tv CENTCOM AFRICOM 2019 Budget Request CSPAN March 16, 2018 11:16am-1:21pm EDT
which shield immigrants brought to the country illegally as minors. read the rest of that story from "the hill" newspaper. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c., and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> the heads of the us us military central command in africa command testified before the senate armed services committee earlier this week about the president's 2019 budget request. they answered questions about isis, the iran nuclear deal, china's influence in africa, and the civil war in syria.
>> african commands. we welcome our witnesses general walhouser eneral thank you for your great service. in advance of that hearing chairman mccain asked i submit a statement for the record on his behalf. i will quote that statement. quote, as we turn our attention to the central challenge of great power and competition, the national defense strategy challenged us to think about our efforts in the middle east, in new and different ways. with all of the recent success in the fight against isis, we must work to consolidate our
ains and move forward with the coherent regional strategy to ensure security and stability. unquote this. committee looks forward to working with this year's national defense authorization act to provide the policies and authorities needed to adjust to this new approach. both the middle east and africa, where the threat of violent extremism is increasing dramatically. for centcom over the path year we have seen remarkable progress over the fight against isis. your military victories in mosul and beyond have helped dismantle the caliphate isis once claimed in the middle east. statement, significant challenges remain in the region, the syrian civil war rages on. iran continues to grow its influence. according to the region we face serious questions about the kurds, many of whom have fought by our side.
one frica, let me make statement senator inhofe: i think is significant for us to keep in mind for the purposes of his hearing. general, it's my understanding the investigation into the october, 2017, -- ambush in niger by isis afailitied fighters that killed four u.s. scold soldiers is completed. it's pinneding review by the chairman and joint chiefs of staff, general dunn ford and secretary of defense. after his approval it will immediately be oofered a brief to the families of the four soldiers if they desoir prior to ny briefing to congress.
handling threats before they have crises. it is critical not only to regional stability but to our own national security, but lacks ted kated troops resources sufficient facing and strategic ccess. senator reed. senator reed: i want to thank our witnesses for appearing today. also for your service and the service of the men and women you command and thank you very much and thank them, please. you are leading your commands in
very challenging times. we are in the 16th year of military engagement in afghanistan, for example. early last year general nicholson, commander general forces, of afghanistan testified we were facing a stalemate. since that time the administration has announced new south asian strategy, articulated a negotiated settlement as the design end state moved additional forces in theater to support the military elements of the strategy and curtailed security assistance to pakistan. despite these shifts, 2017 continued to be plagued by widespread violence and instability in afghanistan as the taliban expanded their territorial control and conducted a number of widespread attacks against civilian. in addition, isis remains resilient despite significant pressure. while the administration has laid out a military strategy, battlefield victories are hallowed. without political and economic progress, both of which seem stalled in afghanistan. however, the trump administration has yet to articulate the plol governance or political aspects of the
agency much less the staffing resources that will be required required to implement it. general votel, i'm interested in your assessment of the afghanistan. in iraq and syria, the so-called physical caliphate previously enjoyed by isis a significant victory and i commend the administration and your leadership and your colleagues, too, for this u.s.-led international coalition and our iraq and syria partners on the ground have done so much. however, isis is not defeat and will remain a threat for the foreseeable future. additionally, the underlying issues that gave rise to isis in the first place remain unaddressed. we need strong leadership to bring about the necessary political accommodations that will give sunni communities a stake in their future and bring the international community together to assist communities recovering from isis. as some experts have stated, the seeds of the next insurgency are sown in mosul and raqqa.
iraq alone the cost of reconstruction is expected to be $88 billion and the international community has pledged less than one-third of that amount. i'm deeply concerned that the administration's mod due lation of our diplomatic core undermines our ability to stabilize those areas once held by isis as well as the broader region. it's notable across centcom, most remain vacant such as saudi arabia, qatar and egypt, this is not a question of congressional action, no nominations have been forthcoming and i'm sure our colleagues, all of them, would rapidly move to consider nominees to these very important positions. military power alone will not be enough to address the national security challenges we face in these complicated regions. we must have people in place to ensure our long-term objectives are met. iran, the president is threatening to withdraw from the
oint comprehensive plan of action, the jcpoa. by all accounts it is being ollowed. iran continues to be a state sponsor of terror and the the abuser of human rights. a roon continues to destabilize the region through developing missiles. the jcpoa was not intended to address all of iran's bad behavior. just the nuclear aspect. if iran behaves this way without a nuclear weapon, imagine how much worse it would be with a nuclear armed force. withdrawing from the jcpoa would e a devastating blow for our diplomatics efforts to constrain aggressive behavior by our adversaries. general votel, i wonder if you believe that remaining in the deal is in the best interest of the nation? in africa, the important of relationships is paramount.
as we seek to engage with our partners in furtherance of our shared security goals. i recently traveled to east africa where i saw first hand the ongoing efforts to disrupt violent extremist and built violent extremist and built capacity in crit cat pockets like djibouti and somalia. i saw the competitors such as china and russia who are actively seeking investments and involvement across the i saw the competitors such as china and russia who are actively seeking investments and involvement across the continent. despite some battlefield success against some groups, many governments recently have struggled to translate security gains into durel outcomes. as we turn our attention to articulated by the national defense strategy, we must not focus exclusively on these issues at the expense of other threats such as terrorist organizations, world regimes, and other nonstate actors and criminal organizations. issues that are present in both your commands. thank you, mr. chairman, thank you, general, for your service. senator inhofe: thank you, senator reed.
we'll now have opening statements by our two guests and your entire statement will be made a part of the record. general votel. general votel: senator inhofe, ranking member reed, distinguished members of the committee, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to discuss the correspondent -- current posture and state of readiness of the united states central command. i'm pleased to be here today with my fellow combatant commander and fellow minnesotan, general waldhauser. i come before you today on behalf of over 80,000 members of command, u.s. military, civilians and coalition members from 71 nations in the most complex area of the globe they serve and sacrifice on a daily basis. in many cases for the benefit of not only american strategic interests, but also the world's. our people are the very best at what they do, and they and especially their families deserve our admiration and gratitude. it's my sincere honor to lead and be a member of such a fine team of dedicated professionals. since i last appeared before the
committee last year were we -- we have made considerable military progress across the region. however, as we consolidate our gains in places like iraq, syria, lebanon, and yemen, we remain clear-eyed about the challenges that the region continues to be present. -- to present. in the past year we have achieved incredible success against isis in both iraq and syria. the iraqi security forces and the syrian democratic forces are operating at their most effective levels and have liberated over 9 % of the territory previously held by isis. -- 98% of the territory previously held by isis. the destruction of the isis physical caliphate is within our grasp and thousands of displaced persons are returning home and beginning the long task of rebuilding. now we must consolidate gains by investing in the security forces, relationships, and capabilities that will hold the territory and keep isis from returning. based upon that progress, centcom is conducting an operational alignment and rebalancing effort to achieve three goals.
the first goal is to complete major combat operations in iraq and syria to bring the defeat isis campaign to a responsible close. military success in the campaign presents us an opportunity to reposition forces from iraq and syria to afghanistan in a manner that keeps the pressure on isis but also sets us up to break the stalemate in afghanistan. we retain sufficient capability resents us an opportunity to to continue our efforts against isis despite the increasingly complex situation across syria and especially in the northwest province of afren. our partners on the ground in syria have gotten us a long way in syria, and toward our objectives, and we must stick with them through the completion of this fight. in iraq, the iraqi security orces are consolidateding gain in preparing the support to continue our efforts against elections later this spring. the second goal is to prior -- prioritize the implementation of the south asia strategy in afghanistan, reaffirming our commitment to afghanistan by
reinforcing the two complementary military plitions, -- missions, the nate kwlow-led train and advise and the u.s. counter terrorism mission. with our support, the afghan national defense and security forces are well-postured to begin operations to seize the initiative, expand population control, and secure credible elections. part and parcel of this effort is our regionalized approach to engage all countries with a stake in afghanistan stability, especially pakistan where we seek a more productive and trustful relationship that benefits our mutual objectives in the region. the third goal is to ensure that we have aligned our military efforts with our broader interagency and international activities to neutralize, counterbalance and shape the stabilizing impact of iran. make no mistake, iran's malign activities across the region pose the long-term threat to stability in this part of the world. the recently published national defense strategy rightly
identifies the resurgence of great power competition as our principal national security challenge and we see the effects of that competition throughout the region. russia's support of the assad regime has not only propped them up but has also added complexity to the defeat isis campaign. moscow plays both arsonist and firefighter fueling tensions among the syrian regime, iran, turkey, the syrian democratic forces, the united states, and other coalition partners, then serving as a supposed arbiter to resolve disputes. today, russia's manipulative behavior has placed our campaign progression at risk with activities that are not focused on the defeat of isis but rather preserving their influence and control over the outcome of the situation. situation. china is pursuing long-term steady economic growth through the region through its one belt one road policy but it's improving military posture by connecting ports with its first overseas military base in
djibouti, adjacent to the critical strait. both china and russia not only seek to fill in gaps in u.s. influence with increasing defense cooperation and sales of their equipment to regional partners, but they're cultivating multi dimensional ies to iran. against this backdrop of increasing great power interaction are the enduring issues of the region, social, economic, and political challenges, high unemployment, falling oil prices, a youth bulge, large numbers of refugees and longstanding border conflicts. we in centcom stand ready with all of our partners to defend u.s. interests against these and other threats. our strategic approach of preparing the environment, pursuing opportunities, and prevailing wherever we can is working. we are postured for purpose, proactive in pursuing opportunities, and resolve to win. i'd like to close by sharing three dynamics that we assess are essential to prevailing in this region. first, in the conduct of our
campaigns in iraq, syria, afghanistan, yemen, lebanon and egypt, we have adopted a by, with and through approach that has placed a heavy reliance on indigenous partner forces. while this approach presents its own challenges and can be more time consuming, it importantly provides local solutions to local problems. this approach is not without risk as we are seeing unfold in northern syria today but it's proving very effective and will pay significant dividends going forward. second, successful pursuit of u.s. objectives in this region comes only from an integrated approach aligned with interorganizational partners. defense of the nation is a team support. -- sport. this applies not just within the command, but with our philo combatant commands, the 18 country, other agencies and organizations of the u.s. government, and most importantly our coalition partners who have provided unwavering support for nearly two decades of persistent conflict. as the national defense strategy
captures clearly, strengthening existing relationships and building new ones will be key to our future success. finally, we could not do what we do on a daily basis without the support of congress and my -- by extension the american people. we sincerely appreciate this committee's continued strong support for our operations, authorities, and resources and especially for your support to the services, socom, and the other defense agencies that we rely upon for our military wherewithal. your support will remain important as we contend with what potentially are generational struggles to defend our homeland from the threats outlined in our national defense strategy. thank you again and i look forward to answering your questions. senator inhofe: thank you, general. general waldhauser: senator inhofe, ranking member reed, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to update you on the efforts of united states africa command. i'm also honored to be here
today with general votel, and discuss many of the concerns we share between kentsome and afric o om, including violent extremist organizations. i would like to begin this morning by remembering the soldiers and sailor we lost on the continent during operations this past year. i also want to share my respects for the loss of our african partner forces who, during their efforts in the fight against extremism, gave the ultimate sacrifice this past year as well. we honor their commitment, service and dedication to duty. i offer my sincere condolences to our families of the fallen u.s. comrades and those of our african partners. senator inhofe, i have completed my review of the nijer investigation and forwarded the report to the secretary of defense through the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. once the secretary completes his review and after the families have been briefed, i intend to provide a comprehensive and detailed accountability of the investigation to you as soon as practicable. his morning i want to update
you on our regional efforts. the u.s. interests in africa are reflected in our mission statement. africom, with partners, strengthens security forces, counters transnational threats, and conducts crisis response in order to advance u.s. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity in africa. our mission statement deliberately highlights the importance of partners. following up on this point, very few, if any, of the challenges on the african continent have been resolved through the use of military force. accordingly, africom's first strategic tenant underscores our military activities in a design to support and enable u.s. diplomatic and development efforts. we can create time and space for governments to establish effective and accountable governance while fostering conditions for economies to develop.
our second theme describes our strategic approach of by, with, and through. this framework emphasizes our main effort to build to capacity of african partner defense forces to credibly provide for their own security. while african nations have enormous potential, they are often challenged by instate -- instability and exploitation stemming from the disruption caused by violent extremist organizations or veos. these veo groups take advantage of vast ungoverned space and recruit from populations lacking conomic opportunities. we approach these security threats through our third strategic principle of keeping pressure on the networks of veos such as al shabaab, isis, al qaeda, and boko haram in order to mitigate their destabilizing influence. at the same time we remain postured and ready to respond to contingences and protect u.s. personnels and facilities on the continent.
these strategic themes and africom's approach are aligned with the national level guidance. in accordance with the recently released national defense strategy and in the context of changes in the operating environment, we are updating our strategy in feeding -- theater campaign plan to reflect the guidance provided by the ecretary of defense. turning now to our regional efforts, i would like to describe for you some of the challenges we face each day on the continent. in east africa, africom's contributions are part of an international commitment to help somalia implement their recently designed national security rchitecture. al shabaab remains a threat to somalia and the region as demonstrated by the october, 2017, in mogadishu bombing that illed over many people and the the challenges facing the government are enormous. nevertheless they continue to make progress with a long way to go before they are prepared to
secure their own territory. with international partners and organizations, including the african union and the european union, africome's capacity building efforts to assist the federal government of somalia with the implementation of their comprehensive approach to security sector reform. in north africa, libya remains politically divided with leaders and factions vying for power attention of potential elections later this year. in throws cooperation and part of the international effort. africome supports diplomatic objectives for political reconciliation. we'll continue to work the u.n. established government of the national accord and maintain pressure on the isis, libya, and al qaeda networks in that country. the sahara to transition belt spanning the broadest part of
africa from the anti-ic ocean to the read sea. - red sea. we provide training, advice, and assistance to the g-5 countries and the multinational joint task force in order to help them contain violent extremism and secure their borders. in conclusion, the continued progress on the continent with our partners reflects dedicated efforts by the men and women of africome. i'm proud to lead these professionals who have built strong and trusting relationships with the agency and international community to foster the security, stability, and prosperity on the african continent. on behalf of the employees, families, and of the united states africa command ngs thank you for the opportunity to be here and i look forward to the questions senator inhop: less
than a month ago, we spent quite a bit of time in the south china sea seeing, witnessing first and what china is doing there. they talked about reclaiming land, and i suggest it's not reclaiming land because there's no land to reclaim. it's creating land. while they've been doing this for some time, it's been unnoticed. they are now up over 3,000 acres that they have created, all staffed with nothing but military staff in there, so obviously it serns a lot of people, and a lot of people in the region, a lot of our allies in the region look at china as someone more significant than we're. - than we are. significant than we are because they don't see that type of thing from us. now, i know this is not your aor, general, but recently, you stated in your opening statement, requests for presence in djibouti. this is very much a concern, and
djibouti is where we have had our marines for quite some time. it's an area that has control over the interests in the red sea and ultimately the suez canal so i am very much concerned about this, and you are too. you said in your -- at the house armed services last week, this is your quote, you said, if the chinese took over that port, the consequences could be significant. well, if china is successful in taking over the port of djibouti, could they use that -- their control to threaten u.s. access and our broader freedom of navigation interests in that region like the red sea and suez canal? general votel: senator, thank you very much for the question. although i'm not an expert on port operations, i can tell you things about djibouti that may lend some context to the question. general waldhauser: within the confines of the port, there are five activities. two of which are run by the chinese, obviously, their
chinese naval port for the facility there, and they have control over what's called a multipurpose port, essentially offloads containers. there's three other pieces to the port. one is a fuel pier. then there's a container pier, discussed by the takeover in the past couple weeks, and then there is what's called an o-port where our ships also berth in order to pick up supplies and he like. the dijboutins annuled the ntract they had with dubai ports world last week, and they essentially took control of the port. in discussions with key leadership in the area and secretary of state there this past week, they indicated that they will run that port for the next six months, and then determine, you know, where they -- will go in terms of sale or whether they'll keep control of that port. the container port, as i described, basically all of the
containers that comes through there whether spare parts, provisions, everything comes through that port. that port is used quite a bit. we use the fuel port quite a bit. between october of 2016 and october of 2017, there were 115 ships that came in there to refuel. the ships also go to the base in djibouti to refuel airplanes and the like. senator inhofe: so that's a significant area there. general waldhauser: it is. senator inhofe: and i'm running out of time, but that's what i wanted to get to in the record. one of the areas --in fact, it was admiral harris, called this it our attention, some of the areas where we have done this program, which i've been very fond of, and i think both of you have, they are seeing china's oing after our imet program. now that's in that area. are you seeing any of this in african, on the continent of africa? we worked extensively on that program down there. general waldhauser: it's difficult to get data in terms of china and the program in
africa. on average, the national defense university of china graduates 100 foreign students a year, some of whom are, obviously, from africa. they usually come from 70 or so countries. which, by the way, we in the united states have about 850 officers from china who -- sorry, from africa, going through various programs, national defense universities, seminars, and the like at a cost of $22 million. senator inhofe: yeah. well, and that's good. let me do this. for the record, because there's not time to do it now, general, -- general waldhauser, i want you to kind of outline the resources because when we built africom, it was done without resources. we know who we depend on in cases when we need the resources. i'd like in writing some detail on that. general votel, i know that you ave some concerns about china,
and the efforts you're seeing in china to project your influence you make on your a.o.r. any comments? general votel: what i would highlight is the activities in djibouti is not only important for africa but important to centcom. this is where we have strong cooperation and collaboration across our geographic combat and command areas here. so i certainly share general waldhauser's concerns about what is playing out in djibouti. senator inhofe: in your written statement, you gave details in that, and you made a comment, beijing claims they support both peacekeeping and humanitarian operations -- i don't know how many people believe that, but it's a great concern to this committee. senator reed. senator reed: well, thank you very much, mr. chairman. and general, as i indicated in opening remarks, consistent with the secretary of defense, secretary mattis, do you believe
it's in our national security interest to stay within the confines of the jcpoa? general votel: i think from my perspective, the jcpoa addresses the principle threat we deal with from iran. if the jcpoa goes away, we'll have to have another way to deal with a nuclear weapons program, so, yes, i share their osition. senator reed: thank you. with respect to syria, it's a very complicated situation, and that's an understatement. one issue is involved with the kurds. they fought with us very reliably in the syrian defense forces. now they are moving to assist fellow kurds against the turks. it appears we don't have a olicy as to our position vis-a-vis the kurds in syria, the syrian kurds. and also a longer term policy as to what do we do? are we going to have a de facto
partition of the country with the s.d.f., syrian defense forces, guarding that portion? can you give us some clarity on the policy? i just don't think we have one. general votel: senator, we have not operated in the province there, and our interactions with the syria democratic forces, they understand that this is an area in which we do not operate and have no intention of operating at this point. the concern, certainly, that we have is that the activities there are a distraction to our defeat isis activities right now, and there's been an impact to that. we are addressing that. i think we've got very innovative people and partners on the ground that are working to ensure we keep the focus on isis, but i am concerned about the long term aspects of this. senator reed: there is a possibility that the kurds would
gradually leave our efforts in rder to protect their fellow kurdish forces, is that a possibility? senator votel: we've seen that already, senator. senator reed: general waldhauser, thank you for your hospitality when i was passing through africom. one of the impressions that i received there is that, you know, we're keeping some of the forces on their heels by special operations, particularly in working with local forces, but that the real long-term struggle is building capacity in every way, shape, or form, and as i pointed out in my opening statement, the sheer lack of state department presence, ambassadors in somalia and libya, ambassadors in egypt, is that impairing your ability to get the job done? general waldhauser: thank you, senator reed, and thank you for
taking the time to come through the aor. it was helpful and appreciate your support and concern. with regard to somalia, we do two things. one is the kinetic piece. we have authority to strike al al-shabaab targets, and we've done that robustly here in the last few months. additionally, we have a niche in building partnership capacity, but i would say the international community plays a big part in that as well, uae, turkey, also build this capacity. and the key there as we talk about transitioning around the 2020 to 2021 time frame, the security forces needs to be in a place where they can conduct their own security operations. with regards to the country and the ambassador, our country team there is very, very tight with them. as you know, we work out of nairobi, but know there's a facility at mogadishu and they
do a great job working there, because the bottom line is the federal government of somalia needs help, mentoring, and coaching as they move forward. senator reed: i concur. and we have a courageous team of diplomats on the ground in mogadishu but in order to have the impact we need in a very short term we're going to have to up the game dramatically. i don't see that happening on the civilian side, and even your resources, as we shift to other priorities, and as the national defense strategy moves near competition with russia and china to the forefront, use -- leaving both of you with maybe not economy force operation, but different priority. thank you, all, for the service and please convey our thanks to the men and women you lead. senator inhofe: thank you, senator reed. senator ernst. thank you, all, for the service
senator ernst: thank you, mr. chairman and gentlemen, thank you for being here today. senator ernst: thank you, mr. chairman and gentlemen, thank you for being here today. general vow tell, i will start with you. senator ernst: thank you, general, when i was in afghanistan months ago, i visited military and diplomatic leaders in kabul and kandahar, and bagram and it seems the taliban is now transitioning from an ideologically inspired group into a narco terror group which is using ideology as a veil and as such, the department of defense is focused on destroying processing facilities and their yields opposed to just simply destroying the poppy fields, and the state department is focused on enforcement in conjunction with the f.b.i. and the d.e.a. is this strategy different from those strategies that we've used in the past and if so how are they different? general votel: senator, thank you. they are different.
we are using the authorities that have been passed to us recently to ensure that we can go after, as you suggested, these funding streams that are fueling the taliban right now, and they are proving effective. this is a lesson learned from iraq and syria where when we got serious about going after the funding streams that supported isis, we made an immediate, we started seeing the immediate impact. that's exactly the attention here, and i do agree with you. they are well-resourced by this narco trafficking that takes place, and so our efforts are not only targeting their production storage locations, but also working with regional partners to help limit the flow of that product out of the region. again, trying to impede their ability to benefit from that. senator ernst: so you think it's
fair that we call them a narco terror group? general voting: i think they are absolutely that way, and they take on many of the fair that we call them a narco terror group? characteristics of a mob-mafia type of group. this is not a popular insurgency. that's important to understand. over 90% of the people in afghanistan do not want the taliban to be in charge of their country. it's not a popular insurgency. senator ernst: and as we fight and try to eradicate their funding streams, then, do you believe that we are adequately funded to achieve success? general votel: i do. i think we've got necessary resources right now to pursue the strategy laid out for us. senator ernst: ok. if we are successful in destroying their narcotics industry and their funding sources, what development do we need to see, then, in afghanistan to make sure that their people are self-sufficient? general votel: well, i think the key strategy, the big idea here is to force the taliban to
reconciliation and the way to do that is by focusing on military pressure, by focusing on political pressure, working with partners such as pakistan and through social pressure. this is, of course, ensures that the government of afghanistan continues to make the necessary reforms that the president already committed to, and that he's move inging towards. tashtash eagle moving out on as we speak. this addresses not only endemic problems with corruption, but also ensuring that fair elections are conducted in the country and that they are addressing some of the leadership challenges they have, and so they are doing these things right now. and i think this will help build confidence in the government of for the people. senator ernst: and i do appreciate that. i'm going to focus in a little bit more on the afghan special operations units. for the peopl we've had a lot of u.s. effort
in afghanistan building afghan air force and increasing the size of their afghan special operations units, and how will the creation of the afghan air force and doubling the size of their special ops units change the conditions on the ground as we see them today. general votel: well, i think a key part of our operational approach here is to build on what is working in afghanistan, and, certainly, their afghan special operation forces in the air force have been very, very good programs. essentially what we're focused on by doubling the afghan special operations forces, by building out the air force is to really provide the government of afghanistan with a very good offensive capability that can really focus on gaining control of the population in the areas we need to for the government to exert their -- to exert their writ. we look at the special operations forces in the air force as really their kind of
principal offensive capability, and the army plays the role as the whole course, and we work to get the police to be more confident in their policing functions that are important in the urban and populated areas. senator ernst: uh-huh, i appreciate that, thank you very much. when i was in afghanistan, i was able to visit with some of those pilots, and they are truly excited about being able to support their own country, so, thank you, gentlemen, very much. thank you, mr. chair. senator inhofe: thank you, senator ernst. senator shaheen. senator shaheen: thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you, both, for your service and for being ere today. general waldhauser, i and a number of other women senators had the opportunity last week to meet with two young women who had been kid -- kidnapped by boko haram. they had horrific stories to tell us about seeing family members murdered before their eyes. about being forced into marriage, about being gang raped on an ongoing basis. i asked them what they would
like americans to know about what's happening in nigeria. they were both nigerian, and what one of them said to me is that people in the united states should understand that this is not just the shaboc girls, several hundred, who most of us remember were kidnapped several years ago, but this is happening to thousands of girls on a daily asis in nigeria. one of the translaters with them who was with the organization that brought them to the united states said that this is a strategy by boko haram to impregnate women to grow a whole next generation with that extremist ideology, so i know that in your statement, you talk about nigeria's capabilities and capacities growing, but, in
fact, they have not been able to address this mass kidnapping of girls in nigeria. is that your understanding, and what are we doing to try to support efforts to address what boko haram is doing? general waldhauser: thank you, senator shaheen. good to see you again. boko haram is the most deplorable organizations on the planet. since 2009, they killed, depending on what you read or statistics you see, well over 20,000 people and displaced millions. they are notorious for the things that you talked about. with regard to the chibok girls, almost four years ago this month, april, four years ago, 276 were taken away. 163 have been returned, 60%, in a closed session, we can discuss where we think the other 113 girls are. february 19th, there's a location that's about 150 miles north of where chibok is and though no group claimed
responsibility based on location, based on open sources, we believe it's isis, west africa. isis west africa was at one time part of boko haram but they split for a whole host of reasons. one of the things i will tell you is we have been asked to provide assistance to the government of nigeria to try to help find these girls. we can talk more about that in a closed session, but we are providing assistance in terms of intelligence, support, planning, and the like that they have asked us for. they are trying to find a negotiated solution here, that's the desire, but as you say, the security situation, especially in many states where this took place is very, very precarious. senator shaheen: and when we passed the ndaa in 2017, we created a new authority under section 385 that allows the secretary of defense to transfer up to $75 million to usaid and to the department of state to implement foreign assistance programs. are these programs that would be
helpful as we're looking at the challenges facing women and girls in places like nigeria where they are -- they need to be reintegrated into their societies and their challenges with doing that, and can you tell me, either of you tell me the secretary of defense requested any of those has dollars? general waldhauser: so, thank u. are >> we had to work our way to see how to apply it. we have two poems we have put through o.s.d. general waldhauser: we would like to work with the state department to follow through on our activities. so that is one we put forward. a second one we put forward is in nigeria but in the basin where some of the people there to court and the state department is there as they run drugs, weapons and the like.
we have two nominations in and hope this is something that can complement as part of our pleas piece of activities. senator shaheen: i hope you will let us know. general votel, i have a few seconds left, but i wonder if you could tell us what happened engaged when our forces with russia? and it appeared those were russian contractors. is this a new mechanism that russia is using to engage contractors to service mercenaries on the ground for them? general votel: i can't speculate what russia's intentions might be, but in my view, this was a clear situation of u.s. coalition forces with our partners on the ground defending
themselves. we were attacked in this particular case. my view is that our forces responded appropriately. and immediately identified what was happening and got on the net with the russians and were talking with them, before, during, after the event and very effectively brought together the right capabilities whether it was i.s.r. to address this. ur people responded. i don't know if this some kind of change in how they are approaching this. we remain extraordinarily vigilant to these types of threats and we retain the sufficient capabilities to protect ourselves and our partners on the ground against these types of activities. senator shaheen: thank you, mr. chairman. senator inhofe: senator graham. senator graham: general votel,
is there any credible opposition o assad left in syria? y credible opposition left assad. general votel: out in the icinity of damascus and in the idlib area so they do pose a threat to the regime. senator graham: who's winning in syria, the civil war? general votel: from a civil war standpoint it would appear that regime is ascend ant here. senator graham: can the forces topple assad in the next year? general votel: that's not my assessment, senator. senator graham: is iran helping assad? general votel: he has been a key
enabler. senator graham: is russia? general votel: they are a key enableler. senator graham: assad has won the civil war in syria? general votel: i don't think that is too strong of a statement. they have provided the wherewithal. senator graham: is it still our policy that assad must go? general votel: i don't know that's our particular policy at this point. senator graham: if you don't know, i doubt anybody knows because it is your job to keep peace in this part of the world. what does it mean to us and the region? general votel: we will contend with this influence of iran in this particular area and with the influence -- senator graham: what does it mean to israel? general votel: from an iranian standpoint, it means iran could be in a position where they
could support hezzmezz better. senator graham: they are actually doing that as we speak. what does it mean for jordan? general votel: unstable regimes to their north that pose threats to them as well. senator graham: thank you for your clarity and honesty and it is not your mission in syria to eal with the iranian, assad, russia problem, that's not in your regime? general votel: that's correct. senator graham: do you think it should be? general votel: if that was a decision made by the coalition leadership, then we would pursue that. senator graham: detainees, we rolled up about 400 detainees in syria and the democratic forces
have in their charge, is that correct? general votel: 400 or so foreign terrorist fighters that they have. senator graham: these are the people that did not die for the cause or captured? general votel: as they attempted to escape the areas we are operating. senator graham: do we have a credible plan to detain these people? general votel: we have a plan to detain them on the ground and working with our partners to work to get them back to their country so they can be prosecuted. senator graham: they don't go back to their countries, do we have a credible plan to detain them inside syria long-term? general votel: we are working on improving the capacity of the syrian democratic forces to do that right now. senator graham: on africa, how many countries? general waldhauser: five. senator graham: of those five countries would you characterize
as failed states? general waldhauser: i don't think it is a failed state but fragile states. senator graham: if the trend continues, will they become failed states? general waldhauser: yes. we support it bilaterally with these countries. senator graham: is it working? general waldhauser: this g-5 program has just begun and 5,000 individuals covering a large territory. senator graham: 5,000 people covering five countries. that doesn't sound enough. does it matter if it becomes a region of failed states to us, and if so, why? general waldhauser: it does matter, the groups isis and the like, some of these have aspirations to conduct things regionally as well as into europe. it is very important that we contain or degrade and work with
our partners because if we had a failed state and if these groups took over that failed state, then you have a situation where it's just wastelands where people can plan attacks depens the united states. senator graham: is libya a failed state, fragile state, state on the mend? general waldhauser: it's difficult to characterize libya, but i would say a fragile state. they have a plan to work through restructuring of the political committees, constitution and potentially a vote later this year. unless the security is there, unless a fair election can take place and unless those individuals who are part of the process will agree to the outcome of the election, then it wouldn't serve any purpose at this point. senator inhofe: senator warn. senator warren: thank you for your work. for nearly three years, saudi
arabia-led coalition has been bombing yemen to counter iranian-backed militias. the united states military has been providing intelligence, mid-air refueling and munitions to the saudis. fueling operations are governed by a a bilateral acquisition and cross servicing agreement. united states has one with saudi arabia and u.a.e. i read over these documents that don't seem to cover. general votel, does centcom track the purpose of the missions that it is refueling? where a u.s.-refueled aircraft is going, what targets it strikes and the results of the mission? general votel: we do not. senator warren: reuters reported on a saudi coalition air strike in late february that killed
five civilians and wounded 14 including four children. according to witnesses that were fluid by reuters, the coalition conducted two additional air strikes that pit paramedics that were trying to save civilians in the rubble. when you receive reports from credible media organizations is centcom able to tell whether u.s. fuel or u.s. munitions were used as part of that strike? general votel: i don't believe we are. senator warren: the reason i ask about this is the yemeni people are suffering and this is a humanitarian crisis. that's why i co-sponsored the sanders-lee resolution that directs president trump to stop our involvement in saudi military operations in yemen unless congress provides
specific operation. the bill would allow our counterterrorism operations against al qaeda and its affiliates to continue, but would ensure that the united states is not giving the saudis blank check to bomb yemen and worsen the humanitarian crisis. i know sanctions against yemen are destabilizing and making the conflict worse and it's unacceptable. saudi arabia is the one receiving american weapons and american support. and that means we bear some responsibility here. and that means we need to hold our partners and our allies accountable for how those resources are used. i have one other question i would like to turn to if i can and that is earlier this year, secretary of state tillerson implied that u.s. troops would stay in syria indefinitely.
in addition to our forces, ezbollah, iran revolutionary guard corps and turkish troops are operating on the ground and we have had run-ins with these forces. general, how is it centcom deconflicting between these various forces that are operating on the ground? and what is your strategy for deescalation if a confrontation occurs? >> the principal way we are deconflicting is direct exune occasions. we have a direct communication line with the russian federation forces on the ground. general votel: i could characterize our conversations with them as militarily professional. they take place several times a day. and they have been going on for a couple of years. and i think this has been an effective way of ensuring we can deconflict and prevent things
from happening happening in ground space and airspace. weles have the same thing with our turkish partners in the north. we have very good communications with them and able to deconflict. we are able to ensure that people have good situational awareness and understand what we are doing with our partners on the ground and this direct communication allows us to ensure that we can minimize the opportunities for escalation or for misclailings on the ground and i think these are working very effectively. senator warren: this is mostly about communication. i just worry, general, because the situation in syria is extraordinarily dangerous and i'm not sure throwing a small number of u.s. troops in the middle of it is a sustainable long-term solution. i believe we need a clear
strategy here for ending the violence and for holding assad accountable. but i appreciate your work in this area. thank you, general. senator rounds. senator rounds: thank you for your service to our country and as well to your families for your sacrifice and time away from home. i would like to begin to talk about africom and general, i have had the opportunity to accompany senator inhofe on several of his most recent trips to africa and senator inhofe has made 150 different nation states over the last 20-plus years. what i find interesting in each of our trips is the amount of interest that those countries and leaders have with relationships with our country. in the case of africom and our abilities right now as i
understand it, if you need resources and you do in an area of the world in which things aren't getting quieter but more intense, you borrow from other operations in and around for the resources that you feed. would you explain for us how africom actually receives the resources that it needs right now. general waldhauser: there are two ways we receive forces. one of them is if we are assigned forces and we do not have assigned forces but allocated forces. the mission that has to do with protection of u.s. citizens and property on the continent we are allocated that organization. senator rounds: how large is that force? general waldhauser: a company size unit. it has a lot of ground. senator rounds: entire
continent? general waldhauser: we have moved that to help the entire continent. and we have a force in east africa and that is tied to the protection of u.s. citizens and property. and we have a large part of what we do in terms of the forces that train, advise and assist. we have forces that come from the army to train units. they are trained for about six weeks of battalion in nigeria. we are allocated forces and we compete for those through the global force management. senator rounds: should we look standing up africom the same as other combatant commands are stood up? general waldhauser: we are the same. staff. a cocom
we are located in germany. but in terms -- and we have great interagency partners. but africom's staff per se is like the other coms. you may be referring to our components. they are dual headed in europe nd africa. [no audio] general waldhauser: we work with general votel and his team all the time. if we have operations in somalia that require a little bit more. we'll schedule those around the period where we can gain concepts. the continent of africa is
extremely large and virtually impossible to cover the whole thing all the time with other priorities around the globe for the united states. but we have to be smart and innovative and good relationships with our fellow combatant commanders. senator rounds: are we placing the appropriate emphasis on africa? right now, we know there are hot spots. long-term this is a developing part of the world where other nations are paying a great deal of attention to, china in particular. are we doing the same? general waldhauser: back to your original point, all the countries on the continent tore the most part want to be associated with the united states. they want our assistance and want our leadership, but they don't expect a lot. a little thing can go a long way and the countries you have visited may have been seen in spades. and i think a little goes a long
way on the continent because at the end of the day we are trying to develop capacity for their security forces to take care of their security problems. senator rounds: my time has expired. and i thank you for your service to our country. senator inhofe: general waldhauser, i want to discuss with you because i don't agree. there is debate about dedicated assets at that time. and i would like to go over it and get clarification on that issue. senator peters. senator peters: thank you, gentlemen, for being here today and your service. general waldhauser, i would like to talk about nigeria and ask you questions. i had the opportunity to travel to nigeria last year and i was very concerned about isis in
west africa which is a splinter group from boko haram and it looked as if the situation was deteriorating. my question to you, what is the status, where are in relation to west africa? is the situation getting better? general waldhauser: those two groups if you divide them, isis west africa that is of more concern to us. isise -- they have ties to corps. they have some funding from isis corps and they have indicated to go outside the region to conduct activities and attacks on u.s. interests in the area. they certainly are more of a concern to us at this particular time. senator peters: are we supplying adequate resources? general waldhauser: the strategy for isis west africa is in the
chad region where we play supplies to cammer and, chad, nigeria. we have made progress with nigeria. with regard to share intelligence with them to assist them in planning and training. senator peters: you mentioned in your written testimony that the multinational task force doesn't seem to be interested in dealing with the situation. they believe it is another problem. i don't agree, what can we do to convince them otherwise? it seems like they want to operate across the broader region. general waldhauser: they want to cooperate. but these countries have significant other challenges, whether it be in nigeria itself in the coastal area or central area, whether it's a country like chad who has concerns with libya. nigeria has other issues. the ability to have large
military forces that can do all of these forces is difficult. sometimes if it appears over a period of months the trend line is negative in the way boko haram has been acting, because their interests and security concerns, boko haram may not be at the top of the list based on internal issues that are going on with those countries. senator peters: you mentioned chad, which is in a very dangerous part of the world. it has always been my understanding in briefings i ave had in the operations that it has been a productive partner for u.s. operations, is that correct general waldhauser: the issue of foreign fighters coming from libya into their northern area. senator peters: having a relationship with them is important because that could
have an impact to the united states and i know that yesterday secretary tillerson, i guess former secretary tillerson indicated that the united states is considering removing chad from the praffle ban. now i have been concerned about some of the rhetoric we have seen from the president in relation to muslims and african tions including using some disparaging language and it can damage our standing and working in that part of the world. i would like your thoughts as to any impact on the relations we have had with chad with them being included in the chad and our important is our relationship in dealing with what could be very serious issues arising out of the african continent. general waldhauser: we help them build capacity. chad, it's a small example, but
it demonstrates africom's commitment. there was a huge storm in chad and various aircraft hangars and have a small air force but a few were destroyed and no way to repair them. we gathered some funds and sent a team down there and erect several shelters that would replace these hangars that had been disturbed in the storm and that is our way to demonstrate our commitment to that country to let them know that we are behind them and have a desire for their capacity to be built. senator peters: thank you. >> long-term strategic competition. these revisionist include russia and china.
we see more and more activity. hina opened a new naval base and while russia has been courting leadership on both sides with the conflict in libya and announcing major new investments. these russian and chinese efforts as these countries are doing very little to counter the terrorist threats across the egion.
>> from egypt to libya, tunisia. and sna part on the medter indiana and they have interests there and as you said in libya and they talk about supporting the u.n. agreement but on the other hand, the support that they provide in the h.o.r. forces is something that needs to be addressed. with regards to china, they have a lot of investments they are
the part on africa basically tells us to continue what we have been doing to include building partnership capacity to feat the terrorist organizations. general waldhauser: china has an oversees base. not only do you have china and u.s., japan, french and italians. the chinese have worked with the french in terms of the exercises they do there. the chinese have started to work closely with the french in terms of some of the exercises they do. this is a small level operation.
but again, i think that the unique situation is, what we do with china obviously has to be into -- informed by our overall global strategy. but the unique situation that we have with those individuals being next door and participating in peacekeeping operations and anti-piracy operations, we have to find way to work with them as well. mr. scott: thank you. a few seconds left. 30 seconds. as opposed to naming the conflicts and the extraordinarily complexity in your region, i'll just ask a as you consider the strategic environment in the middle east and competing interests among our own nominal allies such as turkey, would you provide your assessment of the russia, turkish and iranian goals in the middle east? and if you see their goals as mutually supporting the overall conflict. mr. votel: turkey is a nato ally. our relations have been deeply valid. they've been a key partner in the fight against isis here for a long period of time. we do recognize they have legitimate concerns with security along their border, from terrorism. and of course this has led to a little bit of tension between us at this particular point, that
we're working through largely diplomatically. but also militarily at this particular point. i guess what i would highlight is what i mentioned in my opening remarks. and that is, russia does play a role ere. again, it's cute to say arsonist and fireman is what they try to do. they're trying to instigate tension among partners in the region and then trying to play a role in trying to be an arbiter in that. and so this is what happens and this is what plays out on a regular basis. so we really do have to take a look at our long-term relationships and make sure that we are focused in on that. and staying as strong as we can on those. so i am concerned about this role that russia plays in northern syria and how it impacts all of our relationships. especially the relationship between us and turkey. mr. scott: thank you.
i'll submit a couple of questions for the record as it relates to turkey. thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. inhofe: thank you -- >> thank you, mr. chairman. general votel, i want to follow up on questions that senator warren asked about yemen. what would be the implications and the impact if the united states stopped providing the aerial refueling, the intelligence, and the advice to the saudi forces? mr. votel: i think right now the provision of those things that you just covered right now gives us placement. it gives us access and it gives us influence with the saudi arabia. and what i would highlight to you is that we have been working with them, sharing our own experiences. >> but you testified that we don't -- when we refuel a saudi plane, we don't have any control over the mission, where it goes, what it does next. if the argument is this allows us to maintain control, are we maintaining some level of control? mr. votel: the influence we derive with them is by working
with them to demonstrate how we do our targeting process. mr. king: do they listen? mr. votel: they absolutely do. the work that we've been doing with them related to the ballistic missile threat, we have seen some very good progress in this area. recently saudi arabia has followed many of the things that we have done in terms of how we stand up architectures to investigate civilian casualties. these are problems that we have on occasion, even as good as we are. mr. king: so the principle argument against this move to limit or cut off that aid is if we do, the saudi conduct might e worse? mr. votel: it is better for us to stay engaged with them and continue to influence this. they want this type of support and they want to improve their cape -- mr. king: you said for us. how about the people of yemen? mr. votel: i think it's essential that we stay engaged in this for them. i think this does give us the best opportunity to address
these concerns. mr. king: thank you. turning to iran. i understand iran, all the testimony is that iran is abiding by the jcpoa in terms of inspections and what they're doing. what would be the implications for the region if the united states abruptly terminated the agreement and what would iran o? mr. votel: i can't speculate on what iran would do. the implications for the region, i think there would be some concern about how we intended to address that particular threat. if it was not being addressed through the jcpoa. of course our approach here is one of assuring our partners, maintaining deterrent capabilities in the region, and then of course where we can -- mr. king: if the agreement were terminated, wouldn't the iranians then be free to pursue a nuclear weapon within a matter of months? mr. votel: theoretically they would be able to do that.
mr. king: if the iranians had a nuclear weapon, we'd have two rogue states with nuclear weapons on our hands instead of one. the other one being north korea. mr. votel: right. this could certainly be the case. we're speculating that would be the direction. mr. king: do you think it would be in the national security interests of the country to maintain the iran agreement for the near term? mr. votel: i share the secretary of defense's and chairman's comments on this that right now i think it is in our interest. mr. king: and there may be a different point of view in four or five years when it's near the end of its term, is that correct? mr. votel: that could be rue. mr. king: thank you. turning to pakistan. by the way, you have one of the most complicated jobs in the world, i think. you can go from one area to the other, haven't even mentioned syria. is pakistan still supporting terrorist activity in afghanistan? and has the recent get tough with pakistan policy influenced their behavior?
mr. votel: it has. the pressure that's been put on pakistan through our south asia strategy and some of our public communication i think has helped ain their attention. as i've mentioned previously, we have seen some positive indicators as a result of this. i cannot tell you that we have seen decisive changes in the areas in which with we're working. but i remain very well engaged with my partner to ensure that we are moving forward on this. mr. king: there has been -- there appears to be a surge of attacks in afghanistan. you don't associate those with akistan? mr. votel: again, having sanctuary in pakistan or having support from other actors in the region certainly is an aspect of the taliban's success here. so i think we have to look at all of these to ensure we attribute the causes of these ttacks to where it is. we also have isis that does have
a different approach as well. mr. king: final question. should web even tougher with pakistan? should we ratchet up the pressure because they still are providing sanctuaries? mr. votel: right now i think the strategy that we have is an appropriate one. and i think we have the mechanism to continue to keep them focused on our objectives, ur mutual objectives here. so i do think we are pursuing this in the right way. and i think some of the positive indicators that we have begun to see, although it hasn't led to decisive changes yet, are things that we have to pay attention to s we move forward. mr. king: thank you. mr. sullivan: thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, good to see you. thanks for your service. general waldhauser, i want to ask a very basic question. i know there's an answer to it that i'm sure i'm missing but why is africom not located in frica?
mr. waldhauser: as you know this is the 10th year of the africa command. there's been several attempts to perhaps move it to the continent. but -- mr. sullivan: what's the roadblock? is the congress not helping you? it always seems to me a little disjointed that it's in germany. mr. waldhauser: i think the road blocks are, first of all, there's a financial aspect of this, the cost to do it. then the second and third, if you move to a country in africa, then what does that mean to surrounding countries or other partners? they may video that -- view that as something that's perhaps skeptical. i think just to restate it, 10 years ago when the command was stood up and senator inhofe is well aware of this, there was a lot of skepticism on the continent as to what the intent was for a military command for that particular area. and so it surfaces every once in a while but there's been no effort to move.
mr. inhofe: if you let me use 10 seconds of your time. i would say that the reason is perceived colonialism. i was on your side back when we set up this 10 years ago. i lost that battle. mr. sullivan: well, maybe we should relook at that. it seems to me -- anyways. probably a longer conversation. general votel, i want to congratulate you and the men and women under your command on the campaign with regard to isis. it's really remarkable what you've achieved over the last year. i don't think the press has done an adequate job of highlighting that. but it's quite commendable. so i want to please pass that on to your men and women who are serving with you. but the next question is, so we have -- we're going to have troops remaining in syria. there seems to be a bit of a disconnect regarding what that ission is.
obviously we don't want isis to return. so that's got to be a key component. but in your testimony there's a lot of focus on iran. obviously they're in syria. r their proxies. former secretary tillerson now gave a speech not too long ago at the hoover institution at stanford and was very focused on iran and how our mission there in syria should be about countering the iranian threat. so i get a little bit nervous when we have troops on ground in a very kind of complicated, hostile region, where it's not 100% clear what the mission of our troops are. we don't want -- i don't think anyone wants us to get back to the situation like we had with the marines in lebanon three or four decades ago, where their mission was quote-unquote presence.
and obviously that didn't turn out very well for our troops there. what is the mission of our troops in syria and are they focused on counter the iranian threat -- countering the iranian threat, which is probably the biggest threat that we have there? isn't it? mr. votel: thank you. our mission in syria is strictly focused on defeating isis. mr. sullivan: but what's the biggest threat in syria right now? mr. votel: the biggest threat in syria is all the other instability that is taking place, that is preventing the country from moving forward. mr. sullivan: isn't iran -- mr. votel: iran is an aspect of this but so is russia and the regime itself. our mission of course has been focused on isis. and so we still have isis that we are addressing. that's where our particular focus is. i would tell you that while we
don't have a specific task to do something against iran in this particular area, our strong relationships with the syrian democratic forces, with our -- certainly our strong relationships with the iraqi security forces, do put us in a position where we can, through our strong relationships, can have influence, can encourage them to conduct operations and do things that are in the interests of their countries as opposed to other parties in the area. r. sullivan: can i ask a final question, my time is running out. we know now that during the 2004-2005-2006 time frame, that he iranians were supplying iraqi shi'a militias some of the most sophisticated, deadly i.e.d.'s on the battlefield that ended up killing and maiming thousands of american troops. so these are, in my view, the blood of american soldiers and marines and sailors, airmen, the iranians had that on their hands, right?
that's a fact. they of course denied it back then. but it's a fact that we all know now. i just want to make sure in terms of our rules and engagement, if there's any, any, any threat posed by any iranian or iranian-backed proxies, do we -- do our troops have the full authority to respond to defend themselves and kill these threats, again, given that they have a history of killing our roops? do they have that rule of engagement authority? mr. votel: they do and we have actually demonstrated that. most recently, in the middle euphrates valley. we had pro-regime forces that attempted to encroach on us and we did use the full capabilities within our arsenal to protect ourselves. so i think our people clearly understand this and they have all the authorities they need to protect themselves.
mr. sullivan: thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. > thank you, mr. chairman. thank you both for your service, particularly in very difficult areas of the world. in parts of the world that are very important to the united states. general votel, talking about america's mission in syria, that as just the subject of senator sullivan's questioning, isn't one of our missions or one of our responsibilities in syria to prevent war crimes? mr. votel: certainly. certainly within the forces that we work with, certainly. mr. blumenthal: and war crimes are occurring in syria with the support and apparent encouragement of russia, correct? vote vet i think if you look at some of the activities that -- mr. votel: i think if you look at some of the activities taking
place we certainly would think that is the case. mr. blumenthal: in fact, last week u.n. investigators linked russia, specifically the russian air force, to possible war crimes, citing the november attack near aleppo, when a russian fighter killed at least 84 people and injured more than 150. in the last three weeks as you've observed, more than 1,000 people were killed in eastern gooda with russian military support. my question is, what can and are we doing to deter russia from ngaging? mr. votel: as you know we don't operate in that particular part of syria militarily. but certainly through our diplomatic channels, through our ambassador in the u.n., russia has been frankly one of the authors of this recent
ceasefire. their inability to enforce it, to enforce standards on this, really means either one of two things. one, they lack the ability to do that. or they are choosing not to do that. and so i think one of the things that we do have to do is hold them accountable for the actions they are taking here and for the humanitarian disaster that are they are perpetuating through their support to the region and heir own activities. mr. blumenthal: what would you recommend to hold them accountable? mr. votel: certainly the best way of doing this is through the political and diplomatic hannels -- and if there are other things considered, we will do what we are told. holding them accountable to the things they have agreed to particularly to offices of the united nationses this is an
important way of approaching this. senator blumenthal: they are not responding to political or diplomatic steps that are being taken, right? in order to have some effect, the intensity of whatever we are doing, has to be heightened or there needs to be some kind of military responses to protect people in that area from the war crimes that are being erpetrated, would you agree? general votel: certainly needs to be addressed. senator blumenthal: in terms of diplomacy, i think others may have raised this before me, isn't the lack of ambassadors in the area, the lack of sufficient diplomatic capacity in the state
department an obstacle to really if he cantively use diplomacy? general votel: i can't comment on the broader aspects of the department of state. but what i can comment on the 18 country teams of the 20 countries that are in the region, we don't want a country team for iran or syria, we have good relationships, 12 of these countries do have ambassadors, the relationships that we have with them are very good. we have good advice and good coordination with them in our day-to-day activities. our relationships remain very, very strong with our diplomatic partners across the region. bluteblute -- senator blumenthal: six out of e 18 ambassadorships are vacant? doesn't that reflect an absence
of leadership in the department of state? general votel: that is more appropriate question for them instead of me. senator blumenthal: thank you for your helpful. senator inhofe: senator cotton. senator cotton: i add my voice to senator blumenthal and what is happening in syria. an old rough and tough marine introduced e and he himself and said he wanted to ask me a question. in settings like that, the question might be about the v.a. but the question was, what are we going to do about syria? how can anybody stand by and watch what is happening to the children in syria. it is indicative of normal americans pay attention. for now, i want to turn any
attention south to another civil war in yemen. when the war started three years ago, much of the fighting was in the mountainous terrain of yemen and now long range missiles are being fired at the international airport outside of riyaad. seems like an escalation in the fighting. where are the rebels getting long range missiles that can hit the airport. general votel: they are getting from iran. senator cotton: how are they getting the missiles into yemen? general votel: iran has a very could have physician ti indicated network of doing this. they can move them by air, maritime, land routes to get their stuff in there and
reassemble and provide it. senator cotton: do those missiles range the united arab emirates? general votel: this might be best handled in the classified setting, but certainly we have seen as you pointed out, we have seen threats that have gone as far as the international airport. senator cotton: if you are a saudi leader, you wouldn't be happy that about those missiles? general votel: dangerous threat to them and us. we have a lot of u.s. citizens that live and work in saudi arabia. senator cotton: and we have naval ships near there? general votel: we do. senator cotton: could you tell us about the military support we are providing to the coalition fighting in yemen? general votel: we are not parties to the civil war, as you know, senator. our principal focus in yemen has been on the counterterrorism
against al qaeda and now against isis there. but we are authorizeed to help the saudis defend their border and so we have done that. we are doing that through intelligence, through low gist particular support and military advice that we provide to them. we are focused on the ballistic missile threat and maritime threat that plays out in the red sea to the west of yemen. senator cotton: fair to characterize that as primarily defensive operation in nature? general votel: it is defensive in nature and designed to protect saudi arabia. senator cotton: general waldhauser, there has been open source reporting of construction of the headquarters and it states that china installed microphones in the walls and sk and copyinga from servers
each night and swept the headquarters to remove the listening devices. this is plate ant chinese espionage would cause nations those who were victimized would think about accepting chinese generosity, if you will. have you seen any reluctance by e.u. or african nations to cooperate with china or support given the espionage? general waldhauser: we haven't seen them to refuse any type of aid. i think the chinese assistance with infrastructure building and the like is something that is welcomed there but the agreements they make need to be scrutinized. i would say however to that point with our base and the chinese base right next door, is a big concern to us. have to make sure our
operational security is secure there. european command, centcom all use that area and we need the ability to operate freely. senator cotton: thank you for your service and your appearance today. senator inhofe:. senator kaine. had a good : we session with the general last week and you spent time talking about syria and turkey. i want to focus on the kurds in northern syria. they have been fighting partners for the united states. we have been fighting partners of theirs in trying to drive isis back. we have helped them significantly. but the u.s.-kurdish relationship has been a tough spot with turkey. now through the great work of your team and our coalition
partners have made some real battlefield success against isis in northern syria what are the next steps forward in relationship to the kurds that could allay some of turkey's concerns and maintain tear ability as a nato ally to provide the support we need. general votel: there are ongoing discussions with turkey led by the department of state. i won't comment on those. they have our support with that to work through that. our intention with turkey and we do again recognize their concerns here and have certainly kept that in the forefront of our mind is to be as transparent and clear with them on the things we are doing with the democratic forces, which is about half and half arab and occurred. so they have proven to be very effective against isis and as we
move into especially in the liberated areas and con sole did iting gains and trying to move more into the stability phase here so we can root out the remainder of isis and allow people to come back into their villages and homes, i think we have to continue to work closely with turkey and with the coalition and with our state department partners here to work through this. it is an extraordinarily complex situation. the demographics of the area are all over the place frankly in this. and this is going to take a lot of very close work on the ground. but the important piece to get in place is make sure we have good communication and have mechanism to reduce and prevent these situations escalating into conflict.
that will make it difficult to instigating are conflict. senator kaine: focusing on syria and i'm going to read a statement out of the marine corps publication strategy. what matters ultimately is attainment of our political aims and protection of our national interests. history shows that national leaders both political and military who fail to understand this relationship sow the seeds for ultimate failure even if they achieve battlefield success. i'm very, very puzzled about the strategy right now in syria. we have asked the administration to come up in a classified session and talk to us about strategy because the battlefield success of the u.s.-plus partners have been very notable. but we read the newspaper
articles, we need to stay in syria to not let isis come back. we need to stay in syria to check iran. after syrian forces, we came in a couple of days later with a missile strike against them. we are seeing activity but not in congress read into a strategy and i don't know that this is really the place for a discussion of that. it might be better to do it in a closed session, but some of us have been asking the administration to read us into the full strategy. is it to check iran's presence in syria? is it to actively push against the syrian military like the missile strikes last april and the missile strike that occurred last month? anything you want to say about that in open? vote sote our mission has been
focused on isis and the coalition has been focused on addressing this common threat that has to be dealt with. and by pursuing the consolidation operations, by stabilizing the areas in which we are operating, what we are hoping to do is create a platform upon which the international community can move forward under a geneva process and begin to also address the broader underlying issues that are very apparent across syria and that really cannot be resolved to fighting but has to be resolved through talking and diplomatic means under the united nations. so our focus on addressing this common threat that everybody, everybody agrees is bad is really i think one of the preliminary steps that has to take place. it is certainly continuing to keep them from rising or allow
stabilized andbe create an environment that the international community can step forward into with the leadership of the united states and others here to pursue a diplomatic solution to these problems through the united nations. senator inhofe: senator perdue. senator perdue: thank you for your decades of service and i would like to echo your comments for a message sent to your troops for the outstanding troops and goes without notice here many days but those of us who pay attention, we are very, very grateful to that. general waldhauser, before i get into the other question, four servicemen were killed in niger and one of them, staff sergeant wright was a constituent of
mine. when do you expect the investigation to be completed? general waldhauser: thank you very much. the investigating officer did an exhaustive assessment and visited all these countries, 150 witnesses and the like and gave the investigation to me and i reviewed it for three weeks and turned it over to the chairman dunford for him to pass to secretary mattis. secretary mattis now as soon as he's done with his review, the families will be briefed. that's been our commitment all along and we want to continue to do that. as soon as the family has been briefed, we'll come here to the committee and we will brief you, myself, the people who investigated it and a civilian representative and we will answer all of your questions at that time. mr. perdue: thank you. i'd like to you address the n.d.s. briefly. the most recent prioritized great power competition with china, russia, as an effort of
d.o.d., and a resource-sustainable approach, end quote, to counterterrorism. what does that mean in your a.o.r. and parallel to that, we're in a competition for influence there. with china's one belt, one road issue, and all the money they're putting behind that and pakistan and other areas in your a.o.r., what does the n.d.s. change mean to your mission in a.o.r. and are you resourced to accomplish it? general votel: thank you, senator. i think as we look at great power competition, for example, we look at a resurgent power like russia. russia is not a european problem, it's a global problem. they have influence globally. so they're certainly acting out in the area of responsibility that i have. so i think the first thing that the national defense strategy and the national military strategy that is being modified to right that will recognize that as expect. we have to be prepared to
address these threats, not just in the areas in which they reside, but the areas in which they have influence. and so under general dunford's leadership, we have developed, between all of the combatant commanders, i think very good plans and processes for how we will do that. i think more specifically what it means for us in the region here, particularly as we look to potentially shift to other areas of the globe in accordance with the national defense strategy priorities, what it means for us the 'll put a premium on approach. and having strong relationships with the people we've always had relationships with, but also fostering new relationships. mr. perdue: excuse me. this does not send a message to the taliban that we're not open for business in afghanistan. does it? general votel: absolutely not. we remain very dedicated in this. we're focused on sustaining these relationships, on working with our partners, on becoming more interdependent with them, on becoming more mutually supportive with them.
among ourselves. so that's what it means for me. i'm looking forward here in a couple weeks to meeting with a number of the chiefs of defense across the region, to talk specifically about what the national defense strategy means and how we are going to approach it in the centcom region. mr. perdue: i know you've talked in the committee hearing already about china's effort in africa. but i would like for to you address the n.d.s. shift and what that means in your a.o.r. specifically. general waldhauser: i think one of the things that the n.d.s. shift has done is it's put a spotlight on china's activities on the continent which have been ongoing for quite some time. but now with this strategy and with this notoriety, i think it gives an opportunity for us to actually have a discussion and bring to awareness what actually the chinese are doing and how him that pacts us. but interestingly, our future there, we're specifically told in the n.d.s. to continue the approach. we're specifically told to work with partners. and build capacity and continue the fight against
counterterrorism forces. so in essence the strategy frames it's overall global posture. it frames for us prioritization, but it also tells us to essentially continue to build capacity on the continent so the africans can take care of problems themselves and continue to degrade and disrupt the v.e.o. fight so that those problems either stay localized and don't get out of the region, or certainly to europe or to our continent. mr. perdue: thank you, sir. thank you, both. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. inhofe: thank you. senator hirono. ms. hirono: thank you, mr. chairman. for both of you, i believe some of my colleagues have already asked you about the -- basically what i see as the hollowing out of the state department at a time when we need to maintain that capacity. i just wanted to ask you, you know, would you a.j. acknowledge that a proposed 25% cut in state department and a 12.5% cut to usaid funding from fiscal year
2017 would not be helpful to your mission, either one of your missions? general votel: senator, as i mentioned in my opening comments, we look at this as a team sport so we're very dependent on our intergovernmental parnls. continuing the support for their ac -- partners. continuing the support for their activities is essential to the things we do. ms. hirono: i would think that a 25% cut to the state department would make it a lot harder for to you work with your partners. i think that that goes without saying. i realize you have to be very tactful in your responses. let me get to some other questions. general votel, the president's south asia strategy was announced nearly seven months ago. general nicholson stated in november that new permissions granted within the strategy for afghanistan means that the campaign is on the, quote, path to win. yet the department of defense inspector general estimates that the afghan government is in control of only 18% of the
districts in the country and we are now in the 17th year of conflict in afghanistan. the director of national intelligence stated that conditions this year are likely to deteriorate. in your view what exactly does winning mean in afghanistan at this point? and can the adiffings troops, even the much heralded security forces assistance brigade, really make enough of a difference to reach the level of winning? general votel: senator, i think we are on the right approach. i'm aware of what you're citing there but i'd also highlight that the government of afghanistan all controls 64% of the population. has control and is able to protect 64% of the population. so our strategy is really this year using the additional authorities, the additional resources that we have moved within centcom and those that are coming from the department to ensure that we are in a position to break the stalemate, to seize the initiative, to expand that population control.
and to ensure that we have in this year provided the right security environment to support the upcoming parliamentary election. i do think we are on the right track with this. ms. hirono: that remains to be seen. because a number of years ago, when i went to afghanistan, we were training the afghan troops to be able to support their own military efforts and defense. that was many years ago. and at that time we were told that we were on the right track and here we are 17 years later. so it remains to be seen. i want to get to what's going on in yemen. so the united nations has called yemen the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and the united states continues to support the saudi-led coalition. but the situation on the ground continues to be a stalemate. your testimony mentions both the challenges of this crisis and the threat of iran's proxy war in yemen growing into a regional crisis. do you see a realistic path to hostilities in yemen concluding?
how long do you expect the hostilities to go on? and are there ways to deal with the humanitarian crisis immediately before a full cessation of hostilities? general votel: to answer your question directly, i think there are diplomats and there are other international parties under the u.n. that are trying to pursue diplomatic solutions to this and get to some kind of peace process. that's been difficult to do at this particular point. i guess what i would highlight first off is that what is happening in yemen, there certainly is a humanitarian disaster taking place, but there's a security disaster taking place and there's a political disaster taking place. and the people that are responsible for this are the houthis. they are the ones, they are the central nexus to all of this. enabled by iran. they are refusing to cooperate in the political process, they are impeding humanitarian efforts that are being undertaken by saudi arabia and others here.
and they are perpetuating the military situation with their support from iran. which threatens to widen the conflict. so i think it's important to recognize that at the heart of these problems, humanitarian, security and political, are the houthis. enabled by the -- iran. i would also say -- ms. hirono: i agree with you. i acknowledge that. what is the opportunity for any kind of u.s. leadership? because we are enabling the saudis to continue their battle there. general votel: we're not parties to this. to this conflict. ms. hirono: we are. general votel: what we can do is we can help them, we can advise them, we can share our lessons learned on how to more effectively apply their capabilities, how more effectively to apply their partnerships that they have in conjunction with this. i would also add that during my last visit to saudi arabia, one of the things i had an
opportunity to do was to talk with them about how they are helping with the humanitarian aid or the humanitarian disaster situation. and what i would share with you is what i learned is that they have a much more aggressive program in this area than even i realized. they are not only going into the port, they are exploiting other ports, they are bringing aid into airports in the central part of the country. and they are using their own ground routes across the border to do this. in many ways they are pushing a lot of effort in this. it's not perfect. the situation is extraordinarily challenging. but they recognize this and i do believe they are trying to take efforts to support this wherever they can with their coalition partners. ms. hirono: i still don't know what the u.s. role there should be and is. because we are very much a part of what the saudis are doing. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. inhofe: senator jill grand.
jill jill thank you, mr. chairman -- mrs. gillibrand: thank you, mr. chairman. i'm deeply troubled by an incident that happened in afghanistan in june 9, 2014 in which five american troops and an afghan soldiers were killed by our own aircraft. this friendly fire incident was explored in a "60 minutes" segment last november that highlighted deeply concerning elements about the events. including the assignment of a -- who has been demoted and kicked out of an air force special operations unit for poor performance and assigned to these green berets, and the lack of understanding by the b-1 crew and the unit on the ground about what the crew could see. are you familiar with this incident and if so, what can you tell me about how something like this can actually happen? general votel: i am familiar with the incident. although i will tell you i don't recall all the specific details of it right here today. what i can tell you is that in all of these instances, and i know this from my own experience, that we do exhaustive reviews and exhaustive investigations to
determine the cause of what happens. if people are to be held accountable, they are held accountable. then we make efforts to try to apply the lessons learned out of this to limit this. the unfortunate aspect of this business is that our people are operating oftentimes in confusing situations, making decisions in very dynamic environments, and unfortunately things like this do occur. our goal has been to minimize that by ensuring that we have the right people, they have the right training and we have the right capabilities. mrs. gillibrand: do you think b-1's are appropriate frames for the support? general votel: i think they've been very effective in that role, as they played in afghanistan and other places. mrs. gillibrand: do they have the technology available to be able to see the strobe lights that are placed on the helmets of our troops? general votel: i believe they do. mrs. gillibrand: were any changes made as a result of this incident?
mrs. gillibrand: senator, again, i would take that question for the record and will go back and look and i'll provide you a more thorough response to all the actions that we did take as a result of this. mrs. gillibrand: infrared strobes. i've asked the pentagon for the investigation of this incident and have not yet received it. can i please have your commitment that will you help me get this information? general votel: you have my commitment, senator. mrs. gillibrand: thank you. in early february, israel intercepted an iranian drone in its air space, resulting in an israeli military response striking what it described as the command center from which iran had launched the drone. an israeli fighter jet involved in the offensive was downed by syrian anti-aircraft fire, which prompted the israeli military to respond against eight syrian targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four iranian positions described as part of iran's military entrenchment in syria. what's your saysment of iran's actions in syria and -- assessment of iran's actions in syria and is it entrenching
itself in the country? general votel: i'm extraordinarily concerned about iran's role. i think they are trying to perpetuate their influence and certainly they are trying to create an axis so they can continue to support lebanese hezbollah and use that relationship to threaten iran -- or threaten israel. so i am extraordinarily concerned about that. mrs. gillibrand: do you feel this incident reflected a change in the iranian rules and engagement in syria? general votel: i can't speak for what the iranian rules of engagement are. certainly it was brazen. and fool hearty for them to do this. given the capabilities that israel has. mrs. gillibrand: general waldhauser, i took a could he dell with a number of senators to -- codel with a number of senators to africa a few years ago to assess where we were with regard to the growth of terrorism. because as you know, the precursors to 9/11 came out of africa. whether it was the bombing of the embassy in kenya or other
terrorist attacks. i'm very concerned about what's happening in africa. not only your previous answers today, but even the front page of the "new york times" yesterday, a story that more than 650,000 children under the age of 5 are severely malnourished in northern kenya, somalia and ethiopia. and that famine throughout africa is causing 12 million people to rely on food aid. you combine that with the effects of global climate change specifically on the ability of many countries within africa to grow their own food and provide for food, it's creating crime, it's creating more terrorism. and you add to that what's happening with the boko haram to rts to steal children, have trafficking of females and to destroy whole communities. i'm really concerned about the direction of terrorism and its growth throughout africa.
can you give me guidance on how these changes are impacting our mission and our posture in the areas of your operation? general waldhauser: some of the numbers that you stated are certainly overwhelming. and when you -- it comes to the african continent, unfortunately those numbers are sometimes the order of the day. last year, for example, inside somalia, there were over six million people who were food-insecure. this year it's going to be around five million people. and that's just in that region. i would say from the climate perspective, we have seen the grasslands recede and become desert almost a mile per year in the last decade or so. this has a significant impact on the herders who have to fight, if you will, for grassland, water holes and the like. so these environmental challenges put pressure on these different organizations. some are v.e.o., some are criminal, but it puts pressure on these organizations just for their own livelihood. so consequently in areas like
northern maly, isis west africa, in the northern part of niger, these are areas that of very concern to us and that's why we're trying to work disclosely with those countries there so, they can maintain security, that they can keep it, at a minimum keep these challenges inside those particular boundaries. but there are some significant challenges and the numbers sometimes in africa can overwhelm you. mrs. gillibrand: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. inhofe: thank you. . don't have any more members hopefully we won't have any more members. but let me just for clarification, first of all, i didn't want to be discourteous in that one interruption i had. but i think it's important because this is something that can be changed. i think what senator rounds is getting to is that we're all aware that prior to 10 years ago, the couldn't nebt of africa was guide -- continent of africa was divided into three different commands.
it completely surrounds africa. now, when we decided to have africom, still under its construction, we had both inocated and assigned troops a-com, u-com and centcom. t only allocated troops in africom. now, that's the difference. i still think that should be open to discussion. because we've seen a lot of things. l.r.a., for example. we had problems, when he to bring in troops from other places -- we had to bring in troops from other places. so it's my intention to try to draw, and i'm sure it is, senator rounds', intention to put that in the focus -- rounds' intention, to put that in the focus, to see if we have the right blend there or if in fact we should have assigned troops in africom. now, do you have any comment to make on that?
general waldhauser: i think to a large degree we're saying the same thing. the technicality assigned and allocated to those who don't do this on a daily basis may not seem like a big deal. but allocated is something you might be able to count on a lot of the time, but you might not be. assigned you can count on. mr. inhofe: exactly. i think we're in total agreement on that. any other thoughts? ok. we are adjourned. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018]
>> we have some sad news to report to you today from capitol hill. new york congresswoman louise slaughter has died. she had been hospitalized for a concussion after a fall at her washington, d.c., home last week. she was one of the most senior women in the house and the oldest member of congress. she was the first woman to lead the powerful house rules committee, taking the gavel in 2007, and as chairwoman she played an immense role in dictating terms of debate on the house floor.