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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  July 30, 2014 7:00am-9:01am EDT

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timeline. this morning we consider the u.s. response to the terrorist takeover in iraq. nearly six months ago, the committee held a hearing. the title of that hearing was al qaeda's resurgence in iraq, a threat to u.s. interests. then the administration testified at that hearing isis
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had become to shift resources from syria to iraq in early 2013. that it had tripled its suicide attack in that year and that it planned to challenge the iraqi government for control of western iraq and baghdad. that's what we heard six months ago. the administration testified that it had become aware that isis had established armed camps, staging areas and training ground in iraq's western desert in the summer of 2013 and that isis leader had again threatened to attack the united states of america. the administration told us that isis must be, in their words, constantly pressured and their safe havens destroyed and that its objective was to ensure that isis could never again gain safe
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haven in western iraq. however, what the administration did not say was that the iraqi government had been urgently requesting drone strikes since 2013. that there had been the opportunity to use drone strikes on those camps both in eastern syria before they came over the border and to use drone strikes as their units moved across the desert. as you know, drones can hone in and can see what's going on on the ground, can see these yupts traverse from city to city. these repeated requests, unfortunately, were turned down. i added my voice for drone strikes as convoys raced across those deserts from city to city,
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and since that last hearing, isis has done over those six months precisely what the administration predicted it would. it has taken over most of western iraq. it has turned its sights on baghdad and it may be e preparing to launch attacks against the u.s. but again, no drone strikes against those calms. never has a terrorist organization itself controlled such a large resource-rich safe haven as isis does today. never has a terrorist organization possessed the heavy weaponry, the cash, personnel that isis does today, which includes thousands of western passport holders. the iraqi population is terrorized. they have suffered mass executions and harsh law. last week the remaining members fled on foot in face of isis
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demand that they convert or face death. to be clear, isis's takeover has been aided by prime minister maliki's malfeasance and incompetence. maliki has disastrously failed to reconcile with key sunni grou groups. many, including myself and ranking member engel, urged him to form an inclusive government and this was quite some time ago and on several occasions so that isis could not exploit legitimate sunni grievances. maliki has only proven himself to be a committed sectarian certainly no statesman. it is time for iraqis to move forward in forming a government that serves the interest of all iraqis. what started as a crisis in syria has become a regional disaster with the global
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implications including credible threats to terrorism, humanitarian disaster and upward pressure on energy prices in a fragile global economy. meanwhile terrorist forces and the iranian government are gaining power at the expense of friendly governments. of course, only iraqis can control their future. only they can make the decision to replace maliki. and the performance of the battlefield of certain iraqi yupts was abysmal. that's to be expected when you put the son in charge and replace them with cronies. americ americans have spent enough blood and treasure in iraq. that's exactly why the administration should have taken the opportunity to inflict decisive damage on isis from the air, through drone strikes while its fighters were encamped in
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the desert months ago. this morning we are joined by a senior state department official who has been in baghdad for several weeks and an official from the department of department of defense involved in iraqi security forces to learn of the path forward in dealing with this national security emergency. and i'll now turn to our ranking member, mr. engel of new york, for any opening comments he may have. >> mr. chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing about latest developments in iraq. in recent months chaos has burned across the middle east. the unrest has left thousands of dead in its wake and driven tens of thousands from their homes. a civil war in syria has spilled across the border and now iraq teeters on the brink. since december the islamic state of iraq has marched across iraq. cities have fall on to their
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control. hundreds of soldiers have been killed or have laid down their weapons and the military equipment they left behind. some supplied by the united states is now in the hands of these fanatics. the border between iraq and syria is gone. isis is advancing towards the border and isis's leaders have declared to rule with a band of barberism in some of the darkest chapters in human his ris. isis is a threat to our region and a threat to the united states. we have seen this story before and know how it ends. when russia withdrew in the '80s, that country was allowed to become a no man's land. it has trained recruits and plan attacks on the united states. we can't allow iraq to follow the same path. to become another safe haven for another september 11th could be launched. how are we going to meet the
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challenge? we need to use all the tools at our disposal because in the end there's no solution to the problem. we need to see political changes in iraq, plr inclusive policies and a greater effort to avoid conflict. i have real doubts that prime minister maliki can lead iraq into this new era. maliki must go and the sooner the better. i have real concerns about iran's support for the iraqi regime. even if the united states and iran seem to share a mutual concern over isis, i don't see how iranian and american goals can be aligned in the short-term or long-term. i don't think the u.s. should deal with iran in this regard. we also need to bear in mind that this is not solely an iraqi problem. while isis grew out of iraq, isis grew in strength and numbers while fighting in syria. isis is a regional problem. this is a spillover from the syrian civil war and fight iing
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isis will require a regional solution. the right time to train and equip the syrian opposition is well over a year ago. that's when i introduced the free syria act that would have assisted rebels to fight against both the assad regime and opposition like isis. i'm glad that a few weeks ago the administration announced its support for a $500 million training program for the syrian opposition, but we waited so long and by now isis has gained so much territory and momentum they are far more difficult to stop than they were a year or two years ago. i cannot help but wonder if we had committed to empowering the syrian opposition last year. would isis have grown as it did? would the opposition have been able to apply enough pressure to compel him to a diplomatic transition? and by the way, we passed a bill
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in the house yesterday unanimously slapping sanctions on hezbollah. hezbollah has moved in as a puppet of iran and moved into syria on the side of assad and have helped tip the balance in assad's favor. the hypotheticals and the what-ifs break my heart because even if we do the right thing, it will mean a small consolation to the family in a refugee camp in syria. i support the president's doegs send teams to iraq, but i'm cautious in our future action. . we can't end up in another quagmire in iraq. i'm grateful to our witnesses for testifying today and for consulting with congress about our next steps. we must be partners moving forward as we determine what the u.s. role should be in iraq and the congress must play an
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important role. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. engel. we do go to a minute now to the chairman of the middle east and north africa subcommittee. >> thank you so much, mr. chairman. today's hearing is on the terrorist march in iraq. this is not something new or something that caught us unaware. this is the second time this committee has had this witness testifying on the deteriorating situation since february. it's clear that the situation wept from worse to just about as bad as it can get and i'm interested in hearing in how the administration has adjusted its policies since then because the three steps that he outlined for us last time pressing the government to develop wholistic policy to isolate extremists, supporting iraqi security forces through military systems and information and intelligence sharing and mobilizing the sunni population against isis have all
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failed to stop the near collapse of iraq. isis continue to advance its cause of an islamic state and christians are being targeted either fleeing, forced to convert or be killed. we have been inadequate in our response to this crisis. the committee has repeatedly called on the administration to do more, to get more engaged and to be decisive because it has been paralyzed by inaction. the threat is very real for iraq in the region and it won't go away by wishing it away. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. we now go to mr. ted deutsche of florida. >> thank you, chairman, for holding today's critical hearing and for the witnesses for appearing today. i know that you just returned from several week it is in iraq. i hope you will be able to provide an update on efforts for
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political reconciliation. the request to establish in iraq is terrorizing nations. according to the u.n., 1,500 people were culled in the month of june in iraq and the news of this weekend's horrific persecution of christians in mosul adds another layer. they answer to no one. having disavowed even al qaeda and it's hard to imagine a terrorist organization being so vile that the vile al qaeda did you want want to be associated with it. but as isis continues its march toward baghdad, how confident are we that the shia stronghold can withstand regional attacks? and what are we doing to ensure the stability of our regional partners? also i hope you'll address what more we can or should do to convince prime minister maliki that isis can't be defeated
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without some sort of reconciliation process that reverses his attempts. is he willing to do that? will he ever be willing to do that? how does this proceed if he doesn't? and i'll look forward to testimony from both of you and i'll yield back. >> we now go to mr. ted deutsche of -- >> he's not the chairman yet. >> thank you, mr. chairman. they have their sights set on baghdad. ist cyst made up of bad outlaws and a hearing i held on this issue last week our witnesses were unanimous in the belief that prime minister maliki just cannot lead iraq out of this crisis. he needs to go.
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the sooner, the better. the united states should not strengthen maliki's hand for military assistance. that's not the answer. i want to know what the plan is to prevent the vise of isil. mending relations with the saudis would be a good place to start and finally they are still held hostage in iraq. i want to know why we have failed to settle them in third countries including our own while the u.s. has people in liberty have been murdered. i yield back. >> go to brad sherman from california, ranking member. >> we see emerging from beirut and infertile where militias loyal to ethnic or religious groups are more powerful than
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governments where there is warfare, but even when there is peace it's an unstable peace with militias in real control no matter what the map says by nation states. it's a three-way contest between the sunni, shiite alliance and extremist sunni. i believe that the shiite alliance led by iran is the glaeter threat to the united states. this does not mean that we should not seek to weaken isis. maliki is not a good guy just because we installed him. his approach to governing is as responsible as any other factor for isis's emergence. in the absence of isis pressure, he would not have changed at all. and now we need a new prime minister in iraq. a distance second best would be some sort of radically changed maliki platform. maliki allows his air space to
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be used for planes flying to syria from iran carrying weapons and thugs. he's increasingly dependent on iran. we do not want to be his air for force. we do not want to see isis expand. we have a tough problem. >> indeed. we're joined this morning by the deputy stapt secretary for iraq and iran mr. brett mahmoud gerk and the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. thank you. prior to his current assignment, he served as a special adviser to the national security staff and senior adviser to ambassador christopher hill in baghdad. he also served as a lead negotiator and coordinator during bilateral talks with the
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iraqi government in 2008. since july 2013 alyssa has been performing the duties of the principle deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. previously she worked at the state department on iraq policy and served on the council staff as director of iraq. without objection, the witnesses' full prepared statement will be part of the record. members will have five calendar days to submit statements or questions or any extraneous materials they wish to put into the record. and if you would please summarize your remarks, we'll have you testify first. >> thank you, good morning. chairman, ranking member and members of this committee, i want to thank you for invite megato to discuss the situation in iraq. since they attacked mosul seven weeks ago, let me first review the bidding on why this matters as this committee well knows.
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isil is al qaeda. it may have changed its name, but tz al qaeda in its doctrine, ambition and increasingly in its threat to u.s. interests. it is worse than al qaeda. should there be in question o about the intense, read what their leader says. it's important to pay attention who to what he says because we can't risk underestimating the reach of this organization. baghdad in may 2011 the death of osama bin laden and promise to violent response. training camps are named after osama bin laden. in his audio statements, he issues threats against the united states promising a direct confrontation and in his feud, he clearly is seeking to lead the global jihad. they are no longer just a terrorist organization. it's a full blown army seeking to establish a self-governing
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state through the valley and in what is now syria and iraq. it controls much of eastern syria. it took control of fe lieu ja and moved on mosul. i arrived about 80 kilometers east of mosul and i'll begin there. in meetings with local officials and kurdish officials, we received indications isis was moving and staging forces in western mosul. we immediately asked to receive permission from kurdish leaders to deploy forces in the eastern side of the city, but the government of baghdad did not share the same sense of urgency. military commanders, we stressed that the forces would not arrive in time. on june 9th the situation remained extremely tense and we
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continue to urge the deployment of additional security forces to protect against an attack from west to east. in the early mornings of june 10th, isis launched a bomb attack against the bridge and poured forces into eastern part of the city. resistance totally collapsed which led to a panic and a snowballing effect through the valley and through several cities. the result was catastrophic. five iraqi divisions nearly dissolved and the approaches to baghdad were under threat. i flew to baghdad first thing that morning with the focus on e ensuring that our people were safe and the northern approaches were bolstered. bymy written testimony sets knot detail the critical response. we first made certain that our people would be safe including contractors working on bases outside of baghdad who were evacuated with the help of the iraqi air force. at the embassy, we rebalanced staff to manage the crisis and
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brought in additional department of defense resources to en. sure the security of our facilities. in parallel importantly and at the president's direction, we worked to you are jntly improve our intelligence picture throughout western and north central iraq surging surveillance flights to 50 per day, establishing joint operations centers and e deploying forces to assess yupts particularly around the capital of baghdad. these intelligence and security initiatives were taken with r j regional diplomacy led by secretary kerry to better focus attention on the serious threat. we finally sought to stabilize the political process recognizing it took place at the most vulnerable most in the process, following elections that 14 million iraqis voted but before the formation of a new government. this process of forming new government remains extremely challenging but now has some traction. a a new speaker of parliament was chosen last week with the support of all major communities in iraq and the iraqis are now
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proceeding along the constitutional timeline to choose a new president and prime minister. the current situation in iraq remains extremely serious. isil remains in control of mosul and is targeting everybody who dise agrees with its twisted call fate. it's also joined in an alliance with militant wing, and with some former groups such as the isis. going forward, the iraqis must seek to split the latter groups and isolate isil from hard core militant groups. the platforms that we have established through the immediate crisis response are now providing additional information to inform the president and our national security team as we develop options to further protect our interests in iraq. any future decisions in this regard will be made in full consultations with this committee and the congress.
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any efforts we are to take must be in conjunction with iraqi efforts to isolate isil from the population. what we have a serious counterterrorism challenge in iraq, iraq has a very serious koupt insurgency challenge and the two are linked. based o on my last seven weeks on the ground in iraq, there's a clear recognition by iraqis that substantial reforms must be undertaken and undertaken urgently. this will require the formation of a new government together with the restructuring of the security services. the e emerging consensus in iraq chrks we can fully support, is a functioning federalism consistent with iraq's constitution, adaptive to the new realities on the ground and based on the following five principles. first, local citizens must be in the lead in securing local areas. second, local citizens defending their communities, however, must be provided full state benefits and resources, perhaps modelled
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along the national guard structure to secure areas. third, the iraqi army should focus on federal functions such as protecting international borders and rarely deploy inside cities. it should provide support for local forces where they con front isil which is able to overmatch areas. fourth, there must be close cooperation between local, regional and national security services to reduce operational space for isil. finally the federal government through a new parliament and cabinet which will be established must work on a package of reforms to address the grievances and ensure adequate resources to security services. these five principles can begin to address many of the core grievances in the areas of iraq while importantly denying space for isil to operate and protect groups from attacks.
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restoring stability will require smart integrated, provisional approach led by a new iraqi government with an appropriate level of assistance. i can report that iraqi leaders from all communities have asked for this assistance in implementing such a program and general austin will be in iraq tomorrow to further assess the situation and discuss concrete ways in which our assistance might be effective. this model of a functioning federalism is achievable and is essential if we hope to deny space within the borders of iraq. i look forward to discussing more details and once again i want to thank this committee for allowing me the opportunity to address you here today. >> thank you. alyssa? >> thank you, chairman royce, ranking member, distinguished members of the committee, i appreciate the opportunity to come and talk about the department of defense role particul particularly.
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i won't cover too much ground other than to foot stomp the point that brett has made. the u.s. has a security interest in assuring that they do not become a safe haven for terrorists who could threaten the u.s. homeland, u.s. citizens, u.s. interests abroad, partners or allies. as the president has said, isil's advance across iraqi territory and particularly its ability to continue to establish a safe haven in the rejoan poses a threat to u.s. interests and to the greater middle east. and we do not restrict that view just to the specific geographic boundaries that are on the map. just to go over the things that the department of defense is doing. the situation on the ground as brett described is extremely complex and fluid. we are therefore taking a responsible, deliberate and flexible approach to the crisis, but i want to be clear there will not be a military solution to the threat posed. iraqis must do the heavy lifting. in the meantime, the department
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of defense remains postured should the president decide to use military force. our immediate goals as announced on june 19th are to protect u.s. people and property in iraq, two, to gain a better understanding of how we might train and assist security forces should we decide to do so, and three, to expand our understanding plrly via intelligence. all three are critical to any future u.s. strategy in iraq and to that end we have done the following things. one, we have added forces to protect our people. the safety of u.s. citizens and personnel throughout iraq is our highest priority. the department of defense is meeting all the requests that have come in from the department of state for security for our embassy and at the airport. as described in our war powers
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notifications, we have sent a security team, a crisis response element and additional assets and personnel to reenforce security at the diplomatic facilities. the secretary of defense also ordered the transport ship u.s.s. into the gulf. its presence adds to the other naval ships that are there including the u.s. aircraft carrier and provides the president additional options to protect american citizens and interests in iraq should he choose to use them. isr intelligence surveillance assets, so as part of our ramping up effort, we have significantly surged capabilities into iraq. over 50 a day compared to one a month in previous months. at the request of the government of iraq, we have ramped it up as well as our information sharing initiatives with the iraqis. these over iraq provide us a much better understanding of i
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isil operations and disposition and allow us to help. we are capable of under a the clock coverage and have been focusing particularly on isil-controlled activities -- territory, excuse me, as well as in and around baghdad. u.s. assessment teams, we have put in nearly 300 additional u.s. military advisers who have gone in specifically to assess and evaluate how we might better train, advise and assist the iraqi security forces. these are small teams of special forces, members who are working to evaluate the iraqi security forces particularly in and around baghdad. they are armed for self-defense, but they do not have an offensive mission. the two joint operation centers have been established to help coordinate and support efforts on the ground, give us a better
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picture of what's happening. one quick word about the assessmen assessments, secretary hagel and chairman dempsey received the draft assessment last week. department leaders are taking a deliberate approach and reviewing this pretty lengthy assessment. these assessments will inform recommendations to the president. meanwhile, additional assessing work goes on in and around baghdad with respect to the developing situation on the ground. in closing i want to reiterate again that we belief that we have a vital security interest in ensuring that iraq does not become a permanent safe haven for terrorists who can threaten the homeland. i look forward to your questions to
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we could start now. as i mention in my remarks, you testified before the committee in february, and you told us of isis' plan to take control of western iraq and to challenge the iraqi's government control
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of baghdad and you reported that it was the administration's objective to prevent isis from ever having a sanctuary in western iraq again. there were countless other warning signs and i know that you, as deputy assistant secretary and others in the u.s. government were sounding the alarm. and your testimony was absolutely correct. we did see this coming. and that makes it even more troubling that the administration didn't do what was necessary to prevent isis from taking over such a large swath of iraq and specifically the iraqis asked multiple times for drone air strikes against clearly identifiable targets. someone in our embassy brought this up as well. the agitation was for strikes on
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terror camps. and we know that the administration rejected those requests. now, no one likes maliki. given this isis threat and given the administration's stated goal of preventing an isis sanctuary in western iraq, why didn't we support, at least in this limited way, attacks that would have done damage to these columns, or to the encampments? >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me try to correct the record on a few things. and, again, thank you for the opportunity to testify before the committee in february. i think what i described was when we really started to see this problem emerge over the course of last summer. and the first principle and the president's policy is that we want to enable local actors to be able to secure their sovereign space as best we can.
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that was also the desire of the iraqi government. the iraqi government wanted to act on its own with our assistance in enabling functions. we worked through the summer and fall, through our own surveillance and also by showing iraqis how they could use their capability to be able to target some of these sites. they have a platform called a king air. they have a platform called a caravan that can fire hellfire missiles. and we could jerry-rig those. direct usair support did not come in a formal way until may, and it came on a formal visit with general austin and subsequent phone call between the prime minister and the vice president. since that time, obviously, we've been looking at various options. but the first principle was to enable the iraqis to deny safe havens in camps and sanctuaries
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within their sovereign space. of course, they faced a significant problem across the syrian border, which was increasingly in control of isis over the last three months of last year. and the border increasingly became under threat. the first principle is to enable the iraqis. that was something the iraqis also wanted and that was through the hellfire missiles, through the caravan aircrafts and through the persistent isr. but the formal request for direct usair support came in may. >> let me just say that we already have experience in afghanistan with the fact that when you're dealing with suicide bombers or people who want to ma martyr themselves in the attack, one thing afghans are looking for is air support. traditionally secular militaries run away in the face of people trying to lose their own life in
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an attack and call in air support. it's been a problem -- i've talked to the italians about this. what do they want? what do they ask for? drones above that could give air support for their troops in afghanistan. so you have a situation like this, yes, you've got hellfire missiles, but the iraqis were trying to fire these from retrofitted cesna airplanes. in an environment like that, when you see this coming and you know that air support, psychologically, for infantry on the ground, in this kind of environment has been such an issue in afghanistan, you know, when you're up against jihadists, why -- why wouldn't we? it wasn't just that the request was coming from the iraqi government. as i say, some in the embassy in the embassy pushed for this. certainly i raised this a number of times. i'm just trying to figure out
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why, when you can monitor something with the eyes of a drone that can go in and actually see below it, you know, that you have in the jeep the flag of al qaeda waving and a column moving across the desert, why that asset wouldn't be deployed as these troops are coming out of syria or why you wouldn't take the encampment and come in and take out that encampment. i understand that this request went all the way up in the administration and was turned down. i am trying to get to the bottom of why. >> particularly over the latter course of 2013. poured out of the camps, particularly when they started to be hit and moved into the cities. >> but again, this is with a retrofitted cessna airplane. at least this is what i understand, from the iraqis,
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that they were trying to deal with in order to express that. can you imagine how effective it would have been with something, you know, a platform that could really delivery something more than a hellfire? >> i also just want to correct the record. when the request did come in may, formal request for direct air support, that request never went up as being denied. it's under active consideration. there's never been a denial. >> that's like saying -- if i could interrupt you. i remember elliott engel making the point three years ago about support for the free syrian army when there were no foreign fighters in syria and him laying out the argument that foreign fighters were going to come in the absence, if we didn't support the free syrian army. that's like saying, that's still under active consideration. well, yes, but after three years of not effectively getting engaged in a major way, the
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clock begins to run out and things happen on the ground. that's what's happened with isis. we've watched it come into a vacuum over a three-year period, establish itself on the border with iraq, no action being taken against that encampment, no effective support of the free syrian army to do something about it. then we watched it it go from city to city across iraq without it being hit from the air with drones despite the request that i know were being made. >> i can say that the information we have now on these networks is night and day from where it was from when it first come in.
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therefore, there's a significant risk, mr. chairman of taking any military risk without that level of granularity. we weren't able to do anything immediately in may. we now have a much better picture, which will inform eventual decisions from the president and any decisions in that regard that might be made or considered would be in the full consultation with this committee and the congress. >> right. but isis now has the treasury of the central bank in mosul. they have at their disposal probably half a billion dollars, close to it. >> propaganda, they put out they got $4 million in the first week or so. we don't think that's particularly true but they are a self-sustaining organization and flush with resources, cash and equipment. no question. >> i'm out of time. i'll go to mr. engel.
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on the one hand when you look at some of these borders in the middle east, they were all done by the colonialists and i've often felt why should we be obligated to maintain those borders? iraq is not a real state. it was slapped together. you've got the kurds. you've got the shia and the sunni who really don't want to be part of each other. and so particularly the kurds, who have autonomy now, practically have their own nation and probably will proclaim it very shortly. so, my sympathies would be to say to the kurds, well, why should we suck you back into iraq? you have the right to your own nation. frankly, nobody has ever explained to me why the palestinians are entitled to self determination but somehow the kurds are not. i don't think that's fair, quite frankly.
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on the other hand, we're told that if the kurds break off, there's practically no way that you could stop the radicals from dominating what's left of iraq and that the kurds provide some kind of counterbalance to prevent the radicals from gaining control. i would like to hear from both of you, what your views are on keeping iraq intact or not. >> as i described in testimony, it's a concept that is under the iraqi constitution that would recognize a very substantial devolution of powers. there's a recognition in iraq that from the center out you're never going to fully control all of these areas, particularly given the capacity of isol. and locals and tribal forces alone cannot defeat isol.
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they need the support of the central state. functioning federalism concept is really the model that is an emerging consensus within iraq. the kurdish region shares a border with what is effectively isis. more active conversations with with the kurdish regional government to make sure they're able to manage that problem. they also face a very serious strategic -- geostrategic environment, given the geography of the region. we're in a very active conversation with the kurdistan region. 13 million iraqis voted in a national election, 60% turnout. 328 member parliament that has just convened. today was the first session with the new speaker of parliament, very moderate, pragmatic and
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emerging sunni leader who secured the support of all political blocks. first session of parliament today they all stood together, all groups to denounce the very horrific tragedy inflicted by isol against christians in mosul. the country, overall, the people do not want to divide into three different countries, three different states. there is no easy solution for that. when you game it out, actually, the consequences are quite serious. >> mr. mcgurk, it's my feeling, correct me if i'm wrong, that the kurds consensus among the kurds is that they want to separate from iraq. >> the kurds -- a lot of kurds say -- at the hard of every kurd, wants an independent state. there's no question. we have to recognize that. they're also among our closest friends in the region. there's also a pragmatic element given the realities, economics
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and other things in that we want to work with the kurds in the future. they're choosing their nominee to be the next president of iraq. we hope to have that sorted out over the coming days. within the constitutional framework -- we've had conversations over the last week with the leadership of the patriotic union of kurdistan about their future, and about a future within the constitutional framework. at least in the near term, i think that's the best way to go. >> i just don't feel that it's fair to hold the kurds hostage because, unfortunately, we have screwed up things in iraq and everything is falling to pieces. we're essentially saying to the kurds, you know what? you have to be the glue that keeps iraq together and, therefore, we're going to deny you your aspirations. i'm not quite sure that's fair.
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>> strong, capable federal government in iraq that's actually able to exert control and influence to push back on that threat. and while i guess it is sort of a -- there has long been this idea that iraq can split into three pieces, i ask the question, who is in charge of that western and north central part of iraq in that model? while i think, as described, there are folks in the kurdish region who have as entirations of independence. if you don't have a strong, capable government in baghdad that's able to blunt those threats. syria, the situation on their southern border right there. iran on the other side. that is a tough neighborhood. from a security point of view, the single best blunt, frankly,
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to isil and a strong iranian influence in iraq is a strong federal government based in baghdad. >> i see my time is up. let me just very quickly say that i hope the you state does not think it can be luled into some kind of partnership with iran in iraq. there are some people who feel that because our interests may come together, converge, that maybe we should partner with iran. i couldn't disagree more. i think that iran is major of terrorism in the world. we look what's happening with israel, gaza and all the weapon s of hamas, which is a terrorist organization, provided by iran. and i just think it would be a tragic error if we somehow thought iran was a viable
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partner in iraq. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. ileana ros-lehthinen of florida. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. to make sure isil can't gain safe haven in western iraq and you were confident that iran -- iraq will deny them this. we all know how that turned out. just a few months later isil took over most of western iraq. how could your assessment have been so far off? why didn't we respond to their calls for help? your testimony from february shows that there was some serious disconnect within the administration on the reality of the threat in iraq. or we've been completely failing in addressing it.
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some of our military systems and information sharing to get a better intelligence picture of iraq last month, secretary kerry said nobody expected isil to capture mosul. even if our foreign military assistance had not quite kicked in yet, shouldn't our intelligence gathering efforts have been able to get a better assessment, more accurate assessment of samara and mosul? it has been widely reported that while taking control of mosul, isil seized rather large quantities of u.s.-supplied foreign military assistance and made off with nearly half a billion dollars from the local banks in addition to tanks, humvees that were taken, u.s. officials were quick to deny the claims of isil that they captured advanced weaponry such as blackhawk helicopters. did they capture any caravan aircraft or any other advanced
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weaponry like man pads, u.s. military equipment and hundreds of millions of dollars? aren't the only items that isil has seized the iraq government confirmed that isil took uranium from mosul university. what is the status of that uranium? what could isil use that for? and on the christian community we've seen that the ancient christian community in iraq is under siege by these islamist militants. once a vibrant, sizeable community now over 1 million christians have been forced to flee their homes and communities or be killed. their homes are being marked by isil and they are being given an ultimatum, to flee, to convert or to be murdered. mr. mcgurk, in february, you said you were trying to make sure that the christian community was able to protect itself. it's clear we haven't made any progress. we cannot protect them.
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what are we doing now to help protect the few remaining christians and their religious sites and artifacts? as ranking member engel had pointed out, are we, on any level, directly or indirectly, coordinating with iran on our -- or syria over our iraq policy or isil? and does the administration believe that maliki must go? thank you, sir, and gentle lady. >> let me to address these in order. i'll bring you up to speed where we are in anbar province. fallujah was in control of isil. fallujah is still in control of isil. our advice was not to move into fallujah but set a cordon and that remains in place, though it is fairly loose. second, we wanted them to hold
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the proevengs capital of ramadi. so far, they are. what happens changed significantly in anbar is a very sophisticated attack that happened late last month on the strategic border crossing in anbar, which prove that is isil is an army, militarily capable force. multiple-day assault. >> your written testimony, isil also generates $12 million a month through elicit business in mosul. that's a lot of money for terrorists. quite an economic engine. >> they're a self-sustaining organization. what we have seen in mosul for some time was a modus operandi, the assault in mosul last month did catch everybody off guard. we saw some indications of it coming. we had sources on the ground who told us three days before they were seeing indications of it
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coming. we did not envision the assault nor the collapse of security forces up there. i will say i've had a number of modistics -- >> i apologize. i threw a lot of questions at you so that you could give me some written responses. thank you, mr. chairman. i apologize. i'm out of time. >> we'll go to the ranking member on the western hemisphere subcommittee. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> i've been here since 2006 and i have come to hate the word assess and train. we seem to be assessing and traini training iraqi soldiers assessing the situation of iraq and i think the situation is worse than ever. after spending billions of dollars. we train an army. they fire a shot at them, they run for the hills. where did we go wrong that we
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put in all this money and training and they can't even defend a section of their country? it's mind boggling to me. now we have the situation where we have isis. i'm concerned that in jordan, for example, we have 2 million refugees. if they destabilize jordan, the whole area -- it's just a whole mess. what do we do with all that money that we put to train all these people? where are these trained people? it's not just this administration. i'm talking from 2006 on. mr. mcgurk, can you also assist me in understanding this? >> let me address the issue of the training. anyone who has watched the news or been part of our efforts in iraq was disappointed by what we saw in mosul. and i think the biggest thing
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that we looked at and were surprised by is the dissolving of frankly four iraqi divisions up and around that area, and some areas where they did not fight in contrast to western iraq where they were putting up a serious fight. rather than a lack of capability, i think what we believe is that they lacked either the will or the direction to fight. either they, as brett described, saw a snowballing effect and they had a fear stripped off their uniforms and turned, or they waited for direction from baghdad that did not come and, therefore, departed. we don't believe that they lacked a basic capability. it's that at the end of the day, they did not have the will or direction to fight in that part of the area. that is critical for any future plans we decide to pursue in iraq. we have to understand whether the partner in iraq that we would be working with has the will, the direction, the capacity to fight and that is
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why we have folks on the ground right now trying to figure that out. it is not that it's not frustrating. it, of course, is. >> we spend billions of dollars on a group of people that are unwilling to fight? >> i don't think we can say that about all the iraqi security forces. we see them attempting to take offensive action in iraq as recently as this week. it's not a blancht statement you can make. in western rack there's still areas -- >> there were four divisions, though. >> there were four divisions. that's correct. >> mr. mcgurk? >> first, the leadership in command of these units have all been fired. we immediately were in conversations with iraqi leaders, security and political leaders in the wake of mosul and recommended a wholesale change in the command. new commanders have been appointed. those are commanders we know very well. they're also quite effective. iraqis, just in the past month in terms of fighting units, they've suffered almost 1,000
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killed in action and they are holding the line and beginning to conduct some very rudimentry operations to clear some highways. i will not underestimate the extreme challenge here. what we saw in mosul was not indicative of a force as a whole. the units, many of them, are balanced. there's about an average -- i was just on the phone to our folks out there today. the composition of the force is about 55% shia, 23% sunni, by and large. within the units there is no fracturing within the units themselves. now there are very incompetent, incapable units with poor leadership. no question we found those. we also found extremely capable, extremely proficient and dedicated units and it's in our interests, i believe, to invest in those units. we should not write off what happened in mosul and write off the entire security force
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overall. it would not be an accurate response to the overall picture we're seeing. nor do i think that would be in our long-term interest. >> can you talk about the direction of jordan? what are we doing to offset that? >> so, obviously, particularly the news a couple of weeks ago about isil taking ground near the jordanian border was a -- we all looked at that very closely, particularly the jordanians. i think what's important to remember is that the jordanians are a very solid, capable force that is laser focused on this issue. they have moved troops to the border in order to reinforce their side of the border and then the united states has a robust relationship with jordan that is only strengthened, frankly, in the wake of everything that's gone on in syria. there's quite a significant amount of interaction on a daily basis with the jordanians. but we obviously watch that with keen interest. >> sorry we're out of time.
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i wanted to ask you about -- but i ran out of time. >> we'll let the witness respond to your question there. >> can you talk a little bit about iranian use in this situation to attack camp liberty? >> very briefly, we are watching camp liberty very closely. it remains our goal to get all of the members and residents of camp liberty out of iraq. we are working that extremely hard. we have some leads with other countries and third countries. we also are going to do all that we can to make sure that they remain safe. i can assure you in all my conversations, even in the midst of this very urgent crisis, i raise the issue of camp liberty to make sure that the residents there remain safe. >> thank you for your courtesy, mr. chairman. >> certainly. now we go to the chairman on
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human rights. >> let me ask you if i could -- some experts argue that 10,000 u.s. counterterrorism forces should have remained in iraq but the president and maliki both chose otherwise. in retrospect, did that contribute in any way to isil's emergence and the current situation on the ground as it exists today? secondly, senator mcgurk -- secretary mcgurk, you said a formal request for assistance was received in may. were there any informal requests through other avenues, including from the iraqi ambassador to the u.s. made before that? and how do you define formal request? if certain individuals are asking for help, what modeality needs to be employed to say oh, now they've actually asked? third
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thirdly, el baredai was in u.s. custody and he said i'll see you in new york. we know that he now has emerged as the leader of isil or isis, i should say and obviously has posed an enormous threat to life and liberty of iraqis, christians and perhaps even to the united states. my question is, especially in light of what has happened with guantanamo, as a result of the 2012 intelligence act, it was required for the administration to tell us how many of those who were released from gitmo went back into battle. and the report suggested that of the 613 released, 104 were confirmed to go back into the
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battle against americans and our allies, 74 probably went back, but they couldn't confirm it, for a total of 178, which is a huge number of potential american and allies death to service members. and we had them in custody. so the question there with regards to al bagdadi, why was he released to form isis and do the terrible things they're doing today? >> let me first, on the formal -- i'm not playing with words on formal, informal request. the conversation kind of goes like this. you'll hear from an iraqi official they want direct u.s. air strikes. you talk about this is what this would mean, access to your air space. well, wait, let's find a way for us to do this on our own.
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access to air space, direct usair support came in may. very clear, unequivocal, that came in may. >> i do not have information on the release of bagdadi. i came into the process extremely late. we had a legal requirement that would have to go through the iraqi parliaments. i can report from my own experience that none of the political blocks in parliament were going to support that request given our own requirements. therefore, it was just not possible for us to stay. the raise of aqi, as i testified in my last hearing here, it really regenerated in syria and battlefields and battlegrounds of syria. that's where we saw the massive regeneration and massive influx
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of foreign fighters and we saw it come back into iraq over the course of last spring and summer. that's what led to the regeneration of al qaeda in iraq, which we now know as isis. >> i appreciate that. if you would get back to me on al baghdadi, i would appreciate that. 2013, the request started coming in for assistance. is that true? >> yes, for enhanced assistance in terms of sharing information, in terms of enabling some of their units. yes. >> did we respond to it in an affirm active wa affirmative way? >> we responded immediately, helping them with the hellfire missile strikes, training forces on the ground. >> because i'm almost out of time, is there -- are there items or requests that went unfulfilled? >> other than the -- again, other than this most recent request in may.
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we got a list of requirements and things in swran that they wanted. we have fulfilled every single piece of that list. i can answer in writing a very detailed response. >> if you could, i would appreciate it very much. thank you mr. chairman. >> mr. ted deutsch of florida, subcommittee chairman middle east and north africa. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i would like to talk about our regional partners and it's a really simple question. we talk a lot about jordan and the threats that jordan faces. miss slotkin, you spoke about that. i was there recently. and appreciate that. i would like to move beyond jordan and talk about our regional partners in the gulf. the question is really simple. who's concerned, what are they doing about it, and who may be
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concerned but is not helping and perhaps may even be making things more difficult? >> i'll let elissa handle some of this. i'll just say the conversation has shifted over the last 18 months from -- there used to be a conversation when you would talk about this rise of very extreme, al qaeda-type groups that in a second war we'll be able to take care of those groups once assad is gone. now the conversation is obviously these things would have to be done in parallel. there's a renewed focus on isil. secretary kerry last month immediately went to paris and held a meeting with the foreign ministers of jordan, saudi arabia and went on to rihad. isil took a province, very small
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town. they don't have any presence there, open highway to saudi arabia, obviously a very significant development. the saudis are very focused on this and certainly as are the jordanians. we work with them every single day on it. the cooperation we've had in terms of iraq, trying to squeeze isil, trying to squeeze its resources, its manpower is at a new level than it was even six to eight weeks ago. >> i'll just add to that that the -- you know, the folks that we have added, the department of defense have added into iraq have come from the setcom region. we are in regular consultation with all the gulf countries, particularly those who host our troops. kuwait, qatar. i do think people are aware of it. and i think the thing that is critical going forward on all of
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these questions is that we are going to need a regional approach to this problem. there is no way isil -- the isil threat is like air in a balloon. if you squeeze one part, all the air goes to the other side. you squeeze that one. we will need all of the partners in the region who are under -- who are, like anyone, concerned about this issue, to play a role in countering this threat. >> can i just follow up? if i understood you correctly, just to characterize your comments, the saudis and emeradis are concerned and doing something about it to be helpful. can we talk more particularly, frankly, in light of -- miss slotkin, i'll direct this to you. a very large arms deal that was announced with much fanfare, tell me what more the qatars are doing other than being aware --
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>> i know secretary kerry has had significant amount of phone conversations with all of the gulf allies on how to get more engaged. we're still trying to get a handle on the threat, what to do about it in a more coordinated wa way. >> are there funds coming from the other countries to support isil or any of the other groups? >> i've been asked this question a couple of times. to our knowledge right now -- again, the intelligence community is assessing that no states, regional states are sponsoring them right now. >> that's what i asked. >> i can't speak in this form to groups within these countries but the states themselves are not supporting isil.
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>> i yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. maliki hasn't done a good job, has he? he hasn't done a good job, has he? he has made things worse, hasn't he? >> we have serious concerns with the government of iraq. we had a new election and they're establish ago a new government. that's where the process stands right now and whether or not the prime minister can achieve a third term is something that remains in question. >> so we have not, however, officially suggested that he leave or have we unofficially suggested to him that it might be time for him to visit some of his money in dubai? >> let me also just back up, in
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fairness to the government of iraq. they also face a tremendously difficult situation. the 30 days before they had an election in iraq, 53 suicide bombers were in iraq, blowing up mosques, marketplaces, parades, fairgrounds, playgrounds. they're going to face extreme difficult. isil is trying to tear apart the political fabric of the country. >> he has not provided the leadership that could overcome what could be inherent problems having a country called iraq made up of that territory that -- and those people that now compose that territory. that territory was devised and put together by european
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imperialists who decided that would be what the country of iraq would look like. let me say that as far as i am concerned the united states should not have to limit itself and limit what solutions we can possibly have based on what the british empire determined 100 years ago. with that said, i would hope that we would be open to situations like have iing an acl kurdistan exist. maybe a belujistan as well. there used to be one and the british decided to cut and split that up. the kurds have always deserved to have their own national identity.
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until we do, i happen to believe that no kind of leadership that we could put into place in iraq is going to be successful. maybe it's too much. even if maliki was the best. it might not be enough that our british friends gave us aas a present when they exited as world leader. one other issue i would like to mention, when you said that we are watching very closely what's going on with the mek in camp liberty, it's not enough. it's not enough. we watched as they went in and murdered those people. we're looking for someone to take them.
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why aren't we deciding to take them? they are vulnerable. they are people who we have had to deal with. is it our government -- i know i have a resolution, mr. chairman, suggesting we take these people in. they're going to be murdered otherwise. so why are we just watching? are we not -- why don't we move beyond that and moving them out? >> we're working, our senior adviser for mek resettlement is working -- actually he is on a flight tonight on this issue working to find more third country settlement opgs. one particularly, we are hoping that a country that has already taken a significant number will take more and perhaps a substantial amount more. we are working these leads very aggressively. i'm happy to follow up with you on a more detailed briefing on where that stands. >> i would be very appreciative if you would follow up on those details with me but also let me, mr. chairman, just for the
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record again state it would be better -- these people have relied on us. we made a deal with them. they have provided us very important intelligence information and activities over the years. if other countries will not permit them to come in, it might be in our moral interest as well as our interest of having other people trust us in the future just to take them in to the united states as refugees. if there is any people in the world that are at risk, it would be these folks in camp liberty. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much, mr. rohrbacher. we go now to mr. david sicilini of rhode island. >> thank you, mr. chairman i want to welcome a colleague from across the pond, member of parliament from great britain,
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who is here today. welcome. he is part of our program shadowing members of congress and we welcome you. thank you to the witnesses for your testimony. i think we must remain mindful of the sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the sacrifice they've made in iraq but the dangers that surround any further military involvement. it was reported recently that classified military assessment of iraqi security forces show deep infiltration by sunni extremists and shiite informants rely on shiite militia in iran. the situation in iraq is a
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problem that requires a political solution. and in june, secretary of state john kerry said that the formation of a new government in iraq that is inclusive of all parties and stakeholders is an essential prerequisite to the united states. an active great irresponsibility to order defensive action without a stable government. really, two questions in light of that context and in light of your testimony. first to you, mr. secretary. you spoke about this function of federalism, which has appeal. what is your assessment of the capacity of the iraqis to proceed with that sort of model, the willingness to proceed, since it involves the devolution of power and what are the key steps that we should be looking for, are we supporting for that to go forward? secondly, would you comment on the humanitarian situation in iraq?
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we're hearing reports of deliberate targeting of women and girls in iraq, horrific sanitary conditions. and more than 1. million iraqis being displaced. are the organizations or the iraqi government working effectively to mitigate these conditions? if you could, talk about what the current humanitarian situation is. >> happy, to first let me address the humanitarian situation. it gets to the saudis. they put $500 million into the u.n. organizations that are managing the humanitarian response in iraq. we work very closely with those organizations and that contribution was both welcome and essential. it's a point of how we have some co-lessons. it remains very serious. i can get you all the doings. i don't want to take too much of your time. in terms of a willingness, it's
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pretty much spelled out in the constitution. i think there's a growing recognition that a model like this is appealing. local, tribal actors will not be able to defeat isil on their own. some tribes have risen up to fight isil and they've responded with tremendous and brutal force, killing sunnis wherever they go where sunnis disagree with them. one of the oldest mosques in mosul, that was made possible because they killed all the clerics before isil moved in. recognition from the local side that they need support to grow their own security forces and want to be in control of their areas and there's a recognition from the center that the army cannot be reconsequence at a
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timed. the iraqis are trying, working to and are training about 10,000 of those soldiers who either fled from their post or they were on their r & rs and most of them have come back. they're working to retrain them, put them through a three to four-week training program, something we can help with. everybody recognizes you cannot then reconstitute the. because it is within the constitutional framework, there can be a fairly broad consensus for that model. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> chairman of the asia subcommittee. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding this very important hearing.
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great deal of skepticism in how this administration has overseen the unraveling of iraq. really from the start, i think we're all aware that the president was anxious, desperate to reduce our involvement in iraq. i think there was a scramble to the door from the very start. i've been in iraq a number of times and chaired the middle east subcommittee in the previous congress and i think we've known -- i mean, it was always the plan, it was always assumed that we were going to have a u.s. military presence there following the war for a number of reasons, principally to secure the gang gains that been made at such a high cost of
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american blood and treasure. there was a failure to reach an agreement on the status of our forces afterwards. a lot of debate on how much of an effort was actually made in securing that agreement. whatever the case is, there was a failure to secure it. virtually all troops were pulled out. some on this committee, some not. many of us predicted exactly not what would happen but pretty much what would happen and the unraveling and the chaos and the tumultuous situation we see now was predicted by so many people. what difference would a u.s. military presence there have made? and how much confidence can we have in the very administration
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that made that decision to pull all u.s. troops out who is now making the decisions to salvage what's left of iraq at this time? mr. mcgurk? or miss slotkin? >> i'll attack a first sttake a. it's important to review the history that both brett and i worked on the original 2008 with iraq that did say by the end of 2011 that we would be out of iraq. so that timetable was set in 2008. there was quite a bit of discussion and debate about what should happen at that time. i really do think the point that brett made is critical. iraqi leaders could not get it through their parliament. we had iraqi leaders at that time saying i don't think it's necessary. we don't want you in. they're a sovereign country.
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we didn't have will on the other side. that's a critical factor. >> it's certainly a factor. the united states is a pretty substantial country on the globe and we have a lot of involvement there and our officials were meeting with their officials and there were relationships and, yes, they certainly have to degree with it. the effort that was made and the decision to pull all the troops out, it's mind boggling to think, looking back, where we are now and how different things probably would have look ed had we done something different. i've only got one minute left. what's happening with the christians especially -- i know there's persecution going on with lots of other people besides christians. but this convert or die mentality that's now in action wherever isil is in control is
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something you think over 12,000 years ago, these persecutions romans made these kinds of decisions and in the modern world people are faced with those decisions. i would urge the administration to work with any resources we have available to us to push back on that with every fiber we have as a nation. >> i would just say, congressman, i agree with . . week, i saw bishop and the patriarch in baghdad discussing this very question. christian enclaves in northern iraq are looking for resources to provide local security control. they're now in rathers controlled by the kurds. we've discussed this with the kurdish regional government about how we can incorporate individuals from these areas to provide security in their local
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areas such as a police force, to provide security on the streets. that is something that we are discussing. they've stood in solidarity with the christians in iraq. this is something that reveals who the true isil is. it's not a tribal uprising reflecting legitimate grievances. it's a vicious terrorist organization with ideology that nobody accepts and has to be uprooted and defeated. i agree with you 100% on your comments and will follow up with you specifically on the christian question. >> thank you. my time is now expired. ranking member of the terrorism subcommittee, brad sherman of california. >> when we conquered germany and japan after world war ii, we were not embarrassed to be occupying those countries.
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we stayed as long as we needed to stay. we wrote the constitution for japan and we very slowly turned over power to the right people. in afghanistan and especially iraq, we were so -- we were embarrassed to be there, defensive as to whether we were somehow imperialists and we were so anxious to turn over the government that we've got maliki and karzai, neither of which would sign an agreement with us, just to illustrate one of their many faults. miss slotkin, "the new york times" report on the front page that the iraqi security forces are so deeply infiltrated by either sunni extremists informants or shiite personnel backed by iran that any american assigned to advise baghdad's forces could face a risk to
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their safety. is that accurate? >> the report is draft classified and that represents a leak of information from someone who seems to know something about it, but not clearly to have read the full report. >> put aside the exact phraseology. how danger oous in aun classifi situation here, how dangerous is it for american service personnel to be advising iraqi units? >> that's exactly what we went over there to try to assess. those are draft. they're classified and i'm not able to get into the details right now. >> okay. >> it was a threat when we were there with 170,000 troops. the insider threat is always a threat and we have to either work to mitigate it or not work with units if we thought it was an overwhelming threat. >> this idea that we should bomb isis, how important is it that we have reliable ground spotters
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to make sure we're bombing the right folks and not bomb iing civilians? can we run a bombing campaign with anybody we trust on the ground? >> i mean, the united states does not indiscriminately bomb targets. we have a rigorous procedure that involves having verification of the targets we are trying to hit. >> do we need humans on the ground for that procedure to work effectively? >> it is significantly better if we have reliable folks on the ground to give us verifiable information. >> do the iraqis have the technical expertise to be those spotters? have they got good people that can tell us where to bomb and what to bomb? >> there are very capable iraqi units that would be capable of doing that. >> if "the new york times" report is correct, however, they may deliberately give us the wrong coordinates because it may meet the political needs of the
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sunni or shiite extremists that we bomb civilians. so we don't know, unless we know both the technical competence and political objectives, whether we can rely on those spotter spotters mr. mcgurk, does maliki have to go? >> again, there's an ongoing process to form a new government. maliki's party won seats. it remains to be seen whether or not he can have enough seats to form a government. were we to take a position thin, it would obviously not be either in our interest or would dramatically affect the process. this is a uniquely, uniquely iraqi process with iraqi political dynamics. the outcome will reflect that process.
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the new speaker of the parliament, for example, is someone nobody would have picked to be the speaker of the parliament. he came out of nowhere, built a coalition, did the politicking and built a very broad coalition among sunni, shias, kurds, everybody, and won and overwhelming vote. >> has maliki announced positions that would seriously entice sunnis and kurds to believe that they would get a fair shake under a third term for maliki? has he publicly announced a platform that has serious appeals, makes serious concessions to those other two communities? >> he has a platform that has all of those principles in it. it's just difficult after eight years and given the bad blood that's developed and the mistrust. that makes it very difficult. but a lot of his platform. -- >> so he's got some platitudes in his platform that nobody believes. i yield back. >> we go now to mr. jeff duncan
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of south carolina. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thanks for this very informative hearing. mr. mcgurk, you commented about the state of u.s. intelligence in advance of mosul and this most recent isis offensive. you said, quote, in the earliest days, we had to acknowledge that we were operating in a fog, end quote. you also say that intelligence collection after the fact has improved, but i'm troubled by the fact that we are -- but that we were operating in the fog in the first place because in february, you testified here and you told us exactly what isis wanted to do, take control of western iraq, challenge the iraqi government for control of baghdad, and have sectarian conflict. for most of the past year, isis has already been in control of about half of mosul. there were other plenty of clear signs that isis was a rising threat. really over the past year, year and a half, two years. we've had eyes watching what was
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going on in syria and surely watching the iraqi and jordanian borders. knowing all this and knowing all we did of what you testified in february, why weren't we doing more to collect intelligence all along? please help us understand what led to the decision not to have robust intelligence collection efforts against this terrorist group. >> well, as i did testify, we began to move assets into the theater. what my testimony was speaking to was immediate crisis response. in the immediate days after mosul, it was fog and rumor and friction and chance as you get into in these circumstances. what i was trying to get at in the testimony was it was very difficult for us to know specifically what was happening. it was difficult for us to know the extent of isis' advance down the river. which is why in a meeting with the president in the earliest hours of this crisis, the decision was made immediately to
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significantly surge u.s. air assets over the skies of iraq, again, to go from one a month to 50 a day, including manned aircraft. that was something the iraqis also welcomed. in response to an earlier question, i want to say the iraqis, despite what may have happened in 2011, since this crisis we have been embraced. our presence has been embraced from top to bottom. they're actively seeking our assistance. to have u.s. military assets in the skies of iraq is something that was extremely controversial, even as late as last fall. right now they welcome us there. they want us there. and it's a very different situation than it was even when i was here testifying in february in terms of the iraqi appetite for our direct support. >> here's the thing. folks in south carolina and folks i talk to all over the country are concerned of what's going on in iraq because we lost so many men and women there. not only lost in the loss of
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lives but lost in their ability to be productive citizens and whether it's ptsd or whether it's an actual physical injury. you know, why did we lose those men and women and turn around and lose control over an area? and we can watch and tell the heat signature, the plume, what rocket launcher it came from and where it shot down a plane in ukraine, but we spent a lot of money, a lot of effort in iraq and yet we're blind, we're in a fog? i just find that hard to believe, especially with so much going on in the region, with what was going on in syria and isis and isil were doing. huge columns of vehicles headed toward mosul, how did we miss that? so that's a rhetorical question i don't expect you to answer, but i think it is important. i think americans are going, how did we miss this, and why did we spend so much money and loss of life in iraq to see what's going on now?


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