tv Central Command Operations CSPAN March 3, 2018 4:02pm-6:19pm EST
c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress. also, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington dc and around the country. she's been is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> the general who had u.s. central command testified to the house armed services committee about ongoing missions in iraq, syria and afghanistan. a song about working with the military allies and russia's influence in syria and other parts of the region. this is just over two hours.
>> made come to order. we welcome back to the committee, the commander of u.s. central command. general joseph montel. -- general joseph votel. the strategic competition has applications for a region where russian influence and presence is much greater than it was before the syrian conflict began. a region that is one of the targets to increase the chinese sweat and a region where
iranians are aggressively expanding its wide arc of control to the detriment of its neighbors. these developments and the continuing developments are emanating from the region. this is from this vital area. number ofy we have a strong areas and partners better able and willing to actively defend our joint interests. but as we have painfully learned in recent years, there is no substitute for the united states. including theaw, threats to our homeland, they can rapidly grow more dangerous. is the military resources. active in be more other areas of the world at the same time. the recent budget agreement helps but it will take time to
rebuild. in these circumstances, general --.l -- general votel i will yield to ms. davis. i would like to welcome general votel. the central command area possibility remains critical to our natural -- national interest. we have to maintain focus on security in the region. alonelitary achievements will not guarantee long-term success. this will foster into sustained clinical, economic and social conditions to ensure long stem
-- long-term stability. you can't allow the region to fall into chaos again. to defeat isis, we must secure a durable peace as we have been to achieve this military victory. we have long-sought a stable state in afghanistan. for more than 16 years, the united states has concentrated on eliminating terrorist threats while working closely with our allies and our workers to train, advise and assist afghan forces. this is despite significant progress. afghan forces are still in need of assistance. so where are we headed? although they're consuming, we must also remain alert to other regional security challenges. despite an agreement regarding the nuclear program, iran remains a designated sponsor of terrorism and is a stabilizing influence.
we must deter iran from pacific heading in morning activities. it is increasingly involved in the region as well. certainly a complex set of issues, general. i would forward to your testimony. thank you very much for joining us. thank you mr. chairman. statementll written will be made part of the record. >> councilman davis, does they wish members of the committee, good morning and that he probably opportunity to appear today to discuss the current posture and state of readiness of united states central command. i come before you today on behalf of the over 80,000 members of the command. it is a dedicated team of military service members and civilians along with our coalition partners representing 70 nations and for international organizations. deployed across
some of the most dangerous areas in the world. they sacrifice and risk on a daily basis. for the benefit of donald american strategic interest but also the world. our people are the very best at what they do and they and especially the families deserve our admiration and gratitude. it is my sincere honor to lead and be a member of such a find him a debt of the professionals. i am approaching the two-year mark of my time in commands. this. has been both incredible challenging and immensely rewarding. this has been one of my desk one of the most volatile times in this complex region's history. it has been 11 months since i last appeared before this committee. since then we have made considerable military progress in afghanistan, and the maritime environment. however, we ever made very clear. also, the challenges that we face in the future.
in the past year we have achieved incredible success against isis in iraq and stick it -- syria. syrian democratic forces are operating at the most effective now, over 90% of the territory previously held by isis in iraq and syria is no longer under their control. the destruction of the isis physical cow state is imminent and millions of displaced persons are returning home and beginning the long process of rebuilding. now we must consolidate our gains by investing in the security forces, relationships and capabilities that will hold the territory and keep isis from returning. this is a rebalancing effort to achieve three specific goals. the first goal is to complete major combat operations in iraq and syria and ring the defeat
isis campaign to irresponsible close. military success in the campaign up to this point presents as an opportunity to reposition some of our resources from iraq and syria. this will keep the pressure on isis but also set us up to break the stalemate. capability to continue our efforts to continue our effort against isis despite complex situation across syria and especially in the northwest province of africa. we have fully engaged with our mission partners. we carefully balance our objectives. our partners on the ground have advanced a long way toward the objectives and we will stick with them through the completion of this fight. the iraqi security forces are rapidly consolidating gains. in it -- and get afghanistan, we
had a strategy that reaffirms commitment. the nato-led trained, advise and assist mission and u.s. counterterrorism mission. we are making sure that with our support the afghan national defense and security forces are well-positioned to seize the initiative, expand population control and secure credible elections. partial to this effort is the regionalized approach to engage all countries with a stake in afghanistan's ability. especially pakistan. our goal here is to develop productive and trustful relationships that benefit both of our militaries and support our objectives in the region. the third goal is to ensure that we have aligned our military efforts with our broader interagency and international efforts to neutralize, counterbalance and shared and stabilize the impacts that iran
has across the region. while we continue to confront the scourge of terrorism, iran's activities across the region close to long-term threat to stability in this part of the world. we view ourselves and the notes as supporting many more effective resources and capabilities of the u.s. government and its partners in this endeavor. the recently published national defense strategy quickly identifies the resurgence of great power competition as our principal national security challenge. we see the effects of that competition throughout the region. russia's support of this on regime has not only problem up but is also added capacity to the defeat isis campaign. diplomatically and militarily, they play both arsonist and firefighter. this is between all parties in syria, the syrian regime and the syrian democratic forces.
they are serving as an artist to resolve disputes attempted to undermine to weaken each parties bargaining positions. despite the key role that our partners on the ground and the enjoy democratic forces the video isis, russia has placed its progress at risk with his activities which are not focused on defeating isis but rather on preserving their own influence and control of the outcome of the situation. it is clear that russia's interest in syria are russia's interest and not those of the wider international community. long-term,rsuing a steady economic growth in the region through its one drug policy. it is also improving its military posture by enacting courts in pakistan with its first overseas military base in djibouti. this is adjacent to the --
locationsms both support peacekeeping and you military operations. the new military base import bolsters china's region. both china and russia proceed with cap in u.s. interest by increasing the fence as to our regional partners. they are cultivating multidimensional ties to iran. the lifting of you and sanctions open the path to resume application to the shanghai cooperation organization. russia, supported by iran will poster a friendly regime in syria. they will attempt to limit our military presence in iraq and afghanistan and the friction most nato partners. against this backdrop of increasing power interaction are the enduring issues of the region. social, economic and political
challenges, high unemployment. these are internally displaced persons. we stand ready with all of our partners to defend u.s. interest against these and other threats. there pursuing opportunities and working to prevail where everyone is working. we have posture for purpose, proactive and pursuing opportunities and resolved to win. i want to close by sharing three dynamics that we say are essential to prevailing in this region. on theas i testified conduct of our campaigns, as well as our operations in places like yemen, lebanon and egypt, we have adopted this. it places heavy reliance on indigenous -- our partners don't always want
us to solve their problems for them. we enable them to solve them on their own. while this can be more time-consuming, it provides local solutions to local problems, this approach is not without risk as we have seen it on both in syria today. in general, is proving very effective. secondly, a successful pursuit of u.s. objectives in this region only comes from the organizational partners. defense of the nation is a team sport. the supplies are not just within the command but with our fellow combatant commands, our component commands and our established combined and joint task forces, the 18 country teams and other departments, agencies and organizations of the us government work provided unwavering support for over two decades of persistent conflict. our allies in the region and the wider international committee
are equally supportive and supporting our mission. they support the headquarters of more than 204 military offices from 49 nations. all of them are part of the success and we are grateful for this and largely depend on their partnership. as a national defense strategy captures clearly, strengthening existing relationships and building new ones will be key to our future success. we are doing this every day. finally, we could not do what we then a daily basis without support of congress and by extension, the american people. have thisly subsequent operations and resources. especially the same tooth services, special operations command and other defense agencies that we rely upon for our military wherewithal. he was what will remain important with -- when we
contend with what our generational struggles to defend our homeland. u.s. government commitment to the area responsibility is more important now than ever. for our part, we will support the third national defense strategy business reform. we will continue to be good stewards of the resources and authorities. too close, how to thank the outstanding men and women who comprise the united states central command. make sacrifices to ensure the command with our strategic interests. we make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs as efficient as possible. andre also acutely aware have great sacrifices made by our families. they are vital members of the team and we cannot encompass our mission without them. important, guest
contributions and in a sacrifices every day to support us, i think them on the back -- on behalf of and the nation. thank you and we look for to answer your questions. >> thank you general. let me -- let me remind members on the open hearing that we will be together with general votel upstairs in a classified session. be in touch when this open hearing ends. we have had a chance to visit regions recently and i will yield five minutes to the general lady. >> thank you mr. chairman. thank you for being here today. i wanted to ask you to elaborate on the threat from iran. great laws ofy the jcp l.a. is the fact that they have failed to deal with the missile threat. we are now seeing across the
region increasingly evidence that iran is transferring gorsuch missiles and other conventional equipment to its allies in the region. can you talk about what you're seeing in this regard? are able to do to defend us and our allies? >> at figure one of the principal concerns we have. quantity buteasing the quality of the listed missiles and the movement of those capabilities to other groups and locations around the region. withinly as we have seen the pastor and her demonstration, some of the items recover from saudi arabia, these weapons pose the threat of widening the conflict out of yemen and frankly put our forces , our embassy in riyadh, our forces in the united arab
emirates at risk. i think that first and foremost, there is the quality and the quantity that they have been pursuing over the last several years. direct introduction of asymmetric capabilities concerns me. as we look and see where the introduction of cost of defense cruise missiles, some that have been modified, we knows -- we know these are not cable. they had been provided by someone. expose of boats, the increased presence of mind in this area are all very similar to the threat that iran has posed in the streets and we hold them accountable. continuings there and changing power projection model. not only their own forces but the proxies they are attempting
to create on the region. with respect your question about what we are doing, we are working with saudi arabia and some of our partners to ensure they are optimizing their capabilities. they can ensure that they can defend themselves. i will point you in the session that we are seeing some part -- progress in that regard. with respect to syria, talk about the reports that we have seen facilities being built in syria? is --sly, threat in there talk about what we might yield syria?n the red in we have been effective against isis there.
>> this is not one of the coalition missions in syria. that said, i think one of the most effective things that we can do in this particular area is build stronger relationships. >> i understand it is not formally part of the mission but it seems to me if we are focused on countering iran we need to be doing every place our interests are threatened. one of the key ways we are doing that is through our strong relationships we are building iraq thatovernment of includes not only forces that are in the interior but certainly along the border. our strong relationship with the syrian democratic forces in the east and in the northern part of the country put us in a position iran'se can impede establishing lines
of communication through these critical areas and trying to connect iran to beirut. i think that first and foremost, some of these indirect things we're doing is -- are very important to that. i think that beyond that, continuing to highlight and eliminate their activities is extremely important. way, they can be addressed not just with military means but certainly with the other means that are available to us. >> thank you very much. we look for to discussing this. >> thank you for joining us. in yourust mentioned written statement, the national defense strategy stated the great power competition, not terrorism is the primary focus of u.s. national security. did you elaborate on those about thend also talk
shift in this national strategy? impact us? will it what changes will actually materialize as a result of this and how will central command's capacity to perform its mission be effective? -- affected? the shift in the defense strategy are things that will take place over time. one of the principal ways we are trying to manage that is through continuedpment of relationship building that we have in place with partners in the region. we will strengthen those relationships. one of the things we have learned that this approach is that we can do a lot by providing advice, expertise in areas where we have experience and we can do that with a
smaller footprint and with smaller investments. principale of the ways we will address this going forward is continuing to build on these relationships and continuing to empower our partners. >> can you speak to the key challenges in doing that? >> i think one of the key challenges will be making sure we don't create the impression that we are abandoning cincom. this is a key talking point not only for me but all leaders, we recognize that the interest we have, the national interest we have for preventing tax on the homeland, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or ensuring the frame of navigation in the critical phase or ensuring other countries can't destabilize, those are enduring interests.
this will require us to the team be engaged in there to some aspect. the secretary will make decisions on shipping resources in accordance with the national defense strategy. >> he also talked about local solutions. we know how difficult that is id as you just vengeance, wonder if you could also talk about the inclusion of women as a critical strategy that advances counterterrorism, national security and democratization and economic and social development. some of those programs have been successful but there is certainly more to be done. how can we increase the effectiveness? >> at think the best way we can do it is sharing our experiences. we learned by our inability to include women into many of our counterterrorism operations back in the beginning of these fights we have been involved in. we are missing 50% of the population.
when we began to introduce them into positions where they can have influence, we learned a lot from that. one of the key things we can do is continue to lead by example. we'll see how this is valued by us. we see partners in the region doing this, the afghans are doing this. we see this with the syrian debt -- democratic forces that we are working with in syria and i highlight that one of the principal commanders they had is a female. it is very much highlight recogt contributions come from the entirety of the force. >> i appreciate that. i think a number of us have participated in a separate and i hope we can continue to do more of that. thank you mr. chairman. the united nations released a group -- person report outlining north korea's ongoing efforts to
assist syria building chemical weapons. this report says that north korea has been shipping supplies to the syrian government including acid resistant tiles and thermometers. the north korean missile technicians have been observed missile facilities in syria. are you able to comment on the report and if not could you describe the disruptive role north korea currently plays in syria whether or not you see their role expanding in the coming years. what is being done to disrupt this between the dictatorships of north korea and the syrian government? >> i have not seen that report. i can't comment specifically on its. obviously we are concerned about the proliferation of these types of weapons in syria and with a country that has demonstrated intent to use them. this will be an area that they will continue to pay close attention to.
>> i was ashley pleasantly surprised that the new york times company today. mike's grades with that newspaper is that they frequently overlooked threats to stability in the world. i urge your consideration. concern with the long-term stability of the middle east threatens the return of defeated islamic state fighters were returning home from fighting in iraq and syria. this is after the cola strategy network tracked 5600 fighters who returned to their home , sadly,s, specifically turkey has 900 returning and saudi arabia has 700 returning. could you explain what threat the return of the defeated islamic state fighters to their home country represents to the loss term stability in the region? toyou spend ongoing efforts work with our nations in dealing with this flow of fighters?
tothese fighters are able the party's war zones and are able to take with them experiences and tactics that could potentially be applied other places. they have the ability to bring others on board but these are the principal concerns. this has been at the forefront of our efforts from the very beginning. as you heard the secretary talk about our desktop but our strategy, we have always attempted to isolate these areas and prevent the escape of these fighters show that they are either killed or captured where we take them on. i think you have been successful in that. certainly there are some that have gotten in the way. with the support of some of the authorities, we do have an effective program to -- we are now working with the -- the department of justice to ensure that these hundreds that
are in control of our partners in both iraq and syria are moving into a judicial process to hold them accountable and ultimately return them to the countries from which they came. >> what a challenge that is. you're speaking not just of fighters but their families. this has to be addressed. member of nato do with the korean war, what is being done to continue our important alliance? >> i would have for your comments, turkey has been throughout the entire campaign plan. this has created some tension with some of the partners we have on the ground. the principal way we are addressing this is by being as
transparent and clear and candid with turkey about the things that we are doing on a day-to-day basis but our partners, this morning i had a conversation with my counterpart in turkey sharing information back and forth, keeping to occasion challenges professional and open as we discuss this very difficult challenge that we are working with. >> with the multitude of issues yet to face, what is the latest securityt to provide working with saudi arabia? efforts insay our this setting is to help them -- i look forward in the closed session to share with your examples. >> thank you. >> i wanted to ask you, there was a comment on the wall street journal. this was about four days ago.
this is on the evening of february the seventh. i wanted to ask you what you can theyt that and how prioritize this by trying to avoid any sort of dangerous escalation with russia? have characterized and has persian forces we're certainly aware with the media talking about this. with this particular instance, this is a clear case of self-defense. i am frankly quite proud of the way the force responded to this. they identified it and got on the net with the russian channel here to talk with them about this. and are effectively brought together the right capabilities
to address this self-defense threat. i think what i would tell you is that we retain sufficient capabilities to protect ourselves at the same time we are pursuing counterterrorism objectives in syria. tostudent russia is going want to try to have more influence? or diminish our influence? how do you see that relationship playing out? is thatate i would say russia has failed to follow through on delivering on the regime on a number of different areas as you look at the un's sanction cease-fire that is put in place, one that they helped draft and agreed to implement and to cause the regime to comply by.
i think russia has admitted that it is not capable and it doesn't want to play a role in ending the syrian conflict. the role isn't readily destabilizing at this point. >> i want to ask you just a little bit about afghanistan as well. i know there have been some concerns about how deteriorating relationship with the pakistanis. we can adequately supply troops. this is part of the middle east. what are some of your thoughts on this all relationship? eliza with afghanistan. >> it is my opinion that it will a strong relationship
with pakistan. since the announcement of the strategy, this has been one of my principal focus is this year. we had very frequent and retain professional medications with my counterpart. we may frequently face to face. michael is to develop this very productive and relationship develop as before. what i would tight is that we are now beginning to see positive indicators. us some ofting to the actions that they are taking on the ground, these are
positive indicators that they are moving in the right direction. we would like to see them take this in terms of a strategic shift but they are positive indicators and it gives me hope that our approach is the right one. with all the other problems in syncom, it takes a backseat. given that this is a u.s. designated terrorist organization and that the lebanese president has been very public in his support of this as a military partner with the , we havearmed forces
supplied high-quality american arms to the lebanese armed forces, do you think we should keep working with the lebanese armed forces and giving them high-quality american weaponry and with a be a reliable partner? >> very very rival partner. i think the investments over the last 10 or 11 years are very moderate. i know your comments here -- frankly, lebanon is a frequent stopping place for me and all my commanders. we pay a lot of attention to this relationship. we have an outstanding ambassador there who is very engaged in the activities and we
are very proud of what the lebanese armed forces are doing and very effectively, last fall, on their own, this just rated a pretty effective operation against isis. think it is an investment worth continuing. >> is in the relationship between the cozying up to hezbollah in lebanon to the conventional? -- thisquently interact is a multi-confessional arrangement here. this is answerable to the leadership and it is doing a good job staying a political and is focused on security of the country.
this helps to defend themselves as we discussed earlier from iranian supplied missiles. are we doing enough? >> i would say in this setting yes, we got only are focused on this but to go threat right here. i'll go two sharing a few more comments with you about this post session. in yemen, the u.s. military has conducted a high number of strikes against terrorist targets last year than in 2016, the previous year. what positive impact have the strikes had on a cute ap? you, it has had a significant impact on a q ap. it has impacted their ability to
conduct external operations. it has continued to present them with multiple dilemmas they have to deal with. not only are they contending with our strikes but their contending with partner onrations that we work with the ground and with our many partners on the ground. this has become very effective. i would tell you we are extending that to isis in yemen as well. that is not as well developed as al qaeda is but of course, it is isis, we understand their ideology. >> i would like to ask about the fourth entry division. even though we had but it shortfalls for the military in recent years, they make huge steps with this latest budget agreement to be fought military spending which i totally applaud
and support. readiness will be less of an issue in the future but to give it about the current state of readiness with the brigade combat team going to afghanistan this spring? >> i have had an opportunity to visit that specific brigade but this is just one of the wonderful brigade coming in. i am extraordinarily appreciative of the efforts put forward by the army, the brink or and the air force, other services here that we depend upon in afghanistan to give us high-quality enforcing. >> thank you general hotel for your service. thank you for being here. i'll let you talk a little bit more about what you began with your opening statements with the comments than it says about this. you talked about how you're working to defeat isis and bring
the campaign to responsible closes. that, you mentioned countering iran is not a coalition mission. best month we heard from secretary tillerson about how u.s. military presence will remain for it indefinite in. of time. he went on to list an expansive list of strategic objectives of the u.s. military to include ensuring the defeat of isis, diminishing the input of iran advancing the u.s. political revolution. my question is what is the objective of our u.s. forces in syria? is thisat legal basis indefinite presence in syria planned under? the principal reason we are in syria is to defeat isis. single task our
where print directly -- we are currently oriented on. and ensuringscreen they can't research. that means that after we move them from their control, we have to consolidate our gains and ensure that the right security and stability is in place so that they cannot research. that is part of being responsible coalition members and that will take some time beyond all of this. our legal basis for operating in syria is largely driven by the collective self-defense of iraq. there, thest went ice is an organization that did not adhere to sovereign boundaries were moving back and forth across here while we were beginning to address isis and iraq, we moved that we had to
address isis in syria. i would also point out that the syrian regime itself has proved unwilling and unable to address this particular threat. they deduce of operations in the euphrates valley, they have largely departed that area and they have taken the pressure off of isis and created more problems for the coalition in dealing with this. principalose are the -- >> those u.s. forces are operating under the 2001? >> we are. -- iw does countering iran am seeing contradiction between what the secretary of state is no part of the u.s. military objective in syria. it is not part of the coalition mission. follows, how does that
country with al qaeda and the -- affiliates? >> my understanding is that the it outry of state made not as a u.s. objective. there are other ways that we can address iranians stabilizing activities through military means. the fact of the matter is even though i ran his entire visible campaign, ourthis relationship with partners both in iraq and syria does put us in a position where we can indirectly have an impact on the objectives that iran is pursuing. i look to characterize more in that regard than actively doing something militarily against
them. >> i believe secretary tillerson was quite specific in speaking about this in the justification of a maintained u.s. military presence there. my last question is about yemen and under what authorization are we providing our direct military whatrt to saudi arabia and was essentially a proxy were between saudi arabia and iran? >> and the arms sales go through our foreign military sales and foreign military funding process that is managed by the department state so they have the principal oversight for that. is provision of fuel provided under the agreement that we have in place with saudi arabia. that provides us the authority to provide the support of them. that you were us today, i wanted to begin by getting her
perspective, you speak about nikki presence in the gulf, the red sea and rethink about centcom as being when centric. we also see the first overseas maybe there's placed by the chinese into very. reservedsingle birth for the chinese navy, we see president xi jinping looking to very aggressively expand and sustain operations around the world. specifically, what do you see our u.s. navy doing to counter this chinese expansionism? what you need as far as u.s. navy presence to ensure that we have what is necessary in relation to what we see as chinese aggressive expansion russian mark -- expansion?
general votel: while we do think about the land chinese aggressive territory, is a maritime theater with a three critical points that are so important to us in this area. i do recognize that. i would tell you that the resources that are provided to me by the navy and the marine corps are adequate to the task that we have right now. i think the principal ways that we develop resilience against these types of great power influence in this area is ?hrough our constant presence this is the gulf of aden into the arabian gulf and the gulf of oman as well. and through our very close partnership with our partners. we have three combined military task forces that are let out of our naval headquarters in bahrain that include a variety
of different nations so when i look at the nations on our team and the nations aligned with him of the others entering in the area, i think our teams are very strong. i think this is a key way to maintain power influence and pursue our interests in the centcom maritime environment. >> the naval office of intelligence pointed out some challenges with potentially placing the minds that would put at risk commercial vessels, they are straight. give me your perspective on what the potential threat is. --see who this is operating give me your perspective on what we are doing in sweeping our operations there and countering the potentials. we know that that is strategically important.
general votel: i would just point out that some of our partners like the emirates and saudi arabia -- one of the things we do is work with them to optimize their capabilities. getting it to you their capabilities in using our intelligence and some of our experience to help them be more effective at this. this has been very effective in preventing a major my catastrophe in this, one we are very concerned about, 60 or 76 a day go through there, not just ours, everybody's. thatis a very real threat we have to pay attention to. >> you have intelligence operations to look at what is happening in the straits about activities that are going on there? what can we do to counter that?
obviously, this is better than having to go and sweep those areas from a time perspective. give us your perspective on what is happening there. do and i willly look for to sharing those details with you in a different setting. >> general hotel -- votel, they get for being here. america has been engaged with afghanistan for 15 years. levelscreased the troop to 14,000 troops. however, unable to learn from history, we are investing more lives and resources without a clearly defined benchmark. i'm actually concerned about the fact that significant information is being withheld from the office of the inspector general or afghanistan's reconstruction.
according to the inspector general, it is hard to make a determination of how good a job we are doing because the afghan military is not fighting that well and there are not many of them, we can determine fraud, abuse in afghanistan. they can get basic facts from the department. how are you measuring progress in afghanistan? please describe what success looks like to you. what is the amount of territory under afghan government control and help me understand how withholding information has made a difference in our operations in afghanistan. >> i'll take your last one here. issue and i of that think measures are being taken to address that right now. some of that information is not u.s. government information, it is information of the afghan
government so they control the release and classification. this is something we have to continue to work with. >> if i can interrupt you. it is great to parlay that to the afghan government but we are the ones with the resources and the lives of our military there. we have to be able to get some information from them to appease those of us that have to make decisions on what kind of invest as we have to make in the area. >> i can -- committed to making sure you have those details. you asked about how we're looking at the situation right now. the idea here and what we are tried to do in afghanistan is drive toward reconciliation. this is different than the first we had in the past. we're front to do that through greater not just military pressure but we are trying to create social pressure with things that the afghan government is doing what credible elections there percent
of the palminteri level. they're doing it through creating diplomatic and regional pressure. this is just as we talked about with pakistan. creatinghere is that press with all those three axes is going to create enough pressure on the taliban when they come to the table. is that we arent taking an approach that is focused on reconciliation. it is a regional focus here. we are engaged in the partners in the region. we are in the central asian states as well. we have changed the way we are working with the afghan forces. we previously had the statue in the level with the afghan special operations forces. we are now with the additional enablers and advisors that the department has approved for us.
we're taking the capability and is sending to the conventional forces, we're building the afghan air force, we're doubling the size of the afghan special operations. there are a variety of different aspects to this approach. this will give us the ability to measure the progress. we estimate how much of the population goes by the afghan government today. today the figure is 64%. is in the population areas that are controlled by the taliban and the balance of that is in contested. the focus of our military operation is increase in an expanding population control by the government of afghanistan. what we are to do the season is we're going to show our intentions to break the stalemate and begin to expand population control in this year and next year and then ensure that we create an environment
that allows for credible elections to take place. one of the most important things that the afghan people need to see from our government. >> what about the sharing of information? mentioned, we will do our very best to ensure you have the information to make the decisions that are necessary. scott: thank you for being isr, how to talk to about in the centcom area. i know you have a lot of partners in that area but what percentage do they provide? i don't know what the percentage overall is. it is clear that the majority is being provided by the united states. the capacity to
meet the demand for isr? general votel: i don't think you will find any commander that was a he has enough isr. we have the largest concentration of mk nines in the support to support general nichols and and his forces and that is adequate for what he needs right now but i'm sure you would want more. we would want more in all of these areas. army inerstand that the when its, i assume that comes to providing additional isr, the commanders would not be agnostic to the timeline to get usr to the field. without the a fair statement? general votel: yes. -- i havemy concerns
a tremendous amount of respect for the secretary of the air force. as they have changed the strategy to a more china and russia strategy, they are canceling the procurement of items chinese one of these platforms -- chinese. one of these platforms is the recapitalization of -- which we have spent hundreds of millions to develop and are ready to purchase and they have tried to propose the canceled the procurement of the j stores because they said though use a system that has not been developed yet, which changes the timeline on when we can deliver that system to you.
do the systems you use in central command have to be survivable, if you will, in a conflict as high-end as that between the russians and the chinese? the direct conflict? gen. votel: they don't if the environment is different in parts there might be another parts of the world. the environment we operate in is different than others to with. >> i appreciate any advocacy. i agree with you and i am not opposed to developing a system you want for the fight against
the russians and chinese. but in developing a system, we don't want to use a system unless we have to, because we don't want them together the intel will gather it every time we fly it. concerned about as we shift in strategy to china and russia abandoning platforms that work another parts the world which are very serious rates that we are in and your commanding right now. i've been on the border of syria and israel, the military objections in syria, can you outline for us what they are y?at they are, very briefly echo
gen. votel: principally, it's to ensure the defeat of isis is . the principal objective is of our military campaign in syria. certainly were concerned about the weapons of mass distraction and chemical capabilities. we are concerned about providing the humanitarian aid and stability that goes along with getting people in their homes. we are concerned about protecting allies, that all feel the impacts of that. and we are keen to ensure that there is a political resolution to all of this. that is beyond my military. rep. scott: gentlemen, my time s expired. i'm glad we have a leader like you over there. thank you for your service. >> thank you. mr. brown. wn: thank you.
thank you for your leadership and for appearing before the services committee to discuss the readiness and posture the activities within centcom. i want to bring your attention back to iran and its activities, perhaps covering some grounds clarifying one point that's been made. iran is playing a large role in syria, providing senior advisers to the assad regime delivering ribbons, cash, recruiting and encouraging foreign fighters . last month, iran launched a drone of the series of events you mentioned in response to the question that we can impede to iran. tehran. can you identify what the strategic or operational
impediments are entrance way it can evaluate the effectiveness of them? gen. votel: as i mentioned one of the things we can do is build strong and resilient partnerships with our partners, weathers the iraqis or the searing democratic force, that's our partner of ground. in many regards, these partners share the same concerns we do. they don't want their countries or areas exploited by others for purposes of instability in this area. the relationships we develop with them, the iraqi forces help bordercularly their patrol forces, i think help aid the movement of these movement activities and equipment back and forth across the borders and i think iraq is as concerned as
we would be. and certainly in syria, although i acknowledge our partners on the ground are very indigenous partners they do control , important areas along the border between iraq and syria. so they can, as well, through their own operations, make it difficult for iran to pursue their activities through these particular areas. that is why i describe it in more of a general way. that that: if i may, seems a little aspirational. can you evaluate the effectiveness of what you just described? gen. votel: we are working on on
how we do the -- they are very savvy in terms of how they're doing things. it's something we are looking at of how we measure the effectiveness of it. we're only largely talking about ground routes. iran has the ability to use their routes as go over around all of that. they have the ability to go through africa to get to these areas as well. and we have to look at this holistically. brown: let me ask one other question in the time that i have left. i understand israel is in the the conflict in that region doesn't necessarily respect the area of operation of our different command. can you talk about in the event regardless of the likelihood of a conflict between iran and can you talk about what our rich readiness in the city to come to the aid of israel? gen. votel: again, that question
toprobably best suited general --. given that it's in his area and he has a principal responsibility for that. i would say that this area not just on the israeli border the border of egypt with libya is a , on the border of pakistan with india, it is a tough neighborhood, and so it is imperative for the combatant commanders to be well nested and i think under the leadership of our chairman of the national defense strategy that the secretary put in place, that we are improving significantly in our ability to operate cooperation with each other a very seamlessly. it's not it's not unusual for the general and i to talk across our common areas of concern.
just like it is not uncommon for om and i to of afric talk. so this is an area where we have got to continue to pay attention. i think we're doing a much better job of it. thank you the rep. brown: thank you, joe general. >> thank you. i will be as brief as i can. the first question is about this attack on u.s. forces in syria. media reports alleging it's by russian missionaries. we have confirmation that they were russian missionaries and how many to think were killed
and do we have any idea if that was ordered by putin and what was their objective? i don't know that i can reported a thing different than what you have seen in terms of numbers of who this is. i can tell you throughout the event wearing communications with the russians, before, during, and after. he said this was not their brochure force. that speaks for itself and of course you see in the media that has come out after it highlights the unwillingness to take seriously the isis threat particularly if there's , contractor forces in the area attempting to do this. mcsally: do you
believe they are not russian mercenaries and driven information to cooperate the. .en. votel: not in this setting mcsally: do you personally believe there were not russian mercenaries at this point. gen. votel: we would characterize them as provisioning forces. rep. mcsally: the second topic is -- is in afghanistan kick in ing butt. can you touch on the missions are doing as part of the shifted strategy were going after more sources of revenue perhaps overall and attacking the industry and the drug making facilities and how is the ten doing over there?
gen. votel: they are doing great. i've had an opportunity to visit the squadron commander. they're doing what we would expect them to do. part of why were pushing advisor teams to a lower level is to bring capabilities to bear. in support of the afghan defense forces, you are correct. one thing that has been successful from our defeat isis campaign is going after the revenue generation. the trafficking that is fuels so the taliban, so this is a key focus for us at this point. rep. mcsally: the last administration got their way all the a-10's would be in the born nearby now. as such a critical war fighting capability and i appreciate you working to keep doing missions like this. i'm really concerned about the buildup israel's northern border of iranian-backed militia forces, any increase aggression we are seeing from there as
the assad regime is shoring up controlling that area and the potential for escalation of a crisis. syria is yours. so can you speak to what you're seeing there? gen. votel: i think we share the same concerns that you just highlighted there. so very effectively what's in the southwestern corner of syria we been able to diplomatically began to address that. so working at the special precedent on that, we are continuing to keep focus on that. russia is a part of this, and they have responsibility to ensure that the partners better in this area are under control , so they have to b take responsibility for this and be held accountable.
those are akin to the violent extremists. we have to continue to address that. rep. mcsally: can you share any of the trends you are seeing with increased military -- seeing with escalation of the last few weeks and any concerns you have with a full-blown crisis with israel. gen. votel: what i'm concerned about, in these places, these are becoming collection zones for a lot of unsavory organizations right here, and eventually they will have to be dealt with. so i am concerned that, left unaddressed, they are going to become bigger problems. in terms of trends and stuff like this, i can't tell you the southwest that we have seen anything specific in times like this, but obviously there are some concerns. but these groups are coming together do potentially pose long-term challenges will be out
for the security of the region above and beyond syria. rep. mcsally: thank you. >> general, it is good to see you again. it's a pleasure to have you before the committee. i went to continue on the iran topic as well, diving into a deeper topic on this. iran supports numerous -- in yemen and militias in iraq. it's it's using its insurgents to upset the existing order is show chaos. in addition to using cyber, operations and warfare expanded its influence in the region.
can you see how they have used these techniques to create a land bridge through iraq and , and if youanon think they have been successful in this strategy. gen. votel: some of this discussion is best set for a closed session. what iran attempts to do by creating proxy organizations is that can go out and do their bidding, they can operate in areas where they have interest. i think they're attempting to do that. we see some instances about when we look at the undisciplined shia militia organizations that are beholden to the government of iraq. this is very concerning to us. this gives us indications that behalf ofcting not on the government. they say they're representing
but on behalf of another party. rep. langevin: i want to follow up on that in a closed session. hundreds of thousands and millions either seeking asylum as refugees are as the fight gained stability. it seems some of the groups that have formed partnerships of convenience. they may now turn their attention toward fighting each other instead. how do you see these elements aligning themselves in syria? and you worry about a shifting regional balance of power? do you fea feel the syrian kurds might feel slighted with events to ward off threats? gen. votel: first off, congressman, when i will tell the partners we operate, we have not necessarily seen the infighting among
themselves. it's a large organization have -- roughly half kurds, half arabs. others that have been thrown in this group. frankly, in my estimation, they have continued to be coherent in terms of how they're doing this. i guess the way i would describe it is as we are completing the defeat of isis, we are seeing the reemergence of the underlying issues that have been in place in syria. as we have converging forces in the area, we are now seeing diverging interests. i think we see this in the middle of the euphrates valley , between focus of the coalition and our partners on the ground and what the pro-regime element is focused on. less concerned about rooting out isis than about addressing some of the opposition elements to the regime. i think what we have to be mindful is as the caliphate goes
away and the threat of isis is removed, we will see more return to the underlying challenges that gave birth to many of these -- to this problem and other problems in the country. those will ultimately need to be addressed through some type of geneva process to bring the parties together to establish a process and arrangement that allows syria to be the country should be. that it should be. rep. langevin: it seems like were at the tipping point where the state department has to play a stronger role and working with the powers that have interest there and try to bring about a political solution. i hope will be pursuing that. i see my time is about to run out. i will hold my questions for the closed session.
thank you for your service, and i yield back. >> mr. russell. russell: thank you, mr. chairman. general, thank you for your testimony today. a couple things i have not heard discussed. can you give us your thoughts on turkish operations in the partnering with al qaeda affiliates and attacks on u.s. back forces and how that will impact the strategy to make a stable border security force? gen. votel: some of that needs to be reserved for closed session. we have acknowledged that turkey has some significant concerns along the border along with pkk interests. our concern is this activity is is detracting from our efforts against isis.
rep. russell: on a broader scope, what actions are needed to prevent this mixture to secure the hard-fought gains against isis? in myotel: as i mentioned opening statement, and as i mentioned a couple of times here, i view russia's being at the heart of many of these issues. i'm being serious when i say they're both arsonists and firemen. fueling the trying to fueling tensions and then trying to resolve conflicts in their favor. doing all they can to try to achieve their objectives. their objectives, not necessarily the broader objectives of the international community. there has to be more accountability and pressure put on russia to do it they said they're going to do. rep. russell: do you think that pressure can come from other powers on our nato allies in turkey? gen. votel: i think they can
come from a variety of different sources, congressman. rep. russell: can you speak also to the need to interdict the isis and al qaeda migration into aw,-saharan africa, a boko haram. that as they have been pushed out of one area they may drift over to another. gen. votel: certainly we are omry cognizant of what afric is doing with their partners on the ground. we are very concerned. one of the principal things we can do is share information back and forth. we are not seeing mass migration of these fighters. i will not tell you that they are not getting out of refugees and others. that probably is occurring, but certainly this is a concern long-term. one of the things that we are
attempting to do, particularly now that we have so many foreign fighters that have been captured and a level of attention with our partners is try to get the international community engaged in taking responsibility. some level of justice. there's a lot that can be learned from these foreign fighters. we have to make sure that we have exploited that and learn what we can to prevent it. but we also need to make sure that there are back into the judicial process so they are dealt with by the countries from which they came. rep. russell: the last question is, can you give your assessment of egyptian and saudi combined efforts on yemen and the status of yemen? gen. votel: with respect to the status of yemen, yemen is very destabilized at this particular point, obviously. not only do they have a civil
war going on, but they have a kind of a proxy war playing between iran and saudi arabia we . with iran introducing advanced technology. we see enabled houthis trying to challenge navigation and -- and they have a counterterrorism problem that we are very focused on. i think from the counterterrorism standpoint, we are making good progress. in this particular area. i do not see significant changes in the civil conflict that has taken place that has largely been orchestrated by the arab coalition. they need to put more effort into that. we are paying attention to that efforts by our diplomats and others to try to address this politically. there has been opportunities in the past that have not come to
fruition yet, but i think we need to continue on in this area. yemen is an area we should all be concerned about. we are seeing many problems in that area. and on top of it, huge humanitarian issues and people are suffering greatly. rep. russell: thank you, and thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. ms. rosen. rosen: thank you for being here today. i thank the ranking member and chairman for this hearing. i want to speak about sanctions on iran and russia and what is your opinion on how implementing sanctions or what level of offending do you think would influence activities in the middle east? gen. votel: we don't really manage those within the department of defense. i know the secretary has
recently provided information to senator corker and others with regards to other things regarding sanctions and those represent his interests. sanctions are an important part this. most of these threats, and as i tried to mention in my opening comments, this is a team sport. we can do things militarily, but we need the instruments of our national power, whether diplomatic or informational, to kick in on these things. when were able to bring those together to include things like sanctions, we have the best effects. there are some very good areas where sanctions will make a difference. we need to look at we do have to look at the impact of those on our partners. we have to be mindful of that. i do think granting waiver authority to the secretary of
state is a good approach and gives us the flexibility we need in these regards. i look at it as a key part of the whole approach. rep. rosen: you feel like you're getting enough support in this regard? gen. votel: i do. i know it's a continuing area of topic. rep. rosen: thank you. also want to switch over and talk about syria. what is the communication stand after russia aligned attacked in early february. how are things going? gen. votel: there has been no change in communication channel . it remains an effective way to the conflict. our forces and our airmen stay safe from the people on the
ground safe. rep. rosen: thank you. balance ofk the my time. >> thank you. mr. russell. -- mr. gallagher. gallagher: just a follow-up, what do you say to our nato allies regarding our support for kurdish elements in syria? what message do we communicate? gen. votel: the message that i have conveyed is that our kurdish partners a multiethnic force and a greater effort has been the most effective force . we need them to finish this fight. that is one of the first things and one of the principal things we have two egg knowledge to them. so our attempts to be transparent and clear. i think they are things we have to continue to emphasize.
between the pkk and syria? gen. votel: they don't draw that distinction. of course that is the tension. rep. gallagher: you said in response to her question that it is not part of the coalition to counter iran and syria. you categorize our strategy in syria vis-a-vis iran? what are we trying to do too iran and syria? gen. votel: i think our broad u.s. government objective is to limit iran's influence in syria. because, as we have seen, they are attempting to arm and motivate fighters that could pose threats to other vital partners here. i think as a government, we have interest in trying to limit their influence and activities.
region.part of the rep. gallagher: i do not want to spend the remaining time on a semantic debate, but i want to say that if there's any influencing gaining in syria, we need to limit that. inshould counter their gains syria. perhaps some clarity. how would you characterize our strategy these of the iran and the rest of the region -- vis-à-vis the rest of the region? i characterize it as teach, assure, and compete. we have to have capabilities in place to deter the ballistic capabilities. we have to always assure our partners in the region. when you lineup our coalition versus their coalition, ours is
much more capable. so continue to develop those relationships is important. showing our partners will be there with them, and then we have to compete with them, not just militarily, but with other instruments of power in the areas that we can. this is pushing back and going back on their influence, pushing back on their narrative, and in the areas we must preventing them from moving their weapons and other things that pose threats to our partners. rep. gallagher: but does that rollback, does that reach a limit in syria? is there some reason that we are being less aggressive there? you mentioned iraq -- we are being less competitive with them. gen. votel: my point is that as we formed the coalition to defeat isis that has the military and political component to it. one objective that is not been
is not been assigned to us countering iran. this focus on the isis mission. rep. gallagher: in iraq, do you think we are actively competing with them? i thinking of the biggest am phenomenon. some may be part of the iss, but others are terrorists. gen. votel: certainly addressing the pmf is something the prime minister will have to do. one of the best things we can do on the ground is be in a good and valued partner to the iraqi security forces. the assistance united states and coalition to demonstrates this , and those security force leaders that i talked to on a regular basis deeply value that. they appreciate it, and they look forward to maintaining that in the future. rep. gallagher: i yield back the
rest of my time. thank you. >> thank you. mr. swazi. swazi: i want to thank you for your service and the great work of everyone in your command. my particular concern is about afghanistan that i discussed with you. the reconstruction report says that were not making progress. the population centers we lost a little bit of ground from the last report. i supported the effort to increase troops, and i think you have a clear strategy as far as
the five points of the special forces and replace their platforms and help the police put more pressure on pakistan. the clear strategy that makes tremendous sense. you're doing a tremendous job. the problem is the backfilling. in your testimony, you talked abul'show k uncertainty continues to suffer from a professional governmental capacity deficit, competing interest, and corruption. my concern is that your colleagues on the civilian side don't have a clear plan the way the military has. who is your clearest partner with general mickelson on the civilian side in this effort, and what do you perceive their strategy to be? i don't see them putting out a clear plan that lady not a clear
plan. so i just want you to comment on that, please, general. gen. votel: i think the principal partner on the u.s. side is the ambassador in the country. i think we have an outstanding ambassador on the ground is . i think he is very engaged in this, and i think we are beginning to address the things that you have talked about. as i mentioned, the military areions in these country the easy part of addressing the situation. and then the political resolution that has to take place because when you have to address the deep underlying issues that gave way to the conflict we just resolved. as i think i mentioned to you before hand, tomorrow in kabul, the president, and certainly with our support in the embassy, will be hosting a conference
that will look at counterterrorism and will be an opportunity with 25 nations to brought in to help do that. there are efforts underway to with our department of state actors to help devise ways to move forward with reconciliation. it is extraordinarily complex. the taliban is not a singular , contiguous group to deal with. it's broken and fractured. not only do we have to look at reconciliation, but we have to look at things like reintegration as well. the task in front of the diplomats to solve this i think an extraordinarily complex one as they move forward. i think it's a challenge and they are moving forward in ways to begin to address this effectively. we apply military, social, and diplomatic pressure to bring the taliban to the table. rep. suozzi: thank you very much
for that. in your testimony, you talk about how pakistan is trying to share more information and collaborate more than i have historically. what is your prognosis with pakistan? what do you see happening in real-time other than the sharing of information, and what we hope to expect as far as progress in governing the ungoverned areas? gen. votel: pakistan is a country that has suffered greatly from terrorism. perhaps as much as anybody in the region and maybe as much as anybody around the world. they have taken measures to address terrorism within their borders. that has contributed over the years to slowly increase security of the area. we have to recognize that up
front. our approach is to continue to be engaged with them. we want to have a candid discussion, we want to have frequent communication, we want to build trust in this relationship. of thetory i is ad states and pakistan long history here, and we share many interests, and they share many things in common with us culturally, militarily and and politically. we have to work with them to move them interactions the constant to make strategic changes in their approach. i don't know that we can put a time limit on it. we have seen positive indicators and need to assure that we don't overlook these as we move forward and build on these. that is my objective with my counterparts. rep. suozzi: thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. general.
thank you for service and for being here. there's no place in the world were iranian-backed proxy forces are a stabilizing feature of the terrain, is there? gen. votel: i would not characterize it that way. rep. gaetz: in july 2015, we have the birth of the jcpoa. gc iran has made the same investment in their proxy forces or reduced investment or an enhanced. more moneym putting behind proxy forces that are destabilizing. in august of 2017, the iranian parliament votes to increase spending of the particular capabilities that we think may have emerged from that particular tactic that iran is investing in as they use more of the cash that they now have
access to to be a destabilizing hegemon. as ivotel: congressman, mentioned earlier, as we look at the iranian threat, we see not only increased quantity but also increase quantitatively in terms of capabilities that they have developed. they are using things like yemen, like we go out to china to test our weapons systems, they go to yemen to test their weapons systems. they are taking advantage of these opportunities to improve their capabilities around the world. i definitely am concerned about this. rep. gaetz: you also test some great weapons systems in my district in florida. i am very proud of that. people return home and deploying to find themselves fighting a very similarly flavored enemy, extremists, ints
many circumstances, by iran and the terror proxies. if there are training activities where recruits are brought in through the western hemisphere and essentially redeployed. in the centcom. i'm not sure i can answer that in this setting, but i am sure there probably are. rep. gaetz: we may chat about that it little later today than. are there particular capabilities in the development of iran's terror proxies that we find particularly investing in, whether that a strong technology, guerrilla capability, or development of explosives? gen. votel: i think all of the above. i think these are all tactics that we seen in the past, and certainly we are concerned about the increasing use of missiles, short range, medium-range
missiles, and that type of stuff is very concerning. uaf's is a concerning threat. but one of the other things what iran did -- what it took 15 years for iran with hezbollahanon they are attempting to do in five years with the houthis in yemen. this is very concerning to us. rep. gaetz: i agree. they are accelerating their pace and this is something we have to be very concerned about.
what had to do list activities in the western hemisphere with that what we have seen now in our own backyard both in volume and in quantity and as we look at the particular missile systems that you mentioned or areas they may be used to allies of israel. do we see the iranians hardening their position in southern syria? and what feedback have we gotten from our ally israel about their discomfort with that? gen. votel: i think what we have seen in public media releases here that israel has struck at some of these locations here that pose a threat to them. so i think in this setting, i would leave it at that. there certainly are some concerns. rep. gaetz: great. thank you, mr. chairman. i look forward to the next setting. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. we heard from admiral harris and
centcom has faced a lot of missions, so please discuss the missions inside and are you getting what you currently need? gen. votel: congressman we are. i would be happy to go off the record to give more detail, but with the support of the department was the supply rates and key munitions that we have been managing that for some time also looking at the success from iraq and syria and that has allowed us to address our issues in afghanistan, and i will not comment on the broader departmentwide challenge with this, but we are being supported well right now in centcom. rep. gallego: thank you. are the other combatant command
they need? gen. votel: i cannot comment on that. that is probably a better question for them. rep. gallego: switching gears -- has qatar been a dependable partner? gen. votel: i think they have. they have the air operations center there and they have helped us in the past. rep. gallego: sow discord between the gcc other partners qatar, does that affect any of our operations? gen. votel: it hasn't had a significant effect on the military opportunity. we made this clear from the beginning, but it has been largely successful. rep. gallego: i yield back. >> thank you. mr. banks. rep. banks: thank you for being
here today. going back to afghanistan, can you comment more specifically how can you as a 39-member nation coalition, is that continuing to weaken or to have a more optimistic outlook? gen. votel: the coalition remains very strong and afghanistan. one of the things that underpins president's roadmap for the afghan security forces was the commitment made by the partner nations in warsaw to make sure that the support would be continued. so we have seen the partner nations continue to sustain and in many cases increase their contributions to the effort. rep. banks: so in some cases we are seeing an increase. which nations are increasing their commitment? gen. votel: the u.k. is an example or they have increased their recent contributions.
rep. banks: a moment ago, you zi's question,suoz that pakistan has paid a significant price and has suffered greatly, i think was your quote. in your testimony, you say the taliban and the leadership the fighters continue to find sanctuary in pakistan, but then the next page, you talk about the discontinuing of the support of pakistan. can you dig a little deeper into that? what is working to bring pakistan back into the table to thwart television and to provide sanctuary? gen. votel: i think some of that pressure the government put on pakistan as we brought out the strategy i think contributed to that. also the approach that we have tried to be clear in terms of the things that we needed
pakistan to do for us. what i have endeavored to do in -- not always in a public way but in a private way -- is develop a relationship that allows us to provide both ways . there are things that pakistan has asked of us as well, so this two-way street here. we make sure we have those feedback loops in place to try to support each other and moving forward in that regard. i would be happy to talk about this perhaps in a closed session, but that is about building the bridge back, building the trust from this that has to underpin this relationship that has been missing for a long time. rep. banks: has there a plan to re- continue the support of pakistan? gen. votel: i don't think we have addressed that.
rep. banks: so we remain in a posture of discontinuing that support? gen. votel: that is the current posture, and hopefully have the in the future we have the opportunity. it has created some of the pressure with regards that are pakistan is looking for the equipment or our understanding and respect in terms of what we have accomplished. so again it is about relation building and that is my focus. rep. banks: pakistan continues to provide a very important and strategic logistical route for afghanistan.n do you see those logistical routes continue to operate? gen. votel: i have. the lines of medication is absolutely vital. they have continued to sustain
that. rep. banks: thank you. i yield back. >> thank you. mr. o'rourke. o'rourke: thank you, mr. chairman. general, could you tell us how these service members are deployed at this moment? we generally don't talk numbers in public, congressman, i would be happy to -- rep. o'rourke: what is a ballpark you can talk about? gen. votel: we are at the level the department of defense has approved for us in this area and , and we will maintain that going forward. rep. o'rourke: is that public information? gen. votel: the department of defense has put some numbers out. i would be happy to follow up on that with you. rep. o'rourke: ok. so i must ask you how many u.s. service members are in syria or
are operating in syria? i am expecting to get a similar answer. gen. votel: right. the department of defense basically said around 1700 but i come of it again i would offer , the same response. rep. o'rourke: and an answer to ms. gabbard's question of what our purpose is you said the task is to defeat isis, is that reason for military presence? gen. votel: it is. rep. o'rourke: but we no longer have a military presence in syria otherwise? gen. votel: when we have completed our mission here in syria, it includes not only kicking isis out of the area but it also includes the consolidation and gains that allows us to move forward with a political resolution that is by
to this. that has been defined to us by our leadership here, so that is how we are gauging our military support. that is part of the mission. rep. o'rourke: the first answer is clear if there are no longer isis combatants on the battlefield. that is probably something we could measure. the second part sounds a little mushy. could you define that in terms that i and my constituents can understand? so we know when we have service members to come back from syria. gen. votel: what we will continue to do is for partners on the ground so we can ensure that the areas consolidated are gained to stabilize the area to , to ensure those international organizations can come back and they can get into their homes . this is about creating the security environment that allows that and provides time for
our diplomats to pursue the solution that we are seeking to the united nations in syria. rep. o'rourke: so even after isis is gone, there is an indefinite military commitment from the united states of america, from that description you just gave me. what is the legal justification to be there after isis is no longer there? gen. votel: the fact is isis is still there. rep. o'rourke: but my question is after isis is defeated what , what is the legal justification for u.s. service members to be deployed in syria? gen. votel: the principal thing is to ensure that isis does not reemerge in this particular area. even though they have been eliminated from controlling terrain does not mean isis is not present in this area. i think we have been very clear on that, so we have to ensure that isis is not given the surge.unity to re
so with your question in regards to the legal authority, i would cite the principal legal authority is self-defense and the unwillingness and inability of the regime to address this particular threat that posed a threat to not just to the country of syria and iraq but really to a much broader group of countries around the world. rep. o'rourke: my understanding is that the administration used 2001 authorization for the use of military force, whose justification is premised on the attacks of 911, but the question
after isis is defeated that in every country that there isn't an isis presents going forward. i think that is a recipe for disaster. we will have accountability or prosecution if it cannot define its goals. i yield back. >> general, what happened in 2009 when we left iraq completely 2009 after he we supposedly defeated al qaeda in iraq? gen. votel: we saw the rise of isis with the ability of the security forces to effectively address it as it was growing. >> general, according to the worldwide threat assessment , director coats from the intelligence community assesses from the popular mobilization
of shia to remain the primary threat to u.s. personnel. do you agree with that assessment? gen. votel: i do think they could pose a threat to our forces on the ground. this is something we are very vigilant and are paying close attention. we have not seen that at this particular point but it is something we are cognizant of. rep. hice: how is centcom working with the iraqi government and other partners to address this? certainly the iraqi government to address the paramilitary force what we are doing as part of the broader security sector reform the support to the government of iraq, encourage them to take the steps with the right leadership and those that are beholden to
the government of iraq. the principal way that we will is through our advice and where necessary through our assistance to the government to iraq. want to follow up on mr. gallagher's questions overall, what happens trying to control forces in iraq and in the entire region? gen. votel: one of those principal roles that we have come as i mentioned, is to shore up partnerships around the region and to be resilient against this particular threat to make sure they have the wherewithal to protect themselves and developing partnerships is a key piece of this to make sure we have the right military capability in
place, to deter iran from taking action with their missile capabilities they are developing so we have a deterrence role, and then we have to challenge them for some of the things they are doing we could do it militarily but also with national power that is available. rep. hice: thank you. that raises some questions that will probably be more appropriate in the next session. i yield back. >> thank you. >> thank you, general, for your leadership. a four-time deployed to draw more into the influence with
specific problems, i think maybe more so they have advisors, they have fighters petroleum, and it appears that what i am hearing from you is that we do have a grander strategy to focus on iran and we really don't have a strategy of iran's influence in syria. what i am hearing from you, and please correct me if i am wrong, it that we have a grander strategy with your a or, but in itself, we do not have a strategy, not one with iran's syria is that your , characterization? i am not sure that i would characterize it that way, there are things that are
appropriate for the military to do and that is the angle that i talk about there are other parts of the government and other capabilities that we have within the national resources that can address iran's malign activities. do you agreed is do you agree it is unacceptable for iran to have long-term presence in western syria? gen. votel: it would be if it is in threat to our partners or further destabilization of the region. rep. bacon: would you say is it acceptable or unacceptable to for iran to build a land bridge? gen. votel: it is unacceptable if the purpose is to move legal technology to put the capabilities in the hands of the fighters to use their member. rep. bacon: what about iran launching into israel? gen. votel: i am not sure. i think that is probably a question for the iranians. there seems to be a recent decline in the persian
in theent of our ships iraniangulf and the area. if that is true why is that? ,gen. votel: i think that is true. we have seen a decrease in the interactions i think principally because of the strong rhetoric , rather the strong discussions over the lack of professionalism over the maritime forces and how they operate, and that has gotten their attention, and i do think they are concerned about our stronger position on some of iran's activities just beyond their weapons program, so they are paying attention to that. but i will tell you that one of the things we are concerned is increasing use of uav's, so while it decreases activity in this area, i am increasingly concerned about their use of
uav's that could pose a threat to maritime activities in the region. rep. bacon: thank you. so are we preventing shipments lebanon from hezbollah in iran? rep. bacongen. votel: that is be discussion in this room. rep. bacon: back to the previous question asked by the air force to determine if we should be capitalized on the new frame or let that go away and determinism new capabilities? we are getting conflicting advice and perspective on that. i would love to have your perspective. gen. votel: as a combatant commander, i am and dependent upon those services of those that provide us the right capabilities, and they always do. we are very satisfied with that , so i am less concerned about which platform it is on and more concerned with the capabilities that are coming our way. certainly the joint stars provides not only ground movement, targeting indicator
capability, that is very important in my theater and other theaters but it also , provides battle stage management, command and control, that comes with these capabilities. what i am trying to achieve is layered isr's. i want to bring everything into an isr scheme that meets my requirements in this particular theater. rep. bacon: thank you for being here and answering our questions. i am grateful to you. i yield back. >> mr. banner. banter: you can as a question, whether you are good or not. the first question, we have been receiving questions about uav's. we are working whether predators or whatever getting those two allies to saudi arabia or the emirates. we stopped. we even offered them to use u.s.
contractors so they can prosecute their own targets so and we can use them instead of using our own. so the question is -- can we tolerate the reality that is the self-imposed restraints with the uav technology, but the chinese can, and you are ready spoke to that point. i think we are missing a big advantage there. can you comment on that? gen. votel: i think that opportunity to improve the interoperability whether isr or other systems we have out here. these are all opportunities for wherever we can. rep. hunter: you support us sharing our uav technology with our allies? gen. votel: it deserves serious consideration. rep. hunter: thank you. second, in terms of iran and
iraq, it goes my right down to iran and syria. -- it goes from iraq down to iran and syria. mani has his arm around every single one, so when he puts them in training, and you have spoken to this specifically, do you think it is possible to extract iran or with what is happening in syria? they are dug in deeply. gen. votel: i think certainly there is an opportunity in iraq through the strong relationships we are developing here. one of the things i have observed about iraq is their outreach to their partners
across the region, whether it is jordan, saudi arabia, kuwait, or key nations in the area, they are very much emerging trying to be much more involved but then in the region, which i think is a very positive thing. connotes the fact that iraq is for iraqis command while they live in a difficult neighborhood with difficult neighbors and they have to do with that, they are principally concerned. rep. hunter: what is the background? right now we are playing the enemy of the enemy is our friend friend. if those power players with those weapons and our gear right now, with their hand-picked militia guys, the iraqis can reach out all they want to, but the power is with iranians and syria right now. i'm talking power by force. gen. votel: i certainly think
there is influence here. there is no doubt about that. i do see through the iraqi leadership a very strong sense and desire toe protect iraq. these are things that we have to continue to build on. rep. hunter: let me lay out one last time. you are confident that in the next 10 years, we are not going to see an iranian-controlled route line where the iranians can go from tehran through syria down to israel on a high-speed road with the tanks that we trained them on? you do not see that happening. i wouldel: congressman, not speculate on that particular regard, but i will tell you but the opportunity to prevent something like that is to stay engaged and continue to be the valuable partner that we have been for them and continue to professionalize their forces and their capabilities so they are
beholden to themselves and not beholden to others to do things for them. and they do not allow their terrain to be exploited in the area that you highlighted. rep. hunter: as we train, equip, and try to pick sides, we are in upways right on who we helping, and that has turned around to buy us a few times. i really hope right now with the iranians, we are not doing that in a much bigger way than we have messed up in the past. thank you very much. >> general, i want to follow up on two questions that i do not think you have been asked directly. you started to hearing talking about considerable success in illuminating isis from controlling any territory. is there or will there be a reduction of u.s. capabilities from iraq, especially due to that success?
gen. votel: it is part of that process and that success gives us the ability to move those resources with that engineering capability to be acquired on the ground. we have been able to reposition that within the theater, in afghanistan in particular, to make sure that general mickelson has what he needs to be successful. and as the situation continues, we will continue to make smart decisions on this. we do not want to keep one more soldier one more piece of , equipment that is needed to support the mission, and that is what we are pursuing. we are trying to do it as smart ly as we can. rep. thornberry: yes, because we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past.
but at one point, and especially with iran and al qaeda and yemen, but is there a terrorist threat? gen. votel: i have not been addressing many of the concerns of al qaeda and the arabian peninsula. we have addressed their leadership and mother media capabilities, certainly some of their explosive capabilities that has been inherent in this organization. but i think with al qaeda, it is important to always understand what their long-term objectives are. patient andery savvy organization. i think we always have to be concerned about al qaeda. it is absolutely vital to not take the pressure off now but to keep the pressure on them and ensure that we complete this
effort against them. rep. thornberry: while it is a complex situation, you talked about unitarian, the wh humanito outhis, and everything that is going on, but i do not want to lose sight they continue to have a terrorist threat. >> i think we are good for now. thank you for being here. we will adjourn the open session and in about five minutes reconvene upstairs. thank you.
>> they have to be careful about what they are saying. they have to based on facts. it has been remarkable with the specificity, using some quotes from some of those involved, and so i do think that we ought to be alert for the potential that russia uses some sort of mercenary forces as a way to camouflage their activities. not only in syria, but we may well see it in other places. hearings on the updates in afghanistan in the future, i looked at the schedule, and mattis was up. october. i am curious if you are -- was up here in october. i am curious if you're looking to that. obviously,erry: general votel has responsibility over afghanistan.
general mattis has been, particularly after pulling commanders out of afghanistan and korea, because of the importance of their job there, so we are having continuing conversations back and forth about our ability to ask them russians, but in the meantime, we have the. overall. so we will see. >> what is your assessment, after hearing general votel talk about russia, what is their role in syria these days? i think part of what you see is what russia sizes not necessarily what russia does, so they may dress up in fighter suits, but they are the arsonists enabling the syrian regime and the iranians to continue and expand the conflict and commit terrible humanitarian disasters. sometimes -- it has been a while.
i think we lose sight of the fact of how many people, civilians, innocent civilians have been affected by this conflict that the russians have fueled. so i would say that to me, there thanore arsonist firefighters. we do have communications with so our planes do not run into each other and so forth, but they are clearly trying to exploit the situation for their benefit. and they've had some success. >> you have brought up withdrawing from iraq before the mission. are you concerned that is going on right now? i just want to clarify. rep. thornberry: no. one of the reasons i asked to that at the end is there has been significant success in iraq. have withdrawn people and capabilities from iraq as a result of that success.
i think that is appropriate. not wanther hand, i do to leave completely, because we saw what a disaster that was when it was done during the obama administration, so continuing to engage with partners to ensure that we do 3.0 ise an isis important, and i think, you know, an all or nothing approach is not wise and we have seen that in the past. >> what about in syria? there were a lot of questions about the u.s. role in syria. rep. thornberry: syria is such a difficult situation that i think there are a lot of legitimate questions about what our objectives are there. militarynment from a force standpoint has been to defeat isis, but obviously you have that larger u.s. policy goal of containing and limiting
iran, maybe not necessarily with military force at the moment, -- we are going to have to there is a lot more discussion to have on that topic i think. anyway, thank you all. >> mr. chairman, along the lines of saudi arabia, aren't they destroying yemen, and we are helping them do it? you don't think yemen is the biggest -- [indiscernible] >> c-span's "washington withal," live every day news and policy issues that impact you. coming up sunday morning, vanderbilt university's dr. jonathan metzl discusses gun violence. charenlumnist mona
talks about trump policies. and earl anthony wayne talks about u.s.-mexico relations amid disputes of immigration and trade. be sure to watch "washington journal each sunday for hours america ins on 1968, turmoil. we look back 50 years to that inm you -- turbulent time 1968, including a vietnam war and a fractious as eventual election. -- presidential election. >> looking live at the lobby of the renaissance hotel in washington, d.c., the gridiron club is hosting its annual dinner. it is a white tie affair attended by journalists and guests and closed two cameras. president trump and the first lady are expected to be there tonight, and the president is expected to