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tv   CENTCOM AFRICOM 2019 Budget Request  CSPAN  March 13, 2018 9:30am-11:36am EDT

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wasn't over turned until the brown versus board of education decision desegregating schools. our hash tag is landmark cases. follow us at c-span. and there are lots of resources on our website for background on each case and where you can order the landmark cases companion book. also find the link to the national constitution centers interactive constitution. go to cases. we are live now on capitol hill as the commanders of central command and africa command are testifying before the senate armed services committee. they'll be discussing the 2019 budget request. this is live coverage on c-span 3, it's just getting under way. >> both the middle east and in africa where the threat of violent extremism is increasing dramatically. over the past year we have seen remarkable progress in the fight against isis. we have military victories in
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mows absolutely and raqqa and beyond have helped dismantle the caliphate isis once claimed in the middle east. the same time significant challenges remain in the region. the syrian civil war raths on, iran continues to grow its influence. according to region, we face serious questions about the kurds, many of whom have fought by our side valeantly. for africa, let me make africom one statement, i think is significant for us to keep in mind for the purpose of this hearing. general walt houser, it's my understanding the investigation into the october, 2017, ambush in niger by ice es affiliated
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fighters that killed four u.s. soldiers is completed. i understand it's now pending review by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and secretary of defense jim mattis. after his approval, africom will immediately be offered a brief to the families of the four soldiers if they desire prior to any in deputyth briefith briefi congress. we wanted the families to know what happened to their loved ones. accordingly, i understand that you are not able to comment on the investigation's results during this posture hearing. and at the conclusion of the briefs to the families, i know you will be providing us with a thorough briefing of the investigations, findings, and recommendations. now, we do have -- want to talk about africa and africom. our troops have an important mission there to train, assist in regional partners so that they will be capable of handling security tlo threats before they
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become global crises. our engagements in africa are critical, not only to regional stability, but to our own national security but it lacks dedicated troops, resources, sufficient basing, and strategic access. senator reed. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, and i want to thank our witnesses for appearing today, for also 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 nick olson 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
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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. in addition, isis remains resilient despite significant pressure. while the administration has laid out a military strategy, battlefield wins are hallow. 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, i'm interested in your assessment of the afghanistan. in iraq and syria, the so-called fiscal caliphate previously enjoyed by isis a significant victory and i commend the administration and your leadership and your colleagues too for this u.s. coalition and our iraq and syria partners on the ground have done so much.
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however, isis is not defeat and will remain a threat for the foreseeable future. additional lit underlying issues that gave rice to isis in the first place remain unaddressed. we need strong leadership to bring about the necessary political commendation that will give sunni communities a stake their future and bring the international community to assist them recovering from isis. as some experts have stated, the seeds of the certainty are sealed in the mosul and raqqa. iraq alone the cost of reconstruction is expected expected to be $88 billion and the international kmoout community has clenged less than one-third of that amount. our deeply concerned about our diplomatic core undermines our ability to stabilize the region. it's notable across sce -- also
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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 alcohol length regions and we must have the people in place -- by all accounts, the jcpoa is work as ib tended and eye rab is meeting its commitments under 8 greemt. 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 zras all of iran's bad behavior, just the nuclear aspect. if iran behaves this way without
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a nuclear webb weapon, imagine how much worse it would be with a nuclear armed force. withdrawing from it would be a devastating blow for our efforts -- diplomatic efforts and restrain aggressive behavior from our adversaries. i'm interested in hearing if you believe this that remaining in the deal is in the best interest of the nation? in africa, the important of relationships is paramount. i recently traveled to east africa where i saw first hand the ongoing efforts to disrupt violent extremist and built capacity in place birr gentleman bud did i and somalia. i saw the competitors such as china and russia who are actively seeking investments and involvement across the continent. despite some baltfield success against some groups, many governments recently have struggled to translate security gains to dur able outcomes.
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as we turn "attention articulated by the national defense strategy, we must be mindful not to focus exclusively on these issues at thence of terror organizations, or rogue regimes and other non-state actors. interests that are present in both of your command. thank you have mr. chairman, and thank you, general, for your service. >> 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. >> senator, ranking member reed, distinguish distinguished members of the committee. good morning. and thank you for the aurnt opportunity to appear today. i'm pleased to be here today with my fellow combatant commander and fellow minnesotan. i come before you today on behalf of over 80,000 members of command, u.s. military, civilians and coalition members
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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 what the they do and they, and especially their families deserve our add mir administration 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 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 i'd about the challenges that the region continues to be present. in the past year we have achieved incredible success against isis in both iraq and syria. the iraqee security forces and the syrian democratic forces are operating at their most effective level and have liberated over 98% of the territory previously held by isis. the destruction of the isis
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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 to continue our efforts against isis despite the increasingly complex situation across syria and especially in the northwest
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province of after fran. our partners on the ground in syria have gotten aus a long way in syria and toward our objectives and we must stick with them through the completion of this fight. in iraq, the iraqee security forces are consolidateding gain in preparing the support elections later this spring. the second goal is to prior advertising the implementation of the african strategy in afghanistan. reaffirming our commitment ton afghanistan by reinforcing the two complementary military plitions, the nato led train, advice and assist mission and the counterterrorism mission. with our support, the afghan national defense and security forces are well post tured to begin operations to seize the initiative, expand population control, and secure credible elections. part and parcel of this effort is our regional liesed approach taupe gauge all countries way steak in afghanistan stability, especially pakistan where we seek a more productive and trustful relationship that
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benefits our mutual objectives in the region. the third goal is to ensure that we have aligned our mill taefr forts with our broader inner agency 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 principle 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 amongst syrian regime, iran, turkey, the syrian democratic forces, the united states and other coalition partners then serving as a supposed arbitrator to resolve disputes. today, russia's manipulative
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behavior has placed our campaign progression at risk with activities that are not focused on the defeat of sis but rather preserve be their influence and control over the outsum of the 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 gentleman bud did i, 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 ties to iran. against this backdrop of i creasing 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
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longstanding border conflicts. we stand ready with all of or i 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 post tured 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 a conduskt our campaigns in iraq, syria, afghanistan, yemen, lebanon and egypt, we have adopted a by, with, and through aye proch thaiss plaza i 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 proven very effectivend will pay significant dividends going forward. second, successful pursuit of u.s. objectives in this region comes only from an int celebrate
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greated approach aligned with inner organizational partners. defense of the nation say team sport. this applies not just within the command, but with our fellow combatant kmants commands, the 18 country teams, other dipts, 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, strength evening 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 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,, and the other defense agencies that we rely upon for our military wherewithal. your support will remain important as we contain with
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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 answer being yo-- answering your questions. >> thank you. general. >> 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 foe dell and discuss many of the concerns we share between centcom and africom 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 dead dietion duty and offer my sincere colorado condolences to our families of
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fallen u.s. comrades and those of our african partners. senator inhofe, i have completed my review of the 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 practi practice tickable. i wou the u.s. interests in africa are rhee reflected in our mission statement. africom, with partners, strengthens security forces, counters transnational threats, and conducts troois crisis response in order to advance u.s. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity in africa. our mission statement dlitly highlights the importance of with partners. following up on this point, very few, if any, of the challenges on the african continent have
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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 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 stability and exploitation stemming from the disruption caused by violent extremist organizations or veos. these veo groups take advantage of vast ungoverned space and
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recruit from populations lacking economic opportunities. we approach these security threats through our third strategic principle of keeping pressure on the networks of veos such as al shabaab, isis, and boca haram in order to mitigate their destabilizing influence. at the same time, we remain posture and ready to respond ton contingencies and protect u.s. personnel 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 campaign plan to reflect the guidance provided by the secretary of defense. turning now to our regional efforts, i would like to describe four 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
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somalia implement their recently designed national security architecture. al shabaab remains a threat to somalia and the region as demonstrated by the october, 2017, bombing that killed over area and the region as demonstrated by the bombing in october that killed over 500 people. the challenges facing the federal government of somalia are e nor mouse. 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 like the african union and european union, the 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 divided with leaders and factions vying for power ahead of potential elections later
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this year. in close cooperation with the u.s. embassies libya's external office in tunis as and part of the international effort, we support octoberivbjectives for l reconciliation. we work with the national accord and maintain pressure on the isis libya and al qaeda networks in the country. th there's the broadest part of africa from the atlantic ocean to the red sea. we support multinational efforts in the nearby lake chad basin region of west africa. we provide training, advice, and assistance to the g5s countries and multinational joint task force nor 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
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africom. i'm proud to lead these professionals who built strong and trusting relationships with the u.s. interagency and international community in order to foster the security, stability, and prosperity on the african continue innocent. on behalf of the service members, civilian employees, and united states african command, thank you for the opportunity of being with you this morning, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, gentlemen. just less than a month ago, we spent quite a bit of time in the south china sea seeing, witnessing 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 up now to over 3,000 acres that they have created all staffed with nothing but
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military staff in there, so, obviously, it concerns a lot of people, and a lot of people in the region, and, in fact, a lot of people in the allies look at china as someone more 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, this is very much a concern, and that's where we have marines for quite some time. it's an area that has control over the interests in the red sea and the suez canal, so i'm 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, china is successful in taking over that port, could
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they use their control to threaten u.s. access and our broader freedom of navigation interest in the region in the red sea and suez canal? >> senator, thank you very much for the question. although i'm not an expert on port operations, i can tell you things that may lend context to the question. 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 about 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 the like.
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in contract they had with dubai ports world last week, 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 to terms of sail or in terms of whether they 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 '16 and '17, 116 ships refueled there. the ships also go to the base there to refuel airplanes and the like. >> so there is a significant area there. >> it is. >> and i'm running out of time,
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but that's what i wanted to get to in the record. admiral harris called this to our attention, some of the areas where we did this program, i'm fond of, and both of you have, they are seeing china's going after our program -- actually, now that's in that area. are you seeing any of this in africa in the continent of africa? we worked extensively on that program down there. >> 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.
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>> yeah, yeah, well, and that's good. let me do this. for the record, because there's not time to do it now, general, 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. i know that you have some concerns about china, check your influence, any comments to make on your aor? >> what i would highlight is the activities in djibouti is where we have strong collaboration in the combat and command areas here, so i certainly share
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general's concerns about what is playing out. >> your written statement, you gave details in that, and you made a comment, beijing claims they support peace keeping and humanitarian operations, and i don't know how many people believe that, but it's a great concern to this committee. senator reid. >> 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? >> 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 position. >> thank you. with respect to syria, it's a very complicated situation, and
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that's an understatement. one issue is involved with the kurds. they fought reliably, and now they assist fellow kurds against the turks. it appears we don't have a policy as to our position vis-a-vis the kurds in syria, and also a longer term policy as in what do we do? do we have a de facto partition of the country with the sdf, syria defense forces, guarded in that portion? can you give us some clarity on the policy? i just don't think we have one. >> 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
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at this point 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. >> there is a possibility that the kurds would gradually leave our efforts in order to protect their fellow kurdish forces, is that a possibility? >> we've seen that already, senator. >> okay. thank you for your hospitality when i passed but 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
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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 the opening statement, does the sheer lack of state presence, ambassadors in somalia and libya, ambassadors in egypt, is that impairing your ability to get the job done? >> 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 shabaab targets, and we've done that robustly in the last few months. 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
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building capacity. as we talk about transitioning around the 20-21 time frame, the focus 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 facility, and they do a great job working there, and the federal government of somalia needs help, mentoring, and coaching as the president moves forward. >> i can concur, we have a courageous team of diplomats on the ground, but in order to have the impact we need in a very shot, we're going to have to up the game dramatically. i don't see that happening on the civilian side, and even your
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resources, as we shift to other priorities, and as the national defense strategy moves near competition with russia and china to the forefront, use both of you with maybe not economy force operation, but a different priority. thank you, all, for the service, and our thanks to the men and women you lead. >> thank you, senator reed. >> thank you, mr. chairman and gentlemen, thank you for being here today. send me greetings to michelle as well. general, when i was in afghanistan months ago, i visited military and diplomatic leaders in kabul and kandahar, and it seems as though the taliban is now transitioning from an ideologically inspired group into a narco terror group
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using ideology as a vail, and as such, the department of defense is focused on destroying processing facilities and their yields opposed to just simply destroying the fields, and the state department is focused on enforcement in conjunction with the fbi and the dea. is this strategy different from those strategies that we used in the past, and if so, how are they different? >> 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 fuelling 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 start seeing immediate impact. that's exactly the attention here, and i do agree with you.
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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. >> so you think it's fair that we call them a narco terror group? >> i think they are absolutely that way, and they take on many of the characteristics of a mob-mafia 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. >> and as we fight and try to eradicate their funding streams, then, do you believe that we are adequately funded to achieve
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success? >> i do. i think we've got necessary resources right now to pursue the strategy laid out for us. >> okay. 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? >> well, i think the key strategy, the big idea here is to pforce the taliban to reaso reconciliation, focusing on military pressure, political pressure, working with partners like afghanistan and through social pressure, this, 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 iing towards.
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and ensuring that fair elections are addressing the leadership challenges they have, and they are doing these things right now, and i think this will help build confidence in the government of afghanistan for the people. >> i do appreciate that. i'm going to focus in a little bit more on the afghan special operations units. we had a lot of u.s. efforts in afghanistan building afghan air force and increasing the size of their afghan special operations units, and the creation of the afghan air force and doubling the size of their special ops units changed conditions on the ground as we see them today. >> 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
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been very, very good programs. in a sense, what we are focused on by doubling the afghan special operations forces, by building out the air force is really provide the government of afghanistan with a very good offensive capability that can really focus gaining control of the population in the areas we need to for the government to exert. we look at the special operations forces in the air force as really their kind of principle 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. >> 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.
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>> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you, both, for your service and for being here today. we had the opportunity last week to meet with two young women who had been kidnapped by boc boco haram. they had horrific stories to tell us about seeing family members murdered before their eyes. 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 shabaab girls, several hundred who, as most of us remember, were kidnapped several years ago, but this is happening to thousands of girls on a daily basis in nigeria.
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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 boca 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 boco haraam is doing? >> thank you, good to see you again. they are one of 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
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millions. they are notorious for the things that you talked about. with regards to the 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, and no group claimed responsibility based on location, based on open sources, we believe it's isis, west africa. that was, at one time, part of boca, but they split for several reasons. we've been asked to provide assistance to the government of nigeria to 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
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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. >> and when we pass the ndaa in 2017, that created a new authority under section 385 allowing the secretary of defense to transfer up to $75 million to u.s.-aid and foreign states for assistance programs. are these programs that would be helpful 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 dollars? >> so, thank you. the 385 program, as you said, is new this year. we worked our way through the wickets to see how to apply it
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and so on. we have two proposals. one has to do with defections inside niger where we want to work with the state department to follow through on our activities, they would compliment our activities. a second one put forward is in nigeria in the gulf basin, trying to get the people there to court in a legal perspective, and the state department can help us there as they run illegal drugs, weapons, and the like. we have two nominations in, and hopeful this is something to compliment our overall kinetic effort in the diplomacy part of the activities. >> i think if this committee can be helpful with that, i hope you let us know. general vottel, a few seconds left. what happened in syria when our forces engaged with russia regime forces, and it appeared that those were russian
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contractors? is this a new mechanism that russia's using to engage contractors to serve as mercenaries on the ground for them in. >> senator, thank you. i can't speculate on what russia's intentions might be, but in this particular situation, this was, in my view, a very 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 properly in this case. they immediately identified what was happening. they immediately got on met with the russians and were talking with them, and before, during, after the event, and very effectively brought together the capabilities to address this. i think our people responded
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extraordinarily well. >> i'm not criticized -- >> i don't know if this is a change in their piece, i would just -- how they approach this, i would tell you we remain extraordinarily vigilant to these types of threats, and we retain sufficient capabilities to protect ourselves and our partners on the ground against these types of activities. >> thank you, thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. senator graham. >> thank you, sir. general votel, is there any credible opposition to assad left in syria? >> senator, our message is to be -- >> the question is, are there credible opposition left inside syria? >> the only opposition i'm aware of are those out in the vicinity of damascus, the ghouta area, controlling terrain, posing a threat to the regime. >> who is winning in syria in
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the civil war? >> well, again, from the civil war standpoint, it would appear that the regime is assemble here. >> do you see any likelihood the forces you named can topple assad in the next year? >> that's not my assessment, senator. >> is iran helping assad? >> iran has been a key enabler of the regime for a while. >> is russia helping assad? >> they also are a key enabler of the regime. >> is it too strong a statement to say with russia and iran's help, assad won the civil war in syria? >> that is not too strong. they provided him the wherewithal at this point. >> still our policy that assad must go? >> i don't -- i don't know that that's our particular policy at this particular point. our focus remains on --
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>> if you don't know, i doubt if anybody knows because it's your job to take care of this part of the world. what does it mean if iran and russia and assad have won in syria, what's it mean to us and the region? >> means we will contend with this influence of iran in this particular area and with the influence -- >> what's it mean to israel? >> while certainly from an iranian stand point, it means that iran could be in a position where they could support lebanese hezbollah better and pose a great threat -- >> they're actually doing that as we speak, the iranians? >> certainly seen activities that would support that. >> what's it mean for jordan? >> it means that, again, there is unstable regimes to their north, and that poses threats to them as well. >> thank you for your clarity and honesty. it's not your mission in syria to deal with the
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iranian-assad-russia problem, not win your things to do? >> it's not, sir. >> do you think it should be? >> at this point, if that was the decision made by the coalition leadership here, the u.s.-led coalition leadership, we would pursue that. >> detainees, we rolled up about 400-something detainees in syria, syria democratic forces, have about 400-some people in their charge, is that correct? >> senator, i think you're referring to about 400 or so foreign terrorist fighters that they have. >> these are the people that did not die for the cause, but captured as we liberate areas, is that right? >> and as they attempted to escape the areas we're in right now. >> do we have a plan to obtain the people? >> we actually do have a plan to detain them on the ground, and we are working with our partners and the government here to work to get them back to their
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countries so they can be prosecuted -- >> they don't go back to the countries, do we have a credible plan to detain them inside of syria long term? >> we are working on improving the capacity of the syria democratic forces to do that right now. >> okay. africa, general, it's made up of how many countries? >> five or so, yes. >> of the five countries, how many characterized as failed states? >> i don't think there's a failed state there yet, but fragile states in the area. >> if trends continue, will they be failed states? >> it's possible. >> do we have a strategy to prevent that? >> strategy is to support the g5, we do that bilaterally. >> is it working? >> it's in the infancy stages. this program has just begun. it's something that you have 5,000 individuals covering a very large territory.
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>> so 5,000 people are covering five countries? >> that's correct. the border areas. >> not a military guy, but that sounds like enough. does it matter if this becomes a region of failed states to us, and if so, why? >> it does matter because the groups that are in that area, isis, jnim and the like, some of these have aspirations to conduct moves into europe and into our homeland. it's important we contain or degrade and work with our partners because if we had a failed state, and if these groups took over the failed state, you have a situation where it's just vast waste lands. >> is libya a failed state, fragile state, state on the mend? >> difficult to characterize libya, but i say fragile. the union representative has a plan to try to work through restructuring of the political committees, a constitution, and
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potentially a vote later this year. the bottom line is 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 warren. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you general votel, 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 refuelling, ammunitions to the saudis. as i understand it, fuelling operations are covered by a bilateral acquisition cross-services agreement. the united states has one with both saudi arabia and the uae. i read over the documents, but
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there's some things not covered i want to ask about. general votel, does centcom track the services they are refuelling? in other words, where a u.s. refueled aircraft is going, what targets it strikes, and results as a mission? >> senator, we do not. >> okay. reuters recently reported on a saudi coalition air strike in late february killing five civilian, wounding 14 including four children. according to witnesses interviewed by reuters, the coalition conducted two additional air strikes that hit paramedics trying to save civilians in the rubble. general votel, when you receive reports like this from credible media organizations or outside observers, are you able to tell whether u.s. fuel or u.s. ammunitions were used as part of
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that strike? >> senator, i don't believe we are. >> okay. so the reason i asked about this is humanitarian crisis. i co-sponsored the resolution that directs president trump to stop our involvement in saudi military operations in yemen unless congress provides specific authorization. the bill would allow our counterterrorism operations against al qaeda and its affiliates to continue, but it ensures the united states is not giving the saudis a blank check to bomb yemen and worsen the humanitarian crisis. i know that iran's sanctions against yemen are destabilizing. they are making the conflict worse, and that's unacceptable, but we need to be clear about this.
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saudi arabia is the one receiving american weapons and american support, that means we bear responsibility here, and that means that we need to hold our partners and our allies accountable for how those resources are used. one other question i'd like to turn to if i can, and that is earlier in year, secretary of state tillerson implied that u.s. troops would stay in syria inde indefinitely. in addition to our forces, hezboll hezbollah, russian forces, revolution guard corp., and new turkish troops are now operating on the ground, and we had several run-ins with the forces. with my remaining time i have just one question. general, how are we deconflicting between the various forces operating on the ground, and what is your strategy for deescalation if a
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confrontation occurs? >> senator, thank you for the question. first off, the principle way we disconflict is through direct communications. we have a direct communication line with the russian federation forces on the ground. this has, i 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 do think this has been a very effective way ensuring we can deconflict and prevent things from happening in the ground space and in the air space. we also have the same thing with our turkish partners to the north in areas where we are in close proximity, again, we have very good communications with them, we're able to deconflict, and we're able to ensure that people have good situational awareness and understand what we are doing, and with our partners on the ground, and these -- this direct communication really
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allows us to ensure that we can minimize the opportunities for escalation or miscalculation on the ground, and i think these are working very, very effectively. >> okay. so this is mostly about communications. you know, i just worry, general, because the situation in syria is extraordinarily dangerous, and i'm not sure that 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 holing assad accountable. i appreciate the work in this area, thank you very much, general. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator? >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, we begin we thanking you both to the service to the country as well as to your families as well for their sacrifice and your time away from home. i'd like to begin by talking a little about africom and,
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general, i'm curious, i had the opportunity to accompany senator inhoffe on a trip to africa, and he's now made over 150 different nation stops in africa over the last 20-plus years, and what i find interesting in each of the trips has been the amount of interest that those countries and those leaders in the countries have in 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 are not getting quieter, but more intense, you basically borrow from other operations in and around for the resources that you need. would you explain for us how africom actually receives the resources that it needs right now? >> thank you, senator. there's two ways.
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one is we are assigned forces. we don't have assigned forces, but allocated forces. for example, the marine corp. special force, mission has to do with protection of u.s. citizens and property on the continue innocent, we are allocated that organization. we have special operations -- >> how large is that force? >> that force is -- a company size unit, six mb 22s and six 130s. >> with a lot of ground to cover. >> entire continent. we use that or move it around to cover the entire continent. we have a force in djibouti which is tied to the protection of u.s. citizens and property. we have special operations command, a large part of what we do in terms of forces that come to do advise and assist. we also have episodic that come and train, for example, six
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weeks in nigeria. although we don't have assigned forces, we allocate forces and compete for those through a global force management process that they run on behalf of the secretary. >> is it time to look at standing up africom the same as the other commands are stood up? >> in that regard, i think we are the same. we have a co-com staff the same size relatively speaking. we're located in germany, but in terms -- and we have a great interagency partners with us as well as military force, but africom staff, per se, is one like the others. what you may be referring to is our components. so our components in some cases are dual-hatted. the air force is, europe, and africa. we need -- [ no audio ]
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we work with u-com and general votel and his team all the time. if we have operations in somalia that require more, we schedule and organize those around a period we can gain access, for example, so the continent of africa is extremely large, and it's virtually impossible to cover the whole thing all the time with other primaries around the globe for the united states. we have to be smart, innovative, and have good relationships with the fellow combat and commanders in order to make it work. >> are we placing the appropriate emphasis on africa? right now, there's hot spots. long term, this is a developing part of the world which seems to me other superpowers, other nations are putting a great deal of attention to, china in
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particular. are we doing the same? >> back to the original point, all the countries on the continent for the most part really want to be associated with the united states. they want our assistance, our leadership, but they don't really expect a lot. i mean, a little goes a long way, and i think in the countries you and senator inhoffe visited, you saw that. we have to remain engaged for a host of reasons i think you understand and a little goes a long way on a 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. >> i thank you both for the service to the country. thank you, mr. chairman. >> general, i do want to have a personal discussion with you in the next few days because i don't agree with you in the way in is set up. i was here when we established the africom, and there was a
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debate about dedicated assets at that time, and i'd like to go over clarification on the issue. senator peters. >> thank you for being here today, and for your service, i'd like it talk about nigeria and add to some of the questions that my colleague asked you about. i have the opportunity to travel to nigeria, part of the work on the committee last year, and i was very concerned about isis, west africa, which you mentioned is basically a splinter group, and at that time, it looked as if the situation was deteriorating. my question to you is, what is the status? where are we in relation to isis west africa? is the situation getting better? >> isis west africa is -- of the two groups, divided in half, boca haraam, west africa is of more concern to us. we see their -- they have ties
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to isis core. they have some funding from isis. they have indicated in the past their desire to go outside the region to conduct activities, attacks on u.s. interests in the area, if you will, they are certainly more of our concern to us at this particular time. >> are we applying adequate resources to deal the with issue? >> their strategy for isis west africa is with the lake chad basin region where we apply our assistance to the countries around there like cameroon, chad, and nigeria. we made capacity in our ability to share intelligence, assist in planning and training. >> you mentioned in your written testimony that the multinational task force in that area in the basin doesn't seem to be as interested in dealing with the situation, believe it's a nigeria-centric problem. i gather you don't agree. what can you do to convince them
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otherwise. based on the testimony today, sounds they want to operate across a broader region? >> well, they do. the countries that support the multinational joint task force, but in foes camost cases, these countries have significant other challenges, whether it be nigeria, itself, in the coastal area or the central area. whether it's a country like chad, for example, with concerns about the border with libya. niger has issues throughout the country. the ability to have large military forces that can do all of these things is difficult for these countries, so sometimes, if it appears that let's say over a period of months the trend line has been in a negative way, if you will, on how they have been acting, these countries may decide to move their access to other places because their interests in their security concerns, boca haraam, for example, is not at the top of the list based on internal issues going on within the countries. >> you mentioned chad, a very dangerous part of the world, the
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region we are focussed on, it's always been my understanding in briefings i had related to some of the operations, that chad is capable and productive partner for u.s. operations, is that accurate? >> that's accurate, but their main concern, i think, at the moment would be the issue of foreign fighters coming from libya into their northern area. >> so having a relationship with them is important, that could impact the united states? i know that yesterday, secretary tillerson, former secretary tillerson, indicated that the united states is considering removing chad from the travel ban. now, i have been concerned about some of the rhetoric we've seen from the president in relation to muslims and african nations including using disparaging language in reference to african nations. i think that can damage, certainly, our standing and working in that part of the
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world. i'd like your thoughts as to any impact on the relations we've had with chad as a result of them being included in the travel ban, and how important are our partnership with countries like chad and others in dealing with what could be very serious issues rising out of the african continent. >> senator, we continue to work with all the countries, chad included, showing commitment and demonstrate desire to help them build capacity. one example i give to chad is a small example, very simple, but demonstrates africom's commitment. a few months ago, there was a huge storm in chad, and various aircraft hangers, and they have a very, very small air force, few aircraft hangers were destroyed, and they have no way to repair them. we were able to gather some funds and quickly send a team down there and erect several shelters that would replace these hangers that had been destroyed in the storm. that's a small way to demonstrate our commitment and africom's commitment to the
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country to show we certainly are behind them and have a desire for their capacity to build. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. good morning to you, thank you for being here this morning. the national defense strategy describes the greatest threat to security is the reemergence of long term strategic competition by revisionist powers like russia and china, two countries we see more and more activity in the continent of africa. china opened a new naval base near djibouti, and russia courts leadership on both sides of the conflict in libya and announced major investments in zimbabwe. these efforts are self-interested as these countries are doing very little to counter the myriad of terrorist threats across the region. groups such as boca and isis
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west africa and al shabaab operate freely. what's your assessment of the chinese and russian activities in africa, first question, and second, as we shift our national defense strategy to the two revisionists, how are we working to make sure that the terrorist activities in africa do not find their way into our country? >> thank you, senator. first part, talk about russia rather briefly. first of all, russia's interest in the continent has to do with intelligence exchanges with various countries, with arm sales, and energy partnerships. you mentioned zimbabwe. there's a platinum mine there they had activities in. they have a $4 billion investment there, and they are also interested in arms sales because there's not been arm sales from the west since about mid-2000s, so they are trying to, you know, open those markets any way they can to show the u.s., perhaps, is not a good partner for someone that is not willing to work with them. my personal concern with the
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russians is what they are trying to do in the northern part of the country from egypt to libya algeria, that part of northern africa on the mediterranean, on the southern part of nato. they have interests there, and as you said, in libya, they are playing one hand, talk about supporting the u.n. agreement, but on the other hand, the support they provide for the hor forces is something that needs to be addressed. with regards to china, they obviously have a lot of investments. they are interested in the one belt, one road. that gives them the ability to diversify economically, imports and exports, and that's been very well-documented. they obviously have a big part in this too, but there's areas to work with china. i mean, we have unique situation where their base in djibouti is a mile from ours. if there's issues with peace keeping, safekeeping, airlines,
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air flight, ground forces there, we have to find a way to commune kate that with them, and so on the one hand, we are certainly aware of the great power competition, but it's a unique situation where they are a neighbor of us in djibouti. with regards to the future and what the national defense strategy says, really, if you look at what africa is described in there, we are told to conduct a strategy and develop relationships and work with the partner forces to continue the veo struggle there, so even though a lot of it is china-russia-iran-north korea, the part on africa basically tells us to continue what we have been doing to include building partnerships capacity that feed terrorist organizations. >> regime, do you see the chinese proximity to our base as opportunity for partnership as well as chinese being a competitor? >> it is. that's the unique part. it's the only place on the planet where there's a china
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overseas base. it's next to ours. so not only do you have china and u.s. in djibouti, there's japan, the french and italians located there as well. the chinese have worked closely with the french in terms of some of the exercise they do there. this is a small level of operations, but, again, i think that that's the unique situation is, what we do with china obviously has to be informed by the overall global strategyings b -- strategy, but the unique part is with them next door, we have to find a way to work with them as well. >> thank you. general votel, a few seconds left, 30 seconds, opposed to naming the conflicts and the extraordinary complexity in your region, i'll just ask a question. as you consider the strategic environment in the middle east and competing interest among allies such as turkey, would you provide your assessment of
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russian, turkish, and iranian goals in the middle east and are the ghouls mutually supporting the overall complex? >> turkey is a nato ally, our relationship is deeply valued, a key partner in the fight against isis here for a long period of time. we do recognize they had some -- they do have legitimate concerns with security along their border from terrorism, and, of course, this has led to a tension between us at this particular point we are working through, largely dipmatically as well as militarily at this particular point. i guess what i would highlight is what i mentioned in the opening remarks, and that is russia does play a role here, and, again, it's cute to say arsonists and firemen is what they try to do. they try to instigate tension among partners in the region, and then they try to play a role in trying to be an arbiter in
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that. so this is what happens. this is what plays out on a regular basis, and so we really do have to take a look in 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 r russia plays in northern syria and how it impacts all of our relationships, and, especially, the relationship between us and turkey. >> thank you, general. i'll submit questions too relating to turkey. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> general votel, following up on the questions senator warren asked about yemen. what would be the implications and impact if the united states stopped providing the refuelling, the intelligence, and the advice to the saudi forces? >> senator, i think right now, that -- the provision of those things that you just covered right now gives us placement. it gives us access, and it gives
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us influence with 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 earlier that we don't -- when we refuel a saudi plane, we don't have control over the mission and what it does next, but if the argument is this allows us to maintain control, are we maintaining a level of control? >> the influence we derive with them is by working with them to demonstrate how we do our targeting process. >> do they listen? >> they absolutely do. >> based upon our input? >> they absolutely do, and the work 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 if terms of how we stand up architectures to invest gait civilian casualties,
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even as good as we are. >> the principle argument against this move to limit or cut off that aide is if we do, the saudi conduct could be worse? >> it is better -- senator, from my perspective, it is better to stay engaged in them and continue to influence them. they want this support, and they want to improve their capability. >> for us, but what about the people of yemen? >> absolutely essential we stay engaged for them, and this gives us the best opportunity to address these concerns. >> thank you. turning to iran. i understand iran is -- all the testimony is iran is avoiding by the jcpoa in terms of inspections and what they are doing. what would be the implications for the region if the united states abruptly terminated the agreement, then what would iran do? >> senator, i can't speculate on what iran would do. you know, the implications for the region, you know, would, i
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think, there would be -- there would be some concern, i think, 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 where we can. >> if the agreement was terminated, couldn't iran pursue a nuclear weapon within months? >> theoretically, they would be able to do that. >> that certainly wouldn't -- if the iranians have a nuclear weapon, we have two rogue states with nuclear weapons on their hands rather than one. the other being north korea. >> right. this could certainly be the case, again, we speculate that would be the direction. >> do you think it's in the national security interest of the country to maintain the iran agreement for the near term? >> i share the secretary of defense and chairman's comments on this that right now, i think it is in our interest. >> and there may be a different
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point of view in four, five years when it's near the end of its term, is that correct? >> that could be true. >> 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 and i have not even mentioned syria. is pakistan still supporting terrorist activity in afghanistan, and has the recent get tough with pakistan policy influenced their behavior? >> it has. the pressure put on pakistan, i think, through our asia strategy and public communications, i think, has helped gain their attention, and as i mentioned previously, we have seen some positive indicators as a result of this. i cannot tell you that we've seen precisive changes in the areas where we are working, but i remain well-engaged with my partner to ensure we are moving
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forward on this. >> there appears to be a surge of attacks in afghanistan. you don't associate those with pakistan? >> well, again, the -- 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 attacks to where that is. we also have isis that does have a different approach as well. >> final question, should we be even tougher with pakistan and ratchet up pressure because they provide sanctuaries, unclear whose side they are on in the region. >> senator, right now, 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, and our mutual objectives here, so i do think we are pursuing this in the
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right way, and i think some of the positive indicator that is we have begun to see, although it's not led to decisive changes yet, are things that we have to pay attention to moving forward. >> thank you, thank you, gentlemen. senator sullivan. >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, good to see you. thanks for your service. i just want to ask a very basic question. i know there's an answer to it i'm not sure i'm missing, but why is africom not located in africa? >> well, as you know, this is the tenth year the africom as stood up, and there's been several attempts to perhaps move it to the continent -- >> what's the roadblock? they don't want us there or congress not helping you, or what -- always seems disjointed that it's in germany. >> the roadblocks are first of all, there's a financial aspect of this, the cost to do that, and the second and third order effects is if you move to
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country in africa, what's it mean to surrounding countries and partners? they could view that as skeptical. just to restate it, ten years ago when the command was stood up and senator inhoffe as to wh was to a military command for that particular area. so it serves us every once in a while but to my knowledge, the reason is perceived colonialism and that was on your side when we set this up ten years ago and i lost that battle. >> well, maybe we should relook at that. it seems to me -- anyway, it's 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 remarkable what you've achieved over the last year. i don't think the press has done
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an adequate job of highlighting that but it's quite commendable. so we're going to have troops remaining in syria. there seems to be a disconnect to -- regarding what that mission is. obviously we don't want isis to return so that's god to be a key component but in your testimony there's a lot of focus on iran. they're in syria or their proxies and former -- i guess 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
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countering the iranian threat. so i'm getting nervous when we have troops on the of complicate region where it's not 100% clear what the mission of our troops ar are. i don't think anyone wants us to get back to the situation like we had in the marines in lebanon three or four decades ago where their mission was quote/unquote presence and 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 countering the iranian threat which is probably the biggest threat that we have there, isn't it? >> senator our mission is syria is strictly focused on defeating isis. >> what's the biggest threat in syria right now? >> well, the biggest threat in
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syria is all the other instability that is taking place that is preventing the country from moving forward. so we still have isis that we are dressing. 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 iraqi security forces put us in a position where we can have influence and do things that are in the interest of their countries as opposed to other parties in the area we know in
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the 2004, 2005, 2006 time frame that the iranians were supplying iraqi shi'a militias some of the most sophisticated deadly ieds on the battlefield that ended up killing and maiming thousands of american troops. the iraniansed that blood of american soldiers on their hand. they deny it but it's a fact we know now. i want to make sure in terms of our rules of engagement, if there's any threat posed by any iranian or iranian-backed proxies, do our troops have the full authority to respond to defend themselves and kill these threats given that they have a history of killing our troops?
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do they have that rule of engagement authority? >> they do. we've demonstrated that recently. as you'll recall last year we did have pro-regime forces supported by iranian shi'a groups that attempted to encroach on us and we used the full capabilities within our arsenal to protect ourselves so i think our people clearly understand this and they have the authorities that i need to protect themselves. >> thank you. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman, thank you both for your service, in particular very difficult areas of the world and parts of the world that are very important over the united states. general votel, talking about america's mission in syria that
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was just the subject of senate or sullivan's questioning, isn't one of our missions or one of our responsibilities in syria to prevent war crimes? >> certainly. it's our -- within -- certainly within the forces that we work with certainly. >> and war crimes are occurring in syria with the support and apparent encouragement of russia, correct? >> i think if you look at some of the activities that take place in the damascus area, i think we would certainly think that is the case. >> u.n. investigators linked russia.
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my question is what can and are we doing to deter russia from engaging. >> senator, as you know, we don't operate in that particular part of syria militarily but certainly through diplomatic channels, through the ambassador in the u.n., russia has been frankly one of the authors of the recent cease-fire, so their inability to enforce it, enforce standards on this means either one of two things. one, they lack the ability to do that or they're choosing not to do that. so i think one of the things we have to do is hold them accountable for the actions they're taking here and for the humanitarian disaster that they are perpetuating through their support to the regime and through their own activities. >> what would you recommend to hold them accountable?
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>> well, i think certainly the best way of doing this is through political and diplomatic channels and certainly if there are other things that are considered, we will do what we're told. i don't recommend that at this particular point, but holding them accountable to things they agreed to, particularly through offices of the united nations or others here i think is a very important way of approaching this. >> so far they have not been responding to whatever political or diplomatic steps have been taken, correct? >> it does not appear that they are, senator. >> so in order to have some effect, the intensity of whatever we're doing diplomatically and politically has to be heightened, or there need to be some kind of military responses to protect people in that area from the war crimes
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that are being perpetrated. >> certainly needs to be addressed. >> in terms of diplomacy, 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 effectively using diplomacy? >> senator, i can't comment on the broader aspects of the department of state. that's more appropriate for them. what i can comment on is in the 18 country teams we work with of 20 countries in the region, we don't have a country team for iranian or syria, we have extraordinary good relationships, the relationships that we have with them are very
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good. we get good advice, have good cooperation with them on our day to day activities, so i think our relationships certainly from a military standpoint remain very strong with our diplomatic partners across the region. >> so six out of 18 ambassadorships are vacant? >> 6 out of 18 that have country teams are being led by shar jays at this point. >> doesn't that reflect absence of leadership in department of state? >> i think that's probably more appropriate question for them than for me, senator. >> thank you, general. thanks for your very helpful and forthright answers. thank you. >> thank you. senator cotton. >> thank you, gentlemen. i want to add my voice to senator blumenthal and concerns about what's happening in syria. in the grocery store at home friday in rough and tough retired marine came up to me, wearing a usmc hat, i would probably have been able to figure it out without the hat.
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he introduced himself, wanted to ask me a question. often in settings, the question might be about the va, what they're doing for vets. the question is what are we going to do about syria. how can anybody stand by and watch what's happening to the children in syria. i thought it was a touching moment and indicative how much normal americans pay attention to the humanitarian crisis and the disaster syria has been for seven years. for now, want to turn my attention south to another civil war. general votel in yemen, when this started three years ago, much of the fighting was confined in mountainous terrain of yemen. now long range missiles are being fired at king calid airport. seems like a dangerous escalation in fighting there, does it not? >> i would absolutely agree. >> where are rebels getting long
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range missiles to range the airport in riyadh? >> getting them from iranian. >> that's not neighborly of iran with its neighbor saudi arabia. how are they getting missiles into yemen? >> senator, i think iran has i think a very sophisticated network of doing this. they can certainly move in by components or by air by maritime or routes to get stuff in there, re-assemble it, provide it to them. >> do missiles range to united arab emirates? >> some of this might be discussion best handled in classified setting, but certainly we've seen as you pointed out here, we have seen threats that have gone as far as the international airport outside riyadh. >> if you were a saudi leader, you wouldn't be happy about missiles being around the citizens? >> i agree. it is a dangerous threat to them
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and us. we have 100,000 u.s. citizens that live and work in suaudi arabia. >> and more than one naval ships. >> yes. >> could you tell us about the nature of intelligence and military support we're providing to the coalition fighting in yemen? >> certainly. we are not parties to the civil war as you know, senator. our principal focus in yemen has been on counter terrorism front against al qaeda and now against isis there, but we are authorized to help the saudis defend their border so we have done that. we are doing that through intelligence sharing, through logistic support and military advice that we provided them. we are principally focused on the ballistic missile threat and maritime threat that plays out in the red sea to the west of
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yemen. >> fair to characterize that as primarily defensive operation in nature? >> it is principally defensive. designed to again protect saudi arabia. >> thank you. general waldhauser, there's been open source reporting about china's construction of african union headquarters in 2012, that open source reporting states china installed microphone in walls and under desks, copied data from servers each night. swept headquarters to remove listening devices, this kind of public disclosure of blatant chinese espionage you would think would cause many nations, especially those victimized to think twice about accepting such chinese generosity, if you will. have you seen any kind of growing reluctance by the au or african nations to cooperate with china or accept that kind of aid given the espionage
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against the au headquarters? >> i haven't seen reluctance on part of african countries to refuse any type of aid. i think the chinese assistance with infrastructure building and the like is something that is welcome there, but then agreements they make, arrangements they make need to be scrutinized. i would say however to that point with our base and the chinese base next door, what you describe is a big concern to us. we have to make sure our operational security is such that we can operate freely there, because it is not just africom that uses gentlemit. we need the ability to operate freely there. >> i agree. thank you for your service and appearance today. >> thank you. senator kaine. >> thank you to witnesses for the testimony. general votel, we had a good session about ucomm. he mentioned you spent time
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talking about syria and turkey. i want to focus on curds in northern syria. they have been sue push fighting partners of the united states or maybe the reverse, trying to drive isis back. they've helped us and we helped them significantly, but the kurdish relationship has been a tough spot with nato ally, turkey. now that we have through the great work of your team and our coalition partners made baffled success against isis. what do you see as next steps forward in the relationship with the kurds to allay turkey's concerns and provides us support we need. >> thank you, senator. as you know, there are on-going diplomatic discussions with turkey led by department of state. i won't comment on those. they certainly have our support with that to work through that.
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our intention with turkey and we do again recognize their concerns. certainly kept that in the forefront of our mind, has been to be as transparent and clear on things we're doing. half and half, europe and kurd. they have proven to be very effective against isis, so as we move into especially in the liberated areas and areas we're not consolidating gains, we're trying to move into more into stability phase here so we can root out the remainder of isis and allow people to come into, back into villages and homes. we have to continue to work closely with turkey and with the coalition and certainly with state department partners here to work through this.
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as you point out, it is an extraordinarily complex situation, demographics of the area are all over the place frankly in this. this is going to take a lot of very close work on the ground. i think important piece to get in place is make sure we have good communication and back and forth, mechanism to reduce tensions, and to pass information and prevent situations from escalating into conflict. that will make it extraordinarily difficult to resolve if we are instigating conflict among ourselves. >> let me follow-up focusing on syria a minute, if you'll forgive me, i am going to read a statement out of marine corps strategy publication to an army general. what matters ultimately more strategic success, attainment of political aims and protection of national interests. history shows national leaders political and military who fail to understand this relationship
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sew seeds for ultimate failure, even when armed forces achieve initial battlefield success. i am very puzzled about the strategy now in syria. we asked the administration to come up in classified session and talk strategy. the battlefield success of the u.s. plus partners against isis has been notable. very, very notable. but we read just an open source newspaper articles, we need to stay in syria to not let isis come back. we need to stay in syria to check iran. we did a missile strike against syrian forces after syrian forces pushed in against opposition, came in with missile strike against them. we're seeing activity but not really yet in congress read into a strategy. i don't know that this is really the place for a discussion of that. it might be better to do it in
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closed session. some of us have been asking the administration to read us into the full strategy. is it just about keeping isis from recurring? is it to check iran's presence in syria? is it to actively push against the syrian military as we did with initial strikes last april and recent missile strike that occurred last month. we're real puzzled about it. anything you want to say in open? >> senator, i think our mission as you know has been strictly focused on isis, so the coalition has been focused on addressing this common threat that virtually everybody agrees has to be dealt with. that's what we have been doing with this. by pursuing consolidation operations, by stabilizing areas in which we're operating, what we are hoping to do is create a platform upon which the international community can move forward under geneva process and begin to also address the broader, underlying issues that
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are very apparent across syria. and that cannot be resolved through fighting but have to be resolved through talking and diplomatic means under the united nations. the focus on addressing the common threat that everybody, everybody agrees is bad is really i think one of the preliminary steps that has to take place. certainly continuing to keep them from rising, continuing to allow people back, reducing the refugee problem hopefully creates an environment that the international community can step forward into with leadership of the united states and others here to actually pursue diplomatic solution to the problems through the united nations. >> thank you. >> senator purdue. >> thank you for decades of service. i would like to echo earlier
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comments general votel for message sent to troops for outstanding success we've had in the last year, goes without notice many days. i want you to know on record, those of us that pay attention, we're very, very grateful for that. i have a question, general waldhauser, before i get to the other question, recently four serviceman were killed . when do you expect the investigation to be completed? >> senator, thank you very much. as you well know, the investigating officer did an exhaustive assessment, visited all these countries, 150 witnesses and the like. and he gave the investigation to me at the end of january. i reviewed it for about three weeks, turned it over to chairman dunford for secretary mattis. he has it now and will review it. as soon as he is done with his
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review, the families will be briefed. that's been our commitment all along. we want to continue to do that. as soon as the family has been briefed, we will come to committee and brief you, myself, and representative from osd, we will answer all your questions at that time. >> thank you. thank you for that investigation. i would like you both to address the nds briefly in. aor. the recent nds prioritized great power competition with china russia as primary effort of dod, and resource sustainable approach to counterterrorism. general votel, what does it mean. parallel to that, we are in competition for influence there. china, one belt one road issue and all the money they are putting behind it and pakistan, what does that change mean to your mission in aor, are you resourced to accomplish it? >> thanks, senator. i know as we look at great power
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competition, for example, we look at russia, it is not just a european problem, it is a global problem. they have influence globally. they're certainly acting out in the area of responsibility that i have. so i think the first thing that national defense strategy that is being written will recognize that aspect. we have to be prepared to address the threats not just in areas they reside but areas they have influence. under general dunford's leadership, we have developed between all combat ant, processes. what it means in the region as we look to potentially shift to other areas with national
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defense strategies, it will put a premium on the by with and through approach. having strong relationships with people we've always had relationships with, but also fostering new relationships. >> but excuse me, general, this does not send a message to the taliban we're not open for business in afghanistan, does it? >> absolutely not. absolutely not. we remain dedicated on this. we are focused on sustaining relationships, working with partners, on becoming more inter dependent with them, more mutually supporting with them among ourselves. that's what it means for me. i'm looking forward in a couple of weeks to meeting with a number of chiefs of defense across the region to talk specifically about what the national defense strategy means and how we're going to approach it in the centcom region. >> general, you talked in the committee hearing about china's effort in africa but i would like you to address the nds shift and what it means in your aor specifically. >> one of the thing that shift
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has done is put a spotlight on china's activities on the continent which has been on-going quite some time. now with this strategy and with this notoriety, it gives opportunity for us to have a discussion and bring to awareness what the chinese are doing and how it impacts us. interestingly, on our future there, we're told in the nds to continue by with and through approach, told to work with partners, build capacity, and continue the fight against counterterrorism forces, so in essence the strategy frames the overall global posture. it frames for us priorization, and tells us to continue to build capacity on the continents so africans can take care of problems themselves, continue to degrade and disrupt the veo fight so those problems stay localized and don't get out of the region or certainly to europe or our continent.
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>> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. for both of you, i believe some of my colleagues already asked you about the hollowing out of state department when we need to maintain that capacity. i wanted to ask you, would you acknowledge proposed 25% cut in state department and 12.5% cut to usaid funding from 2017 would not be helpful to your mission, either of your missions. >> senator, we look at it as a team sport. we are dependent on intergovernmental partners. continuing support for their activities is essential to things we do. >> well, i would think 25% cut to state department would make it a lot harder for you to work with your partners.
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i think it goes without saying. you have to be tactful in your responses. let me get to some other questions. general votel, the president's south asia strategy was announced seven months ago. new permissions granted in the strategy for afghanistan means the campaign is on the path to win. if the department of defense inspector general estimates afghan government is in control of only 18% of districts in the country and we are now in 17th year of conflict in afghanistan, and director of national intelligence stated conditions this year are likely to deteriorate, so in your view what exactly does winning mean in afghanistan at this point, and can the addition of troops, even much heralded security force assistance brigade make enough difference to reach the level of winning?
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>> senator, i think we're on the right approach. i would highlight that government of afghanistan controls 64% of the population, and is able to protect 64% of the population. our strategy is really this year using additional authorities, additional resources that we have moved within centcom and those coming from within the department to ensure we are in a position to break the stalemate, seize the initiative, to expand that population control, and to ensure that we have in this year provided the right security environment to support upcoming parliamentary elections. i think we're on the right track with this. >> 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. at that time we were told that we were on the right track.
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here we are 17 years later. remains to be seen. i want to get to what's going on in yemen. the united nations 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 the challenge of the crisis and threat of iran's proxy war in yemen growing into regional crisis. do you see a realistic path to hostilities in yemen concluding? how long do you expect hostilities to go on. are there ways to deal with the humanitarian crisis immediately before full cessation of hostilities? >> senator, to answer the question directly, i think there are diplomats and other international parties under the u.n. trying to pursue diplomatic solution to this and get to some kind of peace process. that's been difficult to do at this point. i guess what i would highlight first off is that what is
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happening in yemen, there is certainly a humanitarian disaster taking place, also a security disaster taking place and a political disaster taking place, and the people that are responsible for this are the hoout ees. they're the central nexus to all of this, enabled by iran. they're refusing to cooperate in the political process. they're impeding humanitarian efforts that are being undertaken by saudi arabia and others. they are perpetuating the pli situation. which threatens to widen the conflict. it is important to recognize at the heart of the problems, humanitarian, security and political, are the hoout ees. enabled by iran.
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we are not parties to the conflict. what we can do is we can help them, advise, share lessons learned. during my last visit to saudi arabia, one of the things i had opportunity to do was talk with them about how they're helping with the humanitarian aid or humanitarian disaster situation. what i would share with you what i learned, they have a much more aggressive program in this area than even i realize. they're not only going into the port, they're exposing other ports, brigade to airpornging a parts of the country, using their own ground routes across
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the border to do this. in many ways, they're pushing a lot of effort. it is not perfect. the situation is extraordinarily challenging here but they recognize this. and i do believe they're trying to take efforts to support this wherever they can with their coalition partners. >> still don't know what the u.s. role is there. don't know what the saudis are doing. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i am deeply troubled by an incident that happened june 9th, 2014 in which five american troops and afghan soldier were killed by our own aircraft. this friendly fire incident was explored in a "60 minutes" segment in november, highlighted deeply concerning elements of the event, including assignment of someone kicked out of a special ops unit for poor
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performance and assigned to green berets, and lack of assignment on the ground about what they could see. are you familiar with the incident, what can you tell me about how something like this can actually happen. >> senator, i am familiar with the incident, although i will tell you i don't recall all of the specific details of it right here today. what i can tell you is in all of these instances, and i know this from my own experience, we do exhaustive reviews and exhaustive investigations to determine the cause of what happens, if people are to be held accountable, they're held accountable and we make efforts to apply lessons learned to limit this. the unfortunate aspect of this business is that our people are operating often times 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
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right training, the right capabilities. >> do you think those are appropriate for air support? >> b-1s have been effective in those roles. >> do you have the capacity to see the lights on the helmets of the troops? >> i believe they do. >> were any changes made as a result of this incident? >> senator, again, i would take that question for the record and we'll go back and look and i'll provide more thorough response to the actions. >> infrared strobes. i asked the pentagon for this. i haven't received it. can i have your commitment you will help me get this information? >> you have my commitment, senator. >> in early february, israel intercepted an iranian drone in air space resulting in israelis
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response, described as the center where they launched the drone. israeli fighter jet involved in the offensive was downed by syrian anti-aircraft fire which prompted the israeli military to respond against 8 targets, including three defense batteries, described as part of the entrenchment in syria. what's your assessment of iran's actions in syria and is it entrenched in the country? >> i am extraordinarily concerned about their role. they're trying to perfect ppetu influence, continue to support hezbollah, and use that relationship to threaten iran or threaten israel. so i am extraordinarily concerned about that. >> do you feel this incident reflected a change in the iranian rules of engagement in syria? >> i can't speak for what the
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iranian rules of engagement are. certainly it was brazen and foolhardy to do this, given capabilities that israel has. >> general, i went to africa a few years ago to assess where we were with regard to growth of terrorism. 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 previous answers today but front page of "new york times" yesterday, a story more than 650,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished, and that famine causes 12 million to rely on food aid. combine that with effects of
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global climate change specifically on ability of many countries within africa to grow their own food and provide for food, it is creating crime, creating more terrorism. and you add to that what's happening with the boko haram efforts to steal children to have trafficking of females and 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 posture in areas of your operation? >> senator, some of the numbers you stated are certainly overwhelming, and comes to the african continent, unfortunately those numbers are sometimes the order of the day. last year, for example, inside somalia, over 6 million food insecure. this year 5 million people, and that's just in that region. from climate perspective, we
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have seen the grasslands recede, become desert a mile a year in the last decade or so. this has significant impact on herders who have to fight if you will for grass land, water holes and the like. these environmental challenges put pressure on these different organizations, some are veo, some criminal, puts pressure on them for their own livelihood. areas like northern mali, isis west africa, northern part of niger, these are areas of concern. this is why we are working closely with the countries there so they can maintain security, they can keep, at a minimum, keep challenges inside those boundaries, but there are significant challenges and numbers sometimes in africa can overwhelm you. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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we don't have any more members. hopefully won't have any more members. let me for clarification. first of all, i didn't want to be discourteous in that one interruption i had, of course, but i think it is 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 ten years ago, the continent of africa was divided into three commands. it completely surrounds africa. when we decided to have africom, still under its construction, we had allocated and assigned troops. but only allocated troops in africom. that's the difference.
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i still would think that should be open to discussion. we have seen things, lra, had problems, had to bring in troops from other places. it is my intention to try to draw, and i'm sure senator 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. do you have any comment to make on that? >> to a large degree, we're saying the same thing. the technicality for those not doing this on a daily basis may not seem a big deal, allocated is something you may be able to count on but may not be. >> i'm sure that's what he's getting to. i think we're in agreement on that. any other thoughts? we are adjourned.
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if you want to watch this will meeting again, we have it tonight at 8:00 eastern on cspan2. today at 2:30 eastern, education secretary betsy devos will address school safety and gun violence at the pta legislative conference in virginia. see that on cspan. also at 2:30 eastern, former british prime minister david cameron will testify before the senate foreign relations committee on global security and what can be done to support and assist developing countries in areas of conflict. that's at 2:30 eastern. and at 5:00 p.m., president trump will deliver remarks at marine corps station miramar in
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california on his first trip to the state since elected. see those events live here on cspan 3. this morning, president trump announced rex tillerson is out as secretary of state. he nominated the cia director mike pompeo to replace secretary tillerson. he picked jean a haskell to be next director of the cia. the first woman to lead that agency. he made the announcement in a tweet. both appointments require senate approval. sunday on cspan q and a. colorado college professor talks about the idea of america. >> i think reading of major american political classics is very nobling and empowering, this country stands for
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something very special and great writers like stow and harper lee and these people are reminding, story tellers are saying our tribe wants to be something special, not just a city on a hill, but a city that carries and loves one another and is willing to work with one another and understand that politics is indispensable to bringing about progress for as much people as possible. >> q and a, sunday night at 8:00 eastern on cspan. now to a discussion with national security experts on current military readiness and jihadist terrorism. this discussion is about two


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