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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 21, 2015 9:00pm-11:01pm EDT

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dr. fred kagen, who is -- that's a joke. dr. fred kagan, director of the critical threats project at the american enterprise institute. colonel derek harvey, u.s. army retired, director of the global initiative for civil society and conflict at the university of south florida. and bryant, who is the senior fellow at the center for american progress. i point out for the benefits of my colleagues that general keane and dr. kagan were key elements and the individuals who went over to the white house in 2006 to talk to then president george w. bush concerning the need for a surge. that the strategy in iraq was
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failing at that time and they were two of the major architects. and i know they give credit to many others, but two of the major architects of the surge which turned out to be a great sacrifice of american blood and treasure, a success. the black flags of isil are now flying over yet another major iraqi city, ramadi, the capital of iraq's anbar province. and reports overnight suggest that isil controls the syrian city of palmyra as well. this hearing does not -- is not about the fall of any one city as important as those losses are, but rather what it's revealed about the limitations of an overly constrained american air campaign. the weaknesses of iraqi forces the growing maligned role of iran, and the ineffectiveness and inadequacy of u.s. military support for iraqi and syrian
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partners. but most concerning it highlights the shortcomings of the administration's indecisive policy, inadequate commitment, and incoherent strategy. this misguided approach has failed to stop if not foster the expansion of isil to a dozen countries. the loss of ramadi once the symbol of iraqis working together with brave young americans in uniform to defeat al qaeda must be recognized as a significant defeat. isil's victory gives it the appearance of strength and boosts its ability to recrew -- recruit more fighters while reinforcing iran's narrative that only it and its proxies can rescue iraq. the fall of ramadi and capture by isil of american supplied military equipment is another setback for the united states and further undermines our credibility as a reliable strategic partner in the region. and yet, the obama administration seems unwilling or unable to grasp the strategic significance. as isil terrorists ransacked ramadi, the pentagon's news page
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ran a story with the headline, quote, strategy to defeat isil is working. secretary of state john kerry said, ramadi was a mere, quote target of opportunity. two days ago when a review should have been well under way to correct an incoherent strategy that is woefully underresourced, the white house press secretary, josh earnest said are we going to light our hair on fire every time there is a setback? i would point out for my colleagues that maybe his hair isn't on fire, but there are bodies on fire in the streets of ramadi as we speak. the disaster of ramadi should lead to a complete overhaul of u.s. strategy. the president has stated, quote, our goal is degrading an ultimately destroying isil. but neither strategy nor resources support this goal. our efforts in iraq may actually be aggravating the conditions
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that gave rise to isil in the first place by relying on brutal iranian backed shiia militias and insufficiently empowering sunni iraqis. at best this increases iran's maligned influence. at worst it reinforces isil's rhetoric that it is the only force standing against violent sectarian iranian backed militias. president obama has cleverly maneuvered us into the position that sunni iraqis that we think we support iran and shiia iraqis think we support isil. but the situation is far worse in syria. the iran backed assad regime together with iranian proxies like hezbollah continues the slaughter that has killed more than 200,000 syrians and displaced 10 million more . despite this tragedy, the administration has defined its policy in syria more by what it will not do rather than by the end state we aim to achieve.
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although the u.s. military is -- the u.s. military's train and equip program for moderate syrian forces is finally providing assistance to the fighters, the administration still has not decided whether it will defend syrian opposition against assad's barrel bombs upon their return to syria. refusing to support the forces we train is not only ineffective, it is immoral. while it is still unclear what president obama's willing to do in syria, it is clear our partners do not draw confidence from statements of what we will not do. ramadi's fall should lead our nation's leaders to reconsider its indecisive policy and incoherent strategy that has enabled isil's expansion, undermined regional stability, strengthened iran, and harmed america's credibility. what we desperately need is a comprehensive strategy, decisive application of an increase but still limited amount of u.s. military power, and a concerted effort by the iraqi government to recruit, train, and equip
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sunni forces. this will require discipline thinking, clear priorities, a strategy supported by adequate resources, and most of all the leadership and resolve of the president to succeed. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on these important questions. senator reid. senator reid: first let me thank the chairman for calling this timely and important hearing and also thank senator nelson for acting as a ranking member today. i have two appropriations committee, one appropriations committee, but bank committee markup and i apologize can i not be here. with that, with your permission, mr. chairman, i'd like to yield to senator nelson. senator nelson: thank you, mr. chairman. what i'm going to do is just put my statement in the record so we can get on to it. what you underscore is certainly accurate. the fall of ramadi, what is the
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iraqi government going to do? do they have the capability of getting sunnis to come in and take up the fight against isis? and so we need, as you-all testified to us, how far are we along in implementing the counter isis campaign in iraq? what has the iraqi government done to empower the sunni tribes to resist isis? and what does ramadi mean about retaking mosul? and will these events force iraq's political leadership to overcome their differences in their attempts at government? so with those questions, thank
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you, mr. chairman. senator mccain: thank you, senator nelson. paul palmyra is one of the historic places on earth and this is being threatened now. we know what isis does to these antiquities. we are about to perhaps, unfortunately, see another destruction and obviously irreplaceable historic heritage sites that would be another great tragedy along the lines of the destruction of the buddhist statutes years ago. welcome to the witnesses and general keane, we begin with you. thank you, sir. general keane: thank you chairman mccain and ranking member reed and senator nelson. distinguished members of the committee. i appreciate you inviting me back to testify. i was here a few months ago dealing with global security challenges facing the united states. and i must say i was pretty impressed with the bipartisan
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support for the challenges our country's facing and the way you are willing to work together to come to grips with it. i wanted to be here with my distinguished colleagues. obviously i know fred kagan very well. they are long and close associates. as much as fred and i may have had impact on the previous administration in changing their strategy, and there were others working towards that end as well, derek harvey sitting here was the catalyst for understanding the enemy. he was pushing against the intelligence group think that existed at the time. and he defined that enemy better than anybody did in this town. and that was the beginning of understanding what was happening to us. why it was happening. and what fred and i thought we could realistical do about it. i am honored to be here with all of them. i got some maps up there you may want to use to get a reference.
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it's always good to see where things are happening to understand the scale and magnitude. approximately nine months ago the president announced the united states public policy -- senator mccain: could you give me a second. i don't think we have -- general keane: approximately nine months ago the president announced the united states public policy that along with our coalition partners, the united states would degrade and ultimately destroy isis. weeks later he changed destroy isis to defeat, more appropriate term. a strategy was crafted to accomplish this objective which consisted among some things as humanitarian assistance, undermining the isis ideology, counter the finances, providing military assistance to our iraqi partners to include air strikes into syria, and assist in the iraqi government politically to move toward a more representative government, which actually obviously led to a
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change in governments. i cannot address undermining the ideology and finances in this testimony. it's beyond my expertise. while there has been some progress and some success, looking at this strategy today we know now that the conceptual plan is fundamentally flawed. the resources provided to support iraq are far from adequate. the timing and urgency to provide arms, equipment, and training is insufficient. and as such, we are not only failing, we are in fact losing this war. moreover, i can say with certainty that this strategy will not defeat isis. as to the concept, isis who is headquartered in syria recruits, trains, and resupplies in syria, controls large swaths of territory in syria, and you can look at your map there to take a look at that. to include the entire euphrates
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river valley in syria from iraq to the tirkish border. it connects now to the euphrates river valley which leads to the suburbs of baghdad and currently expanding to the west as far as damascus, and they just seized as the chairman mentioned, palmyra city and air base in central syria, aligning the central east-west corridor from iraq all the way to homes in the -- all the way to homs in the west and syria. and yet, and yet we have no strategy to defeat isis in syria. we have no ground force which is the defeat mechanism. yes, we have airpower and despite the success at kobhani and yes we have degraded isis command and control in syria and we have killed many isis fighters, but airpower would not defeat isis. it has not been able to deny isis freedom of maneuver and the ability to attack at will.
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syria is isis' sanctuary. we cannot succeed in iraq if isis is allowed to maintain that sanctuary in syria. we need a strategy now to defeat isis in syria. as you can see on the map that deals with the global rings, take a look at that, many isis -- on that isis map, isis is expanding beyond iraq and syria into sinai, yemen, libya, and afghanistan. this is where they actually have people on the ground and they have actually provided resources and they have actually have a , contract, written and signed with the people on the ground who are affiliated with them. and they are also inspiring and motivating radical sympathizers throughout the world which are depicted in that map on yellow as we are painfully aware of in europe and the united states and australia. yet there is no strategy with our allies to counter that expansion. i would go further to say there is no strategy to counter the
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destabilization of the middle east. as to iraq, it certainly makes sense to assist iraq in reclaiming lost territory and avoid deploying u.s. ground combat units. however, isis, despite some setbacks, is on the offense. with the ability to attack at will any place, any time and particularly the fall of ramadi has exposed the weakness of the current iraq strategy. it is more than just a setback. politically, the administration deserves credit for helping to usher out the maliki government and bring the new government in. however abaddy is isolated undermined by maliki who is still and remains a nefarious character and others within his own party.
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he is unduly influenced by iran and the united states is not nearly as consequential as it should be. a u.s. objective should be politically to reduce iran's influence. we need a focused diplomatic and political effort with the abadi government with the best people we have available to do it. militarily, clearly the iraqi army is a serious problem. while somehow have fought heroically, many have not. there are serious leadership discipline, morale, and competence issues. this will take time to fix. but if we believe that iraq is important to u.s. security, then we must help them fix it.
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and it will take many more trainers and a much more concerted effort to put in the best leaders available. the sunni tribal force is almost nonexistent. yet we cannot reclaim the sunni territory that has been lost particularly anbar province and mosul, we cannot hold the territory after we have reclaimed it if we do not have a sunni tribal force. the abadi government must authorize this force and the united states should arm, equip, and train it. they must know that the iraqi government and united states is behind them. right now they know the iraqi government is not. their families are being killed by the hundreds, eventually by the thousands, and they are disillusioned by the united states in terms of its lack of support. the peshmerga are skilled, will and they will fight. they need arms and they need advisors down at the fighting level to assist them with planning execution reclaim that territory and hold it. iran has undue political
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influence as a result. advisors must be with the units that are fighting at least at the battalion level which is what we did in the past so successfully. advisors as the name implies helps units plan and executes and also builds their confidence in themselves. they are also forward air controllers and can direct airpower as well as attack helicopters. the war in iraq is largely close combat urban warfare which demands the bombs be guided from our airplanes to the ground by people on the ground. 75% of the sorties that we are currently running with our attack aircraft come back without dropping bombs mostly because they cannot acquire the target or properly identify the
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target. forward air controllers fix that problem. special operation forces direct action teams. should be employed not as an exception, which is what we successfully saw this last weekend in syria with the raid but routinely in iraq and syria against the isis leadership and critical infrastructure. similar to what we have done in iraq and afghanistan in the past during the surges, when fred and i were there, as well as colonel harvey, we averaged the surges in iraq and afghanistan, we averaged somewhere between eight and 10 of these operations at night. when a raid was taking place in pakistan there wra nine going on in afghanistan that very night. we should also do large-scale raids. what does that mean? we should use elements like rangers to conduct attacks at
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night over critical infrastructure that kill isis fighters who are difficult to dig out with airpower at altitude. these are surprise attacks. they are not intended to stay. they are in and out maybe one night we stay at the most a couple days depending how much of a fight we are getting into. we desperately need enablers to assist the iraqi security forces. this is crucial support that helps them succeed on the battlefield. what is it? robust intelligence capability. we have some but we must ramp it up. increased u.a.v.'s, not to assist airpower which we are currently doing in terms of surveillance, but to assist ground forces. that's a different application and it's a different type of u.a.v. we need attack aviation. that's apache helicopters. and we need other helicopters to
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assist the ground forces. c-130 transports to move troops and supplies and other logistic support. and we need increased u.s. command and control headquarters to help control the increased of trainers, advisors, and others that i'm suggesting here. obviously what i am suggesting is increased u.s. political and military involvement in iraq which begins to shore up many of the weaknesses of the current strategy. while i believe we can still do this without u.s. and ally combat brigades, it is much more difficult now than what it was nine months ago. i believe we have to to some -- have to do some serious contingency planning for the introduction of ground combatbury gadse both u.s. and -- of ground combat brigades both u.s. and allied. finally, we need to get past our political psychosis on iraq, which is defined by the questions, should the united states have gone into iraq in 2003? should the united states have left iraq in 2011? while they were crucial u.s.
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policy decisions, there is -- and there's much to learn from them, and we have we've got to , get past it. isis is much more than iraq. our forces should be what the -- our focus should be what the president started out with defeating isis. that will take political will, and war is a test of will. it will take accepting risk. it will take accepting casualties. it will take focus and it will take increased u.s. resources -- and it will take honest evaluations and assessments. what i fear is this -- i hear a disturbing and frightening echo of the summer of 2006, when administration -- when a different administration, senior government officials, and military senior generals came before this committee and in the face of compelling evidence that our strategy in iraq was
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failing, these officials looked at you and defended that strategy and told you that overall the strategy was succeeding. you and your predecessors took a strong bipartisan exception to those opinions. many as a result of it wanted to give up on iraq. others wanted to do something about fixing the problem. i hope you choose the latter and get on with helping to fix the problem. and i look forward to your questions. thank you. senator mccain: dr. kagan. mr. kagan: thank you for calling this hearing and thank you to so many for attending. it shows a sense of urgency about the problem on the part of this committee that's hard to detect in the rest of the administration. so i'm grateful to the committee as always for the opportunity to
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speak, but for the attention that it's trying to focus on this problem. i receive every day a superb daily rollup of activities in the region, produced by the team. i can't read it all. it's too long. it's too long because the region is engulfed in war. it's sort of hard to tell that from the isolated headlines that pop up and fade away, but we -- this is the regional war. this is the beginning of the regional war. it can get a lot worse, but this is a war that is becoming a sectarian war across the region. it is a war between saudi arabia and iran, fought largely by proxies but now, dismayingly also directly. there are some people who think
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it's a good thing that the saudis and others are acting independently. i would suggest that they take a look at the historical efficacy of saudi military forces and ask themselveses if they think that's a reed we want to rest our weight on and i think we can focus too heavily on what the iraqi security forces are doing or not doing, as we have in the past. they're not doing enough, prime minister abadi is in a box. we have helped put him there with our policies. so it's not sufficient just to look at and criticize what the iraqis are doing. we really do need to look in a mirror and look at what we are doing or not doing. as i follow the daily reports, i see a coherent enemy strategy across the region. i see deliberate enemy operations which you can actually depict on a map, and i commend to you a terrific report
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called "isis captures ramadi," a military style map which shows isis maneuvers, because they are great deal of skill. it is not an accident that ramadi fell other the weekend and palmyra fell yesterday. it is not an accident that there were isis attacks in -- that and at the refinery, that there were threats against the pilgrimage in baghdad and then rah mue dee -- ramadi was attacked and taken. this was a coherent campaign plan, and a very intelligent one, very well executed. this is a serious threat. what i can't discern from the daily operations, let alone from the statements of the administration is any coherent american strategy to respond to this threat. and i want to talk about the threat for a minute.
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isis is one of the most evil organizations that has ever existed in the world. announcer: we really have to reckon with that. this is not a minor annoyance. this is not a group that maybe we can negotiate with down the road someday. this is a group that is committed to the destruction of everything decent in the world and the evidence of that is the wanton destruction, uncalled for even by their own ideology frankly, of antiquities thousands of years old that represent the heart of the emergence of human civilization in the west. this is a group that sells captives into slavery, it's a major source of financing for them actually. this is a group that engages deliberately in mass rape. this is a group that conducts mass murder. and this is a group that is calling for and condoning and
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supporting and encouraging lone wolf attacks and it will soon, i think, not be just lone wolf attacks, in the united states and the west. this is a group of unfathomable evil and they are extremely effective and have a degree of military capability, not terrorist capability, that we have not seen before in an al qaeda organization. this is not something where we should be spectators. this is not something where we should just say, as some people do, well, just let them kill each other. this is unacceptable. from a moral perspective and from a u.s. national security perspective, to just watch a group like this succeed in this way. i want to make a point that any criticism of the white house today, at least from our side, is perceived as a partisan
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attack and i want to make the point that if that was the case, i must have been a democrat in 2006. because we were attacking the bush administration with the senator -- with the chairman and a number of other members of the committee, as aggressively or in fact more aggressively than we've every critiqued this white house. the fact is, what matters is that the strategy is failing, as it was failing in 2006, only we were in a much worse strategic position today than we ever were in 2006 because it's not just iraq. i note that, to speak of the issue of urgency, the iranians seem to feel a certain sense of urgency about this as well. and their minister of defense, general dagan, was in baghdad over the last few days, signing defense cooperation agreements ostensibly, but surely working to coordinate iranian support on the ground. the foreign policy advisor to the supreme leader was in
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damascus and beirut talking with bashar al-assad, no doubt coordinating plans to, i assume, maintain and increase the military deployment of hezbollah forces in syria and possibly ask assad what his plan is given the circumstances. those are very senior leaders. i don't notice that we have sent senior leaders of that rank or anything close to it to speak with prime minister abadi and of course we have no one to speak with, effectively, in syria. senator nelson asked about what this means for the counterisis campaign. it means the campaign that has been described by the administration and our general officers is completely derailed.
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i do not blove that there is any reasonable prospect that it will be possible to retake mosul this year. i think the fight for ramadi will be hard enough. i think that these operations in and around ramadi demonstrate that the iraqi scufert forces at -- the security forces at current levels of u.s. support are not capable even of defending their territory against a determined isis attack, let alone clearing a major isis safe haven. so we are -- our campaign strategy is completely derailed, in my view. i think it was a campaign strategy as the chairman pointed out, that was of limited likelihood to be successful in any event because it addressed only part of the problem and left a major safe haven effectively untouched. but such as it was, it's over. my colleague, derek harvey, will speak in more detail about what kinds of troops are required. i agree with general keane, and i'm willing to put a number of the -- on the table, i think we
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need a total of 10,000 to 15,000 troops to have necessary forces in the area. and i think we need to do that. i think otherwise we're looking at an isis state that is going to persist. we're looking at an isis state that is going to continue to govern territory, that is going to continue to have resources that we simply cannot afford to let an evil enemy of this variety have. i think it is a major u.s. national security priority to respond to this. especially as it's become clear that it's beyond the capabilities of the iraqis. and lastly, i want to make two larger points that are directly relevant to this committee. one is, you cannot argue for a forceful strategy in iraq and defend the sequester. our armed forces have been seriously damaged by the sequester. it needs to be removed immediately. in fact, the armed forces budget
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needs to be increased significantly. we are at war whether we like it or not and the longer this president refuses to address it, the worse it's going to be when we become engaged. we need to be preparing for that now. lastly, we need to be strengthening our abilities to collect intelligence and not weakening them. this is not the moment that this -- to dismantle our capabilities to see what our enemy is doing. this is the moment to be engaged in wise reform of oversight of the intelligence community and so it is ironic that one of your colleagues spent yesterday arguing for the elimination of a program important to our national security. so i think there are things that the administration can do and things that congress can do but it's going to be a tough fight. i thank the committee for listening to me this morning. senator mccain: colonel harvey.
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colonel harvey: thank you for having me here. i want to begin by focusing on the islamic state and the trends in iraq. i believe that even before the fall of ramadi, the best that could be said is that baghdad was holding the line. even with his success and to create -- into crete -- in tikrit isis has worked their way back. they changed their profile, went to ground and now they're infiltrating back in and conducting atacks and rebuilding capabilities. over the past month, they've continued to do shaping western baghdad. in one day, just a couple of
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days ago, they were eight i.e.d.'s several small arms skirmishes in baghdad itself that, that's to say nothing about what's going on in abu ghraib and other areas around the belt of baghdad. they continue to hold the line along the kurdish front north in the anyone ve area the nineveh area, and they've expanded successfully in other areas, particularly syria. they're very good at shaping operation. they are taking advantage of their interior lines of communication. they are well armed, well resourced and well lead. i think the fall of ramadi should lead to questions about the progress asserted by the pentagon and the administration. there are two strategically important sunni-arab cities in iraq, mosul, the second largest city, a former ottoman capital andra mahdi, the capital of the largest geographic province. the fall of ramadi renews the
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sense that isis has momentum which is important for rallying sunni arabs who may be on the fence in this fight and could aid with foreign fighter recruitment and some funding. with all of -- without an alternative, sunni arabs tribes and peoples in the region, , without someone to protect and lead them, are going to fall into the camp of the islamic state, particularly as this campaign becomes increasingly polarized and the movement of shia militias, popular mobilization units into anbar province will contribute to this polarization. i fully expect that the islamic state in the near future will try to conduct operations to further inflame this fight. that is part of their major strategy, to polarize this fight between the different communities. now i would note that isis has many challenges and weaknesses but the problem is that isis is not losing. i believe that the u.s. has continued to underestimate the
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islamic state which i suspect , shows a lack of understanding about the islamic state its , capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and how it sees the fight and a path to victory. we've seen this story before. it's like deja vu for me. we focus too much on our own activity, our own programs, our own budgets but we're not , focusing on the impact on the enemy and the enemy has a vote. from public statements, we're not looking at the right things. in the metrics and measures that are asserted by the military the pentagon, are not really appropriate. the number of air strikes is interesting but irrelevant. what is the effect on the enemy? and its capacity to fight? stating that isis has lost 25% of the territory it conquered is interesting but not really relevant because isis did not control eastern saladin or some
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of the other areas, because they're still there. they're contesting and rebuilding and they're shaping. so that's a false metric that's been put out. striking oil infrastructure in syria is a good thing. it's been degraded but the enemy has a vote. their efforts there are have been complicated, they've reduced production but they've adapted and creatively, they've developed miniature mobile refinement capabilities even using blow drier air heaters to make refined product. it is crude, yet it's a sophisticated adaptation. and crude is still going to turkey and they're reproducing enough fuel for their own requirements. they are still earning millions of dollars every month from oil in syria. it's been degraded but i think the lower cost of oil on the markets has had just as much of an impact as any operations we have conducted and again, they have adapted. the same for funding and foreign fighter flow. they are still very resilient
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and adaptive in working around the actions that have been taken and the actions that have been taken on foreign fighter flow and going after finances have been weak and not very assertive, not well resourced and i'll talk more about that. isis is excelling at a hybrid war. announcer: they're fighting conventionally if needed, they're adapting and they're employing terrorist attacks, coercion, assassination, subversion as necessary depending on the terrain. it is showing that it can hold key terrain, fight hard, and synchronize operations across space and time. and they respond with the agility to secure tactical and operational advantages. they are effective and well led. they are skilled, and they have professional quality leadership in command and control, and they know the geography, they know the terrain and they know the human terrain in these areas very, very well. they are ruthless and they are
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committed and determined. they are exhibiting the will to fight. they're fighting for power, they're fighting for ideological reasons, but for many sunni ashes angered about their condition in life, they are fighting for their land, their families and their future. they are not motivated by a hard line annihilation usist agenda but they're fighting anyway because they're fighting for their own lives and their own future. and they're fearful. there are many sunni military age males to date who have not taken sides in this fight. it's just a matter of time if this polarization continues and we let this drag on that isis will gain more and more recruits from the iraqi population base. the iraqi fight with isis is not dominating by foreign fighters.
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this is a homegrown fight. we have to keep that in mind. isis, as fred mentioned, maintains operational freedom in most of the sunni provinces and they appear strongly because importantly, relatively, their opposition is very weak. now, the sunni arab political and tribal leaders are weak and divided and seen as illegitimate by many within the sunni arab provinces. and too many sunni ashes are on the fence. they've been given no reason to come onto the side of the baghdad government or to come to us. the prime minister's government is weak and divided and is increasingly undermined by shia opposition. same for the iraqi security forces that are small, weak, poorly resourced, and not well led. and it will take far too long to train and rebuild them to make a difference this year. moreover, i assess that there's a concerted effort to undermine the efficacy of the iraqi security forces by shia
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militias, iranian proxies and some members within the government. particularly some members in the ministry of interior. they seek to weaken the iraqi security forces and provide alternative institutions of power that they control. and again, the coalition is weak , and we can talk about that but there's not a lot of allied cooperation and resources put into this fight. and lastly, the u.s. lines of operation for the most part have been poorly resourced, both in theater and at the interagency level here in washington, d.c. i do not see the urgency or the resourcing within treasury or the intelligence community or others to really energize and aggressively go after this fight in this region. so, although u.s. air strikes, i
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believe, have complicated the isis operations, the air campaign has not been decisive. it's been relatively small and limited and the islamic state, as i mentioned, has been adaptive and creative. importantly, they remained well armed and well resourced and our lines of operation, be it counter finance, counter foreign fighter flow, delegitimizing the brand, the training and building of the i.s.f. and the military campaign at best appear disjointed, poorly resourced and lack an effective framework to bring it all together. i think we need to relook this and with that, i look forward to your questions. mr. mccain: thank you. mr. catullas. mr. catullas: thank you, mr. chairman, senator nelson senators. it's an honor to be here today. mr. chairman, your efforts to raise our national security debate have been incredible and
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very important. everything that the members of the committee have been doing. i have been very important for our country as we look at the world and not just the middle east. mr. chairman, i prepared written testimony, with your permission i'd like to submit that for the record. mr. mccain: without objection. mr. katulis: what i wanted to do this morning with my remarks is try to complement their insights with what i focus on in my own work, which is looking at the dynamics within the region and the strategic dynamics and the problems of isis and syria within that. mr. chairman, you said at the outset beforehand that you'd like to discuss concrete steps. so while i give my analysis of what i think is happening in iraq, syria, the region and more broadly, i'll offer some ideas that i hope we can discuss, some of which i think members of the
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panel have proposed in legislation. the way i see the challenge, and i don't disagree with much of what was said here earlier, the challenge of isis, i think operates on three different levels or three concentric circles. the first is iraq and syria, obviously. that's where the devastation has been astounding over the last few years. and many of the steps, i think that have been proposed here in terms of security measures and security cooperation measures is something that i frankly, it's a little outside of my expertise to evaluate. i look at the political and strategic dynamics. but i do think inside of iraq, no matter what we've done or what we do, in the coming years, every type of security assistance should be implemented with a close eye to internal political power dynamics. at this stunning moment, and what happened in ramadi i think should shock everybody, we
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announcer:e should keep an eye on these measures of what we need to do announcer: to help our iraqi partners on the security front but understand what we have learned over the last 10 years plus is that the political dynamics are terribly important. in those regards, what i think we need to do, and the obama administration needs to do, is hold the iraqi government accountable for a lot of the ideas that have been discussed in terms of armed surges, tribes, building a national guard. if you look at what the obama administration did last summer and i was -- i'm a supporter of this somebody, using security -- of this measure, using security as a -- as leverage to get a different type of government, we need to continue that process.
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when the police in ramadi were not being funded, when concepts like the national guard were still stuck in parliament, it makes it hard for any number of u.s. trainers to actually do their job if those mechanisms aren't in place. second, i think we need to start entertaining, i know people are discussing this, the notion of greater decentralization inside iraq, greater decentralization of authority. some of the proposals people have discussed about mechanisms for getting arms to sunni tribes or kurdish forces. again, i think we should consider that and balance it against the overall objective of trying to keep iraq together. the second component, obviously, is syria. and this in my view is the weakest link in the overall approach in this first circle. mr. chairman, senator keane, many others have highlighted this but we need to do something about this. the gap between the obama administration's stated goals and what we're actually doing to shape the veerment on the ground -- the environment on the ground is alarming. in my view, we need to accelerate that which the administration proposed and you funded. the training and equiping of third way forces.
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we need to link these efforts to the broader regional dynamics. what's happening in syria right now is a complicated engagement by actors in the region. if you see not only isis' gains but the gains of al nusra, al qaeda's front, these gains don't come from nowhere. they're being offered support by actors in the region. the main point is that the end state in syria, often described by the administration in ways that our tactics don't link up with what we want to achieve. but the overall point in this first circle, iraq and syria which i hope you take away and i think we need to discuss some more is how do you link these problems and how do we address them? what worries me is quite often we look at a challenge in iraq or a corner in iraq, but don't link it to the broader problem of iraq and syria.
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last summer, isis effectively eroded the borders between these two countries. what we've had other the last year or so is a debate over a series of different tactics, some of which have been implemented and some have not. i think if we can all bring our thinking together to talk about how do we actually have an integrated strategy that focuses on isis, both in iraq and syria. on the second level, the regional level, and here i hope we can think a little bit more about this but for essentially the last four or five years, the middle east has slipped into a period of fragmentation. not only has iraq and syria -- syrian state structures collapsed, we have seen syria and yemen feel these strains. it's a struggle between the regional powers, iran and saudi arabia but there are other actors too. much of it is sectarian but the conflict is multidimensional. it is multifaceted. our resources matter but iran,
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saudi arabia, others have been funding their own proxies. and what i think is missing in terms of the u.s. leadership on all of this is accounting for all of these efforts. how do we actually better organize and come up with a better strategic conception. essentially since 2003 and the iraq war, when we made the decision to move from a strategic posture of dual containment of iran and iraq, i think we've been struggling for what is our overarching strategy in the middle east. we made some gains at certain periods as was noted in the surge in iraq in 2007-2008. but the picture of what is the united states trying to do in the region, i think, still, that question has not been answered. i think the obama administration rightfully has taken some positive steps in the right direction. the building of an anti-isil coalition that has 62 countries in it, including key stake holders in the region is an important opportunity, one that i don't think has been fully seized yet by the administration.
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its engagement in that coalition effort has been episodic. in february, we had a counterering violent extremism summit and the questions of what then after the summit, i think remain unanswered to a large extent. just last week was a very important summit with the g.c.c. nations and i think an important communique. as with everything in life and with this administration the followup is going to be very important. those commitments not only to iraq and inside syria there needs to be broader implementation. finally, one last point on the equilibrium point is the question of equilibrium in the broader region. the obama administration often speaks of its engagement with iran and diplomatic engagement on the nuclear front as an opportunity to achieve some new type of equib librium in the -- equilibrium in the region. i share that aspiration but we need to be clear-eyed about how
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hard that will be at a time when iran, when other actors in the region, are actually investing in a number of different proxy wars. we need to be clear about how realistic that is and what we're trying to do. and on the final point,en the -- on the international level and i'll close here, quite clearly this problem of isis is connected in ways that the problems that derek and general keane dealt with in the previous decade, it's much more complicated by the fact that you have more than 15,000 foreign fighters flooding into and perhaps the number is higher. what i would suggest at the international level and our analysis is that the debate about isis is terribly important but it's moving very quickly. the debate that many people are having on syria right now is the fight between al nustra and isil and a number of different actors. i would say that 14 years of after 9/11, nearly 14 years if you look at the broader landscape beyond iraq and syria, iraq and syria as the epicenter,
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this new trend toward jihadism and the growth of it is something we haven't wrestled with. we need to widen the landscape and keep focused on it to assess what we're doing and whether we're apply regular sources to -- applying resources to meet those threats. in conclusion, i hope the events of the last week or so, and i hope our discussion today is a constructionive wakeup call to move from what i think has been a largely reactive crisis management and somewhat tactical approach to the problems that not only over the last year or two but over the last decade. and i hope the events can mote -- motivate all of us, include you with your lead ship, to draw toward the source of unity. like the authorization for the use of military force. like a national conversation that reinvigorates our sense of purpose because as derek and others have described this is a dangerous adversary. we have not yet created that strategy to actually defeat them and we can. thank you. senator mccain: could i mention
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to my colleagues, a vote is on. if you'd like to go and come back, please do so. i'll try to continue the hearing, i may have to pause but i know that you have questions for the panel so maybe we could work it that way. however you'd like. and i'd like to begin by picking up a little bit on what mr. katulis just said. this is the whole idea of the perception of iran and what the prospects are because it seems to me that -- and the necessity to be clear-eyed about it because it seems to me that one of the reasons why we are not acting more aggressively against bashir assad has got to do with this idea or in my view, illusion, that once we conclude
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the nuclear agreement, there will be a whole new relationship with iran in the middle east which my conversations with our friends in the sunni ashe states -- sunni arab states scares the heck out of them and so maybe i can ask the panel about, it seems to me in my view that it is a real impediment to any real significant action in syria. for example, the free syrian army, what little areas we are training, we have not told -- the administration has said there's no policy yet about when we send these young men that we are training back into syria whether we would protect them from bashir assad's barrel bombing. it seems to me that there's a degree of immorality associated
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with telling people you're going to train and equip them and then not protect them from being killed when they go back in and that they are only to fight isis and not bashir assad. the father of isis. so maybe begin with you, general keane, because i don't think that americans are fully aware of this contradiction here. mr. keane: i agree in principle with what you're saying. just so our audience and the committee can understand, we may forget that early on in the move -- rebellion against assad, the momentum was on the opposition force's side. many in this town were predicting the regime would fall. i think we can all recall that. senator mccain: there was testimony before this committee by the secretary of defense and joint chiefs of staff.
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general keane: they needed arms specifically, antiaircraft weapons to deal with mitchell military. they were stuck with rifles, machine gun, r.p.g.'s and the like. that early encounter for the 2012 was denied, late 2011 early 2012, and then the c.i.a. became convinced that we could actually vet the free syrian army and i will say that the institute for the study of war had some impact on provide them information that assisted them with that conclusion, and general petraeus would admit that as the director at the time. he presented a briefing to secretary clinton and panetta and dempsey, general dempsey and they agreed with him that this force could in fact be armed equipped and trained robustly. but the administration did not
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do that. and tragically, as a result of that, the free syrian army now is a mere shadow of its former self. it is frankly -- there's frankly not much of it left. senator mccain: and could i add, in desperation, isn't it true they've joined forces with al nusra, an affiliated orlingnyization? is that true? general keane: organizations that were part of their organization have broken from them. they were -- islamic organizations, not radicalized and they have joined with al-nusra, who has gain master's degree territory, is more aggressive an has had more success against the regime than any force out there. so that is true. what we're doing is, and i know the committee has been briefed on this, we're attempting to train 5,000 people that have
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-- would become part of the free syrian army but what organization are they going to plug into. it's totally disconnected because the free syrian army is not fighting isis. they don't have the wherewithal to fight isis and the regime. they're fighting the regime. so we're training forces that will join free syrian army in theory and indeed they will fight the regime forces. but it has nothing to do with isis at the moment. that's how flawed the strategy is in syria. it makes no sense. we don't have a ground force. and the chairman suggests, it doesn't make any sense to train these forces, arm them and equip them and provide them leadership and then put them , back into the fight against assad's conventional military , which will bomb them and attack them with conventional artillery, mortars, barrel bombs and the like. so that strategy in syria is , flawed.
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and obviously the only way that isis will eventually be defeated in syria is with some kind of ground force. our allies in the region are suggesting to us, we're not agreeing with them, is that what we should deal with bashar al-assad, change the momentum against assad by shutting down his air power, using no-fly zones and buffer zones to achieve that end, and that change in military -- in momentum militarily on the battlefield can shift the political equation to get some kind of settlement. now listen, that's arguable whether that's acheeable or not. but sitting here and doing nothing and permitting this to go on, i think that's quite irresponsible in terms of the humanitarian catastrophe that's taking place there and also that isis is expanding and gaining in strength in syria every single week and month. so the syrian strategy needs to be thought out, it needs to lead to a situation where we have our
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coalition of arabs in the region. and possibly the turks participating also and they and i do think we should listen to them about dealing with assad and that regime first in some limited capacity to change the political equation. >> i'm going to have to go vote. i'd like to hear from the other witness. i'm going to go vote. and if someone isn't back after you we will take a brief pause until my return. >> excuse me thank you mr. chair. thank you, gentlemen for being here today. i really do appreciate it very much. i apologize that i had to step out. but i do agree -- i do agree with the panel that we need a comprehensive strategy. right now there is no strategy.
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as an element -- excuse me. and really as an element, i do want to talk more about arming the kurds. i have been odd vow kating for -- advocating for the administration to fight isis. i believe this is a common sense proposal considering the peshmerga's willingness tonight. it is truly unmatched by any other group in that region in the fight against isis. the kurdish people have been vital to defeat isis and in providing support to around the 1.6 million displaced person from iraq and syria and also for the past quarter century iraqi kurds have pruvee to be
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reliarable partners by supporting u.s. interest every time we sought their assistance. i talked to the many men who served up in that region and they always state what great allys the kurds have been to them in their fight. so they are proven to be great allies of ours. earlier in week former c.i.a. and n.s.a. drebtor michael hayden once again spoke for the need to increase the support in the fight against isis. and on tuesday general hayden said i would double down on the kurds. their military has the virtue of showing up when it comes to a fight and they've been our friends in the area for decades. i would love to ask each of you to please explain that if you do agree with general hayden's assessment or if you disagree and maybe why. so general keen if we could
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start with you. thank you. >> the problem we have is and they've told you and they've told others that they're not getting the kinds of arms that they need, the quantity of those arms are not there, passing that through the iraqi government. we probably should have continued the covert problem we did have and passing it through the central intelligence agency but they also need partners because when they're fighting they need coordination with air power to make their ground operation that much more effective. and i would say this, as good as the kurds are they have also a limited interest in what they're willing to fight for in iraq. they certainly are not going to
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participate in reclaiming anbar province and other parts of iraq. a lot more needs to be done with others as whelm and i'll leave it to my colleagues that have more information than i do. >> right. dr. kagan. >> i agree with general keane especially about the last point. we certainly should help the kurds defend curtis tan. but the -- kurtistan. but the kurds cannot fight on behalf of the arabs. although the kurds -- i don't want to put them in the shiah militias and they do not behave that way if you saw large kurdish forces in mosul you would find that you would have an epic war in your hands that would not be in our interest and would make room for isis or its successor to come in.
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so i don't think the kurds could actually do what we need them to do even if they watched to. i would only add that although we agree that the kurds have been very eliabled a lies fighting on the ground against our common enemy they have been less than helpful and they are still being less than helpful including demands for oil revenues and various other things. we should try to get them to think of iraq as whole a whole are -- from a political standpoint. >> i agree with what has been said on this issue. i would add that the sunni arab communities along the green lies the fall lines are tremendous numbers of friction points about territory about past grievances.
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so we would have to be very careful about how they would be employed. and i think, you know, that's about making sure that there are red lines about how far they could go in coordination where they are willing to fight along the frontiers. we do not want to further polarize these communities more than they are already. but arming them effectively and developing a mechanicism to accommodate baghdad's interest about knowing what's being delivered but making sure that it gets delivered we have to make sure we get that done and coordinate that. but deliver those weapons that are going to be very important to the defense of those kurdish lands. >> thank you. >> very quickly senator. it's an idea worthy of consideration. in my recent visit the divisions that consider in the divisions having separate lines of control to actually implement that effectively
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they'll need to deal with those divisions. you have actors in the region including us, beyond us regional actors who have overed the support and sometimes it's been blocked by baghdad itself. there's sensitivities because it leads to the question are you trying to break down iraq? the more that the united states or other actors within the region invest in sub national actors or nonstate actors for the benefit of trying to defeat terrorist organizations like isis there are advantages to that because they're more cable as we've seen with the kurdish peshmerga. and the frag member tations of states could accelerate if we're working in the short-term to defeated threats and to deal with a capitaranian issue.
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and again, i'm not arguing against it, it's just a phonetial downside risk that there's the notion that we could further inadvertently fragment these entities. >> thank you very much. i pressure it very much where i'm coming from is that we simply have no strategy in that region, no one that has been communicated clearly to any of us. so i think establishing at least a safe zone, i do believe that the peshmerga in kurdistan is moving time-out iraq. but at least establishing a safe zone that is free of isis is a step in the right direction. i think we need think about that. we need to pursue that but any thoughts on where just your idea of where the administration needs to go at
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this point? i still see some reluctance coming from the administration on admitting that isis continues to expand not just within iraq but also globally. any thought on what we need to do or how we could work with the administration on developing a strategy, one that will work. >> i would stress again where i work on which are the regional aspects. i think what the u.s. can do more my colleague talked about is beyond my expertise. the fact that the anti-isil coalition has a military one, one on countering ex-terrorism on counter terrorism funding. i would suggest they're a great template but that they've not been used effectively. i think it's wise to actually try to channel the resources an
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tevers of others to much more constructive ends. we need to do more that's clear. and i think we need to lead. but using these mechanicisms more effectively having more follow up on things like, we often think it's soft but it's not the countering violent extremism everies it's not extreme for me to have a conference without any clear precise follow-ups. and i mean i think they're talking about it but we need to have great clarity to our regional partners and knowing nose the coalition of ok this is what we're going o do in the way that the general and the doctor and harvey have talked about in military steps we also need a campaign that are multifaceted. those are things that nests at its core but partnership with others. >> thank you. >> i think that given the
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president's strategy in line of operation, i don't think those were ever given an opportunity to succeed. even though because i thought they were insignificant to the task when he declared them, they have not been adequately resourced or executed today. and again as i said in my opening statement that's here in washington, d.c. at the agency level as well as in theater. so if we're not going to be determined to achieve results and have leadership that drives the inner agency and makes it this a matter or urgency and criticality to the united states then we won't get where we need to go. first you need to be determined to achieve results. two, we need to think about some core objectives here when we can fight isis and contain iran and seek to develop an
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independent iraq. in order to do that we need to support sunni arab, engagement and it will cal inclusion. without adequate force structure on the ground and commitment you cannot get out there and engage with the sunni arabs. you can't move around the battle space and they won't believe you're serious unless you put enough skin in the game. and to do that we're going to need in my judgment about 15,000 or more enhancement of u.s. force structure in theet irand to go with what general keane said we need probably two brigades. we need aviation, mixed aviation brigade. you need some artillery. you need enhanced direct action soft operational capabilities for direct action, direct action brings you the intelligence which you then hair and allows you to go after those networks.
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the islamic state has not been stressed across the syrian border up along the kurdish green line. there are tremendous vulnerabilities they've had the nive actives because they have not been pressed along those frontal areas. >> you believe 15,000 additional troops and aviation assets to directly engage isis as a combat -- >> i'm welcomed to be there to provide the enablers support for the iraqi security force first direct access of the special operation forces for indirect flyers, advisors embedded with iraqi security forces or ministry of interior elements in a way that gets us on the ground in bringing in capability. i'm not advising that we put troops on the ground in combat outposts in ramadi clearing streets, you know, and
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communities and neighborhoods. we need owe be providing support for sunni tribes and that gives us influence that can reach into the political domain in these provinces but also in baghdad. it's hard to have influence if you don't have skin in the game. >> i would agree with that. i would also state though that any time you do engage more of those types of troops on the ground you may say that it is a training, an assist mission and that may be heavier on the assist mission but we are engaging in combat at that poifpblet i don't think there's any way that you avoid that and i don't want to mislead the american people because certainly there's danger any time that we put troops on the ground. so i'm not saying i would support or not support that measure but i do believe that you are correct, sir. and that we do need to engage if we expect others to engage.
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we know that the air strikes are not doing it. so thank you for that pers speckity -- perspective. >> senator, i want to second what derek said and agree with you about the forces. i know that derek does that. it's the purpose of talking about train, advise and assist is not to imply that the american troops are not going to be in combat. of course, they are if we're doing our job. but the point he's making is that we're not anticipating putting american brigade in ramadi and having them clear house to house the way we had done previously. that's not what we're looking at. i have to say we as a flation defeated as long as we do not have the will to fight this war. and i would assess this war right now we seem to be showing that we do not have the will to fight this war. until an unless beginning with
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the president there's a demonstration that we have the will to fight, we are going to lose this war. and so what congress has to do -- what we all have to do is find any way that we can to persuade the president, to own this fight, to recognize that it is a war, to recognize that we must win and to help develop the will among the american people to fight this. >> thank you very much. >> the other thing i would add is that you do have to lock at this strategically. hen you think the world trade center in 1993 was directly against the united states not using proxies as the iranians did in 1980. and that was followed by embassy bombings in africa, the u.s. -- uss cole and 911.
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we've never developed a comprehensive strategy despite all of that killing, despite all of the aggressiveness and assertiveness that this enemy has shown, we have always looked at this narrowly. and we're more sophisticated than that. we yrks the solution is right in front of us. when you look at this map this is just isis. if i put al-qaeda on the map it would be worse. this can only be solved by those country -- countries affected be this. this is about the united states as opposed to shaking hands and slapping everybody on the back which we did. we should have hosted a conference that came without a strategy on what to do with this. plans on what to do with this. what is the level of contribution that's going to
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deal with this. we don't develop a strategy. we can develop a strategy that undermines the ideology that does take their finances away and that does meet this threat militarily when where it does need to be met. we cannot do this by ourselves. we have no comprehensive strategies. we have no strategy in the region to deal with the morphing of radical islam as defined by isis and al-qaeda. and we certainly as we've all been saying we have no strategy to -- effective strategy to deal with this issue in iraq and syria. so i agree with you that is the stark point that we should have to deal with this problem. and then you start to put underneath that those things that make sense. and we've got to bring our allies into this in a very cohesive way. listen, they -- we have their attention. iranians are forcing their attention and the spread of al-qaeda. we have to help them organize
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to do this effort and bring the means to deal with that and not all of that is kinetic and certainly most of it is not united states military power. >> yes. general, you brought up iranian influences and since i've come into the summit i have been very, very concerned about the iranian influence with the shiah militia. and here we have the shiah militia purring back against isis. and i would love to hear a little bit more about that iranian influence with the shiah militia. where do we go from here assuming that we do care of isis the shiah are controlling areas but their intent, i think could easily turn against american influences, american soldiers that might be on the grown there? so as we look at arming the
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shiah militia, if we talk about that engaging with them just remembering that they are remembering that they are being influenced heavily by the iranians, what would your thoughts be on that? general keane: i don't think the iraqi shiah are the problem. and there are elements in the popular mobilization forces and so force that are not pro-iranian and do not desire to be discover governed by iran. we've seen this repeatedly. and of course this is the grand view of the grand ayatollah sistani is this iraq is an arab country. it's not a persian country and they do not want to be dominated by persians. however, the most effective shiah militia forces are part of the iranian military defacto. they are run by hadi al-almawri to take hezbollah run by
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mohandas reports to their commander of the coast force. and we have seen this repeatedly. it's not a shiah problem, there are no longer even proxies. they're extensions of the iranian military forces and throws the lems that are leading the charge into ramadi which is unacceptable. they also help get us off track by launching the attack onity crit -- on tikrit which then failed and we had to bail them out which is an enormous positive turning point because it demonstrated the iranian-controlled militias to take this fight to the enemy. we just not only undone that benefit that we gained from that but moved many steps back. and if in fact, these are successful in taking part of ramadi when the troops that we
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backed failed it will demonstrate the viability of these elements within iraq in a catasstroic way that will undermine any lem administer, any independence the i.s.f. might have an be a significant extension of iranian military power not just political influence in the region. >> thank you. my time is way over, senator. >> i was going the say i'm glad we've had this encounter, i hope you'll have them over to your house for dinner. >> i would love that. thank you very much gentlemen. john: before i turn to senator cain -- and apologize for this disjointedness for the vote on the floor maybe general keane and general harvey can respond to this. i don't know if there's a real logical argument that would counter what has been said here
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today as far as the assessment of the overall situation is concerned because i think the facs on the ground would indicate that there is strong support for this argument or the position that you have stated. but yet we have members of the military who have many years of experience who have naught iraq and afghanistan and yet as military spokesmen or even military leaders make statements that are totally divorced if not, i won't say reality, but certainly is directly counter to the testimony that you've given here today. i do not understand it. maybe colonel harvey, could i begin with you? colonel harvey: sir, what i find is quite often our commanders an leaders are misreading the operational environment that they're dealing with.
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they don't understand the hen mi well enough and part of -- the enemy well enough and par of the problem is the reporting of information is not being put in context in a very insightful and deep way to understand how they are organized, how they really think tactically operational and strat teenically. it's reporting history rather than thinking who they are. john: does that account for statements like "we're winning"? colonel harvey: in order to get the context, you really need to have the deep dives and focus and quit looking at this on a day-to-day basis. you to have a operational construct. you have towns who the enemy is and how they're going to win. and probably we need better alternative analysis and be truthful to ourselves about how we're doing in our lines of operation. john: so this is an argument
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for team b. colonel harvey: in part, yes, sir. in may of 2006 we were being told that everything's on track. john: i remember it well. colonel harvey: they get built-in assumption and they're focused on what their mission is. where is the order to impose our will and defeat the enemy? how are we going to align and partnership with allies and folks on the ground that we can count on to build momentum, to impose our will to establish security? we don't think in those terms anymore. we talk about management rather than break the will of the enemy. john: general keane? general keane: we just had a spokesperson last week, i think that's probably what you're
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referring to who made a >>, you know, to the american people at large that we in fact were succeeding isis. and that they're only cable of conducting maul attacks against -- small attacks against us. that hasn't been true since we started. and certainly isn't true now. so one, how do we -- these committee members when i provided testimony in 2006 and we were pushing against the narrative at that time by senior generals and secretaries of defense etc., we were asked the same question. how -- how could that be? how could cable people well intentioned be so wrong in general sense is the issue? i think once we make up our minds that we're going to do something inside this military culture, we drive towards it.
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and we have a tendency to a fault to see those thing that contribute to what that mission's success is and to disregard not wholly but to minimize those things that are really pushing against it. that's inside our culture. how do you fix that? one way and one way only, competent leadership fixes that. you don't permit that to happen because you're driving honest, tough, deep dive assessments of what's taking place. these are the four things we said we're going to do. how are we doing that? how could you ever come to the conclusion that's is is losing if -- isis is losing if it enjoys freedom of maneuver, a principle of warfare and it can attack any time of its choosing. if a force has that capability of doing that and get results as a manifestation of that, then that force, in fact by
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definition is winning. and so the leadership should say to those subordinates, say what are you talking about? none of that makes any sense. twhazz this force is doing. this is what they're capable of. we have got this wrong. and how are we going to fix it? that's about competent leadership. >> senator cain. >> i'm jealous of my clegg's 13 minutes. i hope my other colleagues don't come back and i try your patience. you said we should not be spectators. you are -- you are going through the atrocitys that i saw in in committee and who they are and how dangerous they are. we should not just be spectators. we are spectators. congress -- congress has been a spectator since august 8th, we've been a spectator. absent the one vote in
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september that we took to arm syrian moderates there is no evidence that congress is concerned about aisle none -- isil. our allies have no ovet that congress is concerned about isil. isil has no evidence that congress is concerned about isil. but most tragically the thousands of people u.s. men women, service people who are deployed fighting this battle every day, they have no evident that congress is concerned about isil in the least. we've been at war since august the 8th. everybody calls it a war. the president calls it a war. within two weeks the article to mission to defend the embassy and the consulate were pretty safe. said we got to go on the offense and the president said that was the dividing line
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between the article power in one chief and article two where they have to authorize military action. but now for nine and a half month wes have failed to do what is our fundamental job what only we are supposed to do. there's been no house committee action. there's been no house floor debate or vote. there was one committee vote in the senat foreign relations committee in december. but there's been no meaningful floor debate and no meaningful senate floor action. how strange it is, we're in a congress that loves to punch this president as an emperial president, threaten lawsuits when he does stuff with congressional approval. we have been silent.
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>> i call it extra league or illegal. the president himself in his own it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. you congress has come up with one excuse after another to avoid taking action. the first excuse was this. the leaders of both parties of both houses went to the white house in june and said do not make us take action on this war. do what you want. do not make us take action before the midterm elections. congress adjourned with an
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ongoing war six weeks before a midterm election. the earliest and we did nothing about it. after the midterm election then it was the senate is going to change hands so we should not do anything as a lame-duck senate. then we waited until january. we should not do the article one job because of the president had not sent a draft authorization. i personally criticize the administration for not sending in the override when they started this illegal action. the fact that they did not does not excuse them. and now there is an authorization pending since the 17th of february more than three months and we still have not done anything. i don't know what the excuse is now. you can only conclude we don't want to take it up because we are either indifferent to this threat the real reason is we
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don't have the backbone to take it up and do the job congress is supposed to do. what that means is there are others doing their job and we deployed thousands into the theater of battle. violence off the deck of the theodore roosevelt crashed a plane on take off the other day. we are deploying thousands and they are risking their lives. we have had the death of american servicemen in connection with american resolve. they were held hostage. i sold it not start executing hostages until after we started bombing them on the eighth of august. we've had american deaths as a result of this law. we still have not done anything. and now the cost passes the $2 billion mark in april and we still have not done anything. it's just -- i never would have
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contemplated before he came to this body that there would be a situation where congress would tolerate an ongoing war and just stand back and say, i guess the president can do whatever he wants to do. it's not supposed to be that way. one reason i'm glad the chair called this committee today as i'm hoping the challenging events of last weekend if you go into the details of that special forces authorization, we are lucky that we did not lose lives in that up there is a nation -- and that operation. it will go on for a very long time. i just wonder how much longer congress will be a spectator. we can criticize the white house and the administration strategy. we should keep doing it if we do not like it but we have not earned the right to be critics
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as long as we stand back and don't do the one thing that congress is supposed to do. >> i know there is a question there somewhere. senator graham. >> does the current strategy in iraq and syria have any chance to succeed? >> that has been the basis of our testimony. >> i did not hear it. >> we will gladly say it again. i respect to asking the question, quite frankly. the answer is no. >> does everyone agree the answer is no? and the current configuration presented direct threat to the homeland? >> yes. >> yes. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, i had a conversation with the cia director who echoed that sentiment. failure in iraq and syria is
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putting the homeland at risk because so many foreign fighters are flowing in and they have the ability to hit us all at home. is that correct? >> yes. >> general keane, you describe the strategy is not enough. >> it is far from it in we all collectively laid out details to support that. >> do you see any way to defeat them without a substantial army involved? >> if we deployed tens of thousands of troops ourselves we could defend isis and syria but i don't think anyone here would recommend such an event. people with a vested interest should be involved. they have said as much but we have to do something to change the momentum of the assad regime.
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>> is a fair to say that they are not going in unless one of the objectives is to take down a sod? -- assad? >> they will not just fight isil and give the place to assad. >> what we are seeing is increasing levels of support of various pervert -- varieties as an alternative. >> i went people to understand that the radical sunni islamic group rather than having an army on the ground made up of allies. is that fairly accurate? we are choosing to work with terrorists. there is a vacuum created by -- >> some people are choosing to work with terrorists because of the vacuum. i do not think that was determined to be our policy. >> our allies in the region are
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supporting a terrorist group as a last resort proposition because america is a wall. at the end of the day, do you see a scenario of dislodging isil taking assad out, but does not require effort to put syria back together? >> no, i don't see it. >> we are talking years and billions of dollars. >> i believe so. >> if this were keeps going on, do you worry about jordan and lebanon being affected? >> especially jordan, a country of lived in and studied as a fulbright scholar. it is feeling the force of not only -- >> we would be losing one of the trip most trustworthy allies in the region.
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i was told that there are more syrian children in elementary school in lebanon than lebanese children. does that surprise anyone? >> and does not surprise me but it should shock people. >> there are more kids in elementary school and lebanon from syria than lebanese kids. if this were continues in its current fashion, it will create unending chaos that will change the map for generations to come. do you agree? >> yes. >> yes. >> there's no way to get iraq right until you deal with syria in a manner? they would not last 15 minutes without their help? >> does been critical in sustaining his regime. >> if we gave them $50 billion as a signing bonus that it's highly likely some of that money would go to assad? >> and the rest of his proxies
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seeking domination in the middle east. >> have you seen anything that says they're changing for the better when it comes to the region? >> they're becoming more aggressive in any facet. >> would you say they're the most aggressive they been in modern times? >> yes. >> are they responsible for toppling a pro-american government in yemen? >> they contributed for sure. >> now that we've lost our eyes and ears in yemen al qaeda in the arabian peninsula is growing and a threat to the homeland. >> not only that but isis is growing in yemen. >> syria is non-perfect form because there are so many foreign fighters with western passports. >> yes. >> the shia militia on the ground in iraq are controlled by the iranians. >> yes.
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>> we are doing permanent damage if we allow the shia militia to continue to have dominance on the battlefield. you see any good thing coming from the strategy being continued? >> no. >> it's destined to fail. >> there is a better way. we just have to choose that way. >> senator cruz? sen. cruz: thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, thank you very much for being here, thank you for your service and leadership. i'd like to ask the panel first for your assessment of the current level of success we're seeing in the military campaign against crisis -- isis. >> it is failing, senator.
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that is the assessment generally across the board. it is failing in iraq, syria, and across the board in the region. >> why is it failing? >> it was ill-conceived to begin with because it focused on iraq and it was badly under resourced and excessive constraint have been put on the limited resources that we were willing to deploy. >> could you please elaborate on the constraint put on our military? >> we have forces in theater that could made a difference in the fight for ramadi had they been allowed to embed the lower levels have they been allowed to perform functions and bring in air support. some of the aviation we had been used in direct support.
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had the forces we had in theater been able to go out to the tribes and reach out to them directly rather than relying on the tribes to come to them there were a number of things that even this limited force could have done but the force was probably too limited to be decisive in any event. >> just to add on to that, >> there are huge problems with that as well. the military component is clearly under resourced the role of the advisors is fundamentally flawed itself. they have to be down where the unit is doing the high at the battalion level because they help to execute and they
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contribute to their success. they have the capability to call in airstrikes and they have the ability to use drones in support of those to help acquire intelligence for them and they can use attack helicopters as well. therefore, the airstrikes that we currently have that are excellent in taking out command and control, logistic infrastructure facilities, it starts to fall apart very rapidly when you're are dealing with multiple targets. and then senator, the overwhelming amount of combat that takes place is close to combat in urban centers that are populated and where, our forces iraqi forces get very close to the enemy. you have to guide to bombs from the airplane and that is close air support. that is what we need the forward air controllers for so the
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effectiveness of the air power is this. 75% of the missions flown come back with their bombs because they cannot acquire the target or properly identify the target or have no assurances that they cannot do so. that changes dramatically throughput the air controllers on the ground. i tell you what, if you're fighting as the fighting took place in ramadi and as that fight unfolded. they have prepared for weeks to get to ramadi. this was not due to a sandstorm. this is taking out supporting towns, other attacks that led to finally an assault using suicide bombers' vehicles to do that. if that force had anti-tank weapons, they could have killed those vehicles or apache
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helicopters, they could have killed those vehicles. they destroyed entire blocks and entire units because the explosives were so heavy. after that came the fighting forces themselves. again, if we had close air support, we could have dealt with the fighting forces before they actually closed the iraqi military, helicopters would vr impacted them and we have a close fight and assuming the iraqi forces could deal with that. but i would tell you this, many of those iraqiy -- iraqi forces did fight in ramadi and a lot of them fled as they watched suicide bombers get blown out and watch the caravans coming down the road get blome up because we have proper surveillance and we have resources that can deal with that. anti-tank guided missiles and the like.
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we start to change the dimension on the battlefield very significantly as a result of providing them with the proper resources. these are the constraints that are out there that are manifested itself in the behavior of the iraqi security forces. they have their own problems. leadership, discipline, morale and competence. but there is a lot we can do to make a difference. senator cruz: let me ask, the administration is currently declining to arm the kurds. the peshmerga are fighting isis and they are effective allies. the judgment, the policy of not arming the kurds makes very little sense. i would be interested in the panel's assessment that should we be arming the kurds and is the current policy reasonable and effective in defeating isis? dr. kagan: i think it's a
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consensus on the panel we should be helping the kurds defend themselves, but the kurds will not be able to be effective partners in retaking the portions of arab iraq that they control but we should be helping the kurds defend themselves, i think. senator mccain: could i point out that we are not refusing to arm the kurds. the problem is as it goes through baghdad and the kurds continue to complain that there is not the kind of facilitation of the delivery of those weapons. but the senator's point is for all practical purposes i think correct. senator king. senator king: one of the phrases struck a cord with me. raises the question of intelligence.
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and general keen, would you comment, do we have adequate intelligence, do we have any intelligence and have we become too reliable on signal intelligence and therefore don't have human beings giving us the information? general keane: it is put to the military leaders when they come in here because they have the details of it. but this much i do know. my sensing from talking to my sources is the intelligence function is not robust enough. and yes, we are relying on national intelligence sources and some regional intelligence sources. some of that is surveillance and some of that is signals intelligence as well. but there's a lot more that we can do to assist them. we use surveillance a lot to assist the use of air power
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because it's not controlled by forward air controllers. we need different kinds of surveillance in there to assist grouped forces. when we were fighting in iraq and now finishing up in afghanistan, our maneuver units used different kinds of drones. they are much smaller. they don't stay up necessarily as long as those that assist the air function and assist the ground commanders. that kind of capability there controlled by u.s. would dramatically make a difference for the ground forces that are in the fight because that would give them the ability to see the preparations the enemy is making and see the execution before it impacts on them and most importantly to do something about it. i think the entire intelligence function has got to be put on the review. we have a tendency to focus on other things that are kinetic, but the intelligence function in
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this kind of warfare is significant in terms of its enhancing ground forces and air forces to be able to use their capabilities to the fullest. senator king: we continue to be surprised. >> i'm at the university of south florida and we drafted a paper that ramadi was going tofall lasweekndt looking at dahrnource information. information and how to think about it. the warnings were there. the indicatorwere there. if we could see it at the university of south florida and institutes of warsaw that, we shouldn't be making statements saying ramadi wasn't going to fall and wasn't under threat because that creates another problem of its own and then you
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have a collapse and looks like there is a real problem in our communication at the most highest levels of our government. senator king: and makes them look invincible and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. you made a strong case for things like close air support, forward controllers, all of those kinds of things. but isn't one of the fundamental problems, we could have all of those assets, but if the iraqi security forces don't have the will to fight and if the local population doesn't have any confidence in this government in baghdad, it's still a very
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difficult if not impossible proposition. can you give me some thoughts on that. dr. kagan: i agree with the statement that you made if those two conditions are true, then it's difficult to impossible. i don't think it's not true that the iraqi forces don't have the will to fight. as we have seen repeatedly, will to fighton ovmatc mcapalities just as much t that's what we used to do. we are allowing them to be overrun in these circumstances and that erodes their will to fight significantly. your point about the political accommodation is incredibly important, we need to have an iraqi government that is able to reach out to sunnis. the more we try to subcontract these conflicts to local forces in preference to our own -- senator king: a shia militia and
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exascerbates the sectarian conflict and makes isis look good to the sunni chiefs in anbar. i don't think they look good to anybody. but if they don't have confidence and isn't that one of the fundamental problems here is that isis has been swimming if not in a friendly sea but a neutral sea? dr. kagan: it is a fearful sea and terrorism works both ways and these guys are incredibly brutal in dealing with the populations they control. so people are going to require a certain amount of assurance that if they rise up, that they will win. the alternative is they would be
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completely destroyed as communities. general keane: the other thing is that the force that we had in iraq, the iraqi security force that took us a while to get them to be effective, to be frank about it. and one of the things that made them very effective during a surge period where general petraeus changed the changes on the battlefield. platoons side by side and that dimension increased the capability of the force because they could see what right looked like.
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that force grew rather dramatically and we were there multiple weeks throuout 2007 and 2008, the three us on ide of the table. and that was an effective force. and i can tell you for a fact because i saw it with my own eyes, i saw battalion commanders, brigade commanders and division commanders distinguish themselves in combat and under significant stress. and we felt good about that force. we were saying wow. they finally got it together. what happened to that force? so much attention has been placed on malaki's malice and what he did to underminimum the political opponents, he
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destroyed that force. he saw the distinguished leaders who were accomplished as a result of their performance on the battlefield and people devoted to them, he saw them as threats to him politically. so that force is not there, the one we used to have. he put in his political cronies and pranks who didn't have the military experience. getting that leadership back and others who are willing to have that kind of commitment and confidence, that takes time to fix. but the fact we did have it at one time and it was pretty good, tells you that there is something there that we can work with and get it back there. whether that can be done in time is another issue. senator king: in 2007, 2008, how many americans were in iraq. general keane: we had somewhere in the neighborhood about 130,000 in iraq. and that's how that force -- but what i'm saying to you is, when
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we finished, when we had completed our involvement in iraq, the >> it is combat.
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we forget about those pilots. with the recent delta force missions, that's boots on the ground. that is combat. there is still this narrative that somehow we are done. general, what i wanted to ask you first of all, this narrative, which is a false one do you think it has inhibited our ability to develop a robust strategy? do we need other forces on the ground? and yet, we are competing with the narrative from the house that says, no, no, we are done. and that would be a limiting factor to developing a strategy that ultimately would do what we want it to do which is protect america's national security interests?
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general keane: when i look at it and try to speculate about what is driving some of our decisions , what is driving our narrative, one of the things i have observed since i have been closer to it in recent years than when i was when i was a younger officer is that most administrations, democratic or republican, have a tendency to overreact of what took place in the previous administration. and this one is no exception to that. making it a principle of the administration to a guarantor that we will not be involved in any military activity in the middle east or in south asia that could lead to another protracted war.


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