House Armed Services Committee Hearing Transcript — Dec. 1, 2015

Mr. Moulton: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And, gentlemen, I want to thank you for your service, your patriotism, and your wisdom, and appreciate all that you do for us in our national defense. I particularly feel confident to have a leader of marines at the helm with the new Chairman.

As a recent Iraq veteran, I am concerned about the fact that 5 years after we left we now have go to back, and in my new role on this committee I want to make sure that we get it right this time and after we do militarily defeat ISIS we don’t find ourself putting troops back into Iraq again for a third or fourth time.

So, Mr. Secretary, can you just tell us, what is the mission statement right now for the operation in Iraq?

Secretary Carter: Well, Congressman Moulton, you are getting to the heart of our strategy, and this is not only the part that is essential, but also the part that makes it difficult to achieve, and that is that we want a victory over ISIL that sticks. And that means forces that participate in the recapture of territory and thereafter govern it in a decent manner so that we don’t have a new wave of ISIL or ISIL coming back.

That is necessary in both Iraq and Syria. Those are two different cases. But that is why we pursue multisectarian governance, decentralized multisectarian governance in the State of Iraq and why we are trying to find a political solution to the Syrian civil war, because while it is important to defeat ISIL, it is important to defeat them in a lasting way. And that is a critical part of the strategy and the reason why we are so intent upon identifying and enabling capable and motivated local forces.

Mr. Moulton: Chairman Dunford, can you just answer that question? What is General McFarland’s mission statement?

General Dunford: To disrupt, to degrade, and to defeat ISIL.

Mr. Moulton: And so my concern is that we haven’t seen enough integration of the political side here, that we don’t have a political plan that really underlies what our military mission is. And we have heard that from ‑‑ the need for that from General Petraeus, General McChrystal, Ambassador Crocker, people on the left and the right who have testified before the committee and written about this problem in the press.

Can you speak a bit to that coordination, that planning, and your confidence that General McFarland and others on the ground can see a political end state that will stick and make all their military efforts worthwhile?

General Dunford: Yeah, congressman, it is a great question. And, frankly, what you said a minute ago about not wanting to go back in 5 years is something that we all feel strongly about, which is why right now, as difficult as it would be, I do support the objective of a multisectarian unified Baghdad, because I see that as the best prospect for a stable, secure Iraq that would not be a sanctuary for violent extremism in the future. So as difficult as it is, I think that is a fair objective.

Clearly, there are many difficulties in pursuing that, not the least of which is the Iranian influence. But General McFarland is working very closely with Ambassador Jones ‑‑ you have probably been over to visit them ‑‑ to enable the Abadi government to stand up on its own, to provide the kind of support it needs to be independent, independent of influence from outside actors, particularly the malign influence of Iran.

So the overall objective to me is clear, but the path to getting there is difficult at best. But, again, I don’t personally have a better idea than to enable the current Government of Iraq to be successful, to provide the kind of stability and security within which we won’t see organizations like ISIL. And if at any point in the future, Congressman, I believe that that assumption that we can get there no longer obtains, then I would recommend a completely different campaign plan to get after ISIL inside of Iraq.

Mr. Moulton: Are you receiving the support and involvement of the State Department necessary to achieve those political ends?

General Dunford: I believe we are. In fact, since I have been in the job now we have had two separate meetings with Department of Defense leadership and Secretary Kerry, and we meet about every 3 or 4 weeks on specific issues in the campaign.

I think it is fair to say that there was a recognition, Secretary Carter and Secretary Kerry recognized that we weren’t as integrated across the government as we should be. And so about 2 months ago we began to meet on a periodic basis to attack specific issues. So far, the oil issue is actually an outcome of the first meeting that we had, and the most recent meeting was on foreign fighters, because that clearly requires a whole of government.

But, again, I would tell you, am I satisfied with the level of integration? No. We are working on that. Am I satisfied that it is going to be easy to get after the desired political end state in Iraq? No, I don’t think so. I think it is going to be a hard slog. But the cardinal direction to me is clear.

Mr. Moulton: General, I just have a couple seconds left. If we had retained that level of integration after 2009, would we be in the mess we are today in Iraq?

General Dunford: It is fair to say that conditions would be much different.

Mr. Moulton: Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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