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tv   Bob Schieffer Moderates CSIS Discussion on U.S. Withdrawal from Syria ...  CSPAN  January 29, 2019 4:04am-5:01am EST

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the trump administration's plan to pull u.s. troops out of syria and afghanistan. the panelist talked about how the decision was made and the potential impact it could have on the region. the special u.s. piece on voice said on monday that a draft framework had been completed, but the details still needed to be worked out. [inaudible conve] if everybody could come i good evening, good evening. if everybody can file in and take a seat, that would be great. good evening, welcome to csi s, i am andrew swarts. it is a pleasure to have you all here with us. , for coming early. we usually do the super series 05:vertebrate i am starting to think by the size of this crowd, 4:30 would be better.
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it is also, i guess traffic is a little late. we know why. steve flanagan is here. that is a good thing, welcome, former colleague steve flanagan. we could not do this series without tcu, and the schieffer college of communication. we think them, and we think the foundation for their generous support. with that, i would like to turn it to our csi trustee bob schieffer. one other great factor about bob schieffer, who is now celebrating his 50th year at cbs news, bob? i was a reporter for quite a while before i came to work at cbs news. that was not my first job out of college. it has been a great journey. i have sort of titled this today syria, afghanistan, are we in,
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out, or in between? we in, out or in between? i hope we can get closer to the answer to that today. because the answer is, it depends on who you ask and when you ask it but those kind of details and complications have never stopped us before, because that's what we do here at csi is, we try to sort out complicated things by getting the smartest people we can find and we found them and i would so like this group sounds like this insurance customer we know a lot of things because we've seen a lot of things. the first team here. doctor jon alterman is the author of former state department official and an author where he received his phd and director of the program he has extended biographies in your programs so i'll just introduce him briefly. melissa dalton here my left, deb drury director of csi s has
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held numerous positions at the pentagon was the senior policy advisor to the commander of us forces in kabul. and a senior intelligence analyst agency. seth jones, here in the yellow tie, hold the harold brown chair at the csi s, the director of the international threats project, whileat csis he was with the rand corporation and is the author of many books and has certain key defense post and his phd is from the university of chicago, and finally, nancy youssef our old friend and a good friend from trenton csis, she is one of the national security correspondent for the wall street journal. she has won numerous awards for her work with the mcclatchy and mike ritter newspapers and serve in various times as there pentagon correspondent and bureau chief in both baghdad and in cairo.
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so with that, let's try to untangle what is going on. and john, let me just start with you. give us the latest news, because everything changes in every new cycle, something new happens or something else is taken away. what is the situation right now in syria? are we in, are we out? are we in the process of leaving? just how would you sum up the latest news about syria? >> we are in the process of getting out. we are working out the precise modalities of it. what i find disturbing, to be honest is the way we are getting out, means we have almost no control, much less control than we would otherwise have over what we leave behind. it seems to me that the us strategic goal in syria should
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be that we grasp the fact that what will really matter and enter in syria is negotiated between the parties going forward. and by announcing that we are summarily with drawing, we have taken ourselves out of this negotiation. we have undermined our leverage in both the negotiations and just as the president as a candidate, criticize the obama administration for don't tell your enemy what you are going to do, it is precisely the same thing. if he had negotiated over the terms of the american withdrawal, he could've gotten concessions from the government, from the iranians, from the russians, from the turks, all of whom have interest in this area that the us is going to leave. but by saying we are leaving unconditionally and immediately, all of those parties will make all of their
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own deals and us interest, and the us ability to influence what endures was reduced overnight from a reasonable amount to virtually zero. >> listen, let me ask you, why should we be concerned about this? a lot of times people say what were we doing there in the first place? whether we should of been there or not have been there, we were there. and now, we are dealing with what do we do next?? thank bob and it's a true pleasure to be joining this distinguished panel and joining all of you for the discussion this evening on this important topic. i guess it really boils down to three main issues in terms of why it really matters to the united states. what happens in syria doesn't stay in syria. i think we have seen it is terrorism, refugees, and a
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terrible humanitarian situation that the spillover has man affected in to europe in ways that i think are very hard to forecast going back to 2011, 2012, timeframe. when we saw the grass root roots revolution in syria uprising. i think the other thing to keep in mind is that our competitors can very easily fill the gaps into which we are departing. they have been actively exploiting our vulnerabilities in the region for the last years, whether that's russia in 2015 and turning itself into syria, iran, certainly over the last decade increasing destabilizing activity in the region and now through its activities and capabilities in
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syria itself, announcing an expeditionary ability that can be leveraged in multiple ways of whether it's in yemen, and other places in the region and yet forces working in close proximity to these competitors has afforded these competitors an opportunity to learn from our operation and put stress on the us operators in way that we haven't been accustomed to in many years. and now, with a rapid withdrawal they will not only be learning from their experience in working in close proximity with us but able to exploit other opportunities down the road where we will be inevitably contested. i think the third party that stands out is an enormous one in terms of the erosion of accountability, whether that is looking at his chemical
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weapons in syria and how that, world expanding principle prohibiting the use of typical weapons and warfare has significantly eroded the international community's failure to act to uphold that. certainly, the use of conventional weapons, even more so in syria in terms of loss of life has eroded in terms of targeting hospitals, civilian targets, bakeries and an incredible loss of life. in regards to civilians and the key questions in terms of conduct of our own forces and the partners that we work with, um, in these situations, in terms of the reliance on airpower and the reliance on local partners to achieve our local security objectives, there are good reasons to use these capabilities, but when we
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consider withdrawal, that is rapid we need to be thoughtful about how we tie off these engagements responsibility. and i hear that there is not a careful calculation being made for that in a rapid withdrawal. >> you know, in preparing for this panel, i was reading some things written by tony cordis who is just prolific and truly an expert on this part of the world and a lot of other parts of the world as well. and he wrote that, he went so far as to say, and this is his quote, "the president has literally placed the united states in a position where it is losing on all fronts." now seth, you told me before we came out here that you had a rather interesting experience being on c-span the other day, where you took questions from the audience. but that was not the tenor, apparently that the people who
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are calling you had. >> yeah, i have obviously written on the subject quite a bit and laid out some concerns about what john mentioned earlier. how the withdrawal was done and the terms under which it was done. i wrote an opinion piece in nancy's piece about a week and a half ago about concerns about the terrorism issue with the withdrawal. but one of the things that struck me in the c-span session, and it's one of the call in shows, it was a morning our where i had discussion for the first 15-20 minutes and in the rest of the series was taking calls from republicans, democrats and independents. now, probably not an entirely random sampling, but every person that called in, every person that called in, was republican, democrat it, independent was supportive of the withdrawal from syria. and wondered categorically why with it were there, what our
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strategic interests were, and why we couldn't spend the money that we were using in syria and not just in syria but afghanistan but at home and overseas. instead of overseas, so in that case, pretty clear, domestic support for withdrawing us forces from syria and at least downsizing in afghanistan . >> nancy, what you think the impact of this is going to be for the rest of that region?? well, i'll start with syria, because as you know there are more than 2000 troops there and the us isn't talking about bringing those troops home, they are talking about placing them in places like iraq and kuwait, and the neighboring countries and essentially having them parachuted, as needed. so from the military perspective, one of the things you hear i'm talking about is that brings its own risk and when you're parachuting in a not bear all the time and you are depending on local partners
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who, in this case, the kurds who feel abandoned that, it increases the rest of the troops and it increases your understanding and ability to shape events. broadly, i think what you're starting to hear is talk about growing influence for russia, for iran in the absence of the us presence there. russia obviously has always had influence in syria with his relationship and a base there. and of course iran has the same thing. you hear a lot of talk about a land bridge around and through the middle east facilitated by the us withdraw. now the counter to that argument is that because they have had a long-standing influence there, maybe the us presence doesn't affected as much, right? because do they really need a land bridge if you are allowed to have forces in syria? they do. already, and have that even
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before the us was there. the most immediate being i think you're seeing right now is the region operating where the us isn't predominantly enforced. and i think you saw that recently with a strike that was launched between israel and iranian forces in syria. where you had russia sort of making their case and iran asserting its influence, and israel defending itself and you could feel the absence of us influence there. so when we think broadly in terms of effect on the region i think ultimately it is one where the us isn't the leading negotiator in all of this. and this always goes to a sort of managed to pull her one. >> why? and let me who ever wants to answer don't wait to be called, why did the president do this? does anybody have any inside information? does anybody have a thought? would you think john?
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>> so, my understanding is the president has been very clear that he wanted to do this and people in his government were kind of ignoring him and weren't carrying out his actions and you have a national security advisor announcing in september that we were going to stay in syria and as long as iran had troops outside of iran which is a pretty bold statement which apparently, never represented the presidents use. and i think the president became very frustrated that his government was not following his direction and he said, i'm just going to do it. and to me, it highlights a problem. which is, the us government is set up to consider different options and consider different perspectives and push things up
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bureaucracy to present a set of options which are then discussed in front of the president and the president makes the decision. and to me, the way the syria announcement was made, it suggests that entire system is broken and it validates the concerns i've heard that the system is broken, that the president doesn't get considered decisions. he doesn't consider various options. his government doesn't follow his directions, and the way it works is that the president either issues a tweet or makes a statement and people react to that, but if he's not doing it, they are not reactive. and to me, that creates a whole set of challenges, most importantly for american allies. because if you want to help the united states, it becomes very hard to figure out where the united states is going and what is considered helpful. >> bob, i got a and two things to this. one is, the trump administration now has two years under its belt from
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january 2017, now to january 2019. and i think it's worth asking with two years gone by what sort of a trump document for the foreign policy? and what is increasingly looking like is a foreign policy that looks a lot like, not isolationism, because i wouldn't call it isolationism but it's much more one of what you might call restraint. and that is a foreign policy that minimizes the use of military forces in some areas and for him, the middle east and i think south asia are areas where he does not see a strategic interest, at least at this point. china represents slightly a slightly different situation where i think the president, and you can see both with the trade wars and the way he speaks about china, is an area where he sees some competition.
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and so i think that since, we see a deployment of military forces in the asia-pacific region. iran is interesting, the us has pulled out of the nuclear d deal, iran does represent some competition but it makes the syria withdrawal almost ironic, because by pulling us forces out the way he has, and not negotiating what the terms or conditions are, you know, the ukrainians now have the ability to move into more vacuums in syria, particularly now in areas of the east than they had in the past. so both ukrainians and the russians have the ability to move into the vacuum that the us pulls out. but i think it does reflect a trump policy of what i will call restraint. >> yeah, just to add a couple of points, one to highlight an important observation that my colleague wrote about a couple
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weeks ago which is, it really is the president's call to decide how the military will be deployed around the world. this is a civilian controlled military where the breakdown occurs is in the process of keying up the option, the risks and the trade-offs that are inherent in that decision. and how to short us strategic interest in the aftermath and have actually a plan for executing the president's decision. so i think that's what we are seeing play out. the other piece that i would highlight is that this is reflective, i think not only of the president's global viewpoint, but it is broader than that. if you look at recent public opinion polling by the pew organization , it's the organization , about half of americans don't believe that america has achieved its
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strategic objectives in afghanistan . it's also about half that leave that we should be pulling out of syria. so i think there is an active conversation to be had in the us, and perhaps looking forward to future election cycles in terms of the future of course of foreign policy, the role of the us military in achieving our foreign policy objectives. i would like to see a defense policy in the region that does recalibrate the use of military force and actually write set the other toolsets with the united states, our diplomatic, our economic leverage that is incredibly powerful and more in need in this region. >> the part that bothers me, is i'm beginning to wonder does anybody know what our policy is? and when we don't know what the policy of the united states is, the rest of the world, i think
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that puts us at a more dangerous position. in fact, i think that's the most dangerous position one can be and when people don't know what the united states stands for. what we are prepared to do or when we are prepared to do it and under what circumstances. >> i think that's a great question that really gets at, suddenly we haven't experienced, another panel to discuss this in the past you have a principal eating and there will be private deliberations of all the possible options and costs associated what would be the best cost and then announcement would be made this is how the us is going to proceed going forward. and right now you have the opposite where it's sort of like announced first and we are publicly seeing the deliberations happen, right? and so in the case of syria, you will hear the us is going in 30 days or 60 days or or is it a date or it's only going to leave when iran is contained or isis is defeated.
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so for me as a military correspondent, the thing that i turn to are those things that get outside of rhetoric. so in the case of syria, there's a document that the pentagon produces it that is called an execution order and that actually spells out the us mission, military mission in syria. and so i think when searching for what the policy is, i think for those to get around the rhetoric and get to the concrete things. it's what you have heard general middle miller in afghanistan , with the very same thing we don't have any orders to change anything. what they are turning to a sort of potential description of the policy because of the swirl of public policy has created confusion. and i think for all of you who are observers of these topics, those are the anchors that you look for because if you keep following the rhetoric you are basically following an internal deliberation laying up publicly. >> i was gonna say the other area where the rhetoric has been problematic is statements by some policymakers including this week, that one of the
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rationales for withdrawing forces from syria, that the islamic state has been defeated or even the caliphate has been defeated. and i think one has to look very carefully at the evidence we have . we have put out a report here at csi a in november and found that the largest numbers of jihad groups and the largest number of fighters anywhere in the world is still in syria right now. that the islamic state has not been defeated, we continue to conduct attacks as we recently salt in damage and by the way, on the western part of syria we have the largest concentration of al qaeda-linked fighters anywhere in the globe right now operating under the group i had to real sean. it is disingenuous to argue that a reason we should leave
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is because we have defeated the islamic state when the reality on the ground is with anybody who is look at the terrorism picture in syria would say that while isis has lost virtually all the territory it once controlled, it still has large numbers of operators involved in guerrilla attacks and clandestine operation and it's in the process to re-create it. i think the facts are important, rather than just the rhetoric here. >> you have anything to add to that melissa? >> yes i would agree with that assessment and i think it's equally important to think about the need to sustain capabilities in the region if not in syria, then in the peripheral countries and address those challenges with our partners. but then also what is the other side of the equation? how do we get ourselves out of the cycle of perpetually fighting counterterrorism operations for decades? it's destabilization, it's other tools of statecraft that
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empower local partners to establish local governance on their own terms and in ways that can connect to a broader political process. and that is the area where we are continuing to fail to invest in that we really need to up our game. >> you know, i thought it was interesting, and you saw it again when secretary mattis left, and i don't say this to promote my own interview, but when i interviewed rex tillerson, and i asked him two very just, very open questions, how would you describe donald trump was the first one, and the other one was when did the relationship go off the rails? and when i asked him about that, i think, i'm paraphrasing what he said to me, he said i think basically he just hired me telling him he couldn't do things. said he would propose things and i would that you want me to go up on the hill and advocate
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for that? and so forth, i can do that? but mr. president, you cannot do that, it's illegal. and he said i think he just got tired me being the one to keep telling him that. and when i had asked him in the beginning how would he describe the president, he said well, he doesn't read, he is uninformed, he will not take a briefing, and he is not very interested in much more than what people have to say to them. which i thought was pretty astonishing. but then, you know a couple weeks after that the syria thing happens and mattis leaves, but if you look at what his letter said, it basically said the same thing and now you have got the chief of staff who is gone and if you go back and look at some of the things he said and what they are now quoting him, sources are, who know him are saying it sounds like it all comes down to that. he does not like to be challenged and when he makes up
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his mind, that's the way he sees it and he is not going to be dissuaded. i just, left left i don't know why, maybe just because nobody ever quotes him, but i keep going back to martin van buren [ laughing ], you don't hear many people quote martin van buren, in fact he was andrew jackson's vice president and a master politician. but he said, at one point that government should not be operated based on the excitement of the moment, but on sound and sober thought. and i think that's maybe one of the things that may be missing here now. but that's just my opinion, clearly underlined. >> i think what you're getting at, it feels to me like the president is fairly separated from his government. and maybe that's natural because the president didn't,
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the government. he hasn't been engaged in this process, but when i read about how the white house works, there is a way in which the president is normally deeply engaged and pushes people and pushes thing back. but it's a give and take in the president is totally enmeshed in the machinery of government and two years in, the president seems to strain against the machinery of government and say, that i think this is what it should be. but, the government doesn't work that way, the government doesn't work on bid broad pronouncements, it works on, okay you say 17 things and then going down and down and down and then up and down which the president seems rather pointedly divorced from.
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and i think the historic question is whether the job of being president has changed such that we are going to have more presidents who haven't come out of government whose approach is that. or whether this is just an anomalous president and frankly it's too early to tell. >> one thing we are missing and i think when we look at historical administrations that take momentous steps, whether it's introducing us forces or eight packages the way we had after world war ii when truman introduces the truman doctrine and the marshall plan. or any other. like that in american history even when we are withdrawing, is the president uses, whether it's national television or major speeches to outline the vision and the broader doctrine that is behind his decisions to put, and what we lack right now is, we have to sort of guess
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what restraint looks like and what a policy of restraint looks like. what we don't have is a clearly articulated policy where we can, we don't have to agree with it, but we understand why he believes we are withdrawing and we should withdraw from syria and downsize in afghanistan , and we understand the divisions, we understand the doctrine and that these are steps that flow logically from that. that's what is missing right now and i think we have seen in a number of past presidents that have had to make these momentous decisions. >> nancy wanted to say one thing. >> i'm just going to offer a contrarian review. just for the sake of having you here. around the topic of syria. when the united states entered syria in 2014, the policymakers said never answer the question of what will the us exit look like? they never, they said never answered it.
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and it was clear from the beginning it was going to go one of two ways. either the us and someway would abandon the curbs kurds or they would be there in perpetuity. this is something that came up under the obama administration and then the trump administration. he announced this and now one of the takeaways and again this is just a contrary view that you hear that one of the responsibilities of the military and policymakers who put forward these ideas is to answer the question of how to get out, because i think the argument you here by not doing so, you leave the strategy of syria vulnerable to a president who has said, i want out. and so again i'm not sharing a political view, i really just want to sort of challenge how we think about these issues, because you heard from c-span and from others of the exhaustion with these wars. and i think part of this is there has been a failure to answer how these conflicts and what a resolution looks like
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what an end state looks like. they arguably have left both strategies vulnerable. >> i think those are very good points. >> i'm not arguing that we do the president's prerogative, you can even argue about the justification of being in syria. i think the president is not well served by not having, not surrounding himself with trusted advisors who understand the levers of government and can latch them into the government. and i think as a consequence, he feels more constrained in the government either ignores him, and i think there's a lot of evidence in ignoring him, or not understanding where he is trying to go. and it seems to me there is that ring of dividers and his department of staff and it seems to me there others, the michael devers and the jim baker's and the other people who have been key to making administrations work, and this administration doesn't have somebody like that.
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you can see it's your questionnaire, but frankly jared kushner doesn't understand about the way the way government works to play that role effectively. >> you i have never thought, and i spent a lot of years covering congress, i was up on capitol hill. and, in the offices where the congressmen and they would all do it just so they could make the extra money, where they would make their wife the chief of staff. you know, it never worked, it never worked because the staff can't go to the guys wife and say he is really screwed up here. we've got to get this straightened out. and it just doesn't work. and i don't see that as a great strength. i mean the man it is his prerogative to have whoever you want on his staff. but bringing the kids in, it's not the corner store. [ laughter ] it's a little different than that. i mean [ laughing ], one of the questions i always ask people is you know, you here so many people who say down in texas
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down work i come from, if they had run the government like a business, everything would be fine. well, is not a business and it won't be fine. and others have tried that and they have never, it never quite works out. but i think we ought to, before you go to questions we ought to talk a little bit more about afghanistan . melissa, how is afghanistan different from syria? or is it? >> with afghanistan , i think it's a much longer commitment , that the united states has made there. with nato and a broader collision. it is linked to 9/11 in terms of our immediate response in the aftermath of that and be article v invocation. to respond to that, so there is a lot of political, strategic, emotional baggage that i think
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is subscribed to the afghanistan question. and then there are the concrete realities, there really are 17 years in the tallow band still presents a pretty significant threat to the stability of afghanistan, still looming questions in terms of where political negotiations are headed with the tele-band. and the resiliency of governance and the security structure if the us begins a gradual withdrawal. but again, we have been there for 17 years, we have done counterinsurgency , we have done counterterrorism, we have gone back to enabling model to what really works. i think what is worthy of review, the administration really did give it a review in the first year of the administration, released a pretty good south asia strategy in 2017.
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that articulated that the policy position on afghanistan and in the context of the broader region , addressing some of the challenges with pakistan as well. and i think the added challenge for this administration, given how much emphasis they have placed on strategic competition with russia and china, we also have to think about the withdrawal of us troops and the leverage that that brings in south and central asia that way and china is building roads, and russia's economic interest in afghanistan and iran has interest in afghanistan and afghanistan is potentially an opportunity to bring these convergences of interest together and prior eras, but how all of this is strategically knit together is our looming questions for this administration. >> are we safer now than we were two years ago? are we safer because we have
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been in afghanistan all the time? or not? >> will look, i think what we don't have at the moment is terrorist organizations, particularly al qaeda plotting significant ataxia ws homeland or at western interests, let's say your from afghanistan. al qaeda exists in its local affiliate which we call al qaeda in the indian subcontinent. but it has been decimated pretty badly. mean the last major attack in the united states tied, it was the plot which would've been three suicide bombers on the new york subs city calls that he conducted training with al qaeda in afghanistan, but that was 10 years ago now. so since then, we have seen
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very little of plotting from that country. and that's, to the great extent us operations on both sides of the us afghanistan region. >> the only thing i would say the challenge is how you withdraw good lead to that state becoming vulnerable place for jihadist at us. so i think in some presence of counterterrorism is recognition by all sides including that it would present problems for everyone involved. so to your question is the usa for? it is not more endangered it hasn't been more in danger and the way the us withdrawals will determine how that remains the case. >> john? first, in my successful turf
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battle, i managed to have my turf and at the border of iran. you know, i think the point that melissa was making earlier is important. let me put a different spin. it's not just about our certain military instruments. i think we have to have a national discussion about what goodenough looks like. we have had pretty high visions for how we can transform survivors. and that's including germany after world war ii. we have had a lot of pretty mixed experience in the decade since. vietnam seems to have done very well despite us. but i think as a country, we have to have a much more open discussion about how good goodenough is and how much we are willing to commit to these
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things, because i think we end up expecting too much, expecting more than we are willing to invest, and we get all caught and we say oh it's a failure. we can want everything to work out, but as a country when are we willing to invest? and i think we haven't had a serious discussion about that. >> do you believe that the united states must remain engaged around the world? not be the world's policeman, but we can't, and sometimes, even i don't understand trumps strategy and it seems like what he wants to do is create this enormous military but keep it here in the united states. >> with a wall. >> behind a wall. [ laughter ] >> and to me the great force multiplier of the united states and the genius of the postwar
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order has been a lot of countries have wanted to help us. >> i think the clearest, the clearest strategic document to come out of the administration was the one overseen by secretary mattis, the national defense strategy. and that national defense strategy outlined us interests in terms of competition with the russians, the chinese and north koreans and the iranian's. that is the closest we've had but obviously secretary mattis is not in the administration anymore. but i think what it highlight, if that document is close to being accurate, is that, for the us to move out and to not engage in some areas, i'm not talking about large numbers of military forces, but not to engage, it means somebody else will. and if we are not careful, we are not going to have partners there that have similar values.
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they are going to be competitors. and so i think that is where this becomes important, because if it's not up there, then who is there in our region? >> that's a very good place to take a pause and take some questions, who has one? >> behind the white hat, i think somebody, yet, here we are. tell us who you are. >> this is mohammed, i'm an afghan. >> mike up close. c i would like to quickly say in afghanistan or the relationship between afghanistan and the united states is different from iraq and syria and israel. because we do have a strategic partnership, we do have bilateral security agreement, and we do have a force agreement and the united states.
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while in syria and iraq, that is not the case. so when we talk about withdraw from afghanistan, it should be based on negotiations between the partners, and based on a settlement. so my quick question would be you know, i know there is a common thread and it's hard to get out of afghanistan. what would be the alternative in case any withdrawal or partial withdrawal? what would be done? >> people got it. who would like to address that? >> what would be the alternative to the us pulling out? >> i believe that your question, right?? well, i think one alternative is to at least, obviously the issue being discussed right now is to keep at least a limited counterterrorism force there that is 7000 or under and focuses dominantly on groups
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that threaten us interests, islamic state, al qaeda in the subcontinent, maybe the group involved in the mumbai attacks. the challenge with that, though is, if that allows the caliban to advance in the country in rural areas, um, then you are creating a situation where there is some short-term steps to target terrorist groups, but you've got a much bigger long- term problem because the main insurgent group is gaining territory and, we know historically has allowed some of these groups to operate it. one of the challenges i have had with the way this afghanistan announcement came out recently was, i find it deeply counter project in announcing a downsizing of american forces at the very same time that we are trying to negotiate a settlement with the
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message that caliban almost certainly will get is well, why do we reach this deal now if we can assist you guys are leaving? that's any bargaining 101, you talk now, but you won't reach an agreement because your odds are can get better every year down the road because the us presence is declining. so i think from that perspective, how it was done, i wouldn't necessarily a better that way. >> okay. over here? front row. >> microphone? >> on the way. >> percival i would like to commend john for the socks he is wearing today, they are quite attractive. [ laughter ]? i've got them on, too.? the question i want to ask is, we have been having a debate since the president announced the withdrawal that isis isn't defeated in syria. tell me what isis, what are the
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metrics you would have used for the defeat of isis and more importantly, how long would it have taken us to achieve those metrics, particularly with regard to the ideology? >> nancy why don't you talk about that? you have been over there and you spent a lot of time on those battlefields. >> he spelled it explicitly, it was most to defeat the physical caliphate where they had their own presence, texas government and everything else. i think an argument that can be made for what it would look like could be, the idea of eliminating is sort of pollyanna's, so arguably the best way is to have a place with the islamic state is one that can be sufficiently addressed by local security forces, by the us in terms of protecting its own security and such that it is mitigated.
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the comparison i hear is sort of to be a police on a community of police department doesn't get rid of crime. but in effect the police department finds a way to manage the threat to its community. and i think it's an interesting analogy that is applicable when you think about the isis threat. so that is one that i would offer. >> does anybody here think that isis has been defeated? >> no. i don't think you defeat isis anymore than the war on poverty can defeat poverty and the war on drugs can defeat drugs. so i think it's the wrong metaphor i think it's the wrong active. which isn't to say that we don't have interest, but what strikes me is that isis, and we talked about this in a previous series, it morphed, and it will find any opening it can to act whether it's wednesdays and tuesdays in europe or whether it's terrorists are emerging
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somewhere else. and when you set the bar so low for their success, which is they can fly a suicide bomber one place or some guy with a knife. one place in europe, and that gets them another year success. and they keep winning and we keep losing even if we are 99 percent effective. why set them up that way? >> that's very interesting. let's have a lady. a woman. [ laughter ] >> i, my question is, i tend to agree with the popular opinion that with the withdrawal from syria, i don't think our job is to do the safekeeping for syria. and for afghanistan, we have been there for 17 years. but the speaker in the middle, he had a question that if the
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space is not occupied by united states, then who will move in? so my question to the panel is, so, what you think of russia getting possibly supremacy in the area, and what will be the role of the united states?? and do i understand your question the recent events have they benefited russia? >> well, no, i think my point is there is some logic in terms of saving resources for the united states. but i think i want to preserve his question that, okay so if the us was withdrawals from those regions and from those areas, somebody more than likely will go in. and from what i see, russia has a very good stronghold in that region. and i want to ask the opinions. >> i understand. >> have added, panel. >> okay i will start since it was my question.
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i mean, in his probably slight of an issue in afghanistan than in syria. i think what we are seeing is a more active russia in syria and getting itself involved in the refugee return discussions that now has power projection capabilities that it didn't have before 2015. it has got access and more ships, it's got more fighter jets and bombers in and around the area so, it is the one we have discussed earlier that is in part, been discussing with the iranians on one side and israelis on the other and trying to mediate the dispute and keep the conflict to a limited level. on a recent trip that.john and i were in lebanon, we had a senior lebanese official tell me that the russians were now in major power in the middle east in ways that have
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outstripped the us presence. so that is the downside of leaving is the russians become a more active military power in the region and a more important diplomatic intelligence power in the region. >> okay, john did you want to say something? >> 30 seconds, i think the russians always have much lower ambitions than the us. us is trying to create five films in process and the russians often they will prop something out they will try to eliminate a group, they are not looking to do what the us does. and i'm constantly struck that in syria you had a three country coalition in a 65- country coalition that the us helped lead and is partially because they were looking to do so much less. >> melissa? >> yeah, and i think just to build upon john's point, i think it's also important to moderate our expectations of
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what russia can do whether in the region because of its own capacity issue and their own political and economic constraints at home. but they can serve as a check. but that said, i think it is concerning to the united states strategically politically and i'm wearing my defense hat in terms of us, the united states having to second-guess our ability to operate in the region, to rely on certain allied partners in ways that i think we have grown quite comfortable and maybe complacent about the last several decades. that would require some reinvigoration. >> i'm very sorry, but that's going have to be, well we will take one more question you have a question? >> and this definitely has to
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be less questions because some of our panelists have other obligations. >> how safe you think the kurds will be with erdogan not, how much do you trust whether erdogan thank you c i think that's a great question because that's one that hasn't come up here, who would like to address that? >> well, so, the kurds right now i think will start trying to negotiate for their own security, they will start talking with the 2:30 p.m. regime . the advantage that they have for all the talk about the turks moving into syria, going all the way down, logistically it would be very hard for them to move roughly 200 miles down and to carry out the kinds of operations that they promised the us they could do. they had problems getting over the border logistically.
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and i think there has been a real effort to mitigate as much as it can the united states has and that's why you're hearing that the united states will continue to do strikes if necessary. it's why the french will still be there and is even when they talked about having us forces go back and forth and there is some effort to try and mitigate that risk. and i don't think the kurds are trying to reach their own deals with forces on the ground, so the short answer is i don't know. i do think that there is a serious effort being made to contain the aspirations of those in turkey who want to use this as an opportunity to move in and take out what they see as a terrorist threat. i just think that it's sort of an ongoing issue in terms of how that's going to resolve itself in part, because i think turkey is still working out what is going to do in the us is working out what is trying to work out how it's going to support and encourage her still trying to make out what they can address the possible
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threats of that. >> with that healthy thanks to all of you on behalf of tcu and csis. [ applause ] cia director gina has pulled national intelligence director dan coats and christopher wray testified before the senate intelligence committee on threat to the united states. watch live coverage tuesday beginning at 9:30 eastern on c-span 3. and on the free c-span radio at. >> live super bowl sunday at noon eastern, author and sportswriter dave siren is our guest on book tvs and death. authored many books including
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what's my name, fool? a people's history of sports in the united states. game over, how politics has turned the sports world upside down, and his most recent, jim brown, last man standing. >> love sports and that's what i think we need to write for sports. we need to actually reclaim them, we need to take sports back. and if we are going to do so we need to know our history. that is our greatest ammunition in this fight. we need to know our history of the athletes, the sportswriters and the fans who have stood up to the machine. if for no other reason than knowing this history, i think it allows us to look at the world and see that struggle can affect every aspect of life in the system, even the swish- adorned ivory tower noticeboards. strike join our live three-our conversation with your calls, emails and email questions live sunday and noon eastern on book tvs in depth on c-span


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