tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN July 25, 2014 5:00am-7:01am EDT
something with nothing. so i think that it is important to start. >> well, we have been doing that for a long time. so it is interesting -- i agree with you. i think everybody here does. i guess the question is can you fight something with almost nothing? at this point, when it festered into this type of situation. >> we'll have to move to senator boxer. >> so i do think it is important. we have put together a program that is scapable. you can start small and move up significantly in the numbers and scale of the program. and we think it is critical that we start. >> senator boxer. >> thank you. i look at things just a little bit differently than a lot of folks here. i think the iraqis had a chance of a lifetime. and america's blood and treasure gave them that chance of a lifetime. a chance at unity, a chance at
peace, and with their natural resources a chance at a growing economy. and clearly those of us, minority of 23, who predicted this, if we went to war, we did not prevail and that's life, you don't prevail, so you move on. and then later when then senator biden, who was the chairman of this committee, proposed more autonomy for the sunnis and for the kurds, oh, and, by the way, more than 70 senators voted for that, the then bush administration laughed at it, kind of like people laugh right now, that's a lot of laughing. and that was turned away. so the situation in iraq, i think, is dire now. and i'm not about to reinvest
more lives and treasure. the united states sacrificed too much. the war cost is $2 trillion. people predicted it would be over in weeks, months. more than 4400 americans were killed. their families never the same. 32,000 wounded during the course of the war. and we all know, and i praise senator sanders and mccain for battling to get help for those who are suffering from physical and mental injuries. so i'm pleased at president obama said unequivocally american forces will not be returning to combat in iraq. and i want the record to show that i will never vote to send more combat forces in. you know, you get so many chances in a lifetime. i want to ask you about the kurds. both of you, i don't know which one, either of you can answer.
the kurds in northern iraq have long been a strong ally of the united states. and they have played an porn role in countering the rapid advance of isis. when i went to iraq a long time ago, the bullets were flying, the kurds, i found them to get what this was all about. and it is so much prejudice against the kurds. the kurdish militia offered to support iraqi security forces when isis began its offensive in mosul. kurdish forces have kept much of northern iraq out of terrorist hands. kurdistan has become a destination for hundreds of thousands of iraqis fleeing from isis controlled territory. and, you know, i have to say, as i watched mr. maliki, i don't think he appreciates it. as the iraqis continued to work to determine their future, i'm asking you, what role can the kurds continue to play?
and should the united states acknowledge that the kurds should have a significant amount of autonomy? i think they earned it, i wondered what the administration position is, vis-a-vis the kurds and more autonomy for the kurds. >> thank you, senator. we're in a very active conversation with the -- all the kurdish leaders about their future. there is some realities that they're grappling with, the geostrategy iic realities and economic realities. they need about $14 billion to sustain themselves operationally. their share of the budget this year, which is pending in baghdad, is about $17 billion. we think there is a deal there within the constitutional framework that is in the best interests of the kurds and also our interests both in northern iraq and iraq as a whole. however, since this crisis began, and we recognize we are dealing with new realities on the ground that we have to recognize and deal with, we have established a joint operations center in erbil to work with the
kurdish forces and with the perg merg w me peshmerga and they're going to need some help. that will work most effectively if it is done in cooperation and coordination with baghdad with us providing a mediating role where necessary. we're in an active conversation with them. they have a good deal of autonomy now. i'm sure they'll ask for more and that will be done under the constitution. vice president berzoni has been on the phone a number of times with our vice president biden. he wants to act through the constitutional framework. short answer to your question, we are in a very active conversations with the kurds about this. i am happy to follow up with you as it unfolds over the coming months. >> and the united states will support more autonomy for the kurds than i assume? >> well, through the government information process there will be an active debate. i will just say we very much
support the kurds on a particular critical issues. baghdad four, five months ago cut funding and we made it clear that is unacceptable and has to be reversed. the kurds have done some things which we said that might exacerbate tensions that wouldn't be particularly constructive. that's why we are in a very active conversation. we support autonomy within the constitutional framework, certainly. >> okay. i'm just saying, i don't know what the future is of that constitutional framework, but we all hope it works. last question is, are you confident we have adequate personnel on the ground to truly protect our embassy and the americans in baghdad? >> senator, yes. we have moved in substantial assets both to the airport and also into the embassy. i was just there as late as thursday. we are confident that our defensive perimeters and everything our people will be safe. our assistant secretary for
diplomatic security just visited baghdad last week to do his own assessment. we have teams on the ground. this is an ongoing assessment. our intelligence assets have the entire, everything all around the perimeter of the city of baghdad, the airport and our embassy very well covered. >> can you tell us how many people we have at the embassy or is that something you don't want to discuss? >> total in baghdad about 2,500 now. >> thank you. >> senator johnson. >> mr. chairman, mr. mcgurk, let's quick go back to the kurds. i've been made aware of the fact the baghdad government is basically in arrears on current budget by about $6 billion. is that accurate? >> there are a lot of ways to do the accounting and the math. baghdad claims the kurds owe them money. kurds claim that baghdad owes them money. in that space is where a deal lies. i think that's going to be part
of the conversation in forming a new government. >> if it is true baghdad owes them as much as $6 billion, with u.s. support kurds ability to export oil and obtain that revenue so they can keep themselves going? >> we want to get as much oil on to international markets as possible from all parks of iraq. that is something we very strongly support we worked very hard over the last six months to get a deal on the table by which the kurds would have exported as much oil as they possibly could through some of the existing arrangements with the revenue-sharing allocations that exist. that deal almost succeeded, but it ran up against the election time frame. once with the election it was difficult to close the deal. i think we'll be able to get that back on the table we want as much oil on iraq as soon as possible. >> i appreciate the fact we are going through assessments and studying the problem. i want -- you have to recognize
reality before you develop strategy. i want to compare where we are now versus where we were prior to the 2007 surge. mr. mcgurk, what was the level of the iraqi forces back in 2007? i really want relatively quick answers here because i want to get data points. >> how do you measure a level? >> how many people were in the iraqi security forces in 2007? >> i don't have the figure. it was not a highly effective force in early 2007. >> neamerica we had 132,000 and surged about 168,000, correct? >> that's right. >> what we were up against enemy fighters in 2007? >> the main enemy then was al qaeda and iraq which is isil. these figures are difficult. we get assessments of 6,000 to 8,000, but probably more. >> what do we think current isil forces are? >> current assessments we've
seen, 15,000 or so in iraq far less. >> basically double that we had in terms of 2007. >> isil today is far more capable in man power, resources, fighting effectively than the aqi we thought. >> u.s. troop levels in iraq are how many? >> total now about -- >> we've inserted 775 and 100 associated with our office. less than 1,000. >> less than a thousand now. back in 2007, prior to a pretty difficult battle in terms of the surge we had 168,000 at the height of that. isil now has doubled the size it was back in 2007. and they had some of our weapons, their capabilities are much higher. >> that's right. >> what was the size of the iraqi military force in p june of 2014? prior to isil's moving to iraq?
what was our estimate there? >> i don't have that figure. i can get it for you. judge, talking hundreds of thousands? >> hundreds of thousands. we try to look at capable and effective forces. one of the purposes was to determine which units are effective and which are infective. there are some units totally infective and some highly capable and effective. >> do you have that information? >> i think it's just shy of 200,000. >> 200,000 prior to the intrusion. >> i believe so. >> how many now do you think there are? how many melded into the background? >> again, i don't have the exact number but probably closer to 1i6 160-ish. >> do you have any percentagewise what effect that force would have in terms of fighting? >> about 30,000. iraqis recalled about 10,000.
according to our osci assessm t assessments, there are about 10,000 that have come back. >> the effectiveness of the iraqi security forces versus u.s. fighting forces? not even comparable, right? >> can't compare them. >> we've got a real problem on our hands. can you -- we talked a little about the threat to our homeland that isil in syria and iraq represent. can you describe what the threat to the homeland is because of the situation? can you make the american people aware of why this matters? >> what really concerns are counterterrorism experts and also concerns us is that this rise in very dedicated global jihadist fighters coming from all over the world, many with western passports. in baghdad there was a suicide bomber, a german and an australian. isil is able to funnel about 30 to 50 suicide bombers a month into iraq. these are -- we assess almost
all foreign fighters. it would be very easy for isil to decide to funnel that cadre of dedicated suicide bombers, global jihadis into other capitals around the region or europe or worse, here. that is a very significant, significant concern. they have training basis in syria and are recruiting on social media and the internet, something we've never seen before. >> a year ago the president declared the war on terror was over. do you believe the war on terror is over? >> i think we have very significant fight on our hands with isil which we have to manage. >> i have no further questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me thank both of you for your appearance here today and for your service to our country. i certainly agree that the united states has vital
interests in contains isis' growth and its threat to our homeland and to our allies. i also agree that we have direct interest in dealing with a government in iraq that represents all the ethnic communities fairly, an effective government that gives confidence to moderates that their voices can be heard within the iraqi government. it was interesting. i was listening to senator johnson go through some of the comparisons on the strength of the terrorist networks whether it's isil, isis or al qaeda or whatever. he was drawing a comparison over the last seven years. if you go back to before the u.s. troop invasion in 2001, at least my understanding was there was virtually no al qaeda and no terrorist network that was a direct threat to our homeland in iraq. so it does raise a lot of the
questions that senator boxer raised initially that our use of military force back in 2001 was ill-advised. we don't want to repeat mistakes we made in the past. that's the reason i bring it up. i started with the fact we have vital interests dealing with this current circumstances on the ground in iraq. i know this hearing is focused on iraq, but i want to move a little bit to syria and what impact the isis is having on the opposition effectiveness in syria, and whether we are finding any of the support for the opposition strengthening isis capacity within iraq. and the network between the moderate gulf arab muslim states
supporting the opposition in syria, are we confident that is not finding its way to the terrorist networks now operating in iraq? >> obviously, the connection between isil, between the threat and iraq in syria is pretty significant. i don't personally know of any reports of opposition support then being funneled to isil. i think they are in a bitter battle fight against both the regime and the terrorists who have taken over territory in eastern and northern syria. i don't have any reports of that equipment and that support that's been provided getting into their hands, but it's always a risk. >> what precautions have we taken with moderate arab states and with our own support for the oppositions in syria to make sure that we are not finding american support or moderate
arab state support ending up encouraging terrorist activities now moving into iraq? >> this is something obviously we talked to our gulf partners about quite a bit. certainly over the period of the past couple of years, and we just urge them to make sure similar to the way we do and use monitoring that they have some way of tell hog they are providing things to, in what capacity, et cetera, et cetera. we urge them to follow up the way we would want them to follow up. >> mr. mcgurk, what impact is the impasse in syria, the failure to be able to have a workable plan in syria impacting stability in iraq? >> that is a very good question, senator. the iraqis, since the beginning of the syria crisis, and this is really all iraqis, have had a different conception of the syria crisis than we have had. they are very concerned that based upon their own experience
that were you to see the fall of the assad regime it would unleash chaos on their borders. they take what's happening within that frame. there is a kurdish dimension of the syria crisis, a tribal dimension to the syria crisis. it has just accelerated the centrifugal forces tearing at iraq. it's very hard to even state the impact that the syria crisis has had on iraq. in particular, the rise of the suicide bombings and car bombings, all of which we assess are isil. they come month after month and they are targeted, and this is isil's doctrine and ideology to tear at the fabric of iraq, attack shiia civilians at their playgrounds and mosques repeatedly, attack sunni tribal leaders that disagree with them.
in february almost 86% of the suicide bombings were all focused on the ewe frads valley attacking sunnis who disagreed with their ideology. then to attack the kurds in the disputed boundary territories in the north. that is what isil is trying to do. we got suicide bomber number down to 5 to 10 a month in 2011, 2012. last year and this year went up to 30 to 50 a month and has a devastating effect on the psychology of the country. >> do we have any numbers of iraqis since june who have been displaced either within iraq or outside in other countries? >> immediately in mosul, there's about 500,000 idps. since this crisis really started, the idp number is over a million. >> are they in iraq, iran or other countries? >> most are in iraq. most have fled to the kurdish region in the north. we worked very closely with our regional partners and u.n. partners to manage this crisis. secretary kerry after he was in
baghdad went to paris to meet the foreign ministers of saudi arabia and georgia and went to rihad and the saudis contributed $500 million to the u.n. agencies working in iraq which was a much-needed contribution. we contributed since the crisis began in mosul about $18 million. we are working very closely, particularly with our kurdish partners to manage the crisis. >> i take it very few of these people returned because it's not safe at this moment? >> that's right. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator flake. >> thank you, mr. chairman. how long have we known that isil was a threat to the extent they are now? how long has the state department assessed it as a threat? >> we've known this organization since 2003. it's zarqawi, al qaeda in iraq. >> at what point did we think there was a threat that they would be able to take over
mosul? >> well in mosul they had this modis operandi where they run racketeering. their open assault into mosul, we didn't have interedications that until a few days beforehand. >> when did we give warning this was a threat? has their intelligence network been sufficient to know this before it was a problem? >> it's a very good question, senator. in fact, we've been giving warnings and expressing concern to the iraqi government about the security environment, not just in mosul but northern ninowa going back the last year. it's a part of the conversation i know our vice president had with malaki when he was here in november. we've been very concerned and working with the kurds and iraqi security forces to have coordination. isil comes through that border
crossing south of rabia. they filled that space gradually over the last year. >> without our military there conducting ground operations, our efforts have been in the diplomatic field. one, to try to convince the iraqis to be more inclusive and not give rise to this kind of activity or space for that kind of activity to happen. but two, to warn them and help them combat this. it seems to me we've been spectacularly unsuccessful in the diplomatic arena in that regard. do you have any response to that? how hard are we working there? what intelligence do we have? are we passing it on? is the iraqi government simply unresponsive? what's been the issue here? s. >> in terms of intelligence cooperation sharing with iraqi
forces and their cooperation with iraqi forces, it is at a level we haven't seen since our troops left in 2011. so there is some opportunities there for us. since we really started focusing on the al qaeda isil threat in iraq going back to last summer, you can see statements the state department issued about baghdadi, the fact he is leader in iraq and isil is increasing threat to iraq. we developed platforms with the iraqis to try to develop a better intelligence picture. a lot of it was slow going. on the political side, we are very focused when the crisis began to make clear any tribal fighters fighting up will get full benefits and resources at the state. iraqis agreed to train 1,000 nati native fallujahs. they lost because the isil networks, in particularly in
fallujah with snipers with ied and military sophistication is able to overmatch any tribal force that comes to confront it. it's also the situation in northern niowa. over time given the infiltrations from syria, the amount of force isil can bring to bear, it is very difficult for locals to stand up to them. >> you say cooperation with the iraqi government was slow in coming. where does the fault lie with that? were we slow to recognize the threat of isis or was the iraqi government simply slow to heed the warnings we were given or the cooperation that we offered? >> i think we started moving fairly aggressively in the summer. iraqis wanted to do things on their own. they didn't want, they didn't
formally request direct u.s. military assistance until may. there was a conversation about the possibility of such assistance earlier than may. the formal request came in may. iraqis are proud of their sovereignty. we have a strategic framework which allows us to do an awful lot. the notion of flying surveillance drones over iraqi skies was something that was controversial at first. we had to develop the mechanisms and procedures for doing these things. we have those now well in place. >> our role in congress, one of our main roles, obviously, is to provide funding for these conflicts, for intelligence, for diplomatic efforts. aside from thousands of lives lost, we've spent about $800 billion last count in iraq, just in iraq. what can we tell our constituents that we've gotten out of that? where are we now that we wouldn't be had we not spent
$800 billion? >> i think as senator boxer said, we gave them an opportunity and we hope that this isn't the end of the story in iraq. we believe that there is still an opportunity for the iraqis to form a government and do something about this problem, and we're urging them to get on with it. i think we still believe in a way forward in iraq. they just have to take the opportunity. >> is it possible at all in state department's view to move ahead with malaki in charge? will there be sufficient trust, any trust from the sunni population that he'll be inclusive enough, his government 0, or does our strategy rely on somebody else coming in? >> again, it's going to be very difficult for him to form a government. they're facing that question
now, now that the president's been elected to face the question of the prime minister. any prime minister in order to form a government is going to have to pull the country together. so whoever the leader is is someone who has to demonstrate that just to get the votes he needs to remain or to be sworn into office. that's something that is going to unfold fairly rapidly over the coming days. there is a 15-daytimeline to nominate a prime minister. whoever the nominee is has to form a cabinet and present it to the parliament to form a government. the speaker of the parliament, again, was elected overwhelmingly with support from all major groups as was the president. we would anticipate the prime minister. as we said as the president has said, it has to be somebody that has a very inclusive agenda and can bring all the component groups together. otherwise he won't be able to govern. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator flake. senator koontz. >> thank you. i want to thank you for your
leadership on this committee. i follow on senator flake's questioning in a moment. i share the administration's ultimate goal as you've been testifying to of encouraging the creation of an inclusive iraqi government supported by all iraqs, different sectarian groups that has some hope of a secure and stable iraq going forward, given how much has been sacrificed over how many years. i renew a theme you heard from several senators that i do not support a return of active u.s. combat troop presence in iraq. i am concerned about the security of our embassy and our personnel. i am very concerned about the region and about some of our vital regional allies. so first, i think we do need to deal with defeating isis and the regional threat here in a regional context, as you testified. i think it's imperative we have to find a way to move forward that has some reasonable chance of resolving the ongoing crisis in both iraq and syria to the
best interests of the united states, of israel, of jordan, of turkey and all our regional allies what do you see as the prospects, the path forward for a political solution here in these next 15 days? have you met with anyone who strikes you as a promising potential prime minister who could bridge these divides, given reports of high level delegations of iranian military officials and diplomats meeting in baghdad? i'm concerned that there are fewer and fewer realistic chances of a broad-based inclusive government being formed given active interference and engagement from iran. >> i can speak a little to the process. there was iraq's third national election they held on april 30th. it was one of the best elections they held in terms of the turnout. in 2006, it took about seven months to form a government in an extremely difficult process. what they did was they built
this very bloated government with every seat filled and voted into office. in 2010, it wound up being the same thing. took nine months and they built a bloated structure and swore it into office. this year, this time they are proceeding differently. they are moving through constitutional timeline, speaker, president, now prime minister. it's moving much faster than ever before. again, nine months in 2010 less than three months out from the april elections. we now on the step before the prime ministership. i would be hesitant to put timelines on it because it's a complicated process. 328 members in iraqi parliament represent the entire spectrum of political thought in iraq. it's very difficult to get full unity on any one person or any one issue. there will be a very strong debate. it's not the political process there. now they are starting to focus on the most critical question who is going to lead the country as the chief executive. >> you are riveting description
of the fall of mosul suggests a lack of urgency, a lack of reality about the situation on the ground was outcome determinative led to a failure to act in a timely way, and to isis sweeping across much of the center of the country. do you think there is a sense of urgency, a sense of reality as to the defense posture isis face and the political challenge they face? >> yes. there is a culture in iraq that sometimes folks don't want to give their leaders bad news. sometimes we're the one whose have to deliver the bad news and say you face a very urgent situation. mosul was a good example of that. we are the ones that have to do that. given the information we have, given the relationships we have on the ground, military relationships, we are able to give them a very clear picture of the situation they face. the relative tactical success they had in clearing some of the
highways north of baghdad because it remains difficult, but it's highway 1 that goes north through the tigris valley, from baghdad through sumara they did clear that. that was partially on their own but partially because we helped them with information. the next stretch to tikrit the same thing. we did not advise them to go into tikrit city itself because that is a difficult military environment to operate in. that's why general austin is on the ground to discuss with their new commanders who we have good relationships with, and the iraqi political leaders, how we can better approach this going forward in a more cooperative way. >> there's been widespread reports of sunnis bristling under isis rule. they are extreme and conduct not just terror attacks and suicide bombings and target assassinations, but are imposing a particularly harsh form of sharia. what elements of the sunni
community might assist the iraqi security forces, might play some role in rising up against isis in a replay of what happened previously? >> yeah. i think we've seen this story before in our own experience in iraq that many of these groups who may give tacit support to terrorist organizations and their neighborhoods, as soon as there is some prospect of turning against them and they know they have some support from their central government to do it, then they will turn on them. they don't like living under sometimes the sharia law imposed on them. i think the prospects are still there. i think ultimately it will come down whether they feel they have a partner in the central government of iraq. there is something to break away for. that is up to the iraqi government, the new government will have to attract the sunnis away from isis and isil and towards them. the security forces have to be a part of that. at the end of the day, it is
about a political compromise they strike in baghdad and lure those sunnis away. >> i am particularly concerned about our vital ally in the region jordan, about their both military and economic and strategic stability given the flood of refugees they've already been taking in as a result of the syrian crisis and about the open, increasingly porous borders what concrete steps are we taking to reenforce and ensure the stability of jordan and how does the announced intent to deliver support to the vetted moderate syrian resistance strengthen that? >> so i think the most important thing is that the jordanian military is a very capable military force. so we are very focused on the threat right on their border, but so are they. they reenforced their troops on their border with iraq. and we have a very close relationship, military-to-military
relationship with the jordanians and talk with them on a daily basis. again, because of the syria crisis, the u.s. already had a robust presence in the country. we have f-16s there, a patriot battery there. we have a $300 million fmf program. we do education with them. it is a strong relationship, one of the strongest in the region. so i feel confident that we are doing everything we can in response to any request they have to help them with their situation on the border. and i think the idea of supporting moderate vetted opposition in syria is only more positive. we need, the united states needs capable partners and platforms in the region to deal with this very fluid threat. and the jordanians are a big part of that. so will the syrian moderate opposition. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator rubio. >> thank you. let me begin with my, i think
our priority for everyone is the safety and security of our personnel, including the department of defense personnel, certainly the state department personnel at the embassy given recent events. so there's been increased reporting that the isf is increasingly linked or intermingled with shia militia forces that some of these shiia forces are wearing isf uniforms and it's difficult to distinguish between a shiia militia fighter and an isf personnel. we've seen open source reporting that the shiia militia could pose a threat to our personnel, including potentially our military trainers and others. can you briefly describe, number one, how we assess the threat of these militia and what are we doing to mitigate the risks they pose to our personnel given the fact that they are now basically embedded and intermingled with the iraqi security force personnel that we're working
side by side potentially with? >> sure. this is exactly what we were trying to assess by going over there and looking unit by unit in and around baghdad at things like command and control, morale, and in particular, infiltration of shiia militias. they put out a very public call for volunteers to join the military. one thing we watched closely as all these new folks came in, where would their allegiances be? would they respond to the commanders of their unit or somewhere else? i think the picture is honestly mixed. in some areas we have good morale, strong adherence through command and control through the military channels. in other places, it's more of an open question. those are the kinds of units we don't want to be working with and why we are taking this very deliberate approach. >> there is the real risk that shiia militia there could just as easily be the ones firing on our embassy and personnel as
isil personnel could be unless otherwise constrained? >> shiia militias are something we watch very closely. there's been a cease-fire in place since 2009 against their own government forces and cease-fire, we have nod hat any attacks from shiia militias since 2011. it's something we watch extremely closely. the assessment assessed every unit around baghdad. without getting into the details, some units are infiltrated and dangerous. some are very capable and effective and have close relationships with us. >> i wanted to get to a broader question. you touched upon it in your statement and do more so in the written statement you submitted. here is the question we get. people are outraged by what's happening, especially reports about the different things isil is doing. by no means is this a group popular. americans understand this is a terrible, radical group of violent individuals. that being said, public opinion polls and just from the phone calls we get in ours of officee
attitude of the american public, it's a mess, let them figure it out. i personally said this is not about iraq but the long-term security of the united states and the threat that isil poses to the u.s., especially if they are able to establish a safe haven of operations similar to what al qaeda did. even worse than what al qaeda was able to do in afghanistan. i was hoping that from the administration's point of view and the state department and department of defense's point of view, could you perhaps use this as an opportunity to explain to my constituents in florida why this matters to america. why something happening halfway around the world in a country people quite frankly think increasingly we shouldn't have gotten involved in. why does this matter and why should people care what's happening in iraq given the problems we have at home? >> thank you. i addressed the isil threat my written and opening statement. that is a serious counterthreat and that is number one. these are vital u.s. interests
in iraq. the counterterrorism, the al qaeda threat. just the supply of energy resources to global markets. iraq through 2035 will account for 45% of all the growth in oil energy exports. if iraq were to collapse in a major civil war and sectarian war, the effects to our own economy here at home would be quite serious. every single fault line crossing through the middle east, arab, persian, moderate, moderate, extremist, shiia, sunni, arab, kurd, everything meets in iraq. were isil to get into the mosque city of samarra and unleash a calderon of sectarian virus it would spread throughout the middle east with devastating effects for our economy at home. vital interest at stake for al qaeda to energy resources and our own economy are at stake. >> thank you. did you want to add something? >> i would just foot stomp the isil threat, they are
self-funded, they have control of significant territory. they are tested in battle. they are a serious threat. while we don't assess right now that they are doing distinct homeland plotting, they said rhetorically they are coming for the united states. i don't want to fester. i want to do something about that. >> thank you. i think you've done a good job outlining the reason why we should care. it's not simply about iraq. this is about the united states. could you briefly, if i brought people in here from florida or they are watching or i shared this video, could you explain what our plan is? what are we doing? what are the two or three things we are doing to address this threat which, as you described, is a very significant one to our country? what is the plan? >> let me focus on isl. we need to strangle their entire network. foreign fighter field in particular. we have to strangle their
foreign flighter flow into syria. we have to deny space and safe haven sanctuary which they have in syria, which is why we are hoping to train the moderate opposition. number three we have to help iraqis take control of their sovereign space. to do that as i explained in my testimony, which we do recruit locally, but with the resources of the central government because there was a conversation about recruiting tribes which is what we want to do. we have to recognize that unless the local people and local tribes have the resources of the central government or national based resources, they are not going to defeat this organization. >> what are we specifically doing and going to be doing to crush their networks and prevent them from having safe havens? operationally, what are we going to do to accomplish those goals you outlined as part of our plan? >> i can speak to the iraq portion of this. since this crisis began in early june, we immediately surged in a significant surge of intelligence assets into iraq to get a better picture of the
situation. we put special forces on the ground to get eyes on. we are now at the point where we have collected all that information. we have a fairly concrete precise picture, and we are coming up with option 0s for doing just that. this will be an ongoing conversation with this committee and the congress over the days and weeks ahead. >> senator sheen. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you all for being here. i want to follow up on the line of questioning that senator rubio was following and your response because you mention in your testimony, mr. mcgurk, that we need to work with our partners in the reach none. especially turkey to seal the border to syria from foreign fighters and isil recruits. can you talk a little bit more, you are limited to some extent, about how this is proceeding and what other partners we might engage to address this concern? >> thank you, senator. we have some experience in doing
this in the late 2006/2007 time frame where it was the same foreign fighter network. at the time they were all flying into damascus going into aleppo. we squeezed the entire network from the source capitals where they are getting on airplanes to get them off the airplanes. we are doing a similar effort and ambassador bradky, senior advisor of the state department focused on the foreign fighter network. it's two parts. turkey has a very long border. it's very hard to control. turkey is doing some things to strengthen their own border and focus on this problem. also the source capitals in which young military age male are getting on airplanes and going to certain airports in turkey. we are working carefully through our entire interagency and folks that are expert in this with the source capitals which people are getting on airplanes and coming into syria, and with the turks. it's europe, north africa and the gulf region.
>> and can you talk about how long we've been doing that and whether we are seeing any results as a result of that effort? >> we've been doing it for some time now. i can follow up after speaking with the experts dealing with this and have a written response. >> i would appreciate that and probably sharing it with the committee would be very helpful, as well. >> you also talk about the tremendous effort on the part of the kurdistan government to accommodate the internally displaced people fleeing from other parts of iraq. i wonder if you could talk about the extent to which the government in baghdad recognizes the strain this is causing and has been willing to work with the kurds at all to help address this? >> one promising sign, senator,
in what is a very dark landscape, i want to be clear. this humanitarian situation is extremely serious and heartbreaking, particularly when it comes to the christian minorities and other vulnerable groups. i met with the christian leadership in baghdad throughout my last trip about how we can do a better job helping these people who are under a very serious threat. the iraqi government could do more to help the kurdish regional government, particularly with state resources and state funding. the iraqi parliament which is just meeting because it just convened the first time. it's a brand-new parliament with a brand-new speaker. the first session really was yesterday. one of the first things they did was united in condemnation of what's happening to christians in the northern province and formed a broad committee to figure out how to direct state resources. there are significant resources. is there a budget in the parliament for $140 billion, something the government has to tap into to help these people. they just formed a committee to figure out things to do. we are obviously actively
engaged with them to try to influence that process. >> so does this selection of a kurdish president help with this effort? >> certainly. we look forward to working with the new president soon on these issues. again, he won an overwhelming victory on the vote today on the floor of the iraqi parliament. so it's a good step forward. we work with all the kurdish leadership and also in baghdad on this. >> i would assume begin his election that he might have some influence in the parliament that could be very helpful. has he made statements about the need to help address what's happened to christians? >> he was just elected as i was coming here in the car. we will be immediately working with him. and again, all the leaders to get the resources up to the north that the kurds need to deal with the humanitarian crisis. >> finally, again i think this is for you, mr. mcgurk, but ms.
slotkin, if you would like to weigh in, please do. one thing that has not gotten a whole lot of attention, but you mention it in your testimony and we've seen it in other places where extremist islam has been in charge. that the plight of iraqi women and girls has borne the brunt of a lot of violence as they advance through iraq. can you talk about what we can do and what is being done to help address this? >> first, senator, the fact you are asking this question is number one. we have to put international focus and attention on this very serious problem. in mosul, the situation goes from bad to worse. they have gone after the christians, then kurds and now going after women, and particularly young women. this is a serious international problem. the government of iraq, the foreign minister of iraq wrote a
letter to the secretary-general of the you nate e united nation for assistance from the international people. we need the entire world to focus on. the iraqis can't deal with it on their own. we have to give it international attention and find a way to really address it. in my testimony, particularly in mosul where isil is setting up its capital. that is what it's trying to do. we have to find a way to work effectively with local tribal forces to make sure they can stand effectively against isil which right now, frankly, they can't. the kurdish forces because mosul is in a pocket in the kurdish region and federal forces to slowly squeeze and take back these areas. this is going to be a long-term effort. especially for the sake of the people living in these areas we have to give it everything we have. >> finally, i'm almost out of time. this may have been asked and i apologized if you answer it. there was a report in "the new york times" july 13th that
suggested that only about half of iraq's operational units are capable enough for us to advise them. can either of you speak to whether, without revealing classified information, whether we're concerned about this, what's the substance of this report being accurate? >> sure. it was mentioned briefly and i just caution against relying solely on a leak in "the new york times." that was a critical thing we were looking at in these assessments. they are still in draft. i think what's accurate is the picture is mixed. i don't know if it's exactly half, but i think we are finding units where that's a real problem and units where it's not a problem. we are trying to understand how to process that. what does it mean if certain units we can work with and they're ambitious and want to do things to take back their territory and others aren't the right units to work with. what should our policy be in
that case? that is complicated and why we are taking our time to think about it. >> thank you. >> senator mccain. >> thank you, mr. chairman. miss slotkin, we learn more from "the new york times" and the "wall street journal" than we do from any briefing we ever had with you. i don't agree with you very often, but i do agree with your statement you can't fight something with nothing. that's what we've been doing, nothing. this situation in iraq was predicted by us and predictable. now we find ourselves in a situation where mr. mcgurk, the director of intelligence, director of the fbi, secretary of homeland security and the attorney general have allstated publically that the islamic state of iraq in syria, isis or isil pose a direct threat to the united states. do you agree? >> yes. >> you do agree. >> would you agree that iraq and syria are now effectively one
conflict that we can't address isis and iraq without addressing it in syria and vice versa, particularly with reports that we see published reports of equipment that was captured in iraq now showing up in syria? >> i think it is one theater. you have to think of it as a tigris and eufrades valley theater. >> this riches and largest base of terrorism that i know of is both iraq and syria, this enclave. >> that is exactly what it's trying to do, trying to establish it. >> have they achieved it pretty well so far? >> since june the iraq/syria border has more or less collapsed. >> that means if we are going to take action in iraq we should also take action in syria, would you agree? >> again, these are all options
that are being looked at, senator. >> i am wondering if you would agree with that. i'm not asking whether you are examining options or not. >> as i mentioned, in order to get at this network and learning from the past with al qaeda and iraq we have to squeeze the entire network. that's the foreign fighter floeshgs the nonsafe have en sya and helping iraqis control their territory. >> so if we did initiate an air-to-ground campaign without including syria, they would have a sanctuary in syria. would you agree with that? >> one of the reasons, and i defer to my colleague elissa we are focused on training the opposition to deny space to the isil networks in syria. >> probably so, but secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chief of staff both stated publically the iraqi security forces are not capable of
regaining the territory they lost to isis on their own without external assistance. do you agree with the secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs? >> iraqi security forces moved a little bit out of, we had this snowballing effect -- >> again, asking if you agree or disagree with the secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs who both stated publically the iraq security forces are not capable of regaining the territory they lost to isis on their own without external assistance. >> they did not conduct combined arms operation which you could not take without some enabling support. >> since we all rule out boots on the ground that, might mean use of air power as a way of assisting them. would you agree with that? >> senator, all these options, potential options for the president are being looked at. as elissa said --
>> how long have we been, quote, looking at them now, mr. mcgurk? >> well -- >> sir, the assessments came in last week. >> the assessments came in last week. how long have we been assessing? >> i think we assessed for two solid weeks. >> oh, i think it's been longer than that since the collapse of the iraqi military, ms. slotkin. >> i think the president made his announcement june 19th and instructed assessors go to baghdad. they flew there and began their assessments immediately. >> i see. so far we have launched no air strikes in any part of iraq, right? >> that's correct. >> you stated before that we didn't have sufficient information to know which targets to hit, is that correct? >> i think we have radically improved our intelligence picture. >> in your view we didn't have
sufficient information capability in order to launch air strikes? >> i think that we, given our extremely deliberate process about launching any air strike -- >> it's interesting. i asked if you think at that time we did not have sufficient information to launch air strikes against isis. >> i think given the standards the united states has for dropping ordinance, no, we did not have the intelligence we would ever want at that time. >> i find that interesting because none of the military that i have talked to that served there, and even those who flew there are absolutely convinced as i am when you have convoys moving across the desert in open train, you can identify them and strike them. we know they were operating out of bases in syria out in the open in the desert. with those of us who have some military experience and the
efficacy of air power, we heartheart heartily disagree. published media reports indicate islamic state has an estimated 10,000 foreign fighters, 7,000 in syria, 3,000 in iraq. does that sound right? >> these ses mates are difficult to discern that. is an estimate we routinely see, yes. >> and of those foreign fight e ers, many of them are from european countries, right? >> yes.fighters, many of them a european countries, right? >> yes. >> who when returning to their countries don't require a visa to come to this country. which is why the director of national intelligence, director of fbi, director of homeland security and attorney general allsta
a a all stated this poses a direct threat to the united states. >> if that is a direct quote from them, i defer to them on the quote. one thing we have done, in your questioning of miss slotkin, when this crisis started, iraqis had zero hell fire missiles, we delivered since this crisis began in june, hundreds of hell fire missiles and with our new intelligence with the joint operations, the iraqis deployed those missiles with precision and accuracy. it has made a difference. >> excuse me, what difference has it made? certainly not in areas isis has been able to gain control over. >> it began to blunt some of the momentum. >> you didn't really believe they could take baghdad, did you? no one in their right mind would. >> in the initial days of this crisis, there was a very deep concern that iraqi security forces could, in the approaches of baghdad substantially weaken. that was a concern of ours. >> might have been on your part. certainly wasn't on those of us
who understand iraq and population and shiia and sunni. well, mr. chairman, i overstayed my time. i thank you. i really agree with you, miss slotkin, when you said you can't fight something with nothing. you are exactly right. >> senator mccabe. >> thank you. odds and ends. most of my questions have been asked already by my colleagues. give me the status on the safety of the american embassy in baghdad and our consuls in iraq. >> thank you. it's our foremost priority, it's something we watch every day very closely. that is why we have rebalanced our security apparatus at the embassy, brought in substantial department of defense capabilities into the embassy and into the airport. our assistant secretary for diplomatic security was there last week. we feel very confident about the protection of our people. it is something we watch literally every second of every day.
our knowledge and understanding of the defense of baghdad is night and day different from six weeks ago. >> because of the appointment of advisors you were discussing? >> yes. >> the iranian influence in iraq, beyond political influence, how about iranian expenditures in iraq, whether it's to back up the military or provide training and assistance? what is iran doing in iraq right now that is costing them money? >> i don't have a figure on the expenditures. all cane say is that the iraqis again want the u.s. to be the back bone of their military force. that is why they looked to the fms program to be that back bone where. we developed relationships with military officers in times of extreme crisis has proven essential. in my testimony is when we had to get 500 contractors out it was the iraqi air force, in spite the extreme crisis they are dealing with that flew their own c-130s to get our people out. that is the kind of relationship
we need to continue. >> i many going a particular direction with this. you don't have an expenditure figure what iran is spending in iraq. are they likely spending significant resources or is the influence more on the political and relationship side? >> they are expending resources. they were particularly concerned about the defense of samarra where the golden dom mosque is. in the early week of the crisis they did invest resources to try to protect that area of samarra. >> the reason i'm asking this question, separately we are having this intense discussion about the iranian nuclear negotiation and what is the effect of the sanctions on iran and to what extent any sanctions relief is giving them breathing room. we are being told from many quarters the iranian economy is still suffering greatly. they seem to be pretty deeply in in terms of expenditures in syria and seem to be deeply in in terms of expenditures in iraq. that makes me think either they
are incredibly stretched or maybe their economy and resources are stronger than some of the reports to us suggest. and that is relevant in terms of the negotiation we are under way with respect to the nuclear program. i'll follow that up with others. this is a question you might not be able to answer on the record. i'll submit it for the record. what are the efforts under way by the united states to disrupt isil financing? >> yeah. sir, i think we should take it off the record, if you don't mind in a classified session. i would be happy to provide that to you. judge, we've had testimony before about some kind of financing that can be talked about publically. they do extortion, they do kidnapping and go to merchants and say pay us x. that has been discussed publically. there's been reports about others who are funding isil operations. maybe not the government, but people connected with governments that are allies of ours, and i would like to know
in a classified setting and will submit a written question what are we doing to disrupt isil financing. the persecution of the christian minority in iraq, like the persecution of any religious minority is of significance. could you talk about your recent discussions on the persecution of christians when you were in baghdad? >> thank you, senator. i went to the home of archbishop sacco in baghdad and also with bishop warda. it is an extremely serious situation. what is so inspiring when you visit them is archbishop sacco, shortly before i saw him, just had a service with about 500 worshippers from across the city of baghdad in his church. this past sunday he has a service which muslims and christians came together in his church to say we are all
christians. we all stand for the christians, we are all iraqis, these are all our people to stand against isil. bishop warda is focused on the refugees that left mosul and he has asked us for some specific help with the kurdish regional government to ensure they have the protection they need. that is something we followed up with president barzhani to make sure they do have that protection. it is a very serious situation. it reveals what is happening to christians in mosul, reveals what isil is all about, and why it is such a threat to the region and to us. >> again, we should feel deeply since the united states stands so strongly for religious liberty, we should feel deeply about the persecution of any religious minority. mass has been said in mosul more than 1800 years. that's been broken. weekly mass has not been celebrated there. that is a pretty significant thing. i have been critical of us, the
senate, for slowness in ambassadorial approvals. i'll put one on the administration. you've got to get us names. i'll say this for the record. ambassador at-large has been vacant since october 2013. the white house has not sent us a name, at a time in the world whether it might be whether it may be christians or jews in some nations that are suffering because of the persecution of religious minors. while the u.s. is an example of religious diversity, we see the persecution of minorities probably on the increase in the world, it's a core value of ours. we have such a good story to tell. that should not be a position that is vacant. >> i'd like to focus on the role of energy resources in the conflict with isis and in the iraqi leadership's struggle to maintain a workable, political
situation. isis conditions to have its eyes set on beijing. smuggling this oil into the black market has reportedly brought isis perhaps a million dollar as day. with the group taking on an actual state, how does capturing energy resources fit into their broader strategy? >> they need the resources to survive. one reason they are coming with everything they have at the beijing refinery is they need the energy resources stored in those tanks in order to keep mosul going. this has been going on for a month. there's a unit of iraq's
counterterrorism forces there, people that we know and who have been trained and are fighting incredibly heroically. isil has sent a wave of suicide bombers at the refinery. so far, the iraqis have been able to hold it although it is a struggle. isil needs these resources, as you said, to be able to build -- >> what further steps need to be taken in order to protect against isis taking over the bajee refinery? that's the largest single refinery in the court. what can be done, what needs to be done in order to prevent that from happening? >> well, in fact, as i mentioned briefly and i answered some of senator mccain's questions, one of the first places they were deployed was around the refinery. they began to clear out some of the attacking isil fighters. that is one example. and as we continue to assess the situation in iraq, we have
identified particular strategic sites that we're concerned about and we want to make sure that the iraqis are able to defend them. >> let me move on to the kurdish regional development that. the kurds are sitting on an estimated 45 billion barrels of oil and have captured the oil fields around kirkuk and appear to be intent on selling their own oil abroad without the exports through the central authorities in baghdad. and baghdad seems unwillingly to equitably export the oil resources. how can we help the iraqi government to better manage its energy resources and preserve a federal system that works for all iraqis? right now that seems to be collapsing and the collapse is over and the oil revenue issue, how can we play a bigger role? >> well, this is something where we can play a direct role and it's one reason we had to get
through the election and start to get a new government formed so we can get some traction. the numbers tell a story. the kurds need about $14 billion in order to sustain themselves. their own exports right now, they approach a little less than half of that probably. that will change over the future. the budget that is pending in baghdad before the parliament is a $144 billion budget. the kurdish shared that would be a little more than $17 billion. the numbers tell the story for how we can work out a deal. again, there are new realities on the ground that we have to deal with. but it is in the interest of all iraqis to export as much oil as possible under a revenue sharing framework, particularly for the sunni areas of iraq that don't have any of these resources and that's the type of government that particularly the new parliament which has proven to be very effective and they have set up a committee to resolve this can get some traction on. but we have to be actively
engaged. without us, they won't get there. >> again, oil is always at the core of this, you know, you just keep sharing the oil? that's what it is about? that's why the british wanted the country constructed the way it was, they nt wawanted the oi resources even though it was going to cause longer term stability. that's what they were fighting for. that's what they were demanding for in those negotiations 80 years ago, 90 years ago, and we're still living with the consequences of those decisions. so let me move on and ask, what is the current relationship between al qaeda and isis? what has happened in the course of the last three or four months? >> well, it's my understanding that al qaeda and iraq wa zaharie's group. when it moved into syria, it split into two groups.
the al nusra front. there were ambitions between iraq and syria and that's something that senior al qaeda leaders, such as al za here ree said isis should work in iraq and that's what led to the split. but isil was proving to be more effective in terms of developing a state structure than even core al qaeda. that's why it's more than just a terrorist organization. it certainly does not have a the global reach for al qaeda but it has the sophistication to develop what is really becoming a state-like sanctuary for a global jihadi movement. and they are trying to recruit those who share the ideology from all over the world. >> so what does that competitive
dynamic between the leaders of both groups lead to? >> the risk, in terms of the competition, they will look to in order to do spectacular type attacks. >> and i think you've already answered the questions about recruiting. let me ask a final question. that's about the iraqi forces capacity to defend its own civilians. can you just give us a brief summary of where you believe they are right now in accomplishing that goal? >> well, one reason i said in my testimony, we have a counterterrorism challenge. iraq has a counter insurgency challenge meaning that they have to control their own population and that is why they have to recruit locally and work with tribes to control local areas. right now that has really broken apart. it's broken apart for a number of reasons but primarily for the fours that iforce that isil was
able to bring to bear. they go after anybody who disagrees with them. so this is why we have to work with the iraqis to be able to protect their population against the most violent groups. and then work on the political compact to make sure that all areas of iraq have the resources to sustain themselves. >> again, i want to commend you for your focus upon diplomacy. i agree that it's not too late for diplomacy but we just have to be in intervening in a very, very aggressive way to make sure that diplomacy is truly given a chance to be successful. thank you so much, thank you mr. about five minutes to have you speak beginning with ambassador jeffrey. ambassador jeffrey, welcome. >> thank you very much. to follow up on what we heard this morning, the establishment
of the islamic state by the isil in iraq and in syria is changing the geo strategy of the entire middle east and represents a dramatic setback to u.s. policy and interest and requires an immediate response from washington. the situation is complicated by the fact that in the fix we are presently in in the middle eefs, we have not one but two higomonic voices in the region, from gaza to iran, that are trying to upset the middle east. and we have to deal with all of them in a comprehensive way. the president's plan to support a unified iraq in this crisis is laid out on june 19th is reasonable. but over a month as gone by, as we discussed earlier today, and little has happened. we've had two important but
secondary ste secondary steps, the selection of a speaker and those are important but those are preliminary. the key issue is the election of a prime minister and a new government. meanwhile, on the ground, while the initial drive of isil has been slow, we're seeing more capabilities for that institution. the study of law came out with a survey of attacks, both suicide and what we call vbids, vehicle bombs inside baghdad in efforts to try to cut off the city. senator mccain was right, that you can't take baghdad but as almost happened to us with over 100,000 troops in 2004, you can't isolate the city and they seem to be trying to do that. meanwhile, they are pushing along the kurds along the 400 mile front to the eye rare general border and north of
mosul and they are trying to seek strain fruk tur: we talked about the dam west of ra maddie and to the northeast of mosul. these are extraordinarily important infrastructure targets for them. the president's plan is based upon, above all, a new inclusive government. and as i said, while we've done the preliminaries with the speaker and with the president, we haven't gotten to the key issue of who is going to governor the country because the prime minister essentially governors the country. in my view, the inclusive government that the president has correctly said is a prerequisite to any real action cannot be a government headed by prime minister maliki. he has not shown the ability to bring in the kurdish and the sunni communities. and that is needed right now because there's a huge division
of both trust and geographic division in the country today. we need to reinforce the kurds to remain within the public and try to regain trust among the sunnis. again, i see this as only possible if we have a new prime minister in a new government. simultaneously, i think that while the president is right, that we cannot do a major campaign until we get an inclusive government and provide essentially people on the ground, local forces, we need to do limited strikes. as general dempsey talked about some of the possibilities going after key leaders and strategic infrastructure, we need to do that now to encourage everybody to come together. mr. mcgurk talked about the sunni tribes trying to fight isis but they are outgunned. helping them would not be undercutting a new government. the kurds are fighting along the
front and they need help. we heard about these highly trained effective iraqi units north of baghdad. they could benefit from help, too. we're striking al qaeda right now in pakistan, yemen, and with direct actions at times in somalia and libya. i see no reason why we couldn't, if we're getting the data now, start doing some strikes both in iraq and in syria. meanwhile, we have to be ready, though, if this doesn't work out, if the eiranians remain influential, if maliki remains in power, we have to figure out how we're going to deal with three separate entities, effectively a taliban-like islamic state in the middle of lchl evant and iraq is under the
influence of iran. that's a huge new problem for us if we don't act very, very quickly. my bottom line here today, sir, is we need to act as quickly as we can. >> thank you, ambassador jeffrey. general barbaro? >> thank you for the opportunity to discuss this situation in iraq and moving forward. first, i'd like to start with several observations on the current situation. while we assess, they maintain the momentum, they grow stronger and their hold on the population intensifies. i isis has established an area in both syria and iraq. it must be considered as an iraq/syria front. isis poses a formal regional front. what is most frightening as they swept into iraq, they continued
their expansion into syria. they did not have to thin the lines to do that. the iraqi security forces have regrouped. however, these forces have serious fundamental flaws and will require significant assistance to be able to undertake counteroffensive to dislodge and roll back isis' control and finally, it's a threat to both baghdad and the kurds. the kurds have a border or front with isis and they are largely on their own. chairman menendez asked at the outset, what is require to turn back the tide of isis and while it's clear it's the iraqi security forces but my estimation is in the present state they cannot meet this threat, let alone a major and counter effective threat without assistance. the capabilities necessary did not exist today in iraq and will likely not materialize on their own. and i'm not talking in the future about ground combat forces from the united states. i'm talking about advising and
assisting in certain key areas. and let me cover those. the first is intelligence. we started that. developing tactical intelligence on the ground. we started that and now we need to turn that into action. but the second intelligence component is the isis network in iraq, syria, and their regional supporters must be a national collection and analysis priority for our entire intelligence community. second, we should establish a training program for the isf to provide sufficient arms capability in order to effectively conduct offensive operations to dislodge isis from the areas that they now control. the isf has largely been a checkpoint army. since 2011, their operations have been defensive in nature, static in disposition, and disjointed in execution. they need training. third, they need assistance in establishing an effective war time process. their existing one is a peace
time system and they've experienced equipment decline and readiness over the years and this will be a daunting process but it can be done. fourth, the required changes to the demand and control network. as we know, the system put in place has been put in place by al maliki, systems directly reporting to him. there needs to be changes in commanders and changes to develop an effective combat command and control capability. fifth, the isf continues to need weapons and equipment. we have done some good work to rush some equipment there but we need to do more. just this week, iraq's ambassador to the united states lamented the slow space from iraq and russia. we should improve material to iraq. sixth, we should support the isf with air strikes in order to degrade isis' capability.
you cannot drone strike or air strike your way out of this. it must be a counter offensive in order to attack isis. seventh, we should support the kurds and enable them to defend themselves against isis. they are slightly armed and underequipped. they are stretched very thin and when isis turns on them, they will be outgunned and over matched. there's a complex relationship between baghdad and irbil. i understand that. why wouldn't we prevent the oil rich north from falling into isis' hands. finally, this falls on a willing partner in baghdad that is willing to accept these changes and to help develop an effective
i schl f. second, as we all discussed, there must be a political climate where the sunnis and kurds feel that accommodation for them and they can join in a unified military action. in conclusion, it the stronger y become and if the controlled iraq is in national interests of iraq, we should enable iraq and the kurds to defeat them as soon as possible. >> thank you. >> thank you, chairman. mr. chairman, senator, it's a great hon for to appear before this committee. i want to start by talking about some of the realities that we face in iraq because i think they are critical in understanding where we are and what the possibilities are going forward. first, we need to recognize that american influence in iraq has aten waited very significantly to the point where i would argue
at this point that the united states' interests exceed our influence. and second, we need to come to grips with the fact that what we face in iraq today is a civil war. iraq is not on the brink. it is not sliding into it, it is a civil war and the dynamics of civil wars now apply and those make intervention by third powers very difficult. with that in mind, i think that the current approach of the administration with a few tweaks is probably the best one plausible. it is the only one. and that is the idea of forging a new political leadership and it's the only option that we have that does offer the prospect of ending iraq's civil war in a matter of months rather than years. and preserving american interests in a whole variety of ways. nevertheless, we need to recognize that it will be very difficult and it goes well beyond merely replacing the current iraqi political leadership. it is going to mean
restructuring iraq's politics in a way that will encompass the desires, aspirations, and fears of all of iraq's communities and that is not going to be easy. if it fails, iraq's civil war is going to roll on and, as i've already suggested, the dynamics of a civil war is going to take hold and those are very hard to break. but we will have some options. unfortunately, those options are all awful. i think the first one is to recognize as any number of us, some of the senators have made the point earlier that iraq and syria are now a single civil war. and the problem that we'll face in iraq is that we will have a very complex situation, we will be looking to support both moderate sunnis and shia against their extremists and hoping to fchl orge a new peace between them. that's very hard. syria offers clarity in that we hate the regime and are not willing to support them at all
and that opens up a syria first policy by which we build a new syrian opposition party which can defeat the extremists and stabilize a bridge and a model to sunni moderates inside of iraq. i see that option as entirely feasible but it is not guaranteed to work and it is several steps beyond what the united states has been willing to consider so far. in fact, it will take years, if it works at all, and it will require a commitment of resources, probably including air power that the u.s. has so far been unwilling to make. if we're not willing to commit those -- that level of resources to actually bring the civil war to a close, another option is partition, something that has been talked about very frequently. i will say that i think that if we don't bring this to a rapid close, we will find that partition is the de-facto outcome in iraq. it will be divided into a sunni stand and shia stand and the
kurds will undoubtedly go their own way. the question for us would be, can we find ways to turn de-facto partition and somehow use it to bring about peace. again, i think that's problem but nevertheless, it will be extremely difficult. far more difficult than the pundits around town are making it out to be. i would say that if there's a dangerous mythology suggesting that the partition of iraq could be easy and relatively bluntless. in fact, the communities remain intermingled and the different militias have made claims on territory held by the others. the fear that overwhelms iraqis remain and dividing up the oil and water and other resources is going to be extremely difficult. it will take years and hundreds of thousands of lives lost. and the last alternative that we will have will be to follow a
policy of containment, of trying to prevent the spillover from the iraqi/syrian civil war to other neighbors and from harming american interests in the region in that way. again, it's certainly a possible alternative for the united states but we need to remember that containment is exceptionally difficult. it has rarely succeeded in the past and i think the fall of mosul is probably the most graphic illustration of just how hard it is to contain the civil war -- the spillover from one civil war from affecting another. the last point i'd make is simply to do nothing would be the worst choice of all. thank you very much. >> well, thank you all for your testimony and, i'm sorry, i had to step out but we had the benefit of having your testimony in advance. so let me ask you, ambassador jeffrey, if maliki is the
problem and maliki somehow rises to be the prime minister again, what's the course of events for us? >> first of all, it's not going to be easy for them to hang on as prime minister. it will be easy of at least part of the sunni community and part of the kurdish community to get above the 165 that is needed. what i fear is that there will be a long delay and that's what we had in 2010 where he'll be the acting prime minister for many months and people will get more discouraged. i think the first thing is for us to press for this process to go forward. because i think that most iraqis, including many of the shia parties believe they need a new leader. if he does stay in power, then our options are far more along the lines that dr. pollack has
mentioned at the end of the problem in dealing with iraq and syria, from jordan, from kurdistan and turkey to the extent that's possible, to both try to contain the anger and go after some of these isil elements that are threatening us or threatening the stability of the region. it will be very hard to work with a government in baghdad that does not have the buy-in of the sunnis and the kurds and will not be possible to assist in any retakeover of the sunni areas by an army that does not represent of the people of the region. >> and if the flipside of that happens, that, in fact, he does not continue as prime minister, what are the immediate things that the next government will have to do in order to create the type of national unity that can fight isis and not have the
ability to disintegrate. >> i have my own list, we have our own list and iraqis have their own list as well. there has to be a deal on oil. brett mcgurk has talked about some of the options. they are ready, they are on the shelf and it will give them an overall slice of resources while bringing them back into the system. that's real important. there needs to be real revenue sharing. they've already tried this. up until recently, the kurds were getting 17%. some of the either oil-producing provinces, kirkuk, are those with a lot of pilgrims and they are getting slices of the iraqi government budget to execute their own programs and they were very, very successful. there's a model also on the shelf to have more economic federalism. so it's not just a list of things. if you want inclusiveness, you
get a guy that lacks inclusiveness. that will do any more economic plan. if you want a more economic i can federalism, you introduce financial and energy policies that will see to that. if you want to have a security force that is capable of doing what general barbero said, let's have commanding control which is the no the case now. >> dr. pollack, do you have anything to add? >> i think the united states needs to do a molot more to mak clear what we would do to help them if they actually took the steps that we are looking for. right now, my sense from iraqis is we're demanding a great deal from them but we're not actually letting them know what we would do for them if we took what are actually very difficult steps. that gets to ambassador
jeffrey's point about how we need to be pressuring them and pushing this process forward. getting rid of prime minister maliki is going to be very difficult and i think the iraqis need to understand in much more concrete terms, rather than the more vague promises that they seem to be hearing from the administration about what they would get if they did it. >> chairman bchl arbero, i am really hesitant to continue to authorize sales or to approve sales -- it's the administration to authorize them -- but to approve sales when i see what has happened so far with very critical arm ma meant that has fallen into the hands of isis as a result of it being abandoned on the battlefield. so how -- in light of your comments that we need to respond to iraqi's request for help, which i assume in part is possibly air strikes but also they are looking for equipment, how do we create the safeguards
so that if we're going to help we don't end up having our weaponry fall in the hands of isis and use the forces that we want to defeat them? >> it's it will just happen. >> but not to the tune -- >> no, i agree. i think from this assessment we look at which are the good units of the iraqi security forces and we invest heavily in them with advice, training, whatever they need. and then take a hard look at what they are asked for and what we are willing to share with them and make some decisions. but a senior iraqi leader last week said to me, where is america? russians are supporting us. we want americans, you're our
friends. they have three fixed wing aircraft to shoot hell fires. you can't, as i said, air strike your way out of this. i would pick the right units from this assessment and i would invest in them with the weapons and equipment that we feel -- that would help. >> well, i would say to the iraqis, billions of dollars, hundreds of lives, that's where america has been. and and i would also remind you that they were unwilling to pursue a status of forces agreement which might have created the wherewithal to continue to solidify the iraqi security forces. and so i think they have to think about the decisions that they have made not to relive them but to instruct them moving
forward. senator corker? >> thank you, mr. chairman. and again, thank you for being here. i think a lot of times our second panels are actually better than the first. but by that time people have other business. thank you so much for your help. dr. pollack, you responded when senator menendez just mentioned that they were unwilling to pursue a status of forces agreement. i'm just wondering what you were hoping to say but did it instead with an expression. >> yeah. i think that what was going through my head, both the united states and iraq failed each other and themselves. it was a moment when i think that prime minister maliki was, at best, ambivalent and history
has proven would have been beneficial to him. and the united states was ambivalent itself about whether it wanted to stay. >> and our focus needs to be on the future but i know ambassador jeffrey has had a give and take publicly in writing about this. is that your impression of what happened during that time? just very brefly. i want to move on to other things. >> very briefly, the administration following the recommendation of its military leaders and my recommendation in 2010 offered to keep troops on. in essence, the maliki government and most of the political parties agreed to have troops that got hung up on the question of a status of forces agreement. al maliki was reluctant to do this. controlling the sunnis in government said he would not move any further than maliki would move that undercut how we
had done the deal back in 2008 when we had gotten the earlier agreement and, frankly, time ran out. in terms of how enthusiastic the administration was about it, i had my instructions which were to try to get an agreement. >> so i noticed -- thank you both for that clarification. there's been a discussion of the order of steps that need to take place and there's been a heavy emphasis on getting the right political situation. i think all of you agree with that. some of you would like to see us go ahead and take some steps now. let me ask you, general, what do you think -- what are some of the elements of debate that are taking place now relative to -- if you were guessing and my guess is that you actually talked with some of these people from time to time. but prior to us knowing if they are going to have an inclusive government, someone other than maliki, what do you think are some of the elements of the debate that are taking place inside the administration
relative to taking some small steps, not something sustained but some of the small steps that i think y'all mentioned might build morale at a minimum and will stave some of the steps that isil are taking. >> i think there's been a reliance on this as miss slotkin said in a process. this process has, in my view, become a way to not take action. and we're in a situation where isis, as i said, is threat and they are gaining strength. i think there's been discussion of air strikes. and you can't take air strikes on targets without having precision if you see the entities out in the desert. that will only be for fleeting
effect. just doing air strikes or drone strikes can have some effect and it won't be lasting or decisive. i think there is great reluctance to put -- reintroduce american forces. i get that. i understand. but if this is an exestential threat and if the iraqis security forces are the way to deal with this and these iraqi security forces are not prepared or capable of dealing with it, you can't close that circle without external help to these forces. i hope it's not a question of if we should support the iraqi security forces and introduce the steps that i said is a question of when and now and we've had this assessment, how quickly. >> so the fear would be
paralysis through purposeful, long-term analysis, that would be the fear, just analyzing this forever and not taking action and i also agree with you, there is some reticence to get involved militarily. let me ask you this. maliki, obviously a -- he may not have been a good prime minister but he understands the debate taking place in our country and knows that him being gone, while we might not have laid out -- and it's a great comment, for y'all to share specifically what they would do if they have this inclusive government. i think that's a great point. but is there -- can you tell if there's any leveraging taking place by maliki right now knowing that we're not going to get involved in any kind of big way if he's still there? is there any activity that is occurring there relative to him
trying to leverage us in other ways? >> dr. pollack might have information as well. i think, first of all, he points out correctly that he did very well in the last elections several months ago, winning personally 700,000 votes, which is more than he did in 2010. his party came in first. under the constitution, he should be given by the new president selected today within 15 days an opportunity to form a government. and under the constitutional process, if he can't form it and i think it will be hard for him to form it after 30 days, the mandate has to pass to another party. now, that's a lot of time to consume doing this. i think that, as a minimum, he's going to want to play this out. and he also may feel that, in the end, the americans having
sent -- what was it, 775 additional forces to iraq -- are ready to help them out regardless of what happens. again, i think i and many others have said, under certain circumstances, striking isil where they pose a danger is important. but we cannot provide the whole gamut, the whole breadth of support that they need absolutely unless we have an inclusive government that can bring in the sunnis and the kurds and it won't happen with him, sir. >> just one more question. my time is up and i know all of us probably have to be places. but there was discussion and y'all said this about being a regional approach. and syria and iraq obviously having no border between them anymore, what are some of the dynamics on the syrian side that as we look at this regionally --
i know y'all are just focused on iraq now -- that complicate with the side being in power there, complicate our ability to look at it regionally? >> i'm glad to start, senator. i think one of the most obvious problems is the one that i've already mentioned, which is that when you look obama nly at syri do not like the assad regime, we want it gone, then the question is to how best help the opposition. when you look at iraq, you have a situation where you have a shia group in charge of the government, they are likely to remain in charge of the government and we're going to want to remain good ties with that. simultaneously, we have a sunni operation that we do not like and others that we very much like. there's a complexity that is involved. any support to one of these groups becomes complicated by the opposite effect that it has with the other. if we're providing enormous
support to sunni in syria, some of that is going to flow to sunni groups in iraq, some of whom we may not like. but more that we are helping the maliki government in baghdad, the more it's going to be seen by folks in the region of supporting the wider shia cause which also encompasses the assad government. we need to recognize the complexity that's been introduced by having wars in iraq and syria that are by in large merged which the region sees as a sunni/shia fight but we see in a much more complex way. >> would you like to add to that? >> if i could, senator. as far as a regional support, we know that -- isis is washing money. but the way to choke these organizations is to go after their financing. now, for the near term, they've got plenty of that. however, we know that there are
regional actors supporting them, supporting isis. we should employ, as i said in my statement, our intelligence committee to em employee those actors and use every tool, department of commerce, department of treasury, to go after those actors and these sources of funding. we know, have a good idea where it's coming from, let's identify them and target them as part of a regional approach to this growing problem. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you all for being here. one last set of questions. general, you served in iraq, you led our mission to a train and equipped iraqi forces and when u.s. forces left iraq, it seemed that iraqi forces were on their way to becoming a capable force. so the question that begs the question, what happened? why did the isf's capability and capacity erode so quickly?
>> senator, tough question. and it's tough to see what has happened and what has happened over the last few years. i've been to iraq many times over the last year since i left active duty. but the isf was built to handle a low level insurgency and our goal was to get them to where they were good enough. frankly, when i was there in 2009 and 2010 and part of 2011, there would be advisers to continue the training. we knew -- i did an assessment in 2010 for then for the general and this is where the forces will be in 2011. we wanted to convince them and
show them the capabilities and shortfalls of their forces. some were very obvious. they couldn't control their own air space nor defend it. but we said, you have a sustainment problem. your military readiness is in a death spiral. your command control structure is not workable. this peace time for a command and control of the population directly to the prime minister has to change. you do not have an nco core. most fundamentally, we told iraqis, you must invest in training. good armies train continuously. we didn't see that before we left and i don't see any evidence of that since then. so, you know, the short answer is that the development that needs to take place with the iraqi security forces from december 2011 to july 2014
hasn't taken place. we can go back and forth about advisers and trainers but they have not -- >> and so if that is the case, what will advisers now be able to do at this stage that will make a difference on the ground with iraqi forces? >> well, when we were on the ground with them and advising and training, it did make a d s difference. first, we can stop the bleeding. they are under severe duress. isis did not let up. if this is a -- in our interests, then we need to get something in there to, a, stop the bleeding, and then start building the forces. this is not going to take weeks or months. this is going to take a while to get them to a state.
as i said in my comments, unless we have an iraqi government that's willing to accept these changes and willing to place these changes into their structure and the way they do business, then i would question whether we should do it. >> two last questions. can air strikes alone -- i think you alluded to this in your answer to senator corker's questions. but can air strikes alone make a difference in pushing back isis or would doing them now just be, in essence, giving the iraqis a boost? >> air strikes can make a difference, a tactical difference. they can help enable iraqi forces. they can help relieve pressure. they can help degrade isis'
capabilities. my point is, we cannot think that just through air strikes and drone strikes we can solve this problem. or i would even hold it in advance. it could -- they would make a difference. it would not be a divisive difference. >> and so the flip -- the other side of this, then, is the training and assist so that the -- but the iraqi forces, can they possibly recover the country even with the training and assisting? >> i think they could. >> you think they could? >> i think they could. >> we're talking about what period of time? >> months. that's not going to happen overnight. >> senator, if i could support general barbero, i've seen it myself, i was in vietnam as an army officer in '72. the vietnamese army invaded for
the first time and started melting mosul. billions of dollars of u.s. equipment was lost within days. then when we started air strikes, it changed the psychology of those forces almost overnight and within three months they had recovered almost the entire country. we saw in libya, kosovo and bosnia where air strikes can provide lightly equipped, sometimes not too well trained forces. the difference in taking on better equipped forces as brett mcgurk i think three times described earlier today, dealing with the tribe up near mosul, dealing with the people and governor they are outgunned. they have volunteers to go into northern falluja but they are out numbered. not boots on the ground can make
a huge difference, sir. >> one last question for you, general. are you surprised by the alarming reports of iraqi security forces, abuses, infiltration by shia militia and lack of accountability and how do we engage with the iraqi forces to deal with those challenges? >> senator, i was in irbil, baghdad, in late may. the developments of mosul since then was a shock. i was shocked by it. but as i drive around baghdad or basra or other places over the last year, it's a checkpoint army. and i've said that. and you cannot take on an isis if you've been in static position on the defense and not trained for offensive operations. what is troubling, as you ride up to these army checkpoints,
there are shia religious banners almost at every one, across baghdad and certainly in basra. there must be a fundamental change in the nature of these forces, not only in the government but in the forces to allow participation by a sunni and kurds in this unified effort that it would require. >> well, i appreciate your insights. i'm not a military guy, but i will say that when an american soldier volunteers, joins, he fights for a cause, for a principle, for a set of values. he fights for his nation. he or she fights for their nation. if the job is just a job, then it doesn't turn out the same way. and if it's difficult to get an iraqi army if you don't feel you are fighting for the totality of
a country, shia, sunny, and kurd. and that's a real problem and that's a real problem. anyhow, i appreciate all of your insights as we grapple with the choices we have to make. this record will remain open until the close of business tomorrow with the thanks of this committee, this hearing is >> a couple of live events to tell you about this morning. the house oversight and government reform committee is looking into political activities at the white house in a hearing that yvonne c-span3 at 9:00 eastern. at 9:30 on c-span2, the house foreign affairs subcommittee on the middle east and north africa well markup resolutions related to the israeli-palestinian conflict.
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