries? >> six countries. six contractors. >> congressman, the answer is that it is not true there was no vetting. what the report points out is that they didn't fully comply with the vetting requirements. there are places around the world where we work that our normal vetting requirements, things like requiring a police check, can't be accomplished. there are places where we are or the contractor is not allowed to perform a background investigation. this is of all places -- one place in italy we cannot vet
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contractors in italy because of statements they have in law. it does not mean we don't do our best job to vet the people that we bring on board. now, i will -- i want to say one thing clearly. when steve and his inspectors go out and they find a circumstance where they say, hey, we don't think the contractor's living up to the vetting requirements, i want to know that. and we take that seriously and we go back and say, okay, what's happening here? in some cases we may find there's a reason the contractor isn't fully vetting the people. he may have to use alternate methods. but there are -- there may be cases and steve's people may find out that he's trying to put some shortcuts in place and doesn't want to pay for the vetting and we need to know those things. that's valuable guidance that inspector general's teams are bringing back to us. so, i think it's a dual answer. one, i want to know what they're finding because these inspections are part of our
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backstop and they're important to us. second, there may be reasons in some cases that there may not be a full vetting. there may be certain work-arounds. we can't do police checks or they don't -- you just buy a police check, essentially, we're looking at family ties, you know, does everybody know this person? does this person really want to work at the embassy? and people have known his character for a long time. there may be work-arounds. and finally, there are places where we know that we have significant issues hiring locals to be guards. in those places, we bring in third-country contractors at tremendous expense because there's no other way to get the vetting done and we don't trust the people. so, it's a holistic answer. i don't want to say that we don't value, and i necessarily disagree with the ig on some of these things. they play a really important role. the inspection process is important to us. and when steve's people come back and say, hey, something's not right here, we look at it. we try to correct it as fast as possible or we have an understanding it doesn't quite
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meet the needs and we'll have an open recommendation and we'll go back and forth with the inspector on that. i would note, sir, that our guards have stood by us through thick and then. some of them have stayed years after we've closed our facilities and protected them. we have never had a green i don't know blue incident with any of our guards. in many cases, they have showed loyalty to us far beyond what we could ever do. are our programs, are our guard programs perfect? no. we strive to keep them up to snuff every single day with the highest compliance of the rules and regulations we put in place. steve plays an important role in keeping us there. so it's -- all told, i need those guards and we're going to continue doing it. and i think we're doing over whelmingly a very good job. are there some things we need work on? yes. when we find them, we'll work on it. >> are you familiar with the
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june 2014 inspector general's report with regard to an audit of the department's oversight of the vetting process, used for local security guards. you're familiar with that audit? >> yes, sir. and he reported and explained that contractors are challenged in vetting local security forces because of local privacy laws, lack of credit reporting services and difficulty in obtaining official records. in the host country. and how do you operate within those kind of constraints? you get -- you do as much as you can and then -- i mean, how do you -- you want to vet. and so is there a certain point you say, well, there's just not enough vetting we can do that we can hire these folks or -- i mean, how does that work? >>
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when we make a determination that we really can't do any vetting and we have no confidence in the guard force, that's when we may turn to this alternative, third country nationals we bring in from another country we vet if we can get permission from the host country to do that. in many cases it's more subtle than that. as i say, sir, when the police check may not be worth the piece of paper it's printed on or where there are privacy cases, in many cases we look at who knows this person? what recommendations have they got? are they family? are they tied to the embassy in some place? we've got to have guards. we have to have people manning the posts and checking the people coming in and checking packages and inspecting the cars. and even when some of those vetting procedures may not -- may not comport with what we do as a security clearance back here in the united states, we
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have a great deal of faith and confidence in them, even in some cases we may not meet every requirement. we may not be able to cross every "t" and dot every "i." at some point we have to take some level of risk. >> mr. starr, we spoke extensively about risk management. during our last hearing you spoke about how important it is to assess both the willingness and capability of the host country forces to provide local security. how does the state department consider the potential issues with local guards today when considering whether to operate in a certain country? and how has that change the since benghazi? >> i don't know that that has actually changed since benghazi, sir. i would say it's been an ongoing issue for us. there are some countries that will not allow us to have guard
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contractors. in some cases we can hire them directly. there are some countries where we have made that determination that because of counterintelligence issues or because we may think that the guard force is -- could be infiltrated and we don't have faith and confidence that we may use third-country contractors. this has been an ongoing issue since 2002. we look at every country very carefully. we make a determination how we can best fulfill the security
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requirements in that country, whether it's a contract, whether it's a pas, district hire guard force, whether it's a third-country national guard force. we rely in great part on the experience of the rsos in the field and the contracting officers and the general services officers to give us advice here in washington and listen to them. and then make recommendations and decisions based on the best knowledge we have. >> well, let me say this. i want to thank both of our witnesses for being here today. we really do appreciate it. and we appreciate your willingness to work hard every day to make our people safer. as i know, mr. starr, that we've -- i know we pressed you hard today. please recognize and understand we do so to ensure the department's feet are held to the fire because it's important for all of us that we do this right. and i remind you again, it is our watch. your testimony in september and october update, the updates you provided us. we appreciate. and your testimony today shows continued progress.
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and we appreciate your willingness to work with us and anyone else who helps to make our embassies safer. so, i want to thank you for that. and i want to thank you, mr. linick, for all that you're doing because you, too, help us keep these feet to the fire. with regard to the arb, i think we're making good progress, but i want to make sure everything is done. and i noted there are some arb recommendations, quite a few of them from past arbs. i think we need to take these opportunities and and try to address as much as we possibly can even back then because those things are still ongoing, right, mr. linick? there are still problems? >> yes, that's correct.
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i want to thank both of you. mr. starr, don't forget we want to know when those other recommendations of the arb will be completed and to let us know when they are, in fact, completed, all right? okay. thank you, gentlemen. >> yes, sir. we'll get those answers to you. sir, i expect to be pressed pretty hard. this is tough business and it's important business and you can press as hard as you want. myself and steve, we're both pretty tough guys and we appreciate even the tough questioning. the opportunity to put these things on the table with you in an important committee like this is important to me, too. >> thank you very much. >> i thank the gentleman from maryland. secretary starr, i was going to pursue a line of questioning, and i will get to that at some point, but when jimmy jordan asked you, why we were in libya? and i'm not going to ask you the same question, because you made it clear, you're not the right person for us to ask. and i'm going to respect that. but i want to make sure you understand why jimmy would ask you that question and why all of
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us are asked that question with alarming frequency in our districts. the last hearing we had, you did a very good job of explaining to those of us who are not in diplomacy that you have to weigh and balance. i think you said, you have to weigh and balance the policy with the risk to determine whether or not you should have a presence. and it just struck me there's no way you could possibly weigh and balance policy versus risk if you don't understand what the policy is. and then i started thinking what jimmy was talking, i wonder where the question came from? and i knew i'd seen this somewhere. do you know someone by the name of ben rhodes? >> i don't know ben rhodes personally. i know the position he was fulfilling. >> i don't know him either, but there was a memo three days after four of our fellow americans were killed in benghazi. and i will skip over goal number 1 of his communications memo -- actually, i won't. it says to convey the u.s. is doing everything we can to protect our people in our facilities. it just struck me, if you were
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doing everything you could, we would not have had 50 separate recommendations after he wrote that memo and this now the second hearing to make sure that those recommendations were implemented. but i'm going to skip over that goal to get to the second goal. the second goal, secretary starr, was to underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video and not a broader failure of policy. so, i'm going to skip over the video part of that for now and get to the second clause, the dependent clause in that sentence. not a broader failure of policy. how can we judge whether or not a policy has failed or succeeded if no one tells us what the policy objectives were? i mean, how can we do that? how can you weigh and balance the risks? jimmy's gone through the risks. members on the other side have gone through all the escalating episodes of violence in benghazi. and it may well be that the reason for us to have been there supercedes all of those episodes of violence.
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but how -- i mean, how can a committee of congress know that if no one tells us while we were there? so, you're not the right person to ask. who would you ask if you were us? who should we bring to explain why were we in libya? >> the policy questions, i think, should more properly be directed to the nea bureau that had responsibility -- >> i'm looking for a name, preferably. who would be able to tell us what policy we were pursuing in libya was so important to skip over all the things that roscum pointed out and to weigh and balance the episodes of violence in such a way that the presence outweighed the violence? >> at the risk of having her never talk to me again, the assistant secretary for nea, ann patterson, i think, is the highest ranking person in the nea bureau. and at the time of the attack was the u.s.
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ambassador in egypt. and i think ann or one of the deputy assistant secretaries in the nea bureau could give you the best answer on that. >> well, i thank you for that name. and i want to make sure you and i are on the same sheet of music. do you understand why we would have that question? i mean, do you think that that is a fair and legitimate question for us to ask, what the policy was so we can then weigh and balance it, as you instructed us to do? >> i think that's a reasonable
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question, sir. >> well, thank you. now, secretary starr, last time you were with us, we not only discussed the most recent arb recommendations but we went back and highlighted some from the past. and one in particular from 1999 caught my attention. the secretary of state should take a personal and active role in carrying out the responsibility for ensuring the security of u.s. diplomatic personnel abroad. it is essential to convey to the entire department entire department that security is one of the highest priorities. secretary, just in case somebody missed that part of the 1999 arb, the authors reiterated that point with this. the secretary of state should personally review the security situation of embassies and other official premises, closing those which are highly vulnerable and threatened. to previous arb recommendations that you could essentially lay on top of one another. they are identical. and i don't think they're identical because they forgot that they put the first one. i think they're identical because they were trying to send a message to us, this is really important and it is deserving of the attention at the highest levels of the department. so here is what i want to do. i want to specifically with respect to benghazi, in october of 2011, there was a specific request for a machine gun to defend our facility in benghazi. in august of 2012, just a month before the attack on our facility, a document again lists a machine gun as equipment needed
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in august of 2012, just a month before the attack on our facility, a document again lists a machine gun as equipment needed and requested. do you know who denied the request for those machine guns and why? >> no, sir, i do not. >> who should i ask? >> you can ask me and i will research that. >> will you do that in is. >> yes, i will. >> have you watched the video surveillance from the night of the attack? >> i have. >> without going into great detail, would you agree with me -- do you at least see why somebody on the ground might have asked for that piece of equipment given what you and i
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have seen in the surveillance video? thinking back to the video, can you see how that might possibly have come in handy that night? >> in my review of what happened and looking at that, i think the agents made the right decisions at that point not to engage. i think that they were equipped with fully automatic weapons, not quite the rate of fire power of a machine gun. i agree that, you know, machine guns can be very menacing and have a tremendous affect. >> they wanted them for the rooftop. i want you to go back if you would and watch the video and see whether or not you conclude the same way that i concluded or not -- i appreciate if you could go back and with specificity i want to know who reviewed that request, who denied that request and is there an appeals process within the state department in
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light of these two previous arb recommendations that the secretary of state should take a personal and active review -- that the secretary of state should personally review the security situation, is there an appeals process where someone hypothetically could say, you know what, you are giving me a no but i'm going to take this up the food chain? does that exist? >> yes. >> all the way up to the highest levels of the state department? >> i will tell you that the one thing that the department has that very few other agencies has is the decent challenge. it's a channel that we prize. if you disagree with the decision or the policy that officers in the department of state at all ranks and locations have the ability to send something in at the highest level and say i disagree with something. and it goes to the highest level. >> in june and july of 2012, months before the attack on benghazi, the ambassador himself requested a security team be extended to stay longer. >> the security team in tripoli.
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>> yes. but it doesn't take much to imagine him traveling from tripoli to benghazi with an increased security presence, does it? if there is more security in tripoli and he is traveling to benghazi -- >> when he traveled, he took additional rsos with him. there were additional rsos that could have gone as well. >> for a grand total of how many? >> five at post. >> and how many were there before the footprint was reduced? >> three. >> no, no, no. how many were there before their deployment ended? >> i don't think there was ever more than five at that post, sir. >> in tripoli? >> i'm sorry, in benghazi. >> i'm talking about that the ambassador would have had access to. because you and i agree the number that he had access to was reduced, despite the fact that he asked for me. >> the military team, the sst team deported -- additional agents were put into post. >> what i want you to find out
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for me is this. this say presidentially appointed ambassador who made a pretty plaintiff pleading. i will quote it to you. our efforts to normalize security operations have been hindered by a lock of security -- host nation security support, an increase in violence and neither compound meets osbp do you know who said that? >> from your context, i would think it was the ambassador. >> it was the ambassador himself in what i would describe as a pretty plaintiff pleading for some help. this is the response he got. no, i do not -- not want them to ask for the team to stay. do you know who said that to the ambassador, the presidentially appointed senate confirmed ambassador?
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>> i believe it was referring to the sst and that might have been ambassador kennedy. >> it could have been. but it was actually charlene lamb. she is not and has not been and is not likely to ever be the secretary of state for this country. so when i see her responding to a presidentially appointed senate confirmed ambassador who is making a pretty plaintiff pleading for some extra help and she says do not not make that request, i want to know whether the ambassador had the ability to go above her head and go
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straight to the top. and if not, why not? >> the ambassador certainly did have the ability to go over her head. sir, i do think that the one point that must be discussed is that there was quite a bit of discussion about relieving the sst, the military team that was there and only provided static security at the compound with additional diplomatic security agents who could provide static security and mobile security. i think that was why the decision was made to release the sst. we were replacing it with personnel that actually had more capabilities. >> well, my time is up. but sometimes when everyone is to blame, no one is to blame. and part of the frustration that i believe was so eloquently remarked on was the designation of the facility itself and then you have our heretofore failure to understand what policy would have been so important -- you testified that we have how many unpersoned posts right now? five? did i hear you correctly, five? you were going through a series of numbers. you said five of those you can discard because they are actually -- there's no one there? >> correct. >> so we do close facility >> yes, sir. >> i'm assuming someone did the weighing and balancing on those five and decided through the
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miracles of technology or whatever, we don't have to have a physical presence there. you can understand why we would like to know what weighing and balancing went on with respect to libya. and i want to know who saw these requests for extra equipment and personnel, who denied them and whether or not you believe in --
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you believe there is a culture in the state department where there would be any consequences for following the dissent channel? because some companies do say, sure, i have an open door policy, but sometimes when you walk through that open door, your career takes a hit. with that, i want to thank the ranking member and all the other members, thank both of you. privately. you discuss a reasonable timetable for getting answers to the questions. with that, the members would have five additional days to put whatever they want, any questions in the record. thank both of you for your service. with that we will be adjourned.
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>> the senate today plans to begin work on the 1 pbtspbts$.1 trillion. here are some comments from our face booek page. writing someone with an ounce of ethics needs to filibuster this bill. keith warren, berks ernie
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sanders, anyone. meanwhile, joan nrksz e sanders doesn't like to oppose anyone. join the conversation at >> for all scheduled for saturday. ael sharpton will talk to us about that. later, larry pratt from the gun owners from america to talk about guns. a program goes live to talk about tomorrow 7:00 a.m. on our companion network, c-span. then, rat 11:30 a.m. eastern, eric garner,ta mrksz ir rice and tray von martin are all supposed to be in attendance. the na action cp and the national urban league among others, it begins at noon's tern time at freedom plaza and
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continues to the capital for rally br the plead e leaders will outline ledge slative agenda for congress. watch it all live on c-span. here are some of the programs ewe eat find this weekend on the c-span networks. politico reporters share stories about being on the campaign train with senator mitch mcconnell. on c-spa nerks 2, on become tv's afterwards, plit kal fundraiser on money and politics and how it's grown and changed. and sunday at 10:00 p.m.'s tern, c-span correspondence on the military's use to wage war. saturday at 2:00 david keen only ronald reagan's career as an actor and spokesman for general electric helped hone his skills.
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and sunday at 8:00 p.m. on the presidency, it's frank gannon, former aid to president nixon about vietnam, watergaet and his riz ig nation. call us at 202-626-3400. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook, follow us on twitter. >> brett mcgurk, the deputy asis tant of state testified wednesday on the administration's strategy against isis. he touched on the coalition air campaign and the supportive partners on the ground as well as the growing humanitarian simpluation in the region. this portion is about 2 e two hours.
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>> this hearing will come to order. i'm going to ask members and the audience to take their seats. this morning, we welcome back ambassador mcgurk on the effort to encounter isis. the ambassador was one of the few sounding the alarm early on. we were holding hearings last february speaking about this problem and the need to use air
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power to turn back isis. after four months of the u.s.-led air campaign in iraq and in syria, isis still controls essentially the same amount of territory that it did in the sum ermt. and wurn of the reas one of the reasons for this in my opinion, we have conducted only about 1 only 1,000 air strikes to date. if you compared that to when sadham hussein invaded c ekuwai the response of the united states, back then, we had a thousand per day. so you get an idea in terms of the response. and how minimal it is skcompare to what we've seen in the past
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to deter an entity like this. moreover, the committee is concerned by reports that targeting has been micro-managed from the white house. this clearly has been an issue within the pentagon. but even with this flawed air campaign, kurdish and iraqi security forces have pushed isis out of ski e kkey infrastructur. they've done that without the heavy equipment that they need. their eve done that at great loss, the shedding of a lot of their blood. and, frank lit, more coalition air attacks would mean more isis defeats. another pillar of the administration effort is to provide training and weapons to the u.s. parter ins on the ground in iraq and in syria. but when we look at that program in syria, u.s. back groups have seen no increase in support in the past several months. in fact, these syrian groups
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have suffered from dire ammunition shortages in the last several weeks. we've had meetings with the representative recently. they're out of ammunition. in addition to not being supplied with the heavy weapons they need to fight isis, and, at the same time, as they're fighting isis, for example, on the border there, a e aleppo has isis on one side and 30, 40 air strikes a day barrel bombs being dropped from the asad regime. in iraq, real maining the most effective force against isis. but the administration and baghdad have refused thus far to supply them with more than light weapons as they go up against tanks and artillery. and other heavy weapons. traj e tragic event a couple of weeks ago, this is why we have
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heard from the foreign minister that the situation for the need for armor and for artillery for long range moral xxs, for anti-tank missy e sills, that unmet e met need has had very real consequences for them. i am hope 68 that the recent
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accord announced between baghdad will speed support for the kurds. those on the ground from the air in aleppo makes any sense. instead, they push of course for a no fly area along the kurdish border where they suggest they and jordan can patrol that long-term to keep from having the presyrian forces hit from the air by assad if it's very
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time they're trying to fight against isis. meanwhile, there are grave security -- allowing isis to control an area of that size. there were 15,000 foreign fighters within isis and recordedly isis has been recruiting 1,000 new fighters per month. this is part of the problem of not turning back isis is that on social media, they use the argument that they're on the advance, they're carrying out their jihad and of course this resonates with certain young men who enlist in their cause. this is why we would argue that a more effective strategy that would roll them back would hurt their recruiting effort. and these fighters, particularly with western passports, have the potential to attack us at home.
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as members may remember, when secretary kerry testified here in september, he said it's time for the defensive strategy we and our international partners have pursued thus far to transition to an offensive strategy. ambassador mcgirk, with a lack lurser air campaign, severely under supplied partners on the ground and key allies with deep concern about the president's strategy, i just don't see how this is a credible offense. and we would like to talk to -- i would like to ask you about that. and of course next congress, this committee expects to consider a new authorization for use of military force to support this effort and that is something we will do under a time frame that is befitting of the gravity of the issue. and the committee also expects that the commander in chief will come to congress with his request and work in a bipartisan way to garner maximum support. before turning to the ranking
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member, i would like to note that is this is last full committee hearing of the 113th congress and we have accomplished a lot during the last 13 years of which i would like to recognize all the members for their contribution and for those members who will not be return, we wish you well and i was going to turn to mr. angle at this time whose long held observations on syria have proven prophetic. he has seen thing as they really were on the ground, frankly before many and suggested a strategy to engage isis before this committee some two years ago. while we wait for the ranking member, my suggestion then would be that we go, ambassador to your testimony and after you conclude, he will make his opening statement. ambassador mcgirk. >> the ambassador recently
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served as the dep -- isil, working alongside general howell, he currently serves as the deputy assistant secretary for iraq and iran, he was previously senior advisors to ambassadors ryon rocker, christopher hill, and james jeffrey in baghdad. without objection, the witness's full statement will be made part of the record, members will have five calendar days to submit statements and questions and exstrain you materials for the record. >> it is an honor to appear again before this committee to provide an upgrade on the global campaign to degrade and defeat isil. i would like to reflect briefly in how far we have come in the six months since the city of mosul in iraq fell. i was in northern iraq on june 10, six months ago today when
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mosul collapsed. during the next 72 hours, other cities fell, isil's -- to the west, a lesser noted but equally devastating offensive took place from across the syrian border with isil capturing the strategic border city, isis then poured down the euphrates valley. in baghdad during this period, just six months ago this week, there was a growing panic within the population, the government, security services and the diplomatic community. at the embassy we prepared for the worst-case scenario and evacuated 1,500 people moving them to amman, kuwait -- the president ordered four initiatives to hold the line and set the condition force a possible counter offensive. first we served intelligence over the skies of iraq, we went from flying -- second, we
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established joint operations centers in baghdad and irbill restoring critical relationships with iraqi and kurdish commanders. third, we deployed special forces team with a focus on the defense of baghdad. and finally and perhaps most importantly, we supported the iraqis as they work to stachbtd up to a new and more inclusive government. throughout the summer months we work these four tracks simultaneously -- while supporting the iraqi political leaders as they set up a new government. for all of these reasons on august 8, when the president first ordered u.s. military forces to conduct air strikes in
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iraq, we were able to act with precision and efficacy. one month later, the iraqi parliament -- new and different leaders across every cabinet position. including oil, finance and defense. this new government led by prime minister abbadi. first it's governing philosophy is decentralization or a functioning federalism within the constitutional structure of iraq. last week's historic oil accord with the kurdistan region is an outgrowth of this new policy. second the new government has committed to significant security reforms including a smaller more agile army, strengthening security forces at the local level, including tribal forces and ultimately provincial based national guard. third, the government is
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submitted to a policy of restoring -- maintaining iraqi's independence. even in its first 100 days, the government has made agreement -- nonetheless, despite this progress, the challenge of this new government are truly enormous. isil has thousands of fighters controlling three major cities in iraq. the iraqi economy which had been growing at 4% per year is now predicted to contract due to falling oil prices. this new government despite the promise simply cannot defeat isil and stabilize iraq on its own. it will need the support of the united states and the world. that is why we will need a global campaign to prosecute an effort against isil, last week in brussels, kerry held a -- common and shared commitment across five lines of effort. this conference for the first time formalized a global
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coalition to defeat and degrade isil. the lines of effort include military support to our -- humanitarian support and deal with -- we're now seeing progress along each of these lines of effort. on the military side, there are now seven countries flying combat air missions over iraq. as a result of these strikes, isil's offensive has been halted, it's ability to mass and maneuver forces degraded, it's leadership cells eliminated. in the past 60 days alone, iraqi forces have retaken ground at mosul dam, and down baghdad. they have also held the line. efforts to generate additional forces, specifically 12 new brigades, will soon begin at multiple sites across iraq in cooperation from our coalition partners. in syria, coalition air -- massive isil assault leading to
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significant attrition of isil fighters. they are now losing 100 fighters per week including top commanders and p top foreign fighters. on combatting foreign fighters, we now have in place a chapter 7 security council resolution calling on all major states to send -- criminalizing foreign fighter related activities and in the past month alone, foreign fighter networks have been broken up in austria, malaysia and foreign fighters prosecuted in germany and the usa. we're cutting the avenues of revenues and destroys isil's refining capacity. these efforts are now having an impact.
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on a humanitarian front, much has been done but far more is noted and this was a key focus of our conference in brussels last week. we have begun a campaign, fatwas issued from top religious leaders declaring isil a direct threat to islam, and other coalition partners are working to establish operations rooms to combat social media programs and messaging campaigns in real time. as president obama's envoys to the anti-isil coalition, we have viz it -- we have found the coalition strongly and firmly united. particularly when it comes to the way we interact. the situation in syria is more
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complex and our tools for the moment more limited. general allen and i have a common set of questions about the best way forward in syria and also a divergence in how to proceed. many of our coalition partners have not envisioned themselves as -- ensuring such a transition potentially even more destabilizing than the situation we face now. at the same time, other coalition partners are urging strikes against the assad regime, considering the regime a central source of instability in the region. our message to all these partners has been clear. we believe there must be a political transition in syria
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through a negotiated political process. any future government cannot include bashar al assad which remains a magnet for terrorism in the region. a political transition will also require a strong counter weight to extremists like isil. that is why the department is leading an effort to modernize forces subject to funding from congress. this process of course will take time and throughout we will constantly assess how we can ensure the moderate forces in the field are able to protect themselves against moderate threats cloug isil and the syrian regime. in conclusion looking back six months ago at this very hour, we have begun to make progress against isil, but i want to emphasize this will be a long-term, multiarea campaign. we are now in the earliest faces of phase one. as we move into a new phase, we will require ongoing support from congress. >> i think i will start with my questions and then when elliott arrives he can give his opening statement and i'll ask his and we'll go down the line. ambassador, as you know, the syrian city of aleppo is the last major city, the last refuge of the syrian middle class, it's under the partial control of the moderate syrian opposition as it's pushed by isis. this is an absolutely critical
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city for the opposition, for both symbolic and strategic reasons. it is through this city that most foreign humanitarian and military assistance to the people of northern syria and the moderate opposition flows. yet over the past year, as the moderate opposition has struggled to maintain its defense of this city, as better resourced fighters from isis, as, you know, as many as 40 air strikes a day from the assad regime hit them, they have had to contend with assad's use of hezbollah fighters against them. and so you see a situation where it's sit has gradually captured more parts of city as have those who want to extinguish this last representation of the syrian middle class efforts to hold on. and they're encircled. and they're defending it from
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within. and most observers agree that if aleppo follows out of moderate control, it will have catastrophic consequences for the free syrian army. so they're all right on the ropes after years of anemic support. when we meet with them, we hear from them the same thing that you hear from them, they can't get the equipment that they need to fight back against isis. so in late august, a team of state department briefers met with committee staff, which had requested a briefing of the situation in aleppo. the state department official said it was a question not of when it would fall, but ---it was a question of when, not if, aleppo would fall, a question of when not if aleppo would fall. when our staff was asked if eliminating ---the state department said that the administration was still frying to decide if it was. which sounded like it was can diplomatic speak for no.
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and as events have played out over the past few months, it seemed clear that that was the case. isis continues to advance on aleppo, the barrel bombs continue to drop on the city and this is now on a daily basis. so ambassador, if we're serious about combatting isis in syria, we cannot let aleppo fall. it is far more strategically important than kobani, but all of our efforts are focused not in that area, but up in kobani. if aleppo falls, it's likely that another mass waves of people and refugees and the syrian middle class would all but be destroyed. i will ask you, is preventing the fall of aleppo an
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administration priority? >> mr. chairman, let me address this question a few ways, we're very focused on the situation in aleppo. right now we are acting on requests from the iraqi government and the united nations security council to protect them against isil. so all of our kinetic operations in syria is focused on isil. on the aleppo situation, we're very focused on what we can do. that is why general allen and i have made about four trips to turkey over the last couple of months and the focus of the conversation with the turks is how we might be able to work together to begin to improve the situation there, we're obviously doing a number of things with the moderate opposition, which i can't discuss here. but i can assure you that we're very focused on the situation and looking at ways to allow them to hold the line. aleppo, and surrounding areas, it's not so much isil. but what we're focusing on is isil targets, they can be very hard to find but we're looking at it very closely and our
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conversations with turkey specifically focussed on this question. >> that calls into question the fact that they're fighting al qaeda units as well, as you know, it calls into question our policy on safe zones. but my worry about the dithering on this is that we had these dialogues back in february on isis at a time, frankly, we began this dialogue before isis even took falluja. we were calling for air strikes and action against isis before they managed to pull that off. and then city by city by city,
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the call went out to members of congress and others who had syrian experience, if isis wasn't hit while their columns were on the ground that mosul itself would fall. and it did. and they took the central bank. still no action, still discussion, still dithering and now we're at the point where we see the last major stronghold for the syrian middle class trying to hold off isis and hold off al qaeda on one front, and hold off the barrel bombs and we still can't seem to see any policy that will rescue the city and when our -- when we directly ask whether it's a strategy ic effort, the response we get is we're still trying to decide. we can be still trying to decide after we are have lost the ability to reverse what's going on in syria, just as we lost that ability to reverse what was going on in western iraq because we didn't hit the targets prior to them taking mosul. so i -- anyway, my time is expired and we will now go to
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mr. sherman of california, we will return to mr. angleal. >> ambassador, interrupt me if i've got this wrong, but you're not saying that the u.n. resolution or the request of the iraqi government gives the administration legal authority under american law to deploy troops, you're relying on the various authorization to use military force. it's also my understanding that the interpretation is that they authorized the efforts that you have taken against al qaeda in syria, that you have taken against isis, which is a splinter arguably, a continuing splinter, one of the many streams of al qaeda. do i have that right as to your legal position? >> international basis for operating in syria now -- >> i wasn't asking about your international basis.
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that is not legally binding. what's legally binding is the laws of congress. and you're not claiming that the u.n.'s actions or the iraqi actions give you authority under the war powers act. >> i'm saying the situation in aleppo is a very confused one, our ability to look closely at what's happening there is rimt limited to the fact that we're flying all the way from the gulf. and our focus right now is on isil. >> i was asking you about the legal position of the administration, it's authorize days to use force and -- you're not going to answer my question, so i want to go on to another question. we have been pushed around by this iraqi government. we state offed it, you've pointed out, i believe that they may have taken baghdad, or might well have taken baghdad if it hadn't been for us.
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they are terrorizing the folks at camp liberty in clear violation of not only u.s. preferences but international law. they have allied themselveses with iran, with the iranian air force carrying out operations over iraq and iranian ground forces operating on the ground in conjunction with iraqi forces. and sometimes folks at to the upper levels of the state department don't focus that much on the money of the u.s. taxpayers. we're giving all this a tremendous amount of aid to iraq. whereas it's my understanding that iraq is still paying and still acknowledges it's debt to saudi arabia and kuwait for tens of billions of dollars borrowed by saddam hussein.
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>> does that, there have, put them in a position so instead of paying where we have to give it to them, we have to give it to them for free?
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>> no, the iraqis resist paying the debts of sadham hussein. >> but they haven't renounced those debts. we haven't urged them to renounce those debts.
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>> we're actually in very good discussions with them. i saw general allen about a month ago about relieving those payments. >> you're talking about completely different payments, sir. i'm talking about -- >> they come from the same pot. >> they do? >> they're limited in terms of their ability to fund these things. >> oh, okay. and i hope, for the record, you'll brief us on what you've done to push the iraqi regime to honor its obligations to the residents of camp liberty. >> i'd be happy to give you a briefing on that. the new iraqi government has been in place for a hundred days vpt and i think we're making some progress on these issues. but i'd be happy to come brief on on that.
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>> recent reports indicate that isis is recruiting more than a thousand foreign fighters every month. these fighters are streaming into syria and iraq from the gulf, the u.s. and other nations. most troubling, some of them are turning to their home countries. just as the threat spans the globe, some must the coalition be responding to the threat and the good news is more than 60 countries have joined the antiisis coalition. together, we're cracking down on foreign fiegtsders.
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of regional partners have worked alongside the u.s. military to impede its growth. we're making progress but nowhere near stamping out this threat. today i hope we can discuss what strategy will get us closer to the goal. i think there are a few areas that i think are especially critical. we need a global coalition, it's critical we engage closely with local partners, iraqi, syrian, kurd. such cooperation is essential to stop the threat of isis and the u.s. does not bear a disproportionate burden in this fight. i supported a program to train and equip the syrian operation. congress voted overwhelming to get this program off the ground and i look forward to hearing the status of this effort. we need to state clearly if there's no future for assad in syria and seeing assad go remains a top priority and the interests and goals of the united states simply don't align with assad and iran. assad is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of syrians.
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we also have the horrific pictures smuggled out of damascus by ceaser, the syrian army defector. assad is a magnet of extremism. as long as he remains in power, courtesy of iran and hezbollah. we must determine and understand that the u.s. plays a unique role in this situation. our capabilities are unmatched. i understand that the american people are uneasy about getting more involved and the conflict half bay around the globe. i feel the same way. we're tired of war. we want to bring your men and women home. we want to work with local partners is so important to help
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prevent future escalation of american involvement. but we must not forget in so many places around the world, freedom, dignity and justice are under constant attack and i firmly believe if the u.s. does not lead the way as a champion of these values no one else will. we believe in a world in which all people are free to decide their own futures and there are times when defending and advancing that vision requires difficult choices and sacrifice. that's what makes the united states the world's one indispensable nation. we didn't ask for this conflict but we cannot ignore it, so i look forward to hearing the questions and answers and the testimony and i want to ask as my first question, a question about iran. iran also wants to defeat isis, but reports indicate that iranian fighter jets were targeting isis in iraq. what involvement does iran have in iraq, both on the air and on the ground? what is their involvement with the shia militias and how are they involved in the fight against isil? it's happened once, we don't want it to happen again. >> thank you. there's no question that iran is playing a role in iraq. isil is a threat to iran and we have said that every country in the world has a role to play in
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defeating isil. the question for the iranians is whether they're going to do it in a constructive way or in a destructive way. somewhat of what we're seeing right now in terms of iranian militias is not only problematic in terms of what we're seeing it's also problematic i know to the new government and also to ayatollah who has spoken out against any armed group operating outside the structures of the iraqi state. in the iraqi government made a commitment that was reaffirmed before 60 countries last month in brussels to assure that all armed groups are operating under the structures of iraqi state and that's something that the government will be working on. but in the total security
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collapse we had this summer, there's no question that militias and some armed groups filled that vacuum that iran has played a role in that and it's something that the new government will have to begin to work on. >> i just think -- i'll yield back, that we need to be very weary of iran. it's not simply the enemy of my enemy is my friend. i think we need to be very, very careful not to stumble down that path. thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. we go to, chair of the middle east sub committee. >> thank you so much, mr. chairman. good to have you back, ambassador. following up on mr. engel's questions regarding iran, secretary has stated quite clearly that the united states is not coordinating with iran on iraq and on the fight against isil. and in addition in your 15-page testimony, you don't mention iran even single time, yet the regime clearly has a role that it is playing in iraq as you just stated. prime minister abadi has claimed no knowledge of the recent air
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strikes but iran has confirmed that it did carry them out. so, who currently controls the air space in iraq given that the iraqis don't have sufficient capabilities to maintain their own air sovereignty? and if no coordination had taken place and the iranians did, indeed, take this action into their own hands without coordinating, didn't iran violate iraqi air space? will there be any rep cushions
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from that? as we continue our nuclear talks with iran, we ignore multiple violations that iran continues to make as the talks take place. will this be yet another violation of iran that we turn a blind eye to? secretary has called possible iranian action in iraq against isil as positive despite the fact that teheran's incessant meddling in baghdad and its stoking of sectarian tension in iraq and in syria has played a large part in the rise of isil. is it the administration's view
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that having a shiite iran the world's foremost supporter of terrorism, in spite of our nuclear talks, invade iraqi air space to attack sunni isil. does the administration view this as a positive development? on and syria, you testify that it is our goal -- not that it is an absolute necessity to find a future in syria that does not include isil or assad, as you stated in your testimony and that relying on moderate rebels to defeat them both and usher in a political settlement, will the assad regime being supported by iran and russia as they are and with isil being so well financed, how will a group of rebels be able to defeat them both? and what would they need in order to accomplish that goal? the administration doesn't have a comprehensive policy to deal with all of the threats in iraq and syria and iran, nor does it seem to want one. these aren't realistic plans that can truly destroy isil, can defeat al nusra and defeat the assad regime. we haven't even begun the train and equip mission and we're about a year away from even standing that minimal force up, if ever at all. is that the case? where are we with that mission, sir? in my testimony, i did focus on the concern about the militias and prime minister's batty to reign those in, all armed groups within the structures of state. i also focussed on the desire of this new government to have strategic independence in the in the region and that gets to his outreach to his arab neighbors and also the important outreach to oncra which is happening now which wasn't happening over the past few years. that's very important. iran is a fact in iraq. you have to look at a border --
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at a map to see that with a 1,500 kilometer border. >> excuse me, sir, would you say that iran violated iraqi air space? >> i would to refer to my d.o.d. colleagues. >> if they did, would we -- would there be any consequences for that violation, one of many? >> well, it's up to the iraqi government to control its own air space. they lack the assets and resources to do that. i would mention on that score, the f-16 program is moving forward. the pilots are in training and we're working with jordan to house those f-16s on a temporary basis before the bases in iraq are ready. >> if i could just on a few seconds we have left on syria, what is the latest with the train and equip mission? it doesn't seem that we've come very far. >> as you know that's a title 10 d.o.d. program and my d.o.d.
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colleagues can give you a substantial briefing on that. general allen and i have been to some of the host countries such as turkey, qatar and saudi arabia. we hope we can get those programs moving as early as march with the training to begin. >> is it the administration's view as you stated that assad must go, does that mean that he must be removed from power or are you just saying that he should not have a future in syria? >> well, we're focussed on a political transition process and there's two political tracts going on right now. one is led by the u.n. special representative looking at a bottom up approach getting to the chairman's question on aleppo. we very much support that initiative to freeze the situation. secretary kerry has been in conversations with key stake holders in the region. but clearly nobody believes that bashar al assad can govern that state and bring it to any sense of stability -- >> do you think the rebels remove him from power? who is going to remove assad from power? >> again, my d.o.d. colleagues could discuss the military situation but we do not see a situation in which the rebels are able to remove him from power? it will be have to be a negotiated diplomatic process. >> just regarding the syria train and equip program. it's unfortunate that the d.o.d. was unable to provide a witness today. we had made the request. we go now to mr. meeks of new york. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for this important hearing and thank you, mr. ambassador for being here. as i'm sitting listening to your testimony and listening to the questions that are being asked,
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i understand that this is a complicated situation. it has been since we've been here. it's not easy. people have relationships in that region, some for decades, some for centuries against one another, different interests and we're trying to navigate all that. this is not a simple scenario. i can recall being at this hearing on this hearing room before where many of us and it's easy for us to be up here to think that it's simple. we thought it was simple to get rid of saddam hussein. we said it would take a few days. in fact, we got on a ship and said mission accomplished. a few days later, shock and awe. i'm glad we're not being this simplistic about this. the administration has been honest to say that it will take years to get this done. and to get it done right. not based upon emotion, not based upon trying, just get us together so we can say ra-ra. but based on trying to get together with our allies in the region, those that got complicated relationships so we can try to figure out once and for all how do we get this done without it being just stuck on the united states and everybody then turning back against us. so it's complicated. it's going to take some time. we've got to figure this out. we've had some problems. that is what happens with complicated situations. it's not easy. if it was easy, anybody could do it. and so it's not easy for the
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united states of america. and when you look at this world that's smaller, we've got to deal with all of our other allies in the region who have their interests also and in today's world, they're not just saying, oh, we're going to do what the united states says against our own self interest. they have their self interest also and we have to figure out howie weigh that so we can knit and weave and put this together so we don't have an artificial result that only lasts for a short period of time. so i understand that it's difficult.
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so my first question is toward what has been difficult with the iraqi government -- past government. and i know there's just been an agreement with baghdad and erbil. so my question is, how is that? because i know that when you look at kazakhstan that's a difficult situation historically and the mall key government, they were not doing the right thing so that kurdistan was
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getting some of the dollars that it needed from the central government. can you tell us how is this landmark agreement that was reached i think it was just reached last week again between the central government and the kurdistan regional government, what is the likelihood that it will hold and how will payments be made to the kurds so we can fix this scenario that has also been historically something that has been a problem in the past? >> thank you for your excellent question and you're absolutely right. this is an extremely complicated situation. it's viewed different from every capital we go to, viewed differently from different groups within the countries that face in the conflict zone and the middle east right now is going through a historic
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transformation. it's up to us to protect and advances those interests which we're working to do with our coalition partners. the oil deal is significant. it's something we've worked on almost ten years. we almost got there back in march. the same deal was on the table in march but simply couldn't get over the line with the government that was in place back then. the new government, as i mentioned in my testimony, is totally different across the board. more pragmatic actors and people who are able to get around a table and figure it out. i they figured out a win/win solution. under this solution, the kurdistan region will export about 550,000 barrels a day. 300 barrels coming from kirkuk. that's a controversial part of the landscape. but taking oil from those fields and exporting it through the north, through the kurdistan region and turkey about 300,000 from kirkuk, all of that revenue will come into the central account and 17% will go to the
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kurdistan region. this is a breakthrough accord. another part is that $1 billion within the new government will go to the kurdish. the first time the iraqi government very clearly saying we will fund our brave kurdish fighters who are fighting alongside us against isil. this is a big deal. it's a breakthrough. now, will there be problems in implementation moving forward? yes. we have to work through those and the iraqis as well. it's a significant sign they got this done. it's a very hopeful moment. i was on the phone with the iraqi leadership in baghdad with the kurdish leadership very shortly after and there was a really a mood of tremendous optimism, something i have not heard in some time and i worked on this specific issue for a period of years. so i think your questions are very insightful one and i think the oil agreement is just indicative of where we are in iraq and the foundation that we've built. given where we were six months ago today, it was hard to see back then where we might be today but it really gives us some hope for the future. but again, the iraqis have to work out the details. it will be difficult. there will be setbacks as you said. nothing is easy. it's complex. but it's -- it was a significant breakthrough and the testament to the iraqi leadership to really get it done. >> thank you. >> mr. joe wilson of south carolina.
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>> thank you, chairman royce, your determined leadership and chairman reuss thank you also for your early warnings of the threat of isis to american families. and mr. ambassador, thank you very much for being here today. the american people need to know the threat of the murderous ideology of isis. last week abc news reported isis spokesman called upon followers in the u.s. and europe to attack members of military. he went on to say, quote, do not ask for anyone's advice and do not seek anyone's verdict. kill the disbeliever whether he is a civilian or military for they have the same ruling. both of them are disbelievers. both of them are considered to be waging war, end of quote. this is a grotesque ideology that we face in our coalition partners face and i believe it's important that we never forget how grotesque it is. additionally we need to know they carry signs, death to america, death to israel. their creed a mass murder is quote, we believe in death more than you value life. having that in mind, again, you've got quite a challenge. but we do have allies and i'm particularly grateful the
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kurdish regional government in iraq has been a success story of economic development for its people and as opposition to extremists. the american no-fly zone saved thousands of lives. the administration claims the kurdish are our primary u.s. partners in the efforts against islamic state. yet as of mid-october, the administration's only provided rifles, small armers, mortars to the kurdish forces. i'm really concerned that the president's actions don't match the threat. does the administration tend to be more robust in equipping the kurdish forces to commence offensive operations against isis and under what time line?
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>> let me discuss the situation of arming the peshmerga because i've been involved with them. we've worked out two detailed lists one in august and two in september and with the government of iraq and delivered everything on those lists. and again, i just want to go back to the fact that we have a new government now. every request for weapon systems from the kurdistan region have been approved. we have a new minister of defense, from mosul. he went to see the president. and he has committed to getting the supplies to the kurds that they need. i was just in berlin last week. the germans are supplying the peshmerga significant anti-tank munitions. so we are very focussed on this. we're acutely focussed on it.
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but what is important is that unlike some of the tension we had with the last government, we have very strong cooperation now. there's been about 40 cargo flights. they land in baghdad first but then they immediately go to supply the peshmerga with the weapons and supplies they need. we're working on this everyday. we have joint operations centers set up in the kurdistan region. i've been to them. i went to dehook to see the president when he was commanding some of his units in an offensive near the border crossing. we're working with them everyday, but we work through this and our military colleagues work through what are the requirements, what do you need, how do you get them? we've went around the world to source getting t 62 tank rounds to make sure that the 100 tanks that the kurds have are fully
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resourced with the ammunition they need. this is an on going day to day activity and we're fully seized of it. >> and do you anticipate that the peshmerga would be on offensive operations and not just defensive? >> well, they are on offensive operations, congressman. they taken back nearly all the territory that was seized from isil when isil launched its offense in august. the one exception being sin jar and we think that will kick off after the winter season. and that peshmerga importantly they're working very closely with iraqi forces to take been the mosul damn. the counterterrorism service was working side by side to take back the mosul damn and the operation at the border crossing was done in coordination. it's a significant development. given where we were six months ago and after isil moved into the kurdistan region, the kurds have pushed back very effectively. they've taken hundreds of casualties as have the iraqi security force. we're working with them to help plan and conduct operations. when they mount their operations, we provide them with air cover and air support. >> i want to join with my colleague from queens actually a native of south carolina and
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point out how pleased i am that there has been an agreement in regard to oil between iraq and the kurdish regional government. i yield the balance of my time. >> thank you. >> we go now to new jersey. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this hearing and thank you for being here with us and always being straight forward with us. you know, as i sit here in these hearings, we talk about retraining and training. i just read a report about two or three weeks ago where they had the iraqis had 50,000 soldiers that were on a payroll that never showed up. i mean, to me, this system that we're going to try to retrain again and spend billions of dollars and maybe not be as effective as they were. the other thing is, we talk about a new government being more pragmatic. i think it's just the reality
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that hit them that if they really don't work and change their ways, they're going to lose their country. i mean, people have poured billions of dollars into this country to try to straighten them out. now they've become pragmatic. i think it's just a reality that has hit them that they have to. imply mentation of some of these accords, i was concerned with the kurdish getting all the weapons they needed but they had to go through baghdad. so it was difficult for them to get it to the kurdish. these are the kind of things. the last thing i'll just talk about is spreading the conflict in the area. i read some articles where lebanon was concerned that there was activity in lebanon and they're asking for more arms and more support so could you speak to that also? thank you very much. >> well, lebanon was a participant at the conference we had in brussels last week at the coalition administerial chaired by secretary kerry. they were at the table with
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their foreign minister as were the other neighbors. turkey had 1.8 million refugees from syria. we have to remember the burden that's taking on turkey and lebanon. we're doing all we can to help sure them up. it's extremely difficult. and again, the lebanese are very concerned about this, in particular, the in roads that isil is making into its borders. so, all of our partners in the region the countries neighboring syria, lebanon, iraq, turkey and jordan are central to the efforts of this coalition. and what we heard in brussels around the table 60 different members of the coalition, countries from all around the world talking about the fact that we need to help our friends who are suffering from this crisis. so we're very focussed on it and i can come follow up with a more detailed briefing particularly on lebanon or other neighbors. >> i'm happy you raised the issue with jordan because i understand they're getting more aggressive, more active in demonstrations and aggressive
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activities. can you talk a little bit about that? >> well, jordan is also a front line state and as you know, the refugees that they've taken in as really take an toll on their resources. resources. king abdullah was just here i think it was last week. general allen and i saw him in amman about a month ago working very closely with jordan both on the security side about suring up the defenses of their boarder and also trying to limit the extremist presence in southeast syria. there's a lot of focus on the aleppo pocket in northern syria which is a focus to the turks and us and everyone. jordan is more focussed on the other areas. we need to help them. but jordan is a front-line state and that's why we're providing them substantial security assistance and humanitarian assistance to deal with the refugee crisis. our friends in the region are just impacted by this crisis everyday and that's why part of
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the president's central policy in his counterterrorism support in building partner capacity is focussed on this very issue, the neighbors of syria in making sure they can with stand this crisis as best they can. >> can you talk a little bit about camp liberty and any of the abuses by the iraqis? i know you're on the discussion. >> i get a briefing on this every single day and get reports from both the residents and also from the united nations. and as you know, the united nations monitoring teams confirms to us about human tear supplies and the other all situation at the camp. we look at it every single day. my colleague jonathan winer who is our senior adviser is in albania today with a team with dhs represented as well and we've gotten about 600 residents of camp liberty out of camp liberty and out of iraq to safety over the past year and we're looking to increase that number this year.
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albania has been very helpful in this regard and jonathan winer has really done a tremendous heroic courageous job at getting this moving and i think the new government will be more cooperative. we want to get all of the residents at camp liberty as i testified before out of iraq to safety. that's our goal. and we're working with partners around the world to try to achieve that goal. right now albania has been extremely cooperative and we should thank them for taking in hundreds of residents and the residents are assimilating quite well in albania. but my colleague is there now discussing this issue and i'm sure he would be happy to come follow up with you. >> thank you very much. >> per that issue, i would just point out when senator kerry was here, we raised this issue of on supporting the kurds. not selling them the heavy weapons, the heavy equipment and the armor they needed, the anti-tech missiles. i'll quote from his testimony, no we're not.
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you are. we're adhering to u.s. law passed by congress. if you want to change it, fix it, we invite you. i would just point out that i put out bipartisan legislation to change that, to allow us to directly sell the weapons they needed to the kurds and then the administration opposed the legislation that we had been invited to put into change it. so, just for the record, i would raise the point that the argument has changed. >> mr. chairman, i feel your pain on crimea, too. >> yes. it's a moving target and a moving argument. we go now to judge poe of texas. >> i thank the chairman. there's no question about it that isis, as i call them, they're a bunch of bad people who just commit murder.
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and we are doing battle with isis. the united states has been in middle east with boots on the ground for a long time. ambassador, would you say that the united states is at war with isis or not? >> congressman, having seen it up close, i would say we are at war with isis, yes. >> it seems to me that our strategy is twofold at this point or maybe threefold. send aid to different groups, countries. there are 60-something nations i understand are in the coalition to fight isis. one is to do air strikes as the chairman has mentioned the success of those air strikes depends on who you're talking to. i do not believe they have been quite as successful as we had hoped they would be. the other is to take syrian moderate rebels, vet, train and
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equip them to go back to syria and defeat isis. how many of those people have been vetted, trained and equipped and sent back to syria to fight isis? >> congressman again, it's a d.o.d. program -- >> it's not. you're the ambassador. you represent the state department, you're not the states. we're at war with this country that we're at war with isis. you can't tell me politically whether we have armed, vetted, armed and trained anybody yet and sent them back to syria to fight isis? you can't give that answer. >> i did answer it. the answer right now is no. >> so non. >> it was designed to be a long-term program and we hope -- >> i understand, beard. just a second. no, you wait a minute. i'm asking the question. you give the answer. the answer is, we have not trained any -- none of them are
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back over there. meanwhile, isis is beheading people and committed all kinds of atrocities, but our plan, if i understand our strategic plan, it's to help aid, it's to drop bombs, it's to train mercenaries to go back and fight isis in syria, none of which have been trained. how long is it going to take before we get all those people that are being trained in saudi arabia back in syria to fight? how long do you think it will take? >> well, congressman, the program is to train 5,000 per year and the training we hope will start in march. so -- >> so a year from march? >> and the program is to build -- >> a year from march? >> about 5,000 by then. we have to be very -- >> excuse me, ambassador. i'm not clear. 5,000 in march that will be trained or will it be a year from march, 2016 before we have those 5,000 fighters that we
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send back to syria. >> it's 5,000 trained per year. and part of the reason is because of the vetting standards we're very being careful about this. we're not sitting on our hands. >> excuse me, ambassador -- >> excuse me, mr. ambassador. answer the question. is it 5,000 in 2016, in march, where we hope that's our plan to have them trained by then? >> the training we hope will begin in march. we hope -- >> but it will take a year to train 5,000 people. >> yes, that's right. >> so march of 2016. then we have a plan, then we have fighters, then we send them to syria. there's no telling what isis can do in that year and however ever months it is. is the united states have some other strategic plan other than arming these folks that aren't going to show up until 2016, dropping bombs, that are marginal whether they've been successful, and helping with military aid to some of these coalition countries. is there a strategic plan overall that you know about in the state department? >> yes. the train and equip program is
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one small element in an overall campaign and this is a multi-year campaign and phase one, phase one is iraq. what we're doing in syria right now is degrading isil's capacity. every time we've had a local force on the ground that we can work with. kobani is a good example of this. >> reclaiming my time. what are we doing in syria right now? people are dying in syria and the calvary isn't showing up until 2016 the way i understand it. is that correct? >> those trained and equipped units are not the only units on the field that we can work with in syria. >> who else? >> we're working in kobani with a number of units. >> who are these people? >> iraqi, kurdish thanks to a deal we worked up with the turks. >> they working in syria or iraq? >> in syria. we brought them -- kurdish from iraq -- >> last question. i'm sorry i'm out of time. last question, are we going to put more boots on the ground, american military in the middle east to defeat isis?
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>> the president's policy is not to put combat forces on the ground in iraq, but we have advisers and trainers that are working right now -- >> middle east. i'm not going to talk about iraq. in the middle east, are more americans going over to the middle east to defeat and fight isis? >> we have about 30,000 troops in the region now. >> are more americans going over to the middle east to defeat and fight isis? other than what's already right there. >> right now we have a large substantial force in the middle east. i don't see the need for more. >> i yield back. >> mr. conley? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. ambassador, certainly i think most of us wish success in your endeavor, but i have to confess to you, listening to you makes me feel like i'm in the scene of the wizard of oz.
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we're being counseled to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. meaning the previous iraqi government, which we supported way too long in terms of ma lacky and the damage he did in absolutely serving relations between the shia and sunni which contributed mightily to the rise of isis. and frankly to the loss of moderates, not only in iraq but spill over in syria. i mean, you said to us, pay attention to the fact that we have a new government. yeah, it's kind of relatively new, but when one looks at measures of progress, one despairs frankly, ambassador. i'm fixated on what constitutes progress? we have used metrics in the past about how many iraqi troops we trained in the past. how did that work out for us? they melted away. now we have isis, one of the best funded, best equipped


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