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tv   General Votel Questioned on Mosul Air Strike Says Investigation is...  CSPAN  March 31, 2017 6:28am-8:13am EDT

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one hour and 45 minutes. >> committee will come to order. we turn our attention to the central command area of operations, where much of the nation's military power has been engaged since 1991. while we are rightfully focusing attention on other threats, such as a resurgent russia and
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assertive china, the threat of terrorism has not gone away. as discussed a few weeks ago, it is difficult to see how isis is totally eliminated from syria, and al qaeda has not disappeared either. while terrorist have physically spread to other locations, some have become quite adept on posting online comic instigating terrorists incidents in the west. iran poses a significant threat to regional stability. none of us will prevent -- will forget the central fight to prevent afghanistan from becoming a base for terrorism. i appreciate the witnesses answering our questions. i want to mention one additional issue that has been in the news lately. there have been press reports about civilian casualties in mosul related to u.s. aerial
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support reclaiming the city from isis. i would suggest that everyone be cautious. environmentrban there may well be civilian casualties. even the finest military in the world can make mistakes. we know for certain that isis uses innocent civilians as human shields, and they can arrange civilian deaths to further their misguided. . -- misguided narratives. i think we should always give the benefit of the doubt to the professionals who are working every day to keep us safe. let me turn to mr. smith for any comments you would like to make before turning to our witness. >> i want to echo the comments about how important this region is. the challenges are great.
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the issue i want to highlight and have the general discussion -- as we continue in iraq, the problem continues to be that the baghdad government is not inclusive enough of the sunni population. tribal leaderunni the other day. obviously the prime minister is trying, there has not been much improvement. there is a sense that baghdad is closer to iran than their own sunni population. until we fix that problem, if you have a disgruntled pushed aside sunni population in iraq, you will have fertile ground for al qaeda and extremists that want to exploit it. i am curious what we are doing intointegrate the sunnis
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the baghdad government so that it is not sectarian, but a government for iraq. with that, i think the general for his service and look forward to the testimony. >> without objection your written statement will be entered into the record. you are recognized for any oral comments you would like to make. >> for the members of the committee, i want to highlight we have put a map at each of your spaces. there is coverage on both sides. the backside focuses on iraq and syria. red blots highlight where we think isis is located currently. distinguished members of the committee, good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to appear to discuss the state of readiness of u.s. central command. i come on behalf of the
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outstanding men and women of the command -- military, civilians and contractors, along with coalitions and partners from 60 patients. our people are the best in the world. could not be more proud of themi or their families. without question, they are the strength of our central command team. over the past 12 months we have dealt with significant challenges in afghanistan, pakistan, yemen, egypt, sinai, and elsewhere throughout our area of responsibility. we are making progress in many areas. but much work remains. we are also dealing with maligned activities by iran and its proxies operating in the region. it is my view that iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability in this part of the world. generally speaking, the central
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reason remains a highly complex area, widely characterized by pervasive instability and conflict. the fragile security environments that reflect intervening factors such as heightened effort know-sectarian tensions, economic uncertainty, weak or corrupt governance, civil wars and unitarian -- exploited by extremist organizations and terrorist groups such as al qaeda and that -- isis. our interest abroad in the interest of partners and allies at the same time, the central region is increasingly crowded with external nationstates such as russia and china, who are pursuing their own interests in attempting to shift alliances within the region. is,point i would emphasize while there may be other more strategic or consequential threats to regions in our world, today the central region of come
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to represent a nexus for security challenges our nation faces. threats inantly, the this region continue to pose the most direct threat to the u.s. homeland and global economy. thus, and must remain a priority and be resourced appropriately. we appreciate this committee's continued strong support and particularly as it pertains to our budget request and the funding provided. but across centcom, the department of defense. we could not do what we do on a daily basis without that support. meanwhile, the team at u.s. central command is focus on doing what is necessary to protect our natural interests and those of our partners. our strategic approach is straightforward, prepare, pursue, prevail. we prepare the environment to ensure an effective posture and strong relationships across the region. we actively pursue opportunities to strengthen relationships and support our interest.
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when we do put our forces into action, we prevail in our assigned missions. i would also point out to you that today, to the credit and professionalism of our armed forces and coalition partners, we are executing campaigns in the central region with significantly fewer u.s. forces on the ground than in previous years. as you are seeing clearly demonstrated in iraq and syria, afghanistan, yemen, and area throughout our area of responsibility, we have adopted an approach that puts a heavy reliance on indigenous forces. well this approach presents moreenges and can be time-consuming, it is proving effective and is likely to pay significant dividends going indigenous force partners continued to build needed capability and capacity on their personally invested in the conduct of operations and thus inclined to do what is necessary to preserve the gains they have achieved going forward.
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we also have a vested interest in increased security in strategically important central regions. to this end i will close by highlighting three areas where i believe if we apply the appropriate energy and effort we can and will have a lasting positive impact in this part of the world. we must restore trust with partners in the region while at the same time maintain strong trust in our leadership in washington. we cannot surge trust in times of crisis. we must do what is necessary now with our commitment and staying power. second, we must link military objectives with campaigns as closely as possible with policy objectives into our other instrument of national power. in other words, we must align military objectives and power capabilities with desire national and strategic instincts. recognizing if we do not do this, we risk creating a space
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for adversaries to achieve strategic aims. finally, we must make sure we are postured for purpose in this region. we must have a credible, ready force coupled with foreign military financing programs that serve to build and shape partner nation capability in a timely and effective fashion. ours is a challenging and important mission. much is at stake in the central region. we recognize this fact and i assure you that the centcom team stands ready and willing to do what is necessary to protect our national interests and the interests of our allies and partners. thise close by thinking committee once again for the strong support you continue to teamde to the world-class in the united states central command and our forces in the region. 80,000 less sailors, airmen, coast guardsmen and civilians that make up the command are truly the very best in the world
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at what they do. i cannot be more proud of them and their families. i know that you are proud of them as well. thank you, i look forward to answering your questions this morning. general.you, you are right, we share your pride in them and what they do. briefly before, you expressed interest in addressing some of the press stories regarding civilian casualties, especially in mosul. let me invite you to do that at this point. gen. votel: thank you mr. chairman, i appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit about this up front. first off i want to emphasize to everybody here, all the members, that these are tragic and heartbreaking situations. our hearts go out to the people of the mosul and other places we are operating. we had knowledge are operating to a higher standard. i ensure that our forces operate in accordance with goals and and
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standards. we take every allegation seriously and we are executing what we have and a well-developed process to assess, and if necessary, investigate each allegation. how we do things are as important as the things we do. we are doing everything humanly possible to prevent these type of events and incidents occurring from a result of our operations. commentse with the from our commander on the ground in iraq when he said there is a fair chance our operations may have contributed to civilian casualties. that i would highlight to each of you that this investigation continues, and there is still much to learn from this. we have a general officer assigned to help us address and understand and discover the facts of this case. we were able to visit the actual site yesterday and get
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additional evidence and perspective on this situation. in addition, we are reviewing over 700 weapons videos over 810 day period to a 10 ensure we understand the effects of the munitions we drop in this facility. this should be an indicator to you of how intensive a combat situation this is. the investigation will look at command and control, the munitions we employed, importantly, it will look at the behavior of the enemy and how our actions may have played a role in any civilian casualties. the investigation will confirm or deny. -- it is important to recognize the enemy does use human shields, has little regard
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for human life, and does it tempt to use civil casualty accusations to hinder our operations. they bear responsibility for this, as well. the nature of this fight has evolved in this two and a half year campaign. of how we have evolved has been our effort to enable and entrust our leaders with a capital edge with authorities they need to help our partners when. we have not relax to the rules of engagement. the deploymented of rules of engagement to the appropriate level, due to the tough urban fight we knew was coming in mosul. to be clear, there were no changes in the rules of engagement that we are allowed to engage. we are aware of all of the reporting, especially from organizations like amnesty international, the center for civilians in conflict, and the
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syrian observatory for human life -- rights. we look forward to working with them as we complete this investigation. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. thornberry: let me ask about a couple things you said. as you recognize, there is widespread reporting the rules of engagement have changed and the implication is now we are fearlessly dropping bombs and killing civilians. i thought i heard you pretty clearly, the rules of engagement have not changed. is that correct? gen. votel: that is correct, mr. chairman. mr. thornberry: and you have a long experience in iraq dealing with this enemy. describe their ability to create further that they see as in their interest? one example that stuck out in my
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mind, i remember in iraq after a raid or something, the enemy came and deposited dead bodies and then brought cameras in to make it look like they had been killed as a part of the raid, when in fact, they had not. they were brought in after the fact. can you describe the sophistication of their efforts? gen. votel: thank you, mr. chairman. i agree with you. the enemy we have faced in afghanistan and iraq, syria and other places are particularly savvy and how they use information operations. isis is well skilled in this. they have professionals who have expertise in this particular area so they know how to manipulate the information environment and create situations that they know will cause concern for us in western countries. as i mentioned in my comments to you, i do believe they do concern touse our
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operate at higher standards and prevent civilian casualties as a way to distract our campaign. it is important we recognize that. that has not changed how we approach things, does not change our values, adherence to law, and the fact that we do operate at a higher standard. it is an important thing to recognize about our enemy. mr. thornberry: i will conclude by saying, we want to be informed of the results of the investigation. we share your commitment to make sure we do things the right way. but the investigation needs to a core, and then you see what it finds. i will trust you and your folks to keep us fully informed once you are able to reach conclusions on that. let me yield to the ranking member. >> thank you, if you could
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answer the question i raised in my opening statement about where the sunni population of iraq is that now. it sounds like it is still a very deep divide. while i concur with the chairman's comments about civilian casualties and most of, i know the sunni population is concerned about the fight that is going on there and the loss of life that is happening on both sides. aboutre also concerned the shia militias, iranian-backed militias in the general feeling that this continues to be a shia-run country that is not making room for the sunnis. that undermines our entire effort to defeat these groups. fact, is it an inaccurate or trick, and what are we trying to do to fix what problems remain? gen. votel: i would characterize it, in the near term as iraq and coalitions confronted the isis enemy they are dealing with,
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there has been a level of local accommodations, cooperation and collaboration between different groups focused on doing this. i would cite our continued efforts to raise tribal forces to bring them into these areas, particularly sunni areas after they have been cleared. we have seen some success with that. long-term there is still much work to be done. in my interactions with the prime minister we frequently talked about this. he is very concerned about it. recognizes the balance that will have to be achieved here in the region with a variety of different interests that are ongoing. he clearly recognizes that. i agree with you, more will need to be done to ensure the sunni population feels engaged,
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empowered, and a part of the government of iraq and the iraqi people. mr. smith: the issue of arming the kurds or other sunni there was frustration expressed that they were not able to get the arms directly and it is our position, our country's position that all that has to go through baghdad. i understand that to a certain degree, is that accurate? how is that impacting the ability to arm the kurds and sunni tribesmen we want to fight with us? gen. votel: i believe we made good progress on that over the last year. there certainly were some issues with that in the past in terms of how it was done. as we got focused on the i think werom oso saw a high level of collaboration and cooperation between the kurdistan regional government and the government of iraq, as they prepared their
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plans and forces for that operation. i would highlight that one of the key successes here, this has influence the government of high level of coordination that took place at the military level and security gets as that operation underway and continues to this day. i believe that as a basis for moving forward. that said, it is something we continue to keep our eye on. and moving on to syria as people prepare for the a, you have the kurds and turks involved but they do not get involved -- get along. we are trying to figure out what our coalition is in syria, particularly raqqa. what are we doing about the serbs and kurds? there is engagement on the high political level taking place.
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the chairman has been a champion for us in working with us at the defense level back and forth. from a centcom standpoint working with european command we have increased our visibility in ankara on what we are doing. we recognize it turkey's interest and concerns with us. they are a great partner, we could not do many things without them. the most effective force we have right now in syria is the syrian democratic forces that consist of both kurds, arabs, turkish men, and some christian organizations. mr. smith: thank you, i yield back. mr. thornberry: mr. whitman. i wanted to get your perspective on what might happen in the future. we see today success happening in most sold with pushing out and defeating isis forces both with our forces and iraqi
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forces. the question becomes, what happens after that? while isis is a concern, i believe iranian-backed shia militant groups are an even greater concern. we do not hear a lot about that today but i believe they are a significant concern. the commander of the shia militant groups in that region, i believe with iranian backing has visions about what would be happening in the future as isis is moved out. speak, iran and iraq have common interests and defeating isis. once isis is defeated, iran has in mind to re-create the shia crescent through that region. isis and thet question about how governance takes place after that with the existing government in iraq, what do you see as the future
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with us ultimately defeating isis, and what happens with these iranian-backed shia militant groups, and what happens there with the iraqi government in trying to reestablish some type of government in control with those regions without isis? thank you: congressman. i share your concern about iran and long-term intentions. with 100,000 plus shia members on the ground this is extraordinarily a big concern as we move forward. the embassy is welling gauge with the government iraq -- of iraq as they engage paramilitary law in their country. the prime minister has appointed a committee to work through this aspect. we have provided advice and examples of how we employ national guards here and how we would look at that. is that the
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paramilitary forces do not become duplicative to the counterterrorism surface or iraq there is a valid role for them and they do answer to the government and remain, like the other services, and a political entity. apolitical entity. mr. wittman: staying on the theme of iran, looking in the hadian gulf and where we active attack vessels swarm a ship, there is a concern about that continued effort and what they are trying to achieve with that. or what our actions reactions might be.
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explain the frequency of those attacks. what is iran trying to achieve with that? those maneuvers as i see them, are indicative of what iran is likely to try to achieve in that area, that is to harass our shifts enough to fend us off. what do you think the iranians are trying to achieve their, and what are we trying to do to prevent that. think iran was to be the regional hegemon. there is no doubt about that. that is what they are pursuing. one of the first things i did after becoming commander at centcom is go through the -- the of parmesan iranians did not disappoint. we had both surround us in the area. we had a chance to observe our ship captain and how they respond.
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since then i have had a chance to see normal reports on it. i am extraordinarily confident in our leaders and their capabilities to properly defend themselves. presence of these votes is very seldom if ever preventing us from accomplishing our missions. what they are out there to do is demonstrate their presence, the provocative. look over the course of the course of a year, i think you see probably 300 plus incidents of this type of nature, and a 15% we would classify as being abnormal, outside the normal pattern of life. they areional, meaning not following maritime procedures, or unsafe, meaning they put themselves or our
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vessel and crews at risk. we are paying extraordinarily close attention to this and our ability to protect ourselves and pursue our missions. mr. wittman: mr. chairman, i yield back. mr. thornberry: ms. davis. >> thank you for your service. i want to turn to afghanistan. are thed of support russians sending to the taliban and how direct is their involvement, what does it mean about the ongoing conflict there? we dootel: there is a lot not know about what russia is doing. it is fair to assume they may be providing some kind of support to them in terms of weapons or other things that may be there. that is a possibility. what russia is attempting to do is be an infringement -- influential party in this part
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of the world. they have concerns because it is close to soviet states they considered to be within their sphere. there is concern about that. it to beconsider helpful to what we come of coalition, has been trying to accomplish for some time now in afghanistan. ms. davis: could you share with your share of that accomplishment that you can share in this setting? gen. votel: we are at a stalemate right now. it is generally in favor of the , butnment of afghanistan still may have a tendency to decline over time. to continue to support this. we have two missions in afghanistan. one is our counterterrorism mission, fully resourced. that is going pretty well. i feel confident in that.
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mission, is the nato one we ought to consider looking at our objectives and how we continue to support that mission theg forward and ensure government of afghanistan has the time and capabilities to a comp us what they need to. ms. davis: clearly, the government sees it as important. we have been working on that for some time. but there is a great deal of concern that it has not been as robust as is needed in that setting. i am not sure i would believe that is going to increase. think it could decrease. can you comment on that and the importance of the mission? gen. votel: that is certainly a topic under discussion now with the secretary of defense, general nicholson and myself. we are in the process of going
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through a review of our posture in afghanistan and how we have to look at that going forward. pre-decisional at this point. i would not want to announce anything in particular but it is a key topic and one for secretary matus -- mattis, has been engaged in. ms. davis: -- not been: they have filling all the positions for that region. military is more covered than other departments. do you feel these gaps are becoming problematic? what should we be doing about it? gen. votel: i have the benefit of having a cabinet secretary who previously held my job. he understands the region that i am operating in right now. we have a very open and communicative relationship he or.
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i feel i'm getting everything i need from the department head at this point in time. been disadvantaged while the transition completes and gets put in place. ms. davis: to follow-up on my colleagues question about how we are planning for what comes next in iraq -- what is it going to look like? what is the extent of that planning? how would you see that right now? mentioned in my opening statement, it has to involve more than just military. my advice to the secretary and chairman as we begin to look at how we move forward in these areas, my principal piece of advice is that we have to look at a political preparation of sure we areand make addressing some of these long-term issues like we talked about a few moments ago, to how
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we accommodate different parts of the population, a plan for governance. there was a lot the military can do but it is extraordinarily important that our diplomats and other agencies are involved in this particular process. my question is, are they? gen. votel: i believe they are. i am confident we are working with our partners on this. ms. davis: thank you. n.. thornberry: mr. coffma >> thank you for your long service to this country. the idea was raised earlier about the concerns of the sunni population. the fact is that after we left the country in 2011, the shia-dominated government resorted to worst tendencies and push down the sunni arabs and toated an opening for isis
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go across the border from syria and capture those areas with little to no resistance because there was simply no loyalty to the government out of baghdad. in the iraqi constitution there was a provision insisted by the kurds that allows provinces to band together and create semi- autonomous regions. should in fact of the sunni arabs look at that? should we encourage that? it seems that without a task where they have some say, they are only 20% of the population, in their future, essentially right now all the revenue -- that is just treated by the central government out of baghdad.
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it is a tough decision they are in. do you have a view on that particular issue? is onetel: our policy iraq right now. as we apply our military operations that is the context in which we do that. i would agree with you that there has to be a very serious look at this and we have to ensure that the different parts of iraq are represented in their and other things, their military and other security apparatuses and other aspects. they have an opportunity to take advantage of the economic opportunity available in iraq. a much there has to be broader discussion about how we do that. i had hoped that was something our government would look at from your sit -- standpoint, a diplomatic standpoint.
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it is still the vertically integrated government we had left in place prior to the fall of saddam hussein, where all decisions were centralize out of baghdad. taxationno system of at the provincial level. ofhink a decentralization authority that the kurds now enjoy would be great for the sunni arabs and i would like that to be something that we look at. my sameexpress concerns, having served their in 2005 and 2006 for the marine corps that the ranking member expressed in that this is a tough situation for the sunni arabs in that region. the friction between these she emily is and the local population is not to be discounted. again, it is an alienation from every feeling that they are a
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part of the iraqi government. thank you mr. chairman, i yield back. mr. thornberry: mr. larsen? >> thank you for coming today. initially to answer your first question about the most soul incident, you said you would assess if necessary and investigate. can you help me understand that distinction from your perspective? absolutely. this is unfortunately not the first time we have had allegations of civilian casualties in centcom. hows a process in place for we standardize and look at this. it starts out with the receipt of an allegation. we get them from the news, social media, people on the street, much of it is self-reported.
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what we do then is what we call a credibility assessment. the intention there is to do an initial review of the facts and circumstances to merit and make a determination about whether we need to move to a full investigation. we make that determination we moved to investigation. for the incident but i was talking about here in most of, we have taken that step and decided, as general townson acknowledged, there might be something here. there is a fair chance he may have contributed to this. so now we moved to the investigation phase. it will be a more formalized approach to look into the details of this as much as we happens,tablish what what the facts are, identify accountability, and the lessons learned out of that. you mentioned on the
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criteria, there is command and control and a few others. what were those? at. votel: we will look command and control, the intelligence we had. this was a very dynamic situation. this was an evolving combat situation. we will take a look at the intelligence that was provided to us by the iraqis we had. the enemy costs reactions here and try to understand exactly their role in this. we will look at the munitions we employed here, and we will look at the fusing options. we do have the technology largely supported by congress to have munitions that can be specific. as you heard general thompson say yesterday, it should not have crated the effects that have been observed.
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that causes us to look at that and see if there are other things that may have contributed to that, as well. what we do is try to be more complete in the investigation. it takes a little time but we usually have a good answer at the end of it. mr. larsen: thanks. can i switch gears to yemen? theyou briefly describe u.s. security objectives in yemen for us? thanks.el: i think there are two principal interests in yemen right now. one is that yemen is not used as a platform or sanctuary for attacks on the homeland. qaedaets your focus on al in the arabian peninsula. this is a franchise of al qaeda that has demonstrated the ability to attack our homeland. some of those people still exists there.
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that is a key aspect of our interest there. alare focused on disrupting qaeda there. the other key interest in this area is freedom of navigation. ,n the western coast of yemen there is a restrictive strait. it is a choke point, i major transit area for commerce. not just ours, but ships. 60 or 70 ships go through there a day. with the support of iran, a migration of capabilities we previously observed in the straits of hormuz. they had coastal defense systems, explosive both, straight from the straits of hormuz to this particular area. threatening commerce and ships and our security risks.
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mr. larsen: do you assess we will be able to stay with those objectives and not be dragged into other people possible goals? people's goals? gen. votel: as you know, there is a civil war between a saudi-led coalition and an iranian-led coalition. we provide indirect support to that. this is something we are paying close attention to. ouroes have some impact on principal interest in this area so we do have to pay attention to that. mr. thornberry: mr. cook? mr. cook: thank you, mr. chairman. it willext month or so be very intense here in washington and obviously there's been a lot of talk about health care. there is also something in my
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mind that will have direct implications for you. that is the continuing resolution, the budget we have you.o pass to support i will be candid, you do not have to answer totally. you can see this one coming. but a number of us are very worried about the indicators. we had folks talking about maintenance. area, largearge military and everything else. correctly,t do this can you give us an evaluation in terms of readiness, the operations, and ability to conduct your mission? gen. votel: thank you,
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congressman. first off, the support i get from the services is extraordinary. me everything and i am well taken care of. i share your concern on impacts of continued resolution, that provide capabilities that a commander like myself needs to have. i am concerned when we cannot pursue long-term programs and fund them and approach them over time. i am concerned with the impacts that continue on resolutions and other instruments have had on readiness. -- what the marine corps provides in my area. they do not come with the same number of helicopters we have had in the past. i believe that is a readiness issue and affects my flexibility, agility, and reaction to the area. i am concerned about this.
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necessarilyll not come to me, a goes to the people that provide me with the capabilities i need to pursue our objectives. i am very concerned about this. mr. cook: i want to switch gears. i am also on foreign affairs. we have the issue that continually pops up about foreign military sales. last year, look at the replacement for the saudi's, the number of m1 battle tanks they had lost. there was a question about yemen and the toll it is taking their. -- there. do you influence at all which state department, foreign sales, particularly for some of our allies that would contribute to your ability
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to conduct your mission? gen. votel: we absolutely do. we do it through security cooperation, offices located in many of these countries, almost all the countries we have here. i share your concern about this. fms are extraordinarily important programs for us. i want to build capabilities for partners to do the things to provide their own security and be integrated with us. i am concerned when we choose not to sell our systems. they would go somewhere else to get them. they will get lesser systems, they will not get their training, and we will not be integrating. that does not help us. we have to recognize this is an important part of our cooperation aspect and we cannot completely define our fms systems at something to change people's behavior.
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it has to be focused on building capability, in my mind. mr. cook: thank you for your service and candor. i yield back. i was wondering if you could clarify what is going on in terms of increased deployments in syria? this month, from a variety of news outlets. it was a reported 400 marines were deployed, a new contingent of marines this month. why was that decision made and what is their mission? what we are constantly doing, this is an evolving campaign. changes, we change, and the system changes on the ground. assess what our requirements are and how we best support our partners through our approach and make sure we have capabilities to fully enable them and help them win.
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there is a process of assessing what we need. leaders that our provide rationale for additional capabilities and that we have very clear roles and missions for the things we are bringing forward. we do have a deliberate process. what you have seen here are not just things that came up relatively quickly. these are things we have anticipated for some time. you cited the marines and artillery organizations. we have recognize that as we continue to pursue military objectives in syria, we will need more direct, all weather fire support capability for our syrian democratic force partners. that is what you are seeing. they are helping us with that particular aspect and helping us with logistics capability in
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syria. syria is a fairly immature area for us in terms of that. we do have a big infrastructure like we have in iraq or other places. so we need help in those particular areas. what i can assure you, there is a rationale and specific rules for all of these capabilities we are bringing. mr. courtney: thank you for that answer. i do not want to second-guess your military judgment. it sounds like they are starting to get more deeply involved in the fight in raqqa. we voted a couple years ago on a defense authorization bill to extend title x. as someone that supported that, it was not about boots on the ground, direct military involvement. but this sound like we are
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creeping in that direction. gen. votel: congressman, what i would tell you is that we have not taken our eye off our principal mission, to advise, assist, enable our partners. i think that is what you continue to see with all of these deployments right here. one of our key principles is to help our partners fight, but not fight for them. to bringtinue additional capabilities in, these are things we emphasize. mission to into our advise, assist, enable our partners. there is a larger question, the authorization of use of force is long overdue to revisit. but that is our problem, not on your side. in the time you have been a central command, the carrier gap
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phenomenon has been occurring from 2007 to 2015. we had continuance presence of carriers and airstrikes against isis. how are you coping with that? gen. votel: thank you for bringing it up. it is another example of potential he -- potential readiness concerns. we work through our air and maritime commanders. occasion brought in additional air force organizations to help fill in the gap in those cases. we just completed that with a squadron from the united states the cayman and did an exceptional job for us for 90 days. we also look to our allies in this. french, have sent some of their ships to this area to make up this gap as well.
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this is a constant management process for us. we expect to do this in this environment. we are looking for ways to balance out what our requirements are with the whole joint and combined force available to us. mr. courtney: thank you. dr. wenstrup.: >> we perceive we are in the process of increasing our or our allies capabilities in the fight against isis right now. i am curious. what is the conduit for this committee to get some knowledge on the number of personnel needed? number, need an exact we end up using contractors instead of our troops which cost more, but i am trying to get understanding of what you need as far as personnel and where we need to execute the mission so we can somewhat justify the
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expenditures that may be involved with that? a closedl: we have session right after this and i would be happy to talk with you in great detail about the advice i provided what we think we need and what we talked about with our leadership. dr. wenstrup: i appreciate that. a generalestion, mentioned russia's influence in afghanistan increasing. what is your understanding of their influence and how has it changed? it has not significantly altered our approach of this particular point. what they are attempting to do is to be an influential in afghanistan. i think they are reaching out to the taliban and they have made the decision under their own determination that the government of afghanistan and the coalition that supports them is unable to solve the concern about isis.
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they have much more concerned about isis and the potential that has to move to central asian states and have an impact on them. narrativecreated a that you have to partner more with the taliban to address this particular threat. they are trying to leverage that into a bigger role to pursue peace agreements with the taliban. frankly i do not consider that to be helpful to what we've been doing in the process we have been using. dr. wenstrup: does that change your behavior in any way? gen. votel: i do not think it has changed our behavior. we have been working with our afghan partners, focused on the islamic state as it has emerged in afghanistan. we have had a significant amount of success against them. from 15 districts
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they were operating into about two. we are targeting their leaders, we have consistent pressure on them all the time. it has not impacted our approach. dr. wenstrup: thank you, general. i appreciate it. i yield back. it is good to have you with us today. i appreciate your taking the time and want to thank you for your service to the nation as well as the remarkable women and men serving in some of the most contested parts of the world. we are forever grateful. i read your written remarks, which i think illustrate so clearly the threats posed by isil, al qaeda and other affiliated groups. easy clear there are no answers given the seriousness and complexity of the challenge to reverse isis's gains. but i am concerned about the steady buildup of u.s. forces in the region, in syria.
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we had a discussion about the authorization for military force, something general mattis called for last week. i was glad to see that. i am concerned that appointment may lead to an expansive, open-ended commitment. you called it in the evolving campaign that could have long-term consequences, raising substantial and unpredictable risks that have not been fully considered or endorsed by congress as a whole. i am also mindful of the human toll in countries where we are raising a fight against isil, and how mounting human casualties, tragic in and of themselves, can work against our long-term interest in setting the conditions for stability. --ppreciate your redressing addressing it in your opening remarks. but i also appreciate the important work international groups are playing in monitoring civilian casualties.
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as reported in the washington post yesterday, according to a group you are familiar with, a british monitoring group, the frequency of civilian deaths linked to u.s. strikes in iraq and syria has outpaced those linked to russia. the scrutiny has been compounded by a string of high-profile reported u.s. attacks in both countries, including assault on a mosque, a school, and most recently a building apparently used as a shelter in the rocky city of mosul that is currently being investigated, appropriately so. --se reports come alongside they are considering relaxing rules of engagement put in place by the obama administration, which made an f at avoiding civilian deaths. there has not been such a change. takeaid the coalition will extraordinary measures to avoid harming civilians.
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can you tell us how you balance the pursuit of important military perspectives -- objectives with those measures? and fighting an enemy that increasingly puts civilians in harms way, how much risk should the u.s. and its civilian coalition partners except in limiting air or artillery strikes where it may be difficult to confirm civilian presence, especially in mosul, where civilians have been directed to shelter in place? there are so many still there. it seems to be an extraordinary challenge. i am curious to how you are thinking this through to minimize civilian casualties. thank you, congresswoman for your question. we have provided very clear and concise guidance to our commanders in the field. the principal way we are addressing this is by entrusting enabling are well experienced and trained leaders on the ground.
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they are the best guard against this. we have seen this in the past and we will see it in the future. their judgment and experience is the best to ensure this. i have seen commanders very close to this. the key thing we do emphasize to them is that we go to war with our values. a higherurselves to accountability, a higher standard with respect to this. and we always operate within the law of armed conflict. we do everything we can to prevent this. what we try to do is work that through our leadership and ensure they understand the obligation that we all expect, and that as they carry out these obligations in what are extraordinarily complex and difficult situations, that they're are making the best judgments and decisions that they can based on the
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information they have. cases they're making the right calls. i visit iraq every month and speak to our teams. i hear about operations we support. at the same pate -- pace i hear about operations where we strike, i hear ones where we choose not to strike because we did not have good situational awareness. i think we will trust our processes and people and put emphasis on. mr. russell.y: mr. russell: thank you, good to see you again. it is, we're not seeing a never ending increase, we are recovering from a massive decrease of engagement in the region.
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ago,s not that many years six. because of that decrease, we see iraq in the throes of the civil war, syria in the throes of civil war, yemen, the area destabilized. it is making a whole number of things harder to deal with. plus distancing our allies in saudi arabia and egypt, not to mention other coalition partners on a whole number of other affairs. i tend to disagree with some of in that view.here with regard to collateral damage, no one cares more about civilian casualties in the united states military. no one. no one takes more pain or more effort to prevent the needless loss of life. no one has the systems in place
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to prevented the things that we do in our targeting systems and everything else. errors about our own because it is us who expose them, discover them, try to refine them. a bashing of into those in uniform and needless loss of civilian casualties or somehow suggesting that we are causing more civilian deaths than the russians, i challenge that and defy that. i reject that. i do not think it reflects anything to our practices as a nation, or certainly our men and women in uniform. need to use the other instruments of national power. there are a number of areas we see a need to do that. you have spoken to a lot of them. but one of the most troubling things that gets the least amount of attention is the yemen. now slipsee the gulf into a possible future hormuz
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strait. there are serious implications. 60% of the human population is malnourished. we have opportunities to do it lot of good things with the president and other efforts. sales beingary , if you could have the support for the coalition efforts as well as centcom efforts, what would you want it to look like? other than just a military? gen. votel: thank you, congressman. one thing to address as you have civil conflict. difficult for us to be persistent in our efforts against al qaeda.
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it has caused us to break relationships we had with yemeni forces and given rise to the threat we have already talked about this morning in the red sea, an area where we have 60 to 70 ships go through every day. not just u.s. but international ships go through there. the thing we have to continue to efforts, our diplomatic to resolve that conflict as quickly as we can. table.ll help set the things we canaps assist with on the military aside to bring that forward without becoming enmeshed in a civil conflict. we should consider those things. i have talked with our ambassador on a regular basis, he is excellent. he is extraordinarily engaged and we have to continue to press in this particular area.
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department,her state and others to help us move through. mr. russell: do you still see a base of report -- support? a lot of report has been built over decades and much is lost if we see things tip toward of rebels and al qaeda getting leverage. in thegagement population, assisting them and feeding them, could you speak to that? >> i do and we have very good partners in the area. certainly saudi arabia on the united arabnd the emirates have been extraordinary partners and they have good see theships so i do ability to re-establish some of these partnerships again. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman and votel for youral great insights today. switch back to iran
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for a moment. you said you believe iran is one of the greatest threats to the today so if that's true and your assessment is true that their overall objective is to be powerful in the region, and to pursue this end, do you has increased destabilizing activity since the howa and if they have, should we react to these alleged activities without risking conflicts and other in the region? >> congresswoman, i do believe they have. believe that iran is operating what i call a gray between it's an area normal competition between states and just short of open and they are exploiting this area in a variety of different ways. raisingit through surrogate forces. they do it through lethal aid facilitation. through their own cyber activities and they do it through their influence operations and i think they are thisly focused in
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particular area and i think they have -- their efforts have particularn this area. i think the things we need to do -- i think there are three broad things and i've had an opportunity to talk with our it.onal partners about i think we need to look at opportunities to disrupt through means,y means or other their activities, particularly their facilitation aspects here. look atwe need to opportunities where we can expose and hold them accountable for the things that they are doing. that has to be done. for thee to account for destabilizing role that they are playing in the region right now and finally i think we do have to address their revolutionary ideology and that has to be addressed and certainly we play a role in that but others in the do, as well. iran has a role in the region. there's no doubt about that. and i want to be clear that we think differently about the people of iran than we think the leadership of iran,
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the revolutionary council that runs iran. mind, those are two very distinct things and our concern is not with the people of iran is with their revolutionary government. >> thank you. switch a little bit to the greater geopolitical tensions in the region. is terrorism really the most pressing threats emanating from the middle east? way to exertr best our influence, if that's true, against those threats? congresswoman, i think terrorism is what it being of what areut really deep underlying issues that pervade this region. some serious sectarian issues across the region that have to be addressed. there are disenfranchised populations. there is economic disparity between governments and the they lead and so these deep, underlying issues, many cases still remain
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across the region and those have to be -- those have to be addressed and i think the way this being manifest is in violent extremism, when we of isis, when you look at why that came up, the desire for young men and in some cases young women to join organizations like al qaeda or isis. job.are looking for a they're looking for money. they're looking for relationships. economicooking for opportunity that may not exist in their community. deep underlying issues that have to be addressed in this region that give rise to these threats that we are focused on so i don't want to give the impression that beating will remove at threat but it won't solve many of the underlying challenges in region.ticular that will take more work. >> so considering that we're a billo be creating fairly soon, where do we best this?r resources to fight what do you need?
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think we'veoman, i identified, i need, from a need to standpoint, i be able to sustain the operations that we have ongoing and syrialike iraq and really across the region. theed to ensure that services, that army, navy, air marines, that provide capabilities have the resources develop the capabilities and the resiliency within their formations to me things.ovide those are the key things that i'm thinking about right now in terms of the resources that i need moving forward. you.ank >> ms. mcsally. do you know how many civilians have been killed by isis in iraq and syria? knowngresswoman, i do not that number. >> there's media reports. i'd love to hear back from you is.hat you think the number
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but it's in the tens of thousands, is that probably fair? >> i think that's fair. >> thank you. and having spent a lot of time in the targeting process, shooting 30 million meter out of a-10 all the way working all up into the con level, in ourhrough great pains targeting cycle to make sure we agreement with laws. if we have a legitimate target, we do everything we can to minimize casualties but we're not allowed to target civilians. we never target civilians. targeting civilians? >> i believe they are. >> absolutely. law of violation of the armed conflict to have human shields? >> yes, it is. >> so isis is violating a lot of armed conflict. for my colleagues, the standard the loac is that we make precautions towards limiting civilian casualties while we're hitting legitimate targets. the last administration went
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above and beyond this, farther ever seen before in my 26 years in the military using that no civilians will be killed. i agree with some retired recently general dunlap published something a few days ago on this, that if we are not hitting legitimate military targets and allowing these terrorists continuing to live, allowing them to continue to sill -- kill civilians. enables them to continue terrorist activities to export so whather places general dunlap calls a moral us doing inaction, of nothing on legitimate targets because of near certainty from my view, allows terrorists free reign to tens of to kill thousands of civilians and isis shieldsey can use human to avoid being hit. it's their air defense system. additionally, it's my view, as
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we move closer into urban they'reinto mosul, and using human shields, civilian casualties will go up. ofs is a horrible element war and isis started this year so do you agree that the high weel of ridiculous standard had previously has created this behavior by isis that they take humanthey shields, they'll avoid being struck and this is adding to the problem? do believe they understand our sensitivity to civilian casualties and they're as we movethat and into urban environments, it will be more and more difficult to apply extraordinarily high standards for the things that we're doing although we will try. >> thank you. continuing to to talk with you in the classified realm but this whole line of thinking that somehow because we're engaging the enemy and thertunately again investigation's ongoing on the latest attack, somehow it's our thet that as we're engaging enemy, that perhaps civilians are being killed either by because the enemy is
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using a tactic that actually has them become part of the target. that is on them, not on us. if we then move back further and terrorists to live to fight another day because of this narrative, then we're going moretually open up civilians to be killed by these terrorists. is that a fair line of thinking? concern,e your congresswoman. >> great, thank you. i also want to ask, and maybe the classifiedr setting, when we're identifying combatants and noncombatants, a pet peeve of mine. btv's and id be in would hear the terminology of whether there's women and men.ren versus they're combatants and noncombatants and what we saw in of womenwe had a bunch shooting at our troops. that's been reported in the media. thatn you confirm with me we're still using the terms, and andanalysis of combatants noncombatants and we're not assuming that because you're a woman you're not a combatant? is not the law of armed
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conflict. >> we do look at it this way. >> thank you. thanks, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> general votel, welcome back before the committee. testimonyu for your and your service and the men and women who serve under you. do tograteful for all you defend the nation. as our sovereign capabilities maturing particularly with u.s. cyber command stood up and of cyberand deploying mission teams, can you please discuss with us your views on our cyber of operations against isil, how effective they've been and what to enhance done them? >> thank you, congressman. i look forward to talk about this in a classified setting, as well. here is i can tell you i think with the great support of admiral rogers and the team command, we have forged a close relationship between com, cyber command and
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their subordinate elements and i socomin there, as well, that has allowed us to use to have effects against this particular enemy and i do think we're starting where we didn't have much experience and we are creating effects on the ground. i would share with you that this is an extraordinarily, extraordinarily savvy enemy. capabilities in this area and we will need to continue to evolve in this. also add that some of our coalition partners have unique capabilities in this area been wellave integrated into this, as well. beginningink we are to have good effects with this but there certainly is more that we need to do. >> good. i look forward to following up and getting more details in the classified session. in yoursk you this, opinion, is the current joint and force areas of command control construct effective, efficient, synchroanized and flicted with other
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operations taking place in the and also,sponsibility how would you characterize support and integration with u.s. cyber com? >> i think they're excellent in both cases. in fact, when we recently hosted downgressional delegation talk about what we're doing, we invited them to be part of that. the integration has been jtf airies andh the leadership there at cyber command and in that particular organization have been extraordinarily well engaged with us. you.ank another topic. we, obviously, rely heavily on forial operations forces operations around the globe. the authorities and capabilities socom allow us to keep the outprint small and carry
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unique activities. however, that utility may have over-reliance on soft. socom commander com commander,nt observations and what can we do to decrease the need around the globe? >> we wanted to do everything we combatantupport other commanders and general thomas and i have i think a very strong relationship. frequently. and i think we have been able to manage theways to force moving forward here so i support -- obviously, the very continued support of them. i will tell you, one of the things that does concern me a bit about socom and some of the unique capabilities that they have is that many of them heavily leveraged in oco. very unique
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capabilities and we can talk about this in a classified heavily are very leveraged in oco and that concerns me about the sustainability. socomcerns me as commander and now as centrom commander. i am concerned about that. i think we need to stabilize to give socomt the things they need to serve the nation. beyond that, congressman, one of am most proud of being the socom -- being the commander is the close relationship between our soft forces and conventional forces. almost indistinguishable how they are able to operate and that comes for a variety of reasons. experience over the last 15 or 16 years working together and the fact that a lot leaders know each other not just professionally but personally. thei want to assure committee and i want to assure the american people that we are fighting the enemy together. not fighting each other here. casehat was not always the
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in the military but i am very --ased with how our quendle conventional and soft forces are together.ry closely >> very good, general. as a former socom commander, i have great confidence that you'll balance that force just right. i look forward to the classified session. >> thank you, mr. chairman. votel for your leadership and your team. inmany challenging problems your a.o.r., not just one, two, three -- i know you and your very hard and we appreciate it. ofecially with the comments some of our colleagues that say we need to get a congressional authorization for force, i think do. i think what we did in 2001 and 2003 are applicable and i feel like we've got to work towards that in congress and i also want to say that i agree with your iran.ts on i think your right on target. there, i deployment
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in there 2007,s our, i believe half of servicemen and women were killed theuse of actions by iran, support they gave to shia say 1,000 ofould our men and women were killed due to iranian actions. question to you is we can do kinetic operations indefinitely with isis or al qaeda but i the end that wins the fight. how do you see a grand strategy or how do you see our grand strategy to defeat these enemies? we have to go after their ideology, their financing, their recruiting. do you think we have the right strategy? >> i do, congressman. outlinewe do have the of a -- of a good strategy to you're the things that highlighting here. as you are aware, one of the first things that the new did was direct
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the secretary of defense and upretary of state to come with a plan to address and isis more completely. acknowledgment that that is the department of defense, department of state, and many others in the think ist i acknowledgment that we do need to do that. we certainly need to go after their finances. go after where they are physically. we need to go after the conditions that give rise to particular organizations. and so -- but i would also add thiswe need to go after ideology and there are things that we can do, but there are certainly things that our do.ners in the region can there are just some things that as a western country, as the not resonate, will as fully as it will from people in the region, with respect to that. the ideology, in my view, is very, very important. and getting after the underlying about that we talked here, i think is ultimately what we really have to focus on. follow-on, in 2007 and
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2008, we had great success sunni tribesse the came over and started helping us against the fight against al qaeda. think on a grander level we need that sunni help that you're our agreementt with iran i believe undermined the trust of many sunni countries. i've heard that from many sunni friends because i think they fear iran as much as they do isis in many cases. have you seen that same trend when you talk to our sunni friends? there concerns with what we did the past two, three years with iran? undermine ourthat ability to work with sunni friends? congressman, i have. i've had sunni leaders and other arab leaders tell me that same know there certainly is a perception out there about that and as you know, oftentimes in manyon is truth quarters. that is why i think one of the key things that we have to emphasize with our
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people and with our leadership importance of building and rebuilding trust with our partners in the region. there are difficult situations here and they're not all perfect. have to, i think it is better to be engaged with them and to be their preferred partner and frankly, the i get when i talk to all of our partners in the region is they do prefer the united states. to have a relationship with us. and so i think we ought to look can take advantage of that moving forward. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> mr. lamborn. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and general, thank you for the job you're doing. i'm so glad you are there now past trackgiven your record. when it comes to yemen, i'm that we are taking steps now to support our allies the area and our friends in the area. people fromlked to
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the emirates, for instance, their concern isn't isis. a concern but they're concerned about yemen and the iranian proxy war that's going there. how do you evaluate what's going on in yemen? had a tragic loss of life with the recent raid and regrettable. but i think it's very important that we're supporting saudi the gulf states and i think it's overdo that we're doing that. are your perspectives on yemen? congressman. as i mentioned a little bit earlier, i think there are vital interests at stake. we don't want yemen to be used as a platform for attacks on our homeland or allies or partners around the globe or in the have to be focused on that. i'm extraordinarily concerned contested maritime choke point in the region so our directly impacts
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national interests of freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce our global economic objectives here so i think we have to be very, very concerned about that. are somehink there vital aspects of that. all of that is against the backdrop of this civil war that andtalked about here certainly we all understand the implications of becoming involved in those types of activities and if we don't choose to do it militarily, then ways that weok at can try to move forward and try to resolve that situation. believe that as long as that continues to boil that, it usl impact the ability for otherlly focus on principal interests we have in that part of the world. obviously everyone wants peace in the area and the fighting to stop but until that happens, i think we have to take the side of our friends and so concernedey are
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that iran is using the houthi rebels as a proxy to destabilize and ultimately come after them. their perspective and while i don't think we need to any kind of boots on the ground, i think as much as we can do with i.s.r. and things that to support our friends critical. is if you want to better address this in the closed section of the hearing, tell me that. the but is there more that we could be doing? >> there is and i think this a really good topic in the closed session, congressman. >> thank you. back.airman, i yield >> mr. gallier? mr. chairman and thank you, general. a quick follow-up on yemen. the ongoingnt as fighter there enhanced or aqa's power and reach and do you envision a long-term andence for the emirates saudis in yemen and if so, do
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long-term objectives in yemen align with our own? >> i think we have before the civil war started it was my estimate that we had a very good focus on al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. the civil war changed our posture there and in the -- ongoing civil war right there, i do believe al qaeda had an opportunity to prosper and to become stronger and to be resilient and continue pursue their objectives so what you have seen us do here most recently is renew our focus on that and we are doing that our partnersy of in the region. the u.a.e. and saudi arabia among the principal partners that we're working with with respect to that. respect to their long-term presence, that's probably a better question for them. insight intoany what their strategic calculations might be there but most ofas we see in
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these areas, long-term commitment is usually necessary change conditions. >> sure. in syria, russia has seemingly on a long-term commitment bag back to the 1950's. me that russia and iran are in a tactical alliance in syria. they share the same organs. airpower.vides do you see evidence of a broader regional alliance between russia and iran and if so, what are its manifestations? >> i think there perhaps could be. i'm not sure i see specific of that in other areas but certainly they are cooperating together. of thisthe implications is things that we've seen. russian jets operating out of iranian bases. and certainly their cooperation together to prop up the regime give them new life here has
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an implication of that relationship. so i'm concerned about that. i think we should be concerned about it. i don't know that we have great insight into what the russian long-term perspective is on that relationship. >> i, too, am concerned. the rise of the russian-iranian access has been the biggest development in the region the last couple of years related to the iran deal. bit of continuity in the region has been a return in ofpt to some form authoritarianism. can you comment? debateused a great within foreign policy circles, both the left and the right. can you comment on whether the cooperation you need from a military the cecive from egypt?ent in >> i think egypt is an extraordinarily important partner to us. we consider them the gateway into the region. they're an extraordinarily
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important country to them. they have been very helpful in sinai, helping to address threats to the multinational force there. were particularly responsive to our request for assistance there and they've very, very good -- very, very good partners there. and you know, while we've had perhaps some differences politically with them, one of the things we have been able to maintain i think is a good military-to-military compact and a cent comfrom standpoint, i look forward to continuing to build on that. >> so from your perspective, the have with egypt is achieving its objectives? >> i don't know. because right now we do see instances where countries like egypt and others are reaching military hardware from other countries so i think this goes back to the discussion about f.m.f.r
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i think our f.m.f. program accomplishes a lot of purposes out there. one of the principal ones from centcommctive as commander is building capability with our partners, especially to be integrated with our capability to we can operate together. themwe choose not to allow to buy our systems, they will look other places for this. this isn't necessarily help them get lesser systems, they don't get the sustainment, they don't always get the training. stuff theyck with can't fully use and it's not thinkated with us so i f.m.f. and f.m.s. are extraordinarily important ourrams that fit into security equation across the region. >> thank you, general. i'm out of time but i know it's your a.o.r., but maybe afterwards we could talk about to what extent our y.p.g. int with the syria has affected our howtionship with turkey and the relationship with turkey efforts.our
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>> i'll add two points on the f.m.f. discussion. say virtually all if not all of our allies are very the process.th you talked about decisions, absolutely, that's one thing. but then the process being so we ultimately if decide that it's in our provides to sell or equipment, has even then it's a frustration so our oversight and investigations subcommittee is looking into from our standpoint. hopeful that a number of members on the foreign affairs ammittee will look at it from state department standpoint because i think one of your early points was reestablishing is an important thing to re-establish trust. mr. wilson? you, mr. chairman. general votel, it's a great honor to be with you. it's some i'm with you, reassuring and i'm also so grateful for the american people hear your service.
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i appreciate it as a member of appreciated also i it as a fellow veteran but i particularly appreciate your military dad. i always like to recognize your meant so much to our family. my oldest son served for a year, artillery in iraq. my second son was a navy doctor, the rangers in iraq. my third son, signal officer, in egypt and i'm grateful our youngest son was an engineer afghanistan so we certainly cover the centcomm area of times weion and at all appreciate your leadership. wife fore credit to my training these guys but thank you. as the iraqi security forces continue to make progress toward liberating mosul, what is the the operation? and what have been the keys to success? army's
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>> thank you, congressman. on behalf of centcomm, we appreciate all the contributions from team wilson and we are very grateful for it. mosul, the iraqi security forces are making, i think, good progress. this has been an extraordinarily challenging fight. about 100 days to secure the eastern side of the city. of 490d that at a cost killed in about just over 3,000 wounded so it is an extraordinary price they paid for that. able toy quickly were get themselves focused on the western part of the city and engaged in what we're seeing as a very, very difficult fight there. their elements are engaged in what is known as the dense,y here, a very urban area, much, much more favors thech more defender than it does the attacker. and so they have got their hands
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full as they are doing this. the iraqist note that security forces just so far in sustainedays have about 284 killed and a little wounded in the western part of the city. the keys to success here have think, the very close relationship they had with both u.s. and coalition advise and teams and the ability for the iraqi security forces to come together. know, institutionally, they've got some challenges here. got federal police and answer to the ministry of interior, the iraqi army that answers to the ministry of defense, counterterrorism forces that answer to the directorate som these are all separate ministries but what they've been is get ao successfully common commander in place among all of those different pillars here who really performs a very good integrating areion and so they
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operating much better in conjunction and in each othertion with and i think that has really paid very, what has been a very difficult -- and will continue to be a very difficult fight in the weeks and perhaps ahead. >> it's so important, the american people need to know the over a million persons. it's the second largest city in the country of iraq and how important it is that it be and the subjugation in theople have faced last two years. it was so encouraging all of us affairsk on the foreign committee to have the with prime to be the ministeralso of defense, hi-ali. again, that country, i think has
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very positive leadership for you to work with. additionally, you've testified about russia's entry into the it hasconflict and that negatively impacted the balance of power. what's the latest on russia's intrusion into syria? >> as you know, they've been focused on i think mostly focused on helping the regime accomplish some of their the western part of the country and i think they've been successful at that. russia has achieved probably many of the objectives out to pursue as they got in there, a government access toto them, reports, access to airfields, influence in the region. so i think they have accomplished that. they'vee -- i think begun -- they are continuing to support regime forces, now, in this case, as they fight isis. so to the extent that they are wouldthat, that is, i
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admit, helpful to what we're doing. i would share with you, we do share ahat very congested airspace with the russians. a deconfliction mechanism in place. deconflicth them to our operations in a compressed airspace over northern syria. goes pretty well. we are looking to make that a little bit more robust to ensure that we continue our freedom of action as we continue to pursue the campaign. much.nk you very >> gerald, thank you. tell, members are interested in some further classified in a session which will start in just a few moments upstairs but for now, this hearing stands adjourned. [captions performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017]
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