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tv   Central Command Operations  CSPAN  March 6, 2018 12:02pm-2:19pm EST

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>> the senate arms services committee hearing with national intelligence director dan coats will reair tonight at 10:00 p.m. on c-span and you can also watch it on and more live c-span 3 hear this is week as the president's chief economists testifies tomorrow before the joint economic committee on an annual report outlining the administration's domestic and international economic policies. that will start at 2:00 p.m. eastern. on thursday, government officials charged with preparing and responding to seasonal flu testify before a house energy and commerce subcommittee live at 10:00 a.m. general joseph votel is commander of u.s. central command. he testified about ongoing missions in iraq, syria and afghanistan. he also talks about efforts to combat iran's regional role and the impact of russian operations and influence, particularly in syria. he appeared last month before
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the house arms services committee. >> we welcome back to the committee joseph votel. we are interested in hearing his views on the changes the new national defense strategy brings to his that area of responsibility. the strategy's emphasis on strategic competition has implications for a region where russian influence and presence is much greater now than it was before the syrian conflict began. a ree john that is one of the targets of the chinese whole of
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nation efforts and where the iranians are expanding their wide arc of control to the de detriment of their neighbors. these threats of terrorism in and emanating from the centcom region suggests the united states cannot afford to remove our attention or presence from this vital area fortunately, we have allies willing to defend our joint interest but as we have learned in recent years, there's no subtut for the united stat states. when we withdraw prematurely, the world, including threats to our homeland, can rapidly grow for dangerous. the challenge, however, is that centcom has received the lion's share of military resources for some time and while its importance remains, we have to be more active in other vital areas of the world at the same
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time. the recent budget agreement helps, but it will take time to r rebuild and field needed capability. in these circumstances, general votel has his hands full in making sure that u.s. national security is protected. let me yield to the gentlelady from california, ms. davis. >> thank you, mr. chairman, i ask that the statement be welcomed into the record and i would like to welcome general votel and thank him for appearing today. we have to maintain a focus on supports in the region. military achievements alone, as i think we all know, will not guerin long-term success. we must work with the international community to foster into sustained political, economic, and social conditions
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to ensure long-term stability. we cannot allow the region to fall into violent extremism again. to truly defeat isis, we must be just as determined to secure a durable peace as we have been to achieve a decisive military victory. we have long sought a stable end state in afghanistan. for more than 16 years, the united states has concentrated on eliminating terrorist threats while working closely with our allies and our partners to train, advise, and assist afghan forces to secure the country. despite significant progress, afghan forces are still in need of assistance, so where are we headed? although our commitments to oppose violent extremism in iraq, syria and afghanistan are consuming, we must remain alert. despite an agreement regarding its nuclear program, iran remains a designated state sponsor of terrorism and it
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exerts destabilizing influence in iraq, syria, lebanon and yemen. we must deter iran from precipitating conflict and dissuade it from engaging in malign activities and we must also deter russia that is increasingly involved in the region as well. certainly a complex set of issues and i look forward to your testimony. thank you for joining us. thank you, mr. chairman. >> your full written statement will be made part of the written statement. welcome back, the floor is yours. >> chairman thornberry, congresswoman davis, distinguished members of the committee, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to appear today to discuss the current posture and state of readiness of the united states central command. i come before you today on behalf of the over 80,000 members of the command, it's a dedicated team of military service members and civilians along with our coalitions and partners representing 70 nations
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and four international organizations, many of whom are forward-deployed across some of the most dangerous areas in the world. they sacrifice and risk on a daily basis. in many cases for the benefit of not only american strategic interests but also the world's. our people are the very best at what they do and they -- and especially their families -- deserve our admiration and gratitude. it's my sincere honor to lead and be a member of such a fine team of dedicated professionals. i am approaching the two-year mark of my time in command. this period has been both incredibly challenging and immensely rewarding during what has arguably been one of the most volatile times in the region's complex history. it's been 11 months since i last appeared before this committee and since then we have made considerable military progress in iraq and syria, afghanistan, egypt, lebanon, and the maritime environment. however, we remain very clear-eyed regarding both the
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permanence of that progress and the challenges that we face in the future. in the past year, we have achieved incredible success against isis in iraq and syria. the iraqi security forces and syrian democratic forces are operating at their most effective levels since operation inherent resolve began and now over 98% of the territory previously held by isis in iraq and syria is no longer under their control. the destruction of the isis physical caliphate is imminent and millions of displaced persons are returning home and beginning the long process of rebuilding. now we must consolidate our gains by investing in the security forces relationships and capabilities that will hold the territory and keep isis from returning. based upon that progress, centcom is conducting a rebalancing effort to achieve
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thr three specific goals. the first is to complete major combat operations in iraq and syria and bring the defeat isis campaign to a responsible close. military success in the campaign up to this point presents us an opportunity to reposition some of our resources from iraq and syria to afghanistan in a manner that keeps the pressure on isis but also sets us up to break the stalemate in afghanistan. we are fully engaged with our mission partners in the department of state too carefully balance our objectives. our partners on the ground in syria have advanced a long way towards our objectives. in iraq, the iraqi security forces are rapidly consolidating gains and preparing to support elections past this spring. the second goal is to prioritize
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the implementation of the south asia strategy in afghanistan. this reaffirms the u.s. government's commitment to afghanistan by reinforcing the two complementary military missions -- the nato-led train, advise and assist mission and the u.s. counterterrorism mission. we are making sure that with our support the afghan national defense and security forces are well postured to begin operations to seize the initiative, expand population control, and secure credible elections. part and parcel is our regionalized approach to the country. our goal is to develop a trustful relationship that benefits our militaries and supports our objectives in the region. the third goal is to ensure that we have aligned our military efforts with our broader interagency and international efforts to neutralize,
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counterbalance, and shape the destabilizing impact that iran has across the region. make no mistake, while we continue to confront the scourge of terrorism, iran's malign activities across the region post a long-term threat to stability in this part of the world. the recently published national defense strategy rightly identifies the resurgence of great power competition as our principle national security challenge and we in centcom see the effects of that competition throughout the region. russia's support of the assad regime has not only propped them up but has also added complexity to the defeat isis campaign. diplomatically and militarily moscow plays both arsonist and firefighter, fuelling tensions among all parties in syria, the syrian regime, iran, turkey, the
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syrian democratic forces, the united states, and other coalition partners then serving as an arbitor to resolve disputes, attempting to undermine and weaken each party's bargaining positions. despite the key role our partners on the ground, the syrian democratic forces and the coalition have played in dealing defeat to isis, russia has placed this progress at risk with their activities which are not focused on defeating isis but rather on preserving their own influence and control over the outcome of the situation it's clear russia's interests in syria are russia's interest and not those of the wider international community. china is pursuing a long-term steady economic growth in the region through its one belt one road policy but it's also improving its military posture by connecting ports such as ones in pakistan with its first overseas military base in
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djibouti, adjacent to the critical babel manjeb while beijing supports both, the new military base and port bolsters china's force projection into the region. both china and russia seek to fill in perceived gaps in u.s. interests by increasing defense cooperation and sales of their equipment to our regional partners. they are also cultivating multidimensional ties to iran. the lifting of u.n. sanctions under the joint comprehensive plan of action opened the path for iran to resume membership application to the shanghai cooperation organization. in addition, russia, supported by iran, continues to bolster a friendly regime in syria, attempt to limit our u.s. military presence in iraq and afghanistan and create friction among nato partners. against this backdrop of increasing great power interaction are the enduring issues of the region -- social,
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economic, and political challenges, high unemployment, falling oil prices, a youth bulge, large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons and long-standing border conflicts. we in centcom stand ready with our partners to defend u.s. interests against these and other threats. our strategic approach of preparing the environment, pursuing opportunities and working to prevail wherever we can is working. we are postured for purpose, pro-active in pursuing opportunities and resolve to win. i would like to close by sharing three dynamics we assess are essential to prevailing in this region. first, as i have previously testified in the conduct of our campaigns in iraq, syria, and afghanistan as well as our operations in places like yemen, lebanon, and egypt, we have adopted a by, with, and through approach that places a heavy reliance on indigenous partner nation forces.
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our partners do not always want us to solve their problems for them so we enable them to stand on their own and while this approach does present its own challenges and can be more time consuming, it provides local solutions to local problems. this approach is not without risk as we are seeing unfold in syria today but in general it's proving effective and will likely pay significant dividends going forward. secondly successful pursuit of u.s. objectives in this region only comes from an integrated approach aligned with interorganizational partners. defense of the nation is a team sport. this applies not just within the command but with our fellow comb combat-and-commands, our component commands, our established combined and joint task forces, the central region's 18 country teams and other departments, agencies, and organizations of the u.s. government who have provided unwaivering support over almost two decades of persistent conflict.
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our allies in the region and the wider international community are equally as critical to supporting our mission. they directly support the centcom headquarters with more than 200 foreign military officers from 49 nations, all of whom are part of the success of centcom and we are grateful for and largely depend on their partnership. as a national defense strategy captures clearly, strengthening existing relationships and building no ones will be key to our future success. we are doing in this centcom everyday. finally, we could not do what we do on a daily basis without the support of congress and, by extension, the american people. we sincerely appreciate this committee's continued strong support for our operations, authorities, and resources and especially the same to the services, special operations command, and other defense agencies that we rely upon for our military wherewithal. your support will remain
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important as we contend with what potentially are generational struggles to defend our homeland from the threats outlined in our national defense strategy. u.s. government commitment to the centcom area of responsibility is more important now than ever. for our part we will support the third pillar ofthe national defense strategy by being good resources and authorities that congress provides us. to close, i want to once again thank the outstanding men and women who comprise the united states central command, easily our finest and most precious resource. they continue to make great sacrifices and contributions to ensure the command meets our objectives. we must ensure they have everything they need to do their jobs as effectively and efficiently as possible. we are keenly aware and grateful for the sacrifices made by our families. they are vital members of the team and we could not accomplish our mission without them. they, too, make important
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contributions and tremendous sacrifices everyday to support us. i thank them on behalf of the command and a grateful nation. thank you again and i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you, general. let me remind members that immediately upon conclusion of this open hearing we will regather with general votel upstairs in a classified session so be in touch to know exactly when this open hearing ends. since general votel and i have had a chance to visit recently i'm going to yield five minutes to the gentlelady from wyoming, ms. cheney. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, thank you general votel for your service and being here today. i wanted to ask you to elaborate in particular on the threat from iran and one of the many grave flaws of the jcpoa is the fact that it feeled to deal with
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iran's ballistic missile threat. and we are now seeing across the region increasingly evidence that iran is transferring ballistic missiles and other conventional equipment to its allies in the region. can you talk about exactly what you're seeing in this regard and what d.o.d. is in a position to be able to do to defend us and our allies against that threat? >> thank you, congresswoman. you've highlighted one of the principal concerns we have, the increasing not just quantity but quality of their ballistic missiles and the export and movement of those capabilities to other groups and locations around the region. certainly as we've seen with ambassador nikki haley and her demonstration with the items recovered from saubtd, these weapons pose the threat of widening the conflict out of yemen and, frankly, put our
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forces in the united arab emirates at risk as well as our partners so first and foremost about their threat is the quality and quantity that they have been pursuing over the last several years with respect to this. their direct introduction of asymmetric capabilities concerns me. as we look at places where we see the introduction of coastal defense cruise missiles like the bab el mandeb, we know that the houthis do not have the expertise to make these, iran provided it to them. we hold iran accountable for that. so that's the second aspect of this. d
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the third is their continuing change and changing power projection model. not only their own forces but their proxies and the partners they are attempting to create around the region. these give us very significant concerns. with respect to your question about what we are doing, we are working with saudi arabia and our partners to ensure they are optimizing their capabilities that they have, many of them u.s. provided capabilities to protect themselves. >> in respect to syria, there have been reports we've seen facilities, for example, being built in syria, could you talk more about what we might be able to do particularly on the ground in syria as we see the challenge of -- we've been effective
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against isis but obviously our interests are still significantly threatened given the failed state situation we're facing. >> thank you. as you know countering iran is not one of the coalition missions in syria. we can build strong relationships -- >> i understand it's not formally part of the mission but it seems to me if we're focused on countering iran we need to do it every place our interests are threatened. >> absolutely. and one of the key ways we are doing that is through our strong relationships that we are building with the government of iraq military forces, that include not only forces that are in the interior but certainly along their border. our strong relationship with the syrian democratic forces in the east and northern part of the country cut us in a position where we can impede iran's
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objectives of establishing lines of communication through these critical areas and trying to connect tehran to beirut. so first and foremost these indirect things we're doing are very important to that. beyond that i think continuing to highlight and illuminate their activities is extraordinarily important so they can be addressed not just with military means but other means available to us across governme government. >> thank you very much. i'll yield back the balance of my time. >> ms. davis? >> thank you, mr. chairman and general votel again, thank you for joining us. as you just mentioned and certainly in your written statement the national defense strategy said that competition, not terrorism, is the primary
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focus of u.s. national security. could you elaborate on that comment and talk about the shift in the national strategy. how will it impact centcom and what, if any, significant changes will materialize as a result of this shift and how will central command's capacity to perform its mission be affected? >> thanks. i think the shifts that are outlined in the national defense strategy are things that will take place over time and so, you know, one of the principle ways that we are trying to manage that is through the development of -- in continued relationship building we have on place with partners in the region and continuing to strengthen those relationships. one of the things we have learned through this by, with, and through approach is that we can do a lot through our
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partners by providing advice and expertise in our area with we have experience and we can do that with the smaller footprint and with the correspondingly smaller investments so i think one of the principal ways we will address this going forward is continuing to build on these relationships and continuing to empower our partners in the region. >> can you just speak to the key challenges in doing that? >> well, i think certainly one of the key challenges will be making sure that we don't create the impression that we are abandoning centcom and this is a key -- the region and so this, of course, is a key talking point not only for me but all leaders that come in there. we recognize that the interests that we have, the national interests that we have in this region for preventing attacks on the homeland, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, for ensuring navigation and commerce to the critical straits, for ensuring
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other countries can't destabilize, those are enduring interests we will always have so this will always require us to be engage there had in some aspect but the secretary will make decisions on shifting resources in accordance with the national resources defense strategy. >> you talked about local solutions and we know how critical that is. and as you've just mentioned, i wonder if you could talk about the inclusion of women as a critical strategy that advances countering terrorism, national security and economic and social development. some of those programs have been successful but there is more to be done. how can we increase the effectiveness of these programs? >> i think the best way we can do is by sharing our experiences. we learned by our inability to include women into many of our counterterrorism operations back in the beginning of our -- of these fights that we've been
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involved in that we are missing 50% of the population in doing that and when we began to introduce them into positions where they could have influence we learned a loath from that so one of the key things we can do is lead by example in this area and demonstrate how this is valued by us. we do see partners in the region doing this. the afghans are doing this, the iraqis are doing this. we see this with the syrian democratic forces we're working with in syria and i would highlight that one of the principal commanders they have, very successful commanders, is a female so it's very much recognized that contributions come from the entirety of the force. >> thank you. appreciate that. i think a number of us have participated in those efforts and i hope we can continue to do more of that. thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. wilson. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general votel, recently the
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united nations released a remarkably gruesome report outlining north korea's ongoing efforts to assist syria building chemical weapons. this report states north korea has been shipping supplies to the syrian government, including acid resistant tiles and thermometers, additionally, north korean missile technicians have been observed working at chemical weapons and missile facilities in syria. are you able to comment on the u.n. report? if not could you describe the malign and disruptive role north korea plays in syria and whether or not you see their role expanding in the coming years? what is being done to disrupt this cooperation between the dictatorships of north korea and the syrian government? >> i admit, i have not seen that report so i can't comment specifically on it. obviously we are concerned about the proliferation of these types of weapons in sir with a country that has demonstrated the intent
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to use them so this will be an area we will continue to pay close attention to. >> it's so important. i was pleasantly surprised that the "new york times" covered it today. my experience with that newspaper is they frequently overlook threats to stability in the world but i urge your consideration. also, a primary concern for the long-term stability of the middle east surrounds the return of defeated islamic state fighters who are returning home from fighting in iraq and syria. an estimate from the suffan center have tracked 5600 fighters who have returned from their home countries. specifically, sadly, turkey has 900 returning and saudi arabia has 760 returning. could you explain what threat the return of the defeated islamic state fighters to their home country represents to the long-term stability in the region and can you explain the proposed or ongoing efforts to
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work with ally nations in dealing with this flow of fighters? >> thank you, congressman. certainly these fighters that are able to depart these war zones are able to take with them experiences and tactics that could potentially be applied to other places, additionally, they're radicalized so they have the ability to bring others on abort with this, these are the principle concerns. this has been at the forefront of our efforts from the beginning. >> as you've heard the secretary talk about our strategy of annihilation in the conduct of our operations, we have attempted to isolate these areas and prevent the escape of these fighters so they're either killed or captured where we take them on and i think we've been successful in that. we have with the support of the authorities that have been provided to us by congress we do have an effective program to interdict foreign fighters as they attempt to depart the area and we are working with the
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department of state and justice to ensure these hundreds that are in the control of our partners in both iraq and syria are moving into a judicial process that holds them accountable and returns them to the countries from which they came. >> and what a challenge that is, the detainees, you're speaking of not just fighters but their families and this has got to be addressed and appreciate you bringing that issue up. additionally, turkey has been a valued ally for nearly a century of the united states. a member of nato beginning with the korean war they've been fighting side by side with the americans for freedom. what is being done to continue our important alliance? >> thank you. i would just echo your comments. turkey has been vital in -- throughout the entire campaign plan. they have serious concerns of pkk terrorism. of course this has created some tension with some partners we have on the ground.
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the principal way we are addressing this, congressman, is by being as transparent and clear and candid with turkey about the things we are doing on a day to day basis with our partners. just this morning i had a conversation with my counterpart in turkey, again sharing information back and forth, r, keeping communication channels professional and open as we discuss this very, very difficult challenge that we're working through. >> and with the multitude of issues you have to face in yemen, what's the latest on efforts to provide security and working with saudi arabia. >> i would say our effort in this setting is principally to help them defend themselves, i think we have made good progress and i look forward in the closed session to sharing with you examples. >> we appreciate your service, thank you. >> thank you. >> mr. vesey? >> there was a column in the
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"wall street journal" in their opinion section about four days ago where they allege there was a russian attack on u.s. special operation forces on the evening of february 7 and 8 and i specifically wanted to ask you what you know about that and how can centcom prioritize u.s. counterterrorism objectives while trying to avoid any sort of dangerous escalation with russia? >>. >> thank you, i think we have characterized that as pro-regime forces. we're aware of the amount of media talking about this but in this particular instance, this was a very clear case of self-defense on our part so i am quite proud of the way the force responded to this, quickly identifiedit, immediately got on the net with our russian channel to talk with them about this, we're talki ing with them
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before, during and after and brought the right capabilities to address this self-defense threat so they have continued to do that. i think what i would tell you is we retain sufficient capability to protect ourselves at the same time that we are pursuing our counterterrorism objectives in syria. >> do you think that russia is going to want to try to have more influence or diminish our influence in the region once we push isis out of there? how do you see that relationship playing out long term? >> i think what i would say, congressman, is what we can see is russia has failed to follow through on delivering the regime in a number of different areas. as we look at the u.n.-sanctioned cease-fire that was put into place, one that they helped draft and agreed to
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implement and to cause the regime to comply, they have failed to do that so russia has to admit it's not capable or it doesn't want to play a role in ending the syrian conflict here. i think their role is incredibly destabilizing. >> i'd like to briefly switch and ask you a bit about afghanistan, too. i know there have been some that have been concerned about our deteriorating relationship with the pakistanis and was wondering how important do you think it is for us to continue to have relationships with pakistan, keeping routes open so we can adequately supply troop in the afghanistan part of the middle east? what are your thoughts on that whole relationship and particularly how it lines up with afghanistan? >> congressman, my view is that success in afghanistan and south asia will require a strong
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relationship and the cooperation of pakistan and since the announcement of the south asia strategy, this has been one of my principal focuses is to help pakistan and us together achieve the specific things we require that we have asked them to do in sport of our strategy and what i would report to you and the committee is that i have frequent and routine professional communications with my counterpart. we talk almost weekly, meet face to face frequently and i think my goal now is to develop this productive and trustful relationship that will help us move forward together. i can't characterize the relationship as trustful at this particular point. there's a lot of history that has to be overcome but what i would tell you is that we are beginning to see positive indicators, they through their communications, their reporting to us, some of the actions that
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they are taking on the ground, these are positive indicators they are moving in the rigt direction. it doesn't equal the decisive action we need to see them take but they are positive indicators and it gives me hope our approach is the right one, i have confidence in our approach and it gives me hope that we can begin to restore this very important relationship. >> thank you, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you for your service, general. you've barely mentioned lebanon and we hardly ever talk about lebanon but there are so many problems there and in any other part of the world it would be front and center and in the headlines all the time but with all the other problems in centcom it takes a backseat. given that hezbollah is a u.s.-designated terrorist organization and that the lebanese president has been very public in his support of hezbollah as a military partner
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with the lebanese armed forces and given that we've in the past supplied high-quality american arms to the lebanese armed forces, do you think we should keep working with the lebanese armed forces and giving them high quality american weaponry and are they a reliable partner? >> congressman, i think they are a very reliable partner. and i think the investments that we have made over the last 10 or 11 years, very moderate investments in terms of people and money compared to the other things we do have really paid off and they are helping us develop a very professional lebanese armed forces that is beginning to be viewed as the principal security arm in afghanistan. and i note your comment here about it doesn't appear on the news but lebanon is a frequent stopping place for me and all of my commanders and we pay a lot of attention to this
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relationship. we have an outstanding ambassador there who is very, very engaged in the activities and we're very proud of what the lebanese armed forces are doing. they very effectively last fall on their own work straited a pretty effective operation against isis. they view us as their most important partner and i do think it is an investment worth continuing. >> but doesn't the relationship between the cozying up to hezbollah within lebanon to the conventional force there is give you pause? >> well, i tell you, i frequently interact with the chief of defense there, i consider him to be a very professional military officer. this is a multiconfessional arrangement here in pakistan that trips over into the political environment but what i observe in lebanon is a military that is answerable to the leadership, doing a good job at
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staying apolitical and focusing on security of the country. >> okay. shifting gears to saudi arabia, are we going enough to help them and the united arab emirates defend themselves as was discussed a little earlier from iranian-supplied noilz tmissile houthi rebels, are we doing enough? >> yes, we are focused on this threat and i look forward to sharing more comments about this in the closed session. >> thank you. in yemen the u.s. military has conducted a much higher number of strikes against terrorist targets last year than in 2016 the previous year. what positive impact, if any, have these strikes had on aqap and islamic state in yemen? >> thank you, congressman. it has had i think a very significant impact on aqap.
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certainly it's impacted their ability to conduct expersonal operations, it's gone into the areas in which shefd sanctuary and it's continued to present them with multiple dilemmas they have to deal with. so not only are they contending with our strikes but with partner operations that we work with our arab coalition partners on the ground and our yemeni partners on the ground and this has become very, very effective. i would tell you we are extending that to isis in yemen as well. that is not as well developed as al qaeda is but, of course. it is isis, we understand their ideology and where where they're going and we're concerned about them as well. >> >> thank you, lastly i'd like to ask about the forth infantry in fort carson in my district. they're sending a brigade combat team to afghanistan this spring and even though we've had budget shortfalls for the military in recent years, we've made huge steps with this latest budget
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agreement to beef up military spending which i totally applaud and support. so i think readiness will be less of an issue in the future but do you feel good about the current state of readiness with, for instance the brigade combat team going to afghanistan this spring? >> congressman, i do. i haven't had an opportunity to visit that specific brigade but i've had an opportunity to visit one of the brigades coming in. i'm extraordinarily appreciative of the efforts put forth by the army, the marine corps, the air force, all the services here that we depend upon in afghanistan to give us high quality forces. >> thank you, ms. chairman and general votel for your service and for being here. i'd like to talk a little bit more about what you began with your opening statement and the comments you've made since about u.s. military objectives in syria. you talked about how you're
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working to defeat isis and bring that campaign to a responsible close. later you mentioned that countering iran is not a coalition mission in syria. last month we heard from secretary tillerson about how u.s. military presence in syria will remain for an indefinite period of time and he went on to list a very expensive list of strategic objectives of the u.s. military to include ensuring the defeat of isis, to include diminishing the influence of iran, advancing a u.n.-led political resolution, et cetera, etc. so my question is what is the objective of our u.s. forces in syria and under what legal basis is this indefinite presence in syria planned under? >> thank you, so the principal reason we are in syria is to
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defeat isis and that remains our sole and single task that we are principally oriented on. part of defeating isis, though, is removing their control of the physical caliphate, the physical terrain, as you're well aware and in ensuring they can't resurge so that means after we have removed them from their control to train, we have to consolidate our gains and we have to ensure the right security and stability is in place so that they cannot resurge. so that is part of being responsible coalition members and that will take some time i do not all of this. our legal basis for operating in syria is -- was largely drivenen by the collective self-defense of iraq. when we first went there that isis being an organization that did not adhere to sovereign boundaries, were moving back and forth across here and while we
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were beginning to address isis in iraq we knew that we also had to address isis in syria. i would also point out, congresswoman, that the syrian regime itself has proved unwilling and unable to address this particular threat. while they did do operations in the middle of the euphrates valley several months ago, they have largely departed that area and they have taken the pressure off of isis and created more problems for the coalition in dealing with this so i think those are the principle -- >> so our u.s. forces are still operating under the 2001 aumf? is that correct? >> we are. >> and how does countering iran -- i'm just seeing some contradiction between what the secretary of state is saying, that that is now going to be a part of the u.s. military objective in syria and what you've stated today saying countering iran is not part of
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the coalition mission. just a follow up to that, if it is, how does that fall under the 2001 aumf that deals directly with countering al qaeda and its affiliates? >> i think my understanding as the secretary of state laid this out is he laid it out not as a u.s. military objective but as a u.s. objective so there are certainly other ways that we can address iran's destabilizing activities and others through military means. the fact is as i mentioned a few moments ago even though iran isn't our principal focus here in this campaign, our relationship with partners, both in iraq and in syria does put us in a position where we can indirectly have an impact on the objectives that iran is pursuing in this part of the world so i would characterize it more in that regard than us actively doing something militarily
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against iran. >> thank you. i believe secretary tillerson was quite specific in speaking about this within the justification of a maintained u.s. military presence there. my last quick question is about yemen and under what authorization are we providing arms and direct military support to saudi arabia in what is essentially a proxy war between saudi arabia and iran? >> well, any arms sales, of course, go through our foreign military sales and foreign military funding process that's managed by the department of state so they have the principal over sight for that, the provision of fuel to saudi aircraft is provided for under the acquisition cross servicing agreement that we have in place with saudi arabia so that provides us the authority to provide support for them. >> thank you, mr. chairman,
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general votel, thanks for joining us today. i wanted to begin by getting your perspective. you speak about navy presence in the gulf and the red sea and we think about centcom as being land-centric but we also see as you specifically point out the first overseas navy base put in by the chinese in djibouti, we see a single berth reserved in the chinese navy. we see president xi jinping through modernization of his military looking to very aggressively expand and sustain operations from around the world from your perspective as centcom commander in that ar, specifically what do you see our u.s. navy doing to count they are chinese expansionism and what do you need as far as u.s. navy presence there to make sure that we have what's necessary there in relation to what we see as chinese aggressive expansion? >> thanks, congressman.
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appreciate the question and i would share -- i'm an army guy saying this. i would share that while we do think about the land territory in centcom it's very much a maritime theater. what w the three that are so im this area. i do recognize that. i would just tell you that i think certainly, the resources provided, the maritime resources provided by the navy and marine core are adequate to the task we have right now. the principal way that we develop resilience against these types of great power influences into this area is through first of all, our presence and our constant presence. and we domain taken a constant presence in the arabian gulf and the gulf as well. and through our very close partnership with our partners. we have three combined maritime task forces that are lead out of
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our navel headquarters that include a variety of different nations. sop when i look at the nations on our team and when i look at the nations lined up with some others that are entering in the area, i think our teams are strong and it's a key way to maintain our influence and pursue our interest in the centcom, maritime environment. >> very good. last year the u.s. navel office of intelligence pointed out some challenges there with potentially placing the mines that would put at risk commercial vessels there near near the strat. give me your perspective on the potential threat, and who is operating in the area shooting at you as ships. give me your perspective in sweeping the operations there and looking to counter the potential threat for mines.
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that's very important. >> we maintain mine sweeping capabilities in the gulf and have for a number of years. so do our partners. and i would just point out that some of our partners like the -- saudi arabia have good capability in this regard. so one thing we do is work with them to optimize their capabilities. with getting them to use their capabilities and using our intelligence and some of our experience to help them be more effective at this. so this i think has been very effective in preventing a major mine catastrophe. one we are concerned about 60 to 70 ships a day go through. not just ours but everybodyess. this is a real threat that we have to pay attention to. >> douch intelligence gathering operations to look at what's happening in the strats about the activities going on there and what we can do to carry
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that. keeping a mine from -- having to sweep them from a time perspective. give us a perspective on what is happening there. >> we do and i would look forward to sharing the details with you in a different setting. >> very good. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> excuse me. mr. carbajal. >> thank you mr. chair. thank you for being here today. america has been engaged in afghanistan for 16 years and difficult to determine what progress we have made. the increase 14,000 troops however, unable to learn from history, we are investing more lives and resources without a clearly defined benchmarks. i'm concerned about the fact that significant information is being with held from the office of inspector general for
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afghanistan's reconstruction and the american people. according to the inspector general, quote, it is hard to make a determination of how good a job we're doing because if the afghan military is not fighting that well and there are not many of them, we can't determine fraud. waste and abuse in afghanistan. they can't get basic facts from the department, how are you measuring progress in afghanistan? please describe the instate, what the success look like to you, currently what is the amount of territory under the afghan government control? and help me understand how withholding information has made a difference in our operations in afghanistan. >> thank you, congressman. i'll take your last one here. we're aware of that yessiissue. some of that information is not
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u.s. government information it is information of the afghan government. so they control the release and control of that. so this is something we have to continue to work with -- >> general, if i could interrupt you. that's great to parlay that to the afghan government. we're the ones with the resources and the lives of our military there. we have to be able to get information from there to appease those of us who have to make decision ons what kind of investments we need to make in the area. >> thank you, congressman. i'm committed to making sure you have those details. you asked about kind of how we're looking at the situation right now. what i would tell you is the big idea here with what we're trying to do in afghanistan is drive towards reconciliation. this is different than an approach we had in the past. we are trying to do it with military pressure and on the ground and creating social
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pressure with things that the afghan government is doing like credible elections that they are pursuing this year at the parol la men tear level and -- and diplomatic and regional pressure. just like with pakistan a few moments ago. creating pressure on those three action sis are going to create enough pressure on the taliban when they come to the table. we approach this, we are taking a conditions-based approach focused on reconciliation as the end state. it is a regional focus here and we are engaging the parters in the reason. not just pakistan. and we have changed the way that we are working with the afghan forces. so we previously had advised down to a low level with their afghan special operations forces. we have now -- we are now with
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the additional enablers and advisers that the department has approved for us and taking that capability and extending out to the conventional forces. we are building out the afghan air force and doubling the size of the operations capability. there are different aspects to the approach. giving us the ability to measure the progress. you asked about how much of the population is controlled by the afghan government? today the figure is 64%. 12% of the population is in areas that are controlled by the taliban and the balance of that in contested areas. our focus of the military operations are on increasing and expanding population control by the government of afghanistan. and what we're going to do this season is we are going to win our intention is to break the stalemate, grab the initiative, begin to expand population
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control and this year and next year and ensure that we create an environment that allows for credible elections to take place. one of the most important things that the afghan people need to see from their government. >> running out of time. what about information? the sharing of information with the inspector general? >> as i mentioned, congressman, we will do our best to ensure that you have the information you need to make the decisions necessary. >> thank you so much. i yield back, mr. chair. >> mr. scott. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for being here. i want to talk with you about isr and the centcom area and i know you have a lot of partners that area. what percentage of the isr does the united states provide? >> i'm not sure i can tell you the percentage overall s. it is very clear that the majority of the isr in the region is being provided by the united states.
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>> what about your -- the capacity to meet the demand for isr? do you have enough isr currently? >> i don't think you're going to find a commander that is going to say they have enough isr. we have the largest concentration of mq nines. and general nickelson and his forces and i know and that's adequate for what he needed now but given his own -- i'm sure he wants more. and weld want more in all these areas. >> i understand that the army in some ways and commanders are tag nos stick as to the different platforms that isr comes from. i assume that when it comes to providing additional isr, the commanders would not be agnostic to the time line to get new isr to the field, would that be a fair statement? >> that is right.
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i think the faster we can provide the capabilities, the better. >> one of my concerns and i have a tremendous amount of respect for the secretary of definite and the secretary of the air force as well. but as they've changed the strategy to a china or russia strategy, they are canceling the procurement or proposed to of items that are not capable of flying against the russians or the chi these in direct conflict with the russians and chinese. the recapitalization of -- and we have spent hundreds of millions to develop and now ready to purchase and they have proposed to cancel the procurement of the j stars because they've said they are going to use a system that has not been develop it had yet which obviously changes the time line when we can deliver that
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system to you. i guess my question is, do the systems that you use in central command have to be survivalable if you will in a conflict in as high end between the russians and chinese, a direct conflict? >> they don't need to be necessarily. the environment is different in parts of the centcom is than it might be in other parts of the world. some of the requirements i have. are different than what admiral harris and general deal with and pay com and ucom respectively. >> i agree with you 100% and i'm not opposed to the dod developing the system they want for the fight against the
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russians and chinese. with developing that system we don't want to use that system unless we have to because we don't want the russians and chinese to be able to gather the intell that they're going to gather from it every time we fly it. so i'm certainly going to be concerned about as we shift in strategy to china and russia, abandoning fl abandoning platforms that work and other parts of the world of serious fights we are in and you are commanding right now. i'm down to about a minute, but just briefly if you would again, i've been on the border of syria and israel. the military objective ths in syria. can you outline for us what they are again very briefly? >> specifically, ensured principally to ensure the defeat of isis. that's the principal objective
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of our military campaign right now in syria. you know, certainly we're concerned about weapons of mass destruction in terms of the chemical capabilities as you have seen in the past. we are concerned about providing the humanitarian aide and the stability of getting people back in their homes. we are making sure we protect allies who are on the franks, syria, lebanon and turkey. we're very keen to ensure that there's a political resolution to all of this, of course that's beyond my military -- >> my time has expired. it's a tough situation, i'm glad we have a leader like you over there. thank you for your service. >> mr. brown. >> thank you for your leadership and for appearing before the house of armed service committee to discuss the readiness and posture and the activities within centcom.
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so thank you. i want to bring your attention back to iran and its activities in syria. perhaps, covering ground that's been covered and clarifying one point that you made. iran is playing a large role in syria providing senior advisers to the regime, delivering weapons, cash, recruiting and encouraging foreign fighters. last month iran launched a drone that entered israelly air space. a series of events resulting in the downing of a -- and the situation escalating and at greater risk. you mentioned in response to ms. cheney's question that we can impede iran. what are the strategic or operational impediments are that we are putting in the way and
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can you evaluate the effectiveness of them? >> i think some -- as i mentioned, i think one of the things that we can do is build strong and resilient partnerships with our partners. whether it is iraqis or the syrian/democratic force. at this point that's our partner on the ground. in my regards, these partners share the same concerns we do with this. that they don't want their countries or areas exploited by others for purposes of creating instability in this area. so the relationships that we develop with them, iraqis forces and particularly the border control forces, help aid and prevent the movement of these types of activities and equipment back and forth across the border. i think the iraqis are concerned
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as we would be and most countries would be. and in syria, although, i do acknowledge our partners on the ground are indigenous partner, they do control very important areas along the border between iraq and syria. and so they can as well through their own operations make it, make it difficult for iran to pursue their activities through these particular areas. and so that's why i kind of describe it in an indirect way -- >> if i may general. that sounds aspirational. i appreciate that. can you evaluate the effectiveness of what you just described? >> we are working on how we do that. most networks are savvy in how they are doing things. so this is something we are looking at and how we measure the effectiveness of it.
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and we're in this case largely talking about ground routes. certainly, iran has the ability to use their routes and maritime routes and the ability to go through africa to get to these areas as well. you know, and we have to look at this holistically and as we try to address this. >> so let me ask one other question, perhaps the last in the time i have remaining. i understand that israel is in the ucom, aor conflict in that region doesn't necessarily respect the area of operations of the different commands. can you talk about in the event, regardless of the likelihood of a conflict between iran and israel, regardless of how it is provoked, can you just comment on what our readiness in this setting, perhaps it is best for the classified setting readiness
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to come to the aid of israel? >> again, that's probably a question best suited for the general. >> the readiness and posture? that would not involve centcom? >> it is in his area and he has a principal responsibility in that. what i would tell you, the centcom area and not just on israelly border but on the border of egypt and libya and pakistan with india and russia. it's a tough neighborhood. so it is imperative for the combatant commanders to be nested across. and under the leadership of our chairman and the national defense strategy that the secretary put in place that we are improving significantly and the ability to operate in cooperation with each other and in many cases seamlessly. it is not unusual for the general and i to have a lot of
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coordination and talking across our common areas of concern. just like it is not uncommon for general -- admiral harris and i to talk about things on his side. >> this is an area where we have got to continue to pay attention and i think we're doing a much better job of this. >> thank you, general. thank you mr. chairman. >> sally. >> thank you mr. which i remember good to see you again. three important questions. the first is about the attack on u.s. forces in syria. media reports alleging it is by russian mercenary ris. can you comment at all if we have confirmation if they were russian mercenaryryes and how many do you think were killed and is there confirmation that it was approved or ordered by putin --
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>> i'm not sure i can report anything different than you have seen in the media and press on this. in terms of numbers and attribution of who this is. in -- what i can tell you throughout this entire event we were in communications on our communication channel with the russians before, during and after. and what they told us is that they are not their forces or military forces. so you know, i think that kind of speaks for itself here. in terms of what they are. and of course, we've seen the media that come out after this. to me it highlights, again, the unwillingness, inabout of the e regime to take seriously the isis threat. particularly, if there are contracted forces in the area attempting to do that. >> double they are not russian and do we have intelligence to corroborate or confirm or dedeny it?
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>> none i would discuss in this setting. >> -- do you believe they were not russian at this point or can you not even say that? >> we have characterized them as proregime forces at this point. >> i look forward to following up in the classified. a 10 wart hog back in afghanistan kicking butt in january. can you comment on the missions and i know it is specific, as part of the shift in strategy, it seems like we are going after the sources of revenue, perhaps overall and attacking the poppy strie and the drug making facilities and how is a-10 doing over there? >> they are great. i had annen opportunity to visit the quadrant commander and i'm proud of what they are doing. they are doing what we expect. why we are pushing adviser teams to a lower level to bear
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effectively in support of the afghan national defense forces. that's what we expect they are doing. one of the things successful and we try to carry over from the defeat isis campaign is going after the revenue generation and the narco trafficking fuelling the taliban. this is a key focus for our forces at this point. >> all of the -- burn yard by now and as i told this president you're going to have to pry them out of my cold dead hands, i appreciate this committee and leadership working to do emissions like this. last topic, i'm concerned about the build-up on israel northern border,s so southern syria of iranian backed militia and forces and increased aggression
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we're seeing from there. as the regime seems to be shoring up and controlling that area and the potential for escalation of a crisis with israel. syria is yours, can you speak to the trends and whether there's a threat there? >> i think we share the same concerns that you've just highlighted right here. you know, what this -- this is effectively in this south western corner of syria, we've been able to diplomatically begin to address that. so working with the special presidents and others we're continuing to keep focus on that. again, russia is a party to this and they have responsibilities to ensure that the detractable partners in this area are under control. so they have to take responsibility for this and be held accountable. not just the iranians but the
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others down there that are keen to the vie length extremists down there. we have to continue to address that in this particular -- >> can you share trends that you are seeing? we have seen with escalation over the last few weeks and any concerns of it escalating into a full blown crisis in israel? >> in these places down in the southwest, these are becoming collection zones of a lot of unsavory organizations right here and eventually going to have to be dealt w. i'm concerned that left unaddressed, that they will become bigger problem ps. in terms of trend, i can't tell you that we have seen anything specific in terms of this. but obviously, there are concerns. what we have seen in places is these groups coming together,
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our potentially posed long-term challenges for security of the region above and beyond syria. >> great, thanks i'm over my time and i look forward to discussing in the closed session. >> general, thank you to see you again. thank you for your great service to the nation. it is pleasure to have you back again. i would loo i can to continue on the iran topic as well. and do a little deeper dive on this topic. so iran supports numerous proxies, hezbollah and lebanon and syria. and yemin and abroad to upset the existing order and chaos and in addition to proxies, iran using cyber and operations and information warfare to expand its influence in the region. so, can you explain how you've
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seen iran utilize these techniques during your tenure at centcom commander, and if you think they've been effective in increasing the influence threw this strategy? >> thank you. some of this discussion is best set for a closed session here. you know, i think what iran tends to do by creating proxy organizations that can go out and do bidding and operating in areas which they have interest. i think they are attempting to do that and we see instances of that as we look at the undisciplined militia and organizations that are here and beholden to iran than they are to the government of iraq. this is very concerning to us. and i think this gives us ind kags that they are acting not on behalf of the government they say they are representing but on behalf of another party.
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>> okay. on i will follow up on the question in closed session. the war in syria is off to hundreds of thousands dead and displaced or seeking asylum as refugees. as the fight against -- transition to consolidate gains and building stability, it seems if some of the groups that have formed partnership of connivence may turn their attention in fighting each other instead. how do you see these various element this aligning themselves and a potential regional transfer of balance and feeling slighted by recent event spts eye line closely with iran to ward off threats. >> so first off, i would say with the partners we operate. we have not necessarily seen
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what you're -- fighting among themselves here. it is a large organization, have arab and others thrown in there that are involved in this group. frankly, in my estimation have continued to be coherent in terms of how they are doing this. i guess the way i would describe it is as we are competing and completing the defeat of isis. i think we are now beginning to see the reemergence of the underlying issues that have been in place in syria. as we have converging forces, we are seeing the verging interest. and i think we see this down in the middle of the valley, between focus of the coalition and our partners on the ground and what the pro-regime element is focused on. they areless concerned about rooting out isis than they are about going into addressing the opposition elements to the
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regime. i think what we have to be mindful of is that as we -- as it goes away and the threat of isis is removed, we will begin to see more of a return to the underlying challenge that is gave birth to many of these -- to this problem and other problems in the country. those are ultimately going to have to be addressed through some type of geneva process that brings the parties together to establish a process and arrangement that allows syria to be the country that it should be. >> yeah. it seems that we are at that tipping point where state department has to play a stronger role in working with the powers that have interest there and try to bring about a political solution. so i hope we're going to be pursuing that on dual tracks. i see my time is about to run
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out, i'll hold my questions for the closed session. again, thank you for your service, general and i yield back. >> mr. russell. >> thank you mr. chairman, and thank you general for your testimony today. a couple of areas that have not heard discussed but could you give us your thoughts on turkish operations and partnering withal cay da affiliates and the attacks on u.s. back forces and how it will impact the by with and through strategy to make a stable aborter security force? >> some of that will be reserved for a closed session here. i think we have acknowledged that turkey has concerns along the border with longstanding pkk interests. our concern of course, is that this activity ais detracting frm our efforts against isis.
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>> and a broader scope. what do you think is needed to mix thissen counter efforts to secure the hard fought gains against isis? >> i think i mention in my opening statement, i really view russia aspect at the heart of many of the issues here and i'm being serious when i say they play the role of arsenals and -- and try to achieve their objectives and not necessarily the broader objectives of the international community here. so i think there has to be more accountability and pressure put on russia to do what they said they were going to do. >> do you think that that pressure could come from the other instruments of national power from the united states on our nato alli in turkey?
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>> i think they can come from a variety of different sources, congressman. >> and i guess. can you speak also to the need to interdict the isis/al qaeda migration, aq -- others see a lot of that now that as they've been pushed out of one area, they may drift to the other and how that would cooperate between the combat and commands? >> certainly, we are cognizant of what they are dealing with with the partners on the ground here and very concerned about that. i think one of the principal things that we can do is continue to share information back and forth and frankly, we're not seeing the mass migration of the fighters. i won't tell you that they are probably not getting out with refugees and others. that is probably occurring.
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certainly, this is a concern long-term. and so i think one of the things we are attempting to do is particularly now that we have so many foreign fighters captured and in some level of detention with our partners here is try to get the international community engaged and taking responsibility for their people and bringing them to some level of justice. there's a lot that can be learned from the foreign fighters and we have to exploit that and learn as much as we can so we can preen vent it and make sure they are put back into the judicial process so they can be dealt with from their countries which they came. >> and i guess the last question i have would be, could you give your assessment of egyptian and saudi combined efforts of yemin and the status. >> on -- with respect to the status of yemen, obviously,
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yemen is disstabilized at this point. they have a civil war going on and a proxy war plane out here between iran and saudi arabia and iran introducing advanced technology into there. we see them challenging a navigation in the -- and they have a counter terrorism problem that we are very focused on. so you know, i think from the counter terrorism standpoint, we are making progress in this particular area. i -- i don't see significant changes in the civil conflict that's taking place and being orchestrated by the arab coalition on the ground. they need to put more effort into that. we are paying attention by the efforts by our diplomats to try to address it politically. there has been opportunities in
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the past that haven't come to fruition and we have to continue on this area. but i think yemen is an area that we should be concerned about because we are seeing problems in that particular area. and on top of it. huge humanitarian issues. the people are suffering greatly. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> ms. rosen. >> thank you. i want to thank the general for being here is and the ranking member and the chairman for this important hearing. i would like to speak about sanctions on iran and russia and what is your opinion and how implementing sanctions or what level of sanctions if any do you think would influence activities in the middle east, specifically russia and iran? >> well, congresswoman, we don't really manage that within the department of defense and centcom. i do know that the secretary has recently provided information to
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senator corker and others on with regards to some of the other things regarding sanctions out here and i think those kind of represent his interests. you know, i think sanctions are a very important part of this. in most of these threats and i think because i tried to mention in my opening comments, this is a team sport. and so we can do things militarily, but we need the other instruments of our national power. whether it is diplomatic, economic or informational to kick in on these things. and when we are able to bring them together to include things like sanctions, we often have the best effects. so i think there are certainly, some good areas where sanctions will make a difference. we to have to look at the impact of those and we have to be mindful. i do think granting wavering
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authority with secretary of state is a good approach and gives us the flexibility we need in these regards. but i look at it as a key part of the whole of government approach. >> so you feel you're getting enough support in this regard? >> i do. and i certainly know this is a continuing area of topic in other parts of the government. >> thank you. i want to switch over and talk about syria a little bit. and so, where does the communication stand after russian align troops attacked our partner forces in syria in early february? how are things going there and our strategy of decon fliks with russia mechanisms, has it been helpful? >> no change in the channel, it remains professional and military discussion. it was before. and it has been since. so it remains an effective way to deconflict our forces and
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make sure our airmen are safe and the people on the ground are safe. >> thank you, i yield back my time. >> mr. gallagher. >> just to follow up briefly on what mr. russell said. what do we say -- regarding our support for elements in sir yachlt the ypg and other elements? what message do we communicate to them? >> the message that i have convey sd that our partners is a multiethnic force and greater measures -- and has been the most effective force on the ground in syria against isis. and we need them to finish this fight. so i think that is the first thing and really one of the principal things we have to acknowledge. i think we have to acknowledge their concerns about this and so our attempts to try to be as transparent and clear in terms of what we are doing and our way
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forward, i think they are things we have to continue to emphasize to them. >> and no distinction between the pkk and the elements we support in syria? >> they don't draw that distinction and that's the tension. >> to follow up something ms. cheney said earlier that you said in response to the question, it is not part of the coalition effort to counter iran in syria. how would you characterize it, what are we trying to do to iran in syria? >> i think our broad u.s. government objective here is to limit iran's influence in syria because as we've seen, they are attempting to arm and motivate fighters that could pose threats to our other vital partners here. and so i think as a government,
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we have interests in trying to limit -- limit their influence and activities in this part of the region. >> i don't want to spend my time on a debate, but if their influence is gaining in syria and we need to limit that, i sort of think that necessarily involves us countering their gains in syria. so perhaps, some kplclarity, or rather how old you characterize the strategy throughout the rest of the region? >> i would characterize our strategy as deter, assure and compete. and we have to have to have capabilities in place to deter the missile capabilities against our partners and we have to ensure that we can deter the abilities to raise to nuclear weapons capability. we have to assure our partners in the region. our partnerships when you line occupy our coalition against
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theirs, ours is more capable. continuing to develop those relationships is important and ensuring the partner it is we are going to be there with them. and we have to compete militarily and with other instruments of power in the areas that we can. and this is pushing back, rolling back on their influence and in the areas where we must, preventing them from moving their weapons around the theater that pose threats to our partners? >> does the competition reach a limit in syria? is there a reason we are less aggressive there? you mentioned iraq is an area we are competing effectively with them? >> yeah. my point is only that as we form the coalition, the defeat isis coalition, has both military and a political component to it. one of the objectives that has not been assigned to us is
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countering iran. it has been focused on the isis mission. that's what i'm trying to emphasize. >> and in iraq, do you think we are actively or effectively competing with them? one of the biggest phenomenon is the rise of the pmf. others are terrorists and taking orders. >> certainly addressing the pmf is what the prime minister is going to have to do and many regards he has done that. i think one of the best things we can do on the ground in syria is being a good and valued partner to the iraqis security forces and i think we demonstrated that and my engagements with the security force leaders that i talk to on a regular basis, they deeply value and appreciate it and look forward to maintaining that relationship in the future. >> i run out of time.
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thank you, sir. >> mr. -- >> general i want to thank you for your service and the great work of everyone in your command throughout the region under your command. my particular concerns are about afghanistan that i discussed with you before the hearing began. and the special inspector general report on afghan rekron instruction reports that we are not making progress as far as population centers and how much we control and we lost a little bit of ground from the last report. and i support what the military is doing and i supported the effort to increase the number of troops recently and i think you have a very clear strategy as far as the five points of helping the afghan army and the special forces to increase their size and effectiveness and increase the collaboration between the afghan air force and the army as well as replace their platforms with american equipment as opposed to russian
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equipment. help the police and put more pressure on pakistan. it is a clear five point strike that skpree you are doing an effective job of clearing and holding area. the problem is the back filling and in your prepared testimony you talked about how an uncertain political situation remains the greatest risk of stability. and the government of the islamic republic afghanistan suffers from a deficit competing interest and corruption. and my concern is that your colleagues on the civilian side do not have a clear plan the way that the military has. so i want to ask you, who do you see aspect your clearest partner with general nickelson on the i civilian side and what you do see the strategy to be. i don't see them putting out a clear plan on the civilian side.
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you're clearing and holding, but when it comes to building and transitions, there's no clear plan. >> thank you, congressman. i think the principal partner we look to on the u.s. shiny the ambassador and country team. i do think we have a outstanding ambassador on the ground and he is engaged in this. and we are beginning to address many of these things that you have talked about. as i mentioned to you in many regards, the military missions and many of these countries really are the easy part of addressing the situation and the more difficult part is the political resolution that has to take place afterwards because this is when you have to address the deep underlining issues that oftentimes gave way to the conflict that we just resolved. as i think i mentioned to you before hand, tomorrow and cabal
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and the process that we'll address reckology silluation and counter terrorism and an opportunity with 25 nations brought in to do that. there are efforts under way with the department of state to help devise ways to move forward with reck on si reconciliation. the taliban is not a contiguous group to deal with. it is fractured. we have to look at reconciliation and reintegration as well. the task in front of the diplomats to solve this is a complex one as they move forward and i do think that this is a challenge here but i do think that they are moving forward in ways to begin to address this effectively here as we apply military, social and diplomatic
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pressure to bring the taliban to the table. >> so general, in your testimony, thank you for that by the way. in your testimony you talk about how pakistan is starting to share more information and collaborate more than they have. what is your prognosis with them, what dow see happening other than the sharing of information and what can we hope to expect in terms of progress of the govrening in ungoverned areas? >> pakistan is actually, they are a country that suffered greatly from terrorism. perhaps, as much as anybody in the region or anybody around the world. and they have taken a number of measures to address terrorism within their borders and that has contributed over the years to -- you know, some increase security in the area.
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but -- and we have to recognize that up front. our approach, i think is to continue to be engaged with them. we want to have a candid discussion. we want to have frequent communication. we want to build trust in this relationship. the history of the united states and pakistan is a very long history here. we do share many interests and they share many things in common with us culturally, militarily and politically, but we have to continue to work with them to move them in directions that cause them to make strategic changes in their approach. and that's really what we're aiming at. i don't know if we can put a time limit on that, but as i mentioned to you, we are seeing some positive indicators and we have to ensure that we don't overlook these as we move forward and we continue to build on these. and this is what my objective is with my counterparts. >> thank you general and
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mr. chairman. >> thank you for your service and for being here. there's no place in the world where iranian backed proxy forces are stabilizing feature of the terrain, is there? >> not that i would -- i would not characterize it that way, congressman. >> so in july of 2015, we have the birth of the jcpoa from that time until today, would we sigh that iran made the same investment in the proxy forces, reduced investment or enhanced investment in the proxy forces? >> an enhanced investment. >> so since the jcpoa we have iran putting more money behind proxy forces that are destabilizing and in august of 2017, the iranian parliament increasing the military spending. are there particular
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capabilities that emerge in the tactic that is iran is using more of the cash they have access to to be a destabilizing hedge -- >> not increased kwan at a timeively and qualitatively. they are using the opportunity of things like yemen to like we think we go out to china like to test our weapon systems they go to yemen to test theirs. they are taking advantage of these to improve the capabilities around the world. so i'm conditioned about this. >> -- we are proud of -- group they do a great deal of the work and frequently return home and deploy to south comm, aor to
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fight a similar enemy. radical extremisten funded by iran through terror approximate sis. are there areas in centcom aor where recruits are brought in from other parts of the world, the western hemisphere and redeployed after receiving training in the centcom aor? >> i'm not sure i can answer that in this particular setting here. i'm sure that there probably are. >> we can chat about that later today. >> are there particular capabilities in the development of iran easter ror proxy that is we find them particularly investing in. whether it is dporone technolog gorilla capability? >> i think all of the above. these are tactics we have seen in the past.
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we are concerned about the miss i wills of short and medium range missiles and the use of uass is a concern and e meteorologistimerging threat. and if we look at what iran did and what it took them to do it took 20 years to do in -- in yemen. this is concerning to us. they are accelerating their pace and ability. and this is something we have to be concerned about. >> i agree and i would add to the list, activities in the western hemisphere where the same game plan we have seen aran run in syria and in the arabia peninsula and increase the volume and
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quality. as we look at the particular missile system that is you mentioned and the areas where they may be used. i look particularly to our alli israel as a point of vulnerable. do we see -- in what capacity do we see the iranians hardening their positions in southern syria and what feedback have we gotten from our alli israel about their discomfort with that? >> i think in this setting, we have seen in public media releases here israel has struck at some of these locations here that they pose a threat to them. so you know, i think in this setting, i would leave it at that. there certainly are -- concerns there. >> thank you. i yield back. >> thank you, general, we heard from admiral harris and centcom
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has been using -- in the fight. describe from the current in centcom, are you getting what you currently need? >> congressman, we are. and i'd be happy to take it off record and give you more detail. what we did in centcom here over the last of the support of the department. is put in control/supply rates and we have been managing that for some time. certainly, the success we've had in iraq and syria -- allowed to us cross level in afghanistan to address our issues. i won't comment on the broader department wide challenge with this. but we are being well support in centcom. >> so to follow up, from where you stand, are the other commands especially ucom keeping the stocks at the a i
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appropriate level that you need. >> congressman, i think that's a better question for them. >> switching gears, would you call qatar, a dependable partner? >> i think qatar has been a dependable partner. our former headquarters is located in qatar and they have been good partners to us in the past. >> is the discord and gcc other partners and between saudi and qatar in regards to the block, has that affected any of the operations in secentcom? >> we have made it clear from the beginning, we have largely been successful in mitigating most of that. >> i yield back. >> mr. banks. >> thank you, mr. chairman and general, thank you for being here today. can we go back to afghanistan for a moment and comment more
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specifically on how tenuous is our 39 member nation coalition? is it continuing to weaken? do you have a more of an optimistic out look on where the coalition is heading forward? >> i think our coalition remains very strong in afghanistan. one of the things that underpins the afghan president's road map for the afghan national defense security forces, was the commitment made by the nato and partner nations of brus els conference to make sure that the support would be continued. so we have seen the partner nations continue to sustain and in many cases increase the contributions to the effort. >> so just to repeat. so we are seeing in some places an increase and can you mention which nations are increasing their commitment? >> i think the u.k. is an example. they have increased some of their recent contributions.
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>> okay. thank you. a moment ago you said that pakistan paid a significant price suffered greatly was your quote. in your testimony, you quote, say, the it will ban and leadership and fighters continue to find sanctuary in pakistan, end quote and on the next page you talk about the discontinuing of fms support to pakistan. can you dig deeper into that? what is working to bring pakistan back to the table to thw thwart the taliban? >> the pressure that the government put on pakistan as we brought out the strategy contributed to that. i think what is also working now is the approach that we have in place for them.
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i think we have tried to be very clear in terms of the things that we need pakistan to do for us. and what i have endeavored to do not always in a public way, but in a private way is develop a relationship that allows us to provide feedback, both ways. there are things frankly, that pakistan asked of us as well. this is a two way street here and it is my responsibility to make sure that we have feedback loops in place that go back and forth between the things we are doing to try to support each other. and -- and moving forward in that regard. so i'd be happy to talk about this more prepares in a closed session here. that really is what this is about. about building a bridge back. building a trust that has to underpin this relationship that has been missing from it for a long time. >> has there been a plan to
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discontinue the support? >> i don't think we have addressed that at this point. >> so we remain in a posture of continuing the support? >> that's the current posture and i imagine in the future we have an opportunity -- >> has that been beneficial? >> again, i think it has created some of the pressure on this and many regards pakistan isn't necessarily looking for our equipment in all of these cases. they are looking for understanding and respect for what they have accomplished here. again, this is about relationship-building and that's principally my focus here. >> pakistan continues to provide a important strategic root for our efforts. have you seen those roots continue to operate fully as they have? >> i have -- >> for the past decades.
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>> yes, the airlines are vital to us and they have continued to sustain that. >> thank you, i yield back. >> mr. o'rourke. >> thank you, mr. chairman. can you tell us how many u.s. forces we have in afghanistan right now? how many service members are deployed there as of this moment? >> we generally don't talk numbers in public here congressman. i would be happy to -- >> what can you say that we can say in a public setting? there's lots of reporting on this. what's a ballpark you could talk about? we are at the level that's approved for us in this area and we'll maintain that going forward. >> is that public information the level that the department of defense is? >> i think that the office of the secretary of defense put numbers out and i'd be happy to follow up on that with you.
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i'm expecting to get a similar answer. are you able to tell me? >> right. the department of defense is around 1700 who have been there but again i would offer the same response to you. and in answer to what our purpose is you responded that the seoole and single task is t defeat isis. is that the reason for our military presence? >> it is. >> and with the defeat of isis will we no longer have a military presence in syria? >> well, when we have completed our -- when we have completed our mission here in syria kicking isis out of the area but it also includes the
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consolidation that allows us to move forward with a political resolution to this. so that has been defined for us by our leadership here and so that's how we are gauging our military support. that's part of the mission. >> that's probably something we can measure. the second part is probably a little mushy. you can define that so we will know when we have won and when service members will come back from syria? >> what we will continue to do is support our partners on the ground to ensure that we consolidate our gains. we can stabilize the area. we can ensure that international organizations, humanitarian aid organizations can come back and people can get into their homes and this is about creating the security environment that allows
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that and provides the time for our diplomats to pursue the solution that we are seeking through the united nations in syria. so even after isis is gone, what is the legal justification to be there after isis is no longer there. >> the fact is isis is still there and that's what we're dealing with now. >> after isis is defeated what is the legal justification for u.s. service members to be deployed in syria. >> well, the principal thing will be to ensure that isis does not reemerge even though they have been eliminated from controlling terrain does not mean that isis is not present in this area.
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with regard to your question on the legal authority of this, again, i would site that, you know, the principle legal authority was self-defense of iraq and unwillingness and inability of syrian regime to provide -- to address this particular threat that posed a threat to not just the country of syria and iraq but really to a much broader group of countries around the world. >> my understanding is that the administration has used the 2001 authorization for the use of military force whose justification is premised on the attacks of 9/11 and stopping those who attacked this country from being able to do so again and the logical conclusion about our presence after isis is defeated is that the u.s.
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military can be in any and every country that there was ever a isis presence and that's a recipe for disaster. we'll not have successful oversight or accountability or prosecution of that war because we cannot define it's goals or strategy. i yield back. >> what happened when we left iraq in 2009 after we supposedly defeated them. >> we saw the rise of isis and the inability of iraqi security forces to effectively address it as it was growing. >> thank you. according to the worldwide threat assessment, most recent one, the intelligent community assessed that iran support for the popular mobilization committee and militants remain
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the primary threat to u.s. personnel in iraq. do you agree with that assessme assessment? >> they certainly could pose a threat to our forces on the ground. this is something that we are very vigilant for and are paying very, very close attention to. we have not seen that threat manifest itself at this particular point but it's certainly something that we are very cog anizant of. >> how are they working with the government and other regional partners to try to address this? >> well, certainly the iraqi government has a law in place that addresses para military forces and what we're doing as part of our broader security sector reform, support that we provide to the government of iraq is encouraging them to take the steps to bring those forces to the right size and to ensure
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that they have the right leadership and are beholden to iraq. the principle way to do this is through our advice and where necessary our assistance to the government of iraq. >> i'd like to follow up on the questions a little while ago and just kind of an overall perspective, what is the role in trying to curb iranian influence? particularly in iraq, in the entire region. >> one of the principle roles is building partnerships around the region and helping our partners be resilient against this particular threat and making sure that they have the wherewithal to protect themselves. so certainly developing partnerships is a key piece of this. another key piece of this is making sure that we have the right military capabilities in
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place to deter iran from taking action. particularly with their growing missile capability. we have a competition rule. we have to challenge them for some of the things that they are doing and we can do that militarily but also with our other instruments of national power that we have available for us. how about a little more into influence. and iran was propped up. maybe more so but the two together, they have been working
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together. they got advisers but they have sent fighters to syria. shia militants from other countries have been sent there. and what i'm hearing from you, please correct me if i'm wrong, we do have a grander strategy that focuses on iran in your aor but in syria itself we really don't have one that limits iran's influence on syria. is that a true characterization? >> i'm not sure i would characterize it that way. but there's other capabilities that we have within our national resources that can address iran's activities, whether they're in syria or other
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places. >> but you would agree it would be unacceptable for iran to have long-term presence in western syria. would you say it's acceptable or unacceptable to build a land bridge through the borders of israel. >> it's unacceptable. the purpose is to move lethal technologies and advanced capabilities in the hands of other fligighters that may use those to attack their neighbors. >> what was the purpose? was it iran or could it have been syrian? >> i'm not sure.
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is that true and why do you think it may be? >> it is true. we have seen a decrease in some of the interactions that we have seen. i think this is principally because of some of the rhetoric or the strong discussion we have had about the lack of professionalism about forces and how they operate in this region. that has got their attention. i also do think that they are concerned about our stronger position beyond just their nuclear weapons program here so they're paying attention to that. i would tell you that one of the things we're concerned about is their use of uav's so while we may see decreases in this area
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i'm concerned about their uavs that could pose a threat to activities in the region. >> are we activing intercepting shipments from lebanon to iran? >> that's probably beyond the discussion in this room. >> we're being asked to determine, should we recapitalize the new airframe or i'd love to have your perspective we're very, very satisfied with that so i'm less concerned about which platform it's on and more concerned with the capability that's coming our
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way. certainly it provides not only ground movement targeting indicator capability that's very important in my theater and other theaters but it also provides battle space management command and control. these are key capabilities. what i'm trying to achieve with our use of isr is layered isr. i want to be able to draw all of these capabilities into an isr scheme that meets my requirements. meets our requirements in this particular theater. >> thank you for being here today and answering our questions. we're grateful to you. i yield back. >> thank you. >> mr. hunter. >> thank you mr. chairman. general, thank you for being here. if you stick around long enough you get to ask a question.
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we even offered them the ability to use them to do it and we can use them instead of using our own. can we tolerate a reality where because of self-imposed constraints we can't sell our allies or technology but the chinese can and you have already spoken to that point but when it comes to technology we're missing a big advantage there. could you comment on that. >> the opportunity for us to improve our inner operability. these are opportunities to pursue where ever we can. >> do you support us sharing our technology with our allies? >> it deserves serious
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consideration. >> thank you. they're all buddies. he's now hand picking the guys that we're equipping and training but that's the fight that we're in right now. so the question is and you have already spoken to this but do you think it's going to be possible to extract iran out of syria and iraq if there's an end to what's happening in syria? because they're dug in deeply now? >> i think there's an opportunity in iraq and i think that one of the things that i have observed about iraq over
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the last year has been their outreach to other partners across the region. and they're emerging in the area. and it fact that iraq was for iraqis. while they live in a difficult neighborhood with difficult neighbors and they have to live with that they're concerned. >> right now we're playing the enemy of our enemy is our friend. if the iranians are the major power players with weapons and our training and gear right now, the iraqis can reach out all they want to. is that not where the power lies? in your opinion.
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>> there's influence here. there's no doubt about that. but again i do see within the iraqi leadership a very strong sense of independence and desire to protect iraq. these are things we have to continue to build on. >> let me lay it out one last time. you're confident that in the next ten years we're not going to see an iranian controlled line where the iranians that can go from tehran through syria down to israel on a high speed road with tanks we have trained them on. you do not see that happening? >> congressman, i wouldn't speculate in that regard. i would tell you i think our best opportunity is to stay engaged. >> i wouldn't disagree with you on that. >> and to continue to be the valuable partner that we have been for them.
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and they don't allow their terrain to be exploited. >> as we train and equip and try to pick sides we're not always right on who we end up helping. that's turned around to bite us a few times and i hope that with the iranians we're not doing that in a bigger way than we have messed up in the past. thank you very much. >> you started the hearing talking about success will there be a reduction in u.s. people or u.s. capabilities from iraq
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especially due to that success? >> well, it's part of our alignment process, there already has been and the success has given us the ability to move resources or fighter aircraft or engineering capability that we had. to make sure that he has what is successful. that's what we are pursuing but we're trying to do it as smartly as we can. >> we also don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past. at one point, the assessment we got was the most capable
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terrorist enemy we faced was aqap. especially in the bomb making and so forth. you talked a little bit about al qaeda and isis in yemen. >> there is chairman. first of all, our efforts over the last year have been effective. and operations and with their explosive capabilities. but with al qaeda it's what the long-term objectives are. and it is absolutely vital to take not the pressure off now
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but to keep the pressure on them and make sure that we complete this effort against them. >> while it's a complex situation you talk about the humanitarian and all that's going on its important not to lose site of the fact that there continues to be a terrorist threat that emanates from there. >> i think that we're good for now. thank you for being here we will adjourn this open session and in five minutes reconvene upstairs. thank you.
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number one, they have to be very careful about what they say. it has to be based on facts and they're still gathderring the facts. some is remarkable in specificity and even quotes from some of those involved and i do think that we ought to be alert for the potential that russia uses mercenary forces as a way to camouflage their activities. not only in syria but we may see it in other places. >> you're looking to get an update on how that is going. >> well, we'll obviously have overall responsibility for afghanistan.
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we'll watch. general mattis has been sensitive to pulling combat nan commanders out because of the importance. >> conversations back and forth about our ability to ask them questions and in syria these days. and must be on the same page. >> well, i think part of what you see is what russia says is not necessarily what russia does. so they may dress up in firefighter suits but they're the arsonists enabling the syrian regime and the iranians to continue and expand the
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conflict and create terrible humanitarian disasters. sometimes we lose sight of the fact of how many people have, civilians, innocent civilians have been effected by this conflict that the russians have fuelled. so to me they're more arsonists than firefighter. they're clearly trying to exploit the situation for their benefit. with some success. >> you brought up concerns about with drawing from iraq before the mission is done. are you concerned that's going on right now? >> no, one of the reasons i asked that at the end is there has been significant success in iraq.
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he says we have withdrawn people and capabilities from iraq as a result of that success. so i think that's appropriate. i don't want to leave completely because we saw what a disaster that was when it was done during the obama administration. continuing to be engaged with partners and to ensure that we don't have an isis 3.0 is important and i think, you know, in an all or nothing sort of approach is not wise and we've seen that in the past. >> what about in syria? there were questions about encountering iran and syria. >> syria is such a difficult situation that i think there's a lot of legitimate questions of what objectives are there? he's clear, his assignment from a military standpoint has been to defeat isis.
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but you have the larger u.s. policy goal of containing iran. maybe not with military force at the moment but we're going to have to there's a lot more discussion to have on that topic i think. thank y'all. aren't they destroying yemen and we're helping them do it? today the direct or of national intelligence and the director of the defense intelligence agency testified on national security threats. you can watch the hearing before the senate armed services committee tonight at 10:00 p.m.
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eastern on cspan. wednesday morning we're live in phoenix arizona for the next stop on the cspan bus 50 capitols tour. michele reagan will be our guest on the bus starting at 9:30 a.m. eastern. >> next on cspan 3 a discussion about iran's missile program and the missile capabilities of other countries in the region including israel. this was hosted by the atlantic council. it's about an hour and a half. >> good morning, everyone. i direct the future of iran initiative here


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