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MARCH 16, 2023
GENERAL MICHAEL KURILLA (USA), COMMANDER, UNITED STATES CENTRAL
GENERAL MICHAEL LANGLEY (USMC), COMMANDER, UNITED STATES AFRICA
REED: Let me call the hearing to order. Good morning. And the committee meets today to receive testimony from General Michael Eric Kurilla, commander of the United States Central Command, and General Michael Langley, commander of United States Africa Command.
Thank you both for your service, and I'm grateful to the men and women serving under your commands.
While CENTCOM has many responsibilities, the top priority remains deterring the Iranian regime's destructive and destabilizing activities without undue provocation. This is a complicated and urgent mission. Iran is conducting malign activities across multiple arenas, including continuing its own nuclear development, launching drone and missile attacks on neighboring states, supporting proxy groups, violently repressing its own citizens and deepening a military alliance with Russia. And these threats are likely to increase.
In an unexpected turn, last week Saudi Arabia and Iran announced they have restored diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by China. Press reports indicate the key parts of the agreement (ph) were a commitment by Iran to stop further attacks on Saudi Arabia and cut back on support for Iranian-linked groups that have targeted the Kingdom.
The two nations plan to reopen their embassies and re-implement a security pact to cooperate on several issues to benefit their mutual national security. As the New York Times stated, the deal is, quote, "a shift that left heads spinning in capitals around the globe."
General Kurilla, given the unpredictability of the Iranian regime, I would like your thoughts on how best to respond to its malign behavior in the region, taking into account the new dynamic of their restoration of relations with Saudi Arabia. What opportunities do we have to collaborate with our allies and partners to counter drone and missile attacks and how can we address Iran's closer alignment with Russia and China?
Turning to Afghanistan, although we have transitioned all forces out of the country, the Biden administration has maintained its commitment to ensuring that Afghanistan cannot be used as a base for ISIS, Al Qaida or other terrorist groups to conduct attacks against the United States or its allies.
I would ask for an update on our posture and capabilities and whether additional regional agreements have been reached to ensure we maintain a robust regional counterterrorism architecture to address the threats from these groups.
General Langley, AFRICOM's area of responsibility is becoming increasingly important in the United States' strategic competition with China and Russia. Many African countries have long-standing military ties with Russia and even deeper economic ties with China.
As the United States manages relationships across the continent, we must be mindful of these pre-existing ties and avoid taking a "With us or against us" approach, or we will risk alienating the very nations we seek to engage with.
I would welcome your thoughts on how best to calibrate the U.S. approach to strategic competition in light of these factors.
The security situation in East Africa remains dangerously unstable. Since last fall roughly 500 U.S. servicemembers have been redeployed to Somalia to support the Somali government's fight against Al-Shabaab, one of Al Qaida's most powerful global affiliates. Our renewed presence is an effort to stabilize the Somali government and train their forces after our departure in December 2020 allowed Al Shabaab to grow in size and strength.
I hope you will share your views on the status of our engagement with Somali partners and the whole-of-government strategy to ensure battlefield successes can be effectively translated into longer-term gains.
Finally, the security situation in West Africa also continues to decline. Violent extremist operations have expanded across the Sahel, including pushing down into the (inaudible) and the Gulf of Guinea. At the same time Russia and China are seeking to increase their engagement in this region. The Wagner Group continues to seek opportunities to exploit instability in the region, and China has made no secret about exploring basing operations on the West African coast. Both countries are also investing in natural resource extraction across the continent, often at great expense to the long-term health of African partners' ecosystems and economies.
Given these challenges, General Langley, I would like to hear how AFRICOM is seeking to engage with partners in Africa to expose these harmful and manipulative practices.
I want to thank you again and look forward to your testimonies. As a reminder for my colleagues, there will be a closed session immediately following this hearing in Room SVC-217. Now let me turn to the Ranking Member, Senator Wicker.
WICKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to thank our witnesses for being here. In recent weeks, the committee has heard from top military and civilian leaders about the significant security challenges facing our nation.
Our top adversaries, including China and Russia, are testing American resolve not just in East Asia and Europe but also across the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. In the Middle East, Russia and Iran grow closer. Recently, Iran agreed to purchase 24 advanced Su-35 fighter jets. Today, Russia is deploying Iranian drones to kill Ukrainians.
Meanwhile, China works to displace the United States as the partner of choice for many of our long time friends in the region. The Chinese Communist Party offers more streamlined arms sales and Huawei 5G networks that would undermine our operational security in the Middle East.
In Africa, the Russian mercenary group Wagner does - Wagner does Putin's bidding. They sow instability across the continent by supporting coups and spreading lies. They use exploitative practices to get critical minerals. They pressure African governments to move away from the West.
At the same time, China is using economic coercion to gain leverage and expand its military footprint in basing, something former AFRICOM Commander General Stephen Townsend called his "number one global power competition concern."
We are right to focus on the growing Russia and Chinese threats but we cannot take our eyes off the other security challenges coming from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.
In Afghanistan, the disastrous withdrawal of U.S. troops nearly two years ago left a security vacuum the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIS have filled. The Biden administration assured us that the Department of Defense would conduct counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan even without a limited number of U.S. troops on the ground but the United States has only conducted one strike in more than a year. The withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliates around the world, not just in Afghanistan. The terrorist threat is real and growing.
As a result of the Biden administration's policies, the world's number one state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, presents an increasing threat to our personnel and partners in the region. President Biden should have focused on countering Iran's missile program and its support for terrorism. Instead, he focused on returning to the flawed 2015 nuclear agreement.
In the process, this administration has given them practically everything and got absolutely nothing. According to the Department of Defense, Iran could now produce enough fissile material for a bomb within just 12 days and its proxies are on the march nationwide. These facts make it clear continued, significant, real growth in the defense budget topline above inflation remains essential to our national security.
I'll be looking closely to ensure our security assistance funding remains strong in these theaters and that our counter-terrorism and contingency forces are fully resourced. This includes additional force protection measures in both theaters, particularly to protect against more complex Iranian-backed attacks.
I would also note that the budget's zeroing out of LPD amphibious ships is the exact wrong move when we did not even have the capacity to send one amphibious ship to Turkey to help with their earthquake.
Finally, I'm interested in how the Office of Strategic Capital might be leveraged to push back against the CCP in these theaters and elsewhere as they seek to buy ports and raw materials across the globe.
I thank our witnesses and look forward to their testimony. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you very much, Senator Wicker. General Kurilla, please?
KURILLA: Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, ladies and gentlemen of the committee, I'm joined today by Command Master Chief Derrick Walters, the command Senior Enlisted Leader of U.S. Central Command. On behalf of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Guardians who serve this command, the central region and this nation every day, thank you for allowing me to testify regarding the posture of U.S. Central Command alongside my Ranger buddy Mike Langley.
CENTCOM serves as the security integrator for an area of responsibility that encompasses 21 nations, almost 600 million people, and serves as the strategic nexus of the world's most important corridors of trade. I'm now 11 months into command. In that time, I've made 14 trips to the region and those visits have allowed me first person insights that have informed my strategic approach, which is best summarized in three words - people, partners and innovation.
People are our greatest asset and our most critical resource. Our service members and civilians in the United States and across the region are our nation's best. I know this body keeps them top of mind, that right now, in this CENTCOM region, thousands of troops are in harm's way. Our people who are closest to the problem understand the opportunities available to solve the region's most complex challenges.
That is why we rely so heavily on our partners. Our partners are the nation's comparative advantage against competitors like China and Russia. Across CENTCOM, we cultivate deep, abiding partnerships that can serve as a hedge against the threats in the region while deterring Iran from its most destructive behavior. We have the kind of relationships that elicit candid, sometimes tough, conversations that result in solutions. These kind of relationships make us the partner of choice in the region.
And a critical component of that partnership is innovation. Innovation of thought, innovation of process, innovation of concept and technology extends the value of the partnerships. Innovation allows us to move faster, operate more efficiently and increase progress across all operational efforts. This is more important now than any time in our history.
40 years ago, the Department of Defense established CENTCOM to counter the maligned influence of a revolutionary regime that seized power in Tehran and to compete with the great power in the region, the Soviet Union.
The organization's charter directed by this body was a - to direct and enable military operations and activities with allies and partners to increase regional stability in support of enduring U.S. interests. That mission remains essentially unchanged to this day. Iran still remains the focus. We now battle violent extremist groups who threaten the region and beyond. The Soviet Union has been replaced with China and Russia as strategic competitors.
With these challenges, the CENTCOM region holds the greatest risk of derailing the National Defense Strategy with a flashpoint international incident that may demand a response using unplanned resources and attention.
So today, CENTCOM priorities are to deter Iran, counter violent extremist organizations, and compete strategically with China and Russia. Four decades after CENTCOM - four decades after CENTCOM's formation, Iran remains the primary destabilizing element in the region. We've seen rapid advances in Iranian military capability over time.
The Iran of 2023 is not the Iran of 1983. In fact, today, Iran is exponentially more capable than they were just five years ago. Today, Iran possesses the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East, thousands of ballistic and cruise missiles, many capable of striking anywhere in the Middle East, thousands of ballistic and cruise missiles, many capable of striking anywhere in the Middle East. Iran also maintains the largest and most capable UAV force in the region.
The regime continues to enrich and stockpile uranium far above what is needed for commercial use, and Tehran can enrich uranium far faster than they could even two years ago. An Iran with a nuclear weapon would change the Middle East overnight and forever. Iran's vast and deeply-resourced proxy forces spread instability throughout the region and threaten our regional partners.
As Iran continues to destabilize the region, we continue to fight against violent extremist organizations. In Syria, we put pressure on ISIS alongside our Syrian Democratic Forces partners. In Iraq, we advise, assist and enable the Iraqi Security Forces in their fight against ISIS. While ISIS is significantly integrated (ph) in Iraq and Syria, the group maintains the capability to conduct operations within the region and has the desire to strike outside of it.
Our progress in Iraq and Syria contrasts with the security situation in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the Taliban's hold on security is maintained through ideology, continued humanitarian aid and the persistent abuse of human rights to dissuade unrest. Extremist groups see opportunity and ISIS Khorasan grows emboldened, seeking to expand its ranks and inspire, enable and direct attacks in the region and beyond with the ultimate goal to strike on the American homeland.
Amidst these challenges, strategic competition is deeply-manifest in the region. The People's Republic of China has chosen to compete in the region. The PRC is aggressively expanding its diplomatic, informational, military and economic outreach across the region. China, dependent upon the region for half of its imported oil, is also moving beyond energy-based investments to encompass physical and telecommunication infrastructure that advances its Belt and Road Initiatives (sic). Over half the oil and more than a third of all the natural gas imported by China is supplied by CENTCOM countries. Nineteen of 21 CENTCOM countries have signed the Belt and Road Initiative with China. We are in a race to integrate with our partners before China can fully penetrate the region.
Russia looks to expand its influence in Syria, seeking permanent basing there and undermining our efforts toward stability and security in the region. The U.S. Central Command juts up against Russia with a border six and a half times longer than the Russian border with NATO. Putin seeks to take advantage of this proximity with a foothold of influence in the central Asian states, leveraging historical relations and a perceived decline in U.S. engagement to challenge our influence in that critical part of the world.
With all these challenges and opportunities, the CENTCOM region looks to the United States for assurances -- our commitment (ph). For CENTCOM, that commitment is unwavering.
In closing, let me thank you for your support to our servicemembers. I would also like to thank the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Guardians who serve and sacrifice in CENTCOM, and all those who have done so for the last 40 years. It is the greatest honor of my lifetime to be their commander. Thank you.
REED: Thank you, General Kurilla.
General Langley, please.
LANGLEY: Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, distinguished committee members, it's an honor to appear before you today to testify on the state of affairs of United States Africa Command. I'm proud to testify, along my good friend, General Erik Kurilla, the commander of United States Central Command.
Now, I assumed command last August, and since then, I embarked upon a campaign of learning over the last seven months to inform our discussion here today. I undertook this campaign of learning to fulfill my commitment to this Congress to complete a holistic assessment upon confirmation. I made that assessment, and I will continue it throughout my tenure of command.
Up front, I want to make one thing crystal-clear: The team of servicemembers and civilians at AFRICOM is a talented and dedicated body. I am honored to serve among them.
I'm joined here today by my State Department foreign policy advisor, Mr. Phil Nelson, who represents the exceptionally skilled diplomatic team embedded in our headquarters. Our top -- our entire team is laser-focused on implementing our whole-of-government approach with our partners from the Department of State, USAID, the intelligence community and other U.S. government organizations. We campaign with our allies and partners to advance mutual interests and to promote stability and prosperity on the African continent. You should be proud of their efforts. I certainly am.
Now, Africa is a vast and dynamic continent of sovereign nations. Collectively and individually, these nations are increasingly-important players on the global stage. As such, AFRICOM's contribution to American security must be viewed through a global lens. Threats once contained on the continent are transforming into worldwide threats. Terrorism, poverty, food insecurity, climate change and mass migration shadow African lives. They sow the seeds of violent extremism and Russian exploitation.
The Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine has aggravated the food insecurity crisis in Africa by blocking vital food shipments to the same nations that feel the deepest impact of climate change. Russia's Wagner mercenaries turn chaos into cash. It destabilizes entire regions across Africa and cuts at the American interests worldwide.
The expansion of the Middle East-based violent extremist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, including the biggest franchise, Al-Shabaab, threatens American lives.
Solutions to these colossal problems must be a shared burden. African nations need to be at the helm of a concerted international effort to produce sustainable results, sustainable outcomes. Assisting African nations to achieving the goals while advancing American interests can only be accomplished through a synchronized whole-of-government approach, a whole-of-government strategy. We call it the 3D approach, which is a toolkit of diplomacy, development and defense. But one tool does not succeed without the whole kit, so I will advocate for my State Department and USAID partners to receive the resources they need to succeed.
Now, Africa faces many other challenges. However putting the African needs at the forefront of our campaign reinforced by multilateral and whole-of-government engagement will help AFRICOM and our partners work towards a sustainable peace, stability and prosperity.
Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Whit -- Wicker and distinguished members of this committee, thank you for having me here today. I look forward to your questions.
REED: Thank you very much, General Langley.
General Kurilla, you've rightly emphasized the critical importance of leveraging allies and partners to counter threats from Iran and Iranian-linked groups, and does our posture change with respect to the new agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran? And you know, how will it impact our allies in the region or across the globe?
KURILLA: Thank you, Chairman. Appreciate that question. So this agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia is the culmination, really, of three years of discussions that have been going on, but just recently by -- by China, and I would say an agreement is not implementation. While these discussions were going on, in the last 90 days, we have interdicted five major weapons shipments coming from Iran to Yemen, which those weapons are then used against Saudi Arabia. One of those shipments included components, inertial navigation systems, for short-range ballistic missiles.
So, again, I think the implementation is a completely different matter on this.
REED: Will China be held accountable by the Saudis if they cannot limit attacks against the Kingdom, and weapons transfers, as you described?
KURILLA: So I think that remains to be seen, Chairman. What -- what is concerning on this is China's penetration into the region. In the national instruments of power, they already have their economic in the region, their information, their military, with the increase in sales of at least 80 percent over the last 10 years, in terms of their foreign military sales. And now we're seeing, for the first time really, their diplomatic.
REED: Thank you.
General Langley, you mentioned the presence of the Wagner Group in Africa and their behavior, which is contrary to any decency at all in the world. How are we trying, through the information domain, to expose them and what they're doing, and also obviously expose the Russian government that's supporting them and sponsoring them?
LANGLEY: Chairman, from the mil-to-mil perspective and engagement with our partners, we do use information operations to affect and address the -- the negative sentiment in their message that destabilizes the countries in which they -- they enmesh themselves, and especially in Mali. That is very -- it has been very much present that they have destabilizing activities. But it's been reinforced by the U.N. force there illuminating and amplifying some of the atrocities that the Wagner Group is -- is guilty of.
So therein lies the whole-of-government approach. Since I don't have mil-to-mil because of sanctions at this point, but we still have a whole-of-government approach that can take that mantle and still be able to do information operations.
General Kurilla, we spoke about China. We also have to speak about Russia. The aid that Iran is giving to Russia now in the Ukraine fight and what would presumably be the reciprocation by the Russians in many different ways is another factor that has recently emerged.
What's your response to that? What advice can you give to us? And how can we limit this -- the impact of this arrangement?
KURILLA: Chairman, thank you for the question on that. So it is very concerning any time we see adversaries working together. We do know that they have shipped hundreds of their advanced unmanned aerial vehicles to the Ukrainians. These are the same ones that have hit our servicemembers in both Iraq and in Syria. They are improving upon them based on what they are learning inside the Ukraine.
I am concerned then with the support that Russia can give back. As you know, the Iran state media announced the approval of -- don't know the exact number yet that will come out of the agreement, but the Su-35, which is a 4th gen+ (ph) fighter, which has a lot of our partners in the region concerned as well.
REED: And what types of steps are you contemplating, or we should be contemplating, to try to disrupt or diminish this threat that's emerging?
KURILLA: Chairman, I think this will take a whole-of-government approach, to include all of the instruments of national power on this, to be able to prevent that.
REED: And with respect to the Iranian nuclear program, they have made significant steps since the termination of JCPOA. Is there any indication that either Russia or China would encourage them, sponsor them, or, on the other hand, discourage them from moving further?
KURILLA: Chairman, I -- I'll be able to talk about that in the classified session immediately following this.
REED: Thank you very much, General. Thank you both. And, again, I thank the men and women. Glad to see the master chief is here. So you're well supervised, General Kurilla. Thank you very much.
Senator Wicker, please?
WICKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let's stay with Iran, General Kurilla. You can tell us in a non-classified setting, can't you, whether the threat from Iran has grown stronger or lesser in the past two years?
KURILLA: Iran's malign behavior has increased in the last two years, Senator.
WICKER: OK. And what do you need from the Congress of the United States to meet this threat?
KURILLA: So as we look at the threat, mainly, that we face, is the ballistic missile and their UAV threat in the region. One of the ways that we are countering that is through regional agreements and the regional architecture. As we go towards an integrated air and missile defense in the region, we are making progress on that.
So what we need is to continue the resourcing. And I want to make sure that I have a sufficient and sustainable posture in -- in CENTCOM so that I can accomplish the missions I have been given to make sure I can mitigate the risk. If there's one area in the world I believe that can derail the national defense strategy, it is the -- it is currently the CENTCOM AOR.
WICKER: So the resources to help you facilitate these agreements?
KURILLA: It is the resources, Senator.
WICKER: OK. Well, help us be specific about that. Now, after the disastrous Afghan withdrawal, the departments (ph) assured this committee that countering terrorist groups would still be possible over the horizon. We've only done that once. Is that correct?
KURILLA: Senator, we actually -- all kinetic -- all finishes in the methodology of Find, Fix and Finish counterterrorism targets are not kinetic. There is two that are non-kinetic that we disrupted -- and I'll talk about that in a classified setting -- that involved over five combatant commanders to disrupt those finishes.
WICKER: OK. So two non-kinetic and one kinetic? Do you think...
WICKER: Do you think we should be doing more of those?
KURILLA: It is difficult right now, as I said in my confirmation hearing. It is difficult but not impossible. One of the things that we are trying to do is increase our intelligence surveillance reconnaissance over that, with putting investment into long-duration, high-altitude, alternative airborne ISR that can go up for days and weeks. Because right now I'm spending 80 percent of my time transiting to the region to be able to collect over the top.
General Langley, tell us what China is doing; how far along are they on their base in Djibouti?
And where do you think they might likely be making their strongest effort for a military base in West Africa?
LANGLEY: Thank you, Senator, for that question. China's aspirations, especially at Dorle (ph), they're -- they're coming across a thinly veiled front that it's all for good will, but we know that they're establishing, especially with the destroyer that visited Doraleh last March, shows that they have in - indications ...
WICKER: Tell us - tell us where that is.
LANGLEY: Doraleh is in Djibouti.
LANGLEY: I'm - I'm sorry. So Ranking Member, their aspirations are pretty clear. That's the strategic line of communication, especially as it embarks upon the Suez Canal and the Bab-el-Mandeb. If they wanted to fully militarize that, Doraleh is of concern. They're saying it's all about goodwill but I think the other.
They do have other aspirations, and in a closed session, Ranking Member, I know that I can be able to lay that out, where on - where in West Africa is their next military base aspiration.
WICKER: OK but tell us then, if you can - and think - and I think you can - how that would affect our security as - as Americans and particularly in North America if the Chinese are able to establish a base in West Africa?
LANGLEY: I - it would - it would put us - it would change the whole calculus of the geostrategic global campaign plans of protecting the homeland. It would shorten their - if they - they built any capacity on the West Coast, geostrategically it would put them at an advantage. Right now, we have a decisive advantage. They cannot - we can't let them have a base on the West Coast because it would change the dynamics.
WICKER: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you very much. Thank you, Senator Wicker. Senator Shaheen, please?
SHAHEEN: Thank you. General Kurilla and Langley, thank you both for being here this morning. General Kurilla, I want to pick up on a conversation that we had when we met a couple of weeks ago. And I appreciated that opportunity.
But one of the things we talked about was the situation in the ISIS detainee camps in Syria. And can you give us an update on what the current conditions are and what you're doing in CENTCOM to help stabilize what's happening there and what you need from us in order to - for us to be more successful there?
KURILLA: Thanks, Senator. So I've been to Syria six times. I was in Syria last week. So as we look at ISIS in Syria, it is three categories.
The first category is ISIS at large. That is the ones that we're fighting right now with our Syrian Democratic partners and I think we have contained ISIS but the ideology is uncontained and unconstrained.
The second category is what you might refer to as the ISIS in detention. I refer to them as an ISIS army in detention. There are over 10,000 ISIS detainees spread across 26 different prisons in northeast Syria. I went inside the Hasakah prison last Thursday.
That is the same prison that, January of '22 last year, there was 4,400 ISIS detainees in there. They broke out, over 1,000 made it outside the walls, and in a 10 day battle that involved both our U.S. forces' air power and Syrian Democratic Forces, over 400 were killed, some escaped, the exact number unknown, and then the rest were captured. But 121 of our SDF partners were killed in that prison breakout.
What we are doing specifically about the detention facilities is we are trying to consolidate them now. This - this body provided funding for us to build another prison, which we think consolidate the vast majority of the rest of the prisoners. We also train the guards that are on these detention facilities and the CTEF funds help facilitate that.
And lastly, the - the last category is the potential next generation of ISIS. I had an opportunity to go into the Al-Roj camp and into Al-Hawl, inside, and talk to residents. I met - I talked to women from 16 different countries last week inside the - the camp, to include the - the woman from Alabama. And then I also went inside the Al-Hawl camp and I met three teenagers who had been there for six years.
And remember, ISIS really didn't come to Al-Hawl until about late 2018. These were people that went there to escape ISIS and escape the regime, and then with the fall of ISIS' territorial caliph in, really, March of 2019, it swelled from about 35,000 to 70,000.
And currently, right now, there's about 51,000 inside of Al-Hawl. Over 30,000 of them are children, and they're at risk from radicalization. About 50 percent of the camp holds some - espouses some form of ideology, according to the - the camp guards, the camp administrators and the residents, and the other half are trying to escape ISIS. Really, the only - the only role there is - that we can do is - there's no military solution, it's the repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration back into the society.
SHAHEEN: And are we having an - any luck getting some of the countries to repatriate those detainees who came from their countries?
KURILLA: Absolutely, ma'am (ph). So we've actually had more success in the first two months of this year than in the last six months of last year. About half of those that - IDPs that are in Al-Hawl are from Iraq and we work with our Iraqi security partners and the Iraqi government to repatriate them. They've done 1,200 in the last two months. At that pace, it would be about four years to get everybody back.
So we're working with them on how they can increase the throughput, but right now, it's their ability to go through the Jeddah 1 camp, which is south of Mosul, as they bring them back. What they don't want to do is just move one IDP camp to another. So they're work - working through that process.
SHAHEEN: Thank you. Well, I hope you will let this committee know if there are additional resources or other supports that you need.
General Langley, the map of Africa shows where the Wagner Group is operating but it doesn't speak to the success that - or not that they're having with recruitment. Can you speak to that?
And - and maybe - Senator Reed asked about the success at information or disinformation efforts that they have underway. Can you also talk about what we're doing to respond to that in a little more detail?
LANGLEY: Senator, first and foremost, let me talk about Wagner's intentions. They're all about power and profit. If they're going to give a false offering of security, it's only for the elites in a particular country. We're seeing that in Mali.
Wagner failed in Mozambique. They tried to entrench upon them (ph), and their government, albeit developing, did not like that false value proposition. They have continuing actions in - in the corridor, Central African Republic. In that well - in - in that - in that vein, I think the Central African Republic's kind of getting fed up.
So there is no recruiting going on. It's all about profit, making their way to gold mines, diamond mines, or rare Earth mineral mines. That's extension of the Russian Federation.
SHAHEEN: Thank you. I will submit a question for the record on the disinformation efforts.
REED: Thank you, Senator Shaheen. Senator Fischer, please?
FISCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you both for being here today and thank you for your service to our country.
General Kurilla, how long would it take ISIS-K to generate the capability to conduct external operations?
KURILLA: Specifically ISIS-Khorasan, Senator, it is my Commander's estimate that they can do an external operation against U.S. or Western interests abroad in under six months, with little to no warning. I'll - in a classified session, I will talk about why I make that assessment. It is much harder for them to be able to do that against the homeland.
FISCHER: Now, Senator Wicker talked to you quite a bit about over-the-horizon and our capabilities that we have there or don't have there in Afghanistan. Do you -- do you think that you need any additional resources in our upcoming budget to increase or improve those capabilities?
KURILLA: So we -- we have been funded, like I said, for some alternative airborne ISR that will help us get longer duration. But it's not just about ISR; we're also increasing our other intelligence efforts to get penetration into the networks that we want.
A part that goes unseen a lot of times is the analytical backside. These are the analysts, the linguists and the production capability that help us make the decisions, and there has been a significant decrease shifted from the NDS to go against higher-priority targets, but I would like to see to make sure that we don't lose so much of that capability that we cannot see the threat.
FISCHER: Because knowing that threat is obviously very important, as you -- as you stated, for the -- the existence that we still see in -- in Afghanistan of the terrorist groups that are there.
KURILLA: Correct, ma'am.
FISCHER: Thank you. Have you requested authority to conduct any strikes in Afghanistan against the ISIS-K targets that -- that have been identified?
KURILLA: So I'd -- in a -- in a classified setting, ma'am, I can talk about where we are in terms of the fine, fix and finish on them.
FISCHER: OK. Do you still have a need for munitions that can hit hard and deeply-buried targets?
KURILLA: I do, ma'am.
FISCHER: Do you have specific requests in that area?
KURILLA: That was in my unfunded priority list last year.
FISCHER: Do you plan to include it this year?
KURILLA: It depends on the -- the full funding, ma'am.
FISCHER: Would it be your recommendation and your best military advice to this committee that it would be -- that it should be included?
KURILLA: So we -- we did receive funding for, in my F.Y. '23, to include the additional procurement of the mat -- it's the Massive Ordinated -- Ordnance Penetrator, which goes against hard and deeply-buried targets.
FISCHER: Which are growing in number with our adversaries, is that correct?
KURILLA: That is correct, ma'am.
FISCHER: What's -- what's your assessment of Iran and Saudi Arabia reestablishing diplomatic ties? You talked about that a little bit, but how does that affect our mil-to-mil relationships that we have with Saudi Arabia?
KURILLA: We have very strong mil-to-mil relationship with Saudi Arabia. I think this agreement is, again, is the -- is the culmination of three years of talks between them. The more concerning part is that China is the one that was mediating this.
FISCHER: As we've -- as we look at Iran and their proxies throughout SETCOM (sic) A -- AOR, do they continue to pose a significant threat to our partners and to our own forces in the region? And what more can be done to deter Iran from those malign activities?
KURILLA: So we see Iran as the largest malign actor in the region. Less than 60 hours ago, we had rockets attack from Iranian-aligned militia group against one of our bases in Syria.
FISCHER: What more can be done to deter them?
KURILLA: So one of the things that we are doing is increasing our defensive posture in these areas, and I want to thank the services providing a capability. So particularly, the Army has given us some tremendous capability in terms of counter-UAS and -- and counter-rocket mortar at our bases forward.
FISCHER: With Syria and Iraq, what do you assess to be the situation in Syria right now? And have you -- have you seen any change in Russia's present -- presence in -- in Syria, or has that remained pretty steady since their invasion of -- of Ukraine?
KURILLA: So Senator, Syria is very important to Russia. They have taken very little out of Russia since their invasion. They've taken a small number of forces, some munitions. But generally, it has stayed about the same. What we are seeing, though, is an increase recently in the unprofessional and unsafe behavior of the Russian Air Force in the -- in the region.
FISCHER: Can you give us an example of that here?
KURILLA: I can. So they -- they fly over our bases with ground-attack aircraft with -- with weapons on them in an attempt to try and be provocative. But really, it's unsafe, unprofessional, not what we expect of a professional air force. They want to try and renegotiate the deconfliction protocols that they violate every day.
FISCHER: This is not -- this is not new Russian behavior, is it, sir?
KURILLA: It's an...
FISCHER: And especially with regard to the drone incident that we recently have seen.
KURILLA: It -- it's not new, but we have seen a significant spike since about 1 March in -- in Syria.
FISCHER: OK, thank you.
KURILLA: Thank you, ma'am.
REED: Thank you, Senator Fischer.
Senator Gillibrand, please.
GILLIBRAND: Thank -- thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to continue Senator Fischer's line of questions with regard to Iran. If this was a three-year talks, how recent was China engaged in those talks?
KURILLA: Ma'am, I understand that it's in the last several months.
GILLIBRAND: Well, obviously, that raises serious concerns, because I just took -- I just joined a delegation to visit the Abraham Accords countries, and the interest of those countries -- UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Israel -- is to broaden and strengthen the Abraham Accords, and they were hopeful that they could engage Saudi Arabia in that context. This seems to me that that would make that extremely problematic, because if China is involved, it would be very difficult to have the kind of technology shared in the Abraham Accords if they are now in alliance with China.
And second, if they are in -- are in alliance with Iran, the whole point of the Abraham Accords is to capture Iran's malign threats. So does this make the possibility of extending or expanding the Abraham Accords impossible? And what do you recommend that this committee do to focus on how we create more regional alliances?
KURILLA: So -- so ma'am, I -- I believe this is a -- the talks about opening diplomatic relations, so much of this is not an alliance between Saudi Arabia and Iran. They have had diplomatic relations in the past while they were still shooting at each other in the past. So this is really about opening embassies and opening diplomatic relations when they closed the embassies back in 2016.
What -- what this does do, though, is it -- with China, the -- the most concerning part of all this is that China is the one brokering this, because it shows that they are bringing a diplomatic aspect of their national instruments of power. And what we see with China on the military side is that they have a significant increase in bringing their equipment into the region, their -- their foreign military sales. And if there's Chinese equipment there, we cannot integrate it with U.S. equipment.
And so as we try and build the regional partnerships -- and we've been there for the last 75 years -- when we try and build these regional partnerships, you want to be able to integrate with your partner, and if there's Chinese equipment there, we are not going to be able to integrate it.
GILLIBRAND: Understood. Can you, in this setting, give us more detail on where China has integrated its equipment in the region?
KURILLA: China has sold equipment all over the region inside the Middle East, and if I can -- I can take that for the record and give you a specific follow-up for that, ma'am.
GILLIBRAND: And then do you have a -- a focused plan on what to do about that?
KURILLA: So one of this is to increase our partnership with these elements. So again, this -- this is a race to integrate before China can penetrate. (inaudible)...
GILLIBRAND: And would you recommend expanding and deepening the Abraham Accords?
KURILLA: I would, ma'am.
GILLIBRAND: Thank you. With regard to Afghanistan, I'd like an update on what we are doing to get our partners out, and whether those operations are continuing, and what are the barriers that you're facing currently?
KURILLA: So, ma'am, the -- getting the partners (ph) out the special immigrant visas, that is a State Department run program from the US -- from the military side we are responsible for bringing them into a place called Camp Ausalere (ph) in Qatar. We currently have about 2,600 the right now. We provide the in-processing, the security and the basic life support.
The State Department runs the actual immigrant visa side. They're averaging about 60 days there before they are moved on. And my understanding right now in the pipeline is about 85,000 special immigrant visas, but I would defer to the State Department on the exact number.
GILLIBRAND: Again with regard to Iran, we know that Russia and Iran have escalated their military cooperation over the last year, how is CENTCOM coordinating with UCOM to ensure that our forces are able to respond to threats that touch both areas of responsibilities.
KURILLA: So, I talk to Chris Kavuly (ph) often, the -- the UCOM Commander and the SAC UR (ph). We have done several operations that I can talk about in a classified setting to create the (ph) additional dilemmas for Russia.
GILLIBRAND: And then my last question for you, sir, is you activated US Space Force Central, which is responsible for space operations within the CENTCOM area of responsibility, how are you incorporating the space domain into planning and training so that your su -- subordinate commanders can effectively integrate space into their operations?
KURILLA: We -- we think this is a very big positive of actually having a component of Space Force. Spaces has always played a -- a large role in the CENTCOM AOR (ph), but now I have a commander that sits at the table that is able to then integrated more -- more effectively because he has a -- he has a seat at the table to be able to do that.
And yes (ph), we just finished a -- a large (ph) with all the combatant commands in the region to talk about the lessons we've learned over the last you know, decade of doing space operations and CENTCOM.
GILLIBRAND: Thank you. General Langley, despite the size and growing importance of the CONTINA (ph), the 21st century wars and (ph) CENTCOM, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and strategic competition with China have dominated much of our focus on this Committee, what might we be nothing about Africa that you think this Committee should take note of in the coming years?
LANGLEY: Senator, I would say just the aspirations of China -- the aspirations of China is threefold, one from a geopolitical -- they're trying to change the international norms and they're using some African countries within the UN construct whether it be the General Assembly or the -- or -- or -- or the Security -- Security Council trying to affect votes to change those international norms and international sys -- system writ large.
And then there a geostrategic operation and their aspiration for military bases on the continent of Africa. Just talked to my African partners, they don't want to be militarized in a strategic sense.
And the last piece, Senator is geo-economic -- our future -- our future economy is dependent upon a number of rare earth minerals, and also some are clean energy technologies depend upon the rare earth minerals. About 30 to 40% of those minerals are on the continent of Africa, that -- that's forward thinking by the PRC.
They're trying to harvest and leverage upon that through shaky deals engaging with some these countries so they can corner the market if you will, that's what I'm concerned about, Senator. Thank you.
REED: Thank you, Senator Gillibrand. Senator Cotton, please?
COTTON: Welcome, gentlemen. General Kurilla, I want to return to your answer to Senator Fisher about the threat of terrorist attacks originating from Afghanistan. If I heard you right, you said you believe that such attacks could occur in a mere six months out of Afghanistan against American citizens or allies or partners in Eurasia, is that right?
KURILLA: Senator, I said abroad, which I would also include Europe in that -- Eurasia.
COTTON: But you said less than -- more than that against the American homeland.
KURILLA: It -- it would -- it would be harder for them to do that against the American homeland.
COTTON: If you -- if you assess (ph) six months against Europe or Asia what would you excess (ph) would be the timeline against the homeland.
KURILLA: I think it's hard to put a timeline on that, but again I'd -- I assess that they could in -- in as little as six months with little to no warning, and I'll talk about that in the -- in the closed session as to why I assess that.
COTTON: How likely do you think a terrorist attack on the United States or one of our allies is, originating from Afghanistan?
KURILLA: I think it is a higher probability overseas than it is in the homeland.
COTTON: When you add up all the troops you have in your area of responsibility and American citizens who are there for business or tourism or pilgrimages on any given day, what we talked about? Probably hundreds of thousands, right at least so hundreds of thousands within range of a terrorist attack in your assessment in a mere six months from Afghanistan.
Okay, I -- I want turn to Iran...
UNKNOWN: I don't (ph) think we heard the answer.
KURILLA: Yes, I -- I do assess.
COTTON: I -- I want turn to Iran, you said in your written statement they can produce sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than 14 days. You also say that deterring Iran is arguably more urgent now than any time in CENTCOM's history due to one, their cutting edge missile and UIV capability and two, the (ph) uranium enrichment program, that's correct?
KURILLA: That is correct, Senator.
COTTON: Yet you also say Iran is undeterred for missile malign (ph) activities, so that's not good -- that (ph) it's more urgent to deter than at any time in Central Command's history that they are undeterred. Why are -- why is Iran undeterred right now?
KURILLA: Currently, right now, we see them that their malign (ph) activity is increasing. We see them again in the last 90 days, we have some of the highest numbers of our advanced conventional weapons and munitions that we've seen going from Iran to Yemen. We see their attacks on our US forces in Iraq and Syria increasing, and we see the threats streams that I can talk about in a higher classification.
COTTON: I mean those are more the results of the lack of deterrence against Iran, do you -- do they feel undeterred because they feel safe that neither the United States our partners are going to threaten anything they hold dear?
KURILLA: I can't say the exact reason why they feel that, but I know right now, when I look at them, I believe they are undeterred.
COTTON: I mean there -- there is a history -- you write throughout your statement, there's a history of Iran being deterred by the credible threat of military force or actual military force, that's right isn't it?
KURILLA: I think de -- deterrence is always temporal, so you can deter for a period of time and it will wane. I do believe the Soleimani strike was a deterrence.
COTTON: We can go back much further that, Iran waged war with Iraq for eight years, and then Ronald Reagan sank half their Navy in the spring of 1988, and surprisingly that war ended just a few months later. And Iran also stopped its enrichment program in 2003 after United States had invaded and toppled governments on both its east and its western border.
And then as you say, they took only very tentative steps towards higher enrichment in 2019, and then after we killed Qasem Soleimani, they did nothing at all for most of 2020, is that right?
KURILLA: They -- they -- it was a higher level of deterrence after that.
COTTON: Last week on Intelligence Committee, we had our annual worldwide press briefing, and the Director of National Intelligence cited the killing of Mosen Fakrisata (ph) a -- a notorious Iranian nuclear scientists in November of 2020 as the reason Iran accelerated its enrichment program. Do you agree with that assessment?
KURILLA: Senator, I think any talk of the Iran nuclear program would be best in classified setting.
COTTON: I pointed out there's also something that happened in November of 2020 besides the killing Mosen Fakrisata (ph) that might have emboldened Iran, and that was the election of Joe Biden that gave the Iranians confidence that they were no longer going to be held militarily at risk.
Speaking of that timeframe in -- I think it was December 2020, didn't we face threats to our personnel inn Iraq from militias and the former President tweeted (ph) what he called some friendly health advice to the Ayatollahs that if a single American was harmed in Iraq, he would hold them responsible.
KURILLA: I'm not familiar with that specific tweet, Senator...
COTTON: I think (ph) that did happen. It's okay, there are a lot of them, you don't have to be familiar with every one of them, but I also don't think those attacks happened, so I think what we can learn here, whether it's from Qasam Soleimani or the -- the tanker wars or anything else, that the only thing that will deter Iran is the credible threat of military force.
One final question, I know you've added Israel to your AOR, and you write in your statement that you readily partner today with Arab militaries and the Israel Defense force alike, in fact, the inclusion of Israel presents many collaborative and constructive security opportunities.
One of the opportunities I see is having Israeli Air Force personnel training alongside American personnel on KC 46 tankers, which we expect to be providing them in the future and that's training that we can provide them so they'll be ready to operate those aircraft as soon as I get them. Do you think that would be one of -- what you call a collaborative and constructive opportunity between the United States and Israel?
KURILLA: I -- I think (ph) (inaudible) when they get closer to getting their aircraft, starting to train those pilots so they can retain that training and -- and -- and go right into the execution of operating them.
COTTON: Great, thank you.
REED: Thank you, Senator Cotton. Senator Hirono, please?
HIRONO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to turn to another part of your missions, in both Central Command and -- and Africa Command, US diplomatic efforts are...
(UNKNOWN): Okay (inaudible)...
HIRONO: ... (inaudible) diplomatic efforts are at the -- at the forefront of your missions, the military to military engagement is one very important aspect of your responsibilities but your organizations are just one part of a whole of government approach.
General Langley, I note (ph) your teams work in implementing the 2017 Women Peace and Security Act. Amid the many extremist threats in both of your areas of operations, it is more important than ever, as far as I'm concerned, to work for equality for women and girls around the world. Generals (ph) how are your commands supporting and protecting women and girls in your -- your (ph) (inaudible)?
LaNGLEY: Senator, thanks for that question. As the Women's Peace and Security Act passed (ph) in 2 -- 2017, I've -- I've seen from afar what AFRICOM has started to do. We didn't wait for the plan or the construct over years, CENTCOM -- excuse me, AFRICOM got after it. And I -- I saw this -- you know, because I was at CENTCOM and -- and -- and I was J5 (ph), and we got after it as well, at that time.
But how far that CENTCOM -- that -- that CENTCOM and AFRICOM has gone in -- in the vein of the intent of women's peace and security -- Senator, I'd like to just make note, we have (inaudible) into our (ph) Africa campaign plan to affect and (ph) working with the Department of Defense to fill (ph) -- finish out the construct, but we just didn't (ph) -- we didn't wait for the word to go.
Just -- just for your information, Senator, across the horn of Africa our JTF (ph), we have you know, Major General Shali (ph), and she has effected that in every exercise that we do, all the way down from -- from Djibouti down to Kenya (ph). And even her -- Valerie Jackson Brigadier General United States Marine Corps, as they work with other countries, they get it.
(Inaudible) Shaikh Mohammed (ph) sees a representation of our talent base in our military -- in our -- in our US military that 50 percent of that talent base is women. And they are showing that it's effective (ph) and it's in war (ph) partners on the African continent, they realize that, so it's changing culture.
HIRONO: General (ph), I think we have to be very intentional about the support we provide to women and girls, because wherever there is instability, and certainly both of your AORs are characterized by what I would (ph) call instability. Women and girls are the ones who bear the brunt of the -- the challengers.
General Langley, would you like to add to what General Ku -- Kurilla said, because you are doing a -- I would say a pretty good job.
KURILLA: Ma'am, I think...
HIRONO: Please (ph).
KURILLA: ... ma'am, I think you were -- were referring to me on that, so the -- I -- I value the program...
HIRONO: I'm sorry, yes, I was referring to you, General Langley. Go ahead.
KURILLA: Yes, Senator, and so in execution, as we work with law (ph), even in the West, in our exercises we assure that we -- we -- we do represent in -- within the spirit in a (ph) letter of intent of the act, although (inaudible) that we -- that the -- our partners ensure their culture is changing, and women and -- and women and girls get meaningful opportunities within the overall governance and in society.
And that's -- that's why I brought up of Major General Shali (ph), as she makes her travels across -- they see that America gets it, and they start to do this well. It's very compelling, Senator.
HIRONO: Thank you.
General Langley, a further question for you, you noted in your testimony, climate as a -- as a challenge in Africa, can you describe the destabli -- destabilizing impact of climate change on African nations and what we can do to counter this impact or these impacts?
LANGLEY: Absolutely, Senator. That's a driver of instability, especially with the regular patterns across the (inaudible). We're seeing that. (Inaudible) across a whole of government approach as our local (ph) VS (ph) -- USAID, I would say just more flexibility, trying to predict where the effects are going to -- we need to stay ahead of this.
And that's why administrative power is action (ph) -- action for non-humanitarian action so she can move resources, so we can address the effects of climate change, because it's hard to predict. Even USAID being -- being an evidence-based organization, can't predict where the next -- the next -- two years out, where the next atrocity's (ph) going to happen as result of climate change.
So, there needs to be a -- a flexibility across State Department and USAID, then backed up by military -- by building a -- a -- a capability, adaptability within our partners and our (ph) military so they go out (ph) -- go out and assist the affected people, as a result of climate change.
Mr. Chairman, I'm particularly interested in what we are doing to counter climate change impacts in -- in Africa, because I agree that if (ph) -- this is a very destabilizing -- destabilizing situation. So, I will continue to pursue inquiries along these lines.
REED: Thank you, Senator Hirono. Senator Rounds please?
ROUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, first of all, thank you both for your service to our country and to your teams as well.
A -- a question for both of you, with regard to our country's refocus with regard to the threat that we see from both the -- the -- the -- the other major powers in the world, specifically China, Russia to -- to some degree as well, what impact has that had in terms of the discussion and -- and the -- the clear evidence that we have turned from (inaudible) more than 20 years of fighting terrorism to where we are now focusing on this -- this -- this major power competition.
What's the impact in terms of the countries within your AORs? And how are they perceiving the United States' interest in your regions of the world? General Kurilla?
KURILLA (?): So, Senator, we -- we are concerned. Again, as I said, it -- this is about a race between integration with our partners and Chinese penetration into the region. There's been a significant increase, both their economic -- $460 billion in infrastructure development in the last five years, $2.6 trillion in trade and really, we see their military capability where they're trying to sell military equipment for military sales.
In the last 10 years, we've seen a 30 percent decline in the US, but an 80 percent increase in Chinese for military sales. And when they buy a Chinese system, we cannot integrated it into our systems.
ROUNDS: General Langley?
LANGLEY: Senator, you know, as (inaudible) just alluded to, they (ph) have the same effects on the continent as well, as far as investments by -- from a military standpoint (inaudible) both -- both -- both the PRC and Russia. And you know how we partner, that -- that -- that really segues to -- to the -- the main issue, as far as how -- how slow our triple 3 program of Arm Train and Equip our partners -- so, they didn't (ph) that they have choices.
Now (ph), as we saw down in South Africa, they want to show the world that they have choices, and that's why they had mosey 2 (ph) exercise. But up in -- in -- in our partners in the Gulf of Guiney (ph) region, they are pressurized by all kinds of -- by an extremist (ph) organizations (ph) threatening their borders. And they come and they ask and said, hey General Langley, we don't want your boots on the ground, we want your equipment. We need help so we can put up a good fight and take care of this violent extremist organization across all the affiliates.
But as slow as our processes are with triple 3 and also 332, our other Title 10 authorities it's -- it's moving too slow, Senator, just moving too slow and they make the wrong decisions.
ROUNDS: Let's dive into that just little bit more for -- for both of you, the -- the -- the foreign military sales or FMS it's a critical part of our foreign policy. It regards -- it requires not just the availability, but also the approval process. Could each of you share with me your opinion about the approval process and whether or not there needs to be a more expedited process in order to -- to allow us to continue with FMS?
KURILLA: So, Senator. They say about 95% of all FMS goes according to plan, 5% doesn't, 80% of those 5% are in the CENTCOM AOR. The challenge we have is the time it takes to get equipment to our partners, and there's you know, DOD, Department of State, Congress and industry all have a role in that.
But what China does is they come in, they open their entire catalog, they give them express shipping, they give them no end user agreement, and they give them financing, which at the end of the day can end up being some type of predatory financing, but they are much faster to need. And our security partners have real security needs, and we are losing our ability to provide our equipment so they can integrate into the region.
ROUNDS: They'd prefer to have our equipment wouldn't they?
KURILLA: Absolutely. So, when you buy US equipment, you buy -- you get the quality, you get the training, the sustainment, the upgrades, but you're also buying into the bureaucracy right now.
ROUNDS: They just can't get it because of -- of our bureaucratic processes is delaying the delivery of that product. If it's available, it's still a bureaucratic mess to get there?
KURILLA: There is some that goes very fast and some that goes very, very slow.
LANGELY: Absolutely Senator, we -- we see that just -- well along -- and I -- I fully concur with Eric (ph) about our training and the capacity, it's more of a quality. But the sense of urgency especially in West Africa, across the (inaudible), across Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, (inaudible) and Benin and in Togo, they need equipment and they need weapons now.
So, even with our significant security cooperation initiatives, that process is not any -- any faster. It's designed to be faster, but -- so they make choices, and they -- they -- they make the wrong choices in siding with -- going with either PRC or Russia for especially lethal aid.
ROUNDS: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Rounds. Senator Warren please?
WARREN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
So, the Biden administration announced last week that it's requesting $842 billion for the Pentagon budget. It's one of the largest budget request ever. Despite its already massive number, every year DOD pushes to get even more money by using unfunded priority lists or what I call wish lists that don't go through the other budgeting screens.
The services and combatant commands ask Congress for billions more in funding for programs from these lists. Other federal agencies have to balance there must haves and their nice to haves, but DOD doesn't. Instead, it games the system by submitting a second list of items that they want, so that their budget can grow even bigger.
I know that there are colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are concerned about this and want to see this practice stop. Last year, both your predecessors at AFRICOM and CENTCOM submitted these wish lists, so what I'm asking today is about whether you plan to do the same?
General Langley, AFRICOM requested an additional $353.6 million in unfunded priorities last year. In its submission, AFRICOM argued that if some of these programs weren't funded, it would result in "unacceptable risk". So, my question is, this year, will Africana be putting all of its priority projects if it's that important, if it is putting us at unacceptable risk, will you put that into your base budget request?
LANGLEY: Senator, and just to be transparent, I will be a -- submitting a un -- unfunded the party lists (ph), and here's why, because of the emerging threats. When a (ph) -- when President Biden directed us back in -- last May, to return to a persistent presence in Somalia, I took command a few months after that, and I asked -- being a former programmer I said okay, what is the fully burdened cost? I need to communicate to -- to Congress, what (ph) the fully burdened cost? I need to communicate to the Department first?
And -- and -- and I did that. I did that after budget submittal to (ph) -- from the services to the Department. So, that emerging cost was informed by the risk that we have (inaudible)...
WARREN: So, you're telling me that this request -- the ink is not dry on the budget request from Congress and -- from (ph) the President, and you're already saying that you know that it's not enough. And I want to remind you about emerging threats, DOD already has transfer and reprogramming authorities to deal with emerging threats.
You have the ability to come back to Congress if you can justify an emerging threat. We have a panel looking at whether or not there are more changes that are needed but these unfunded priority lists are just another way to game the system.
If it is a priority to cover something like this, then I -- I think you should be covering it. So, are you telling me that the only things that will be on your unfunded priority list are things you couldn't have known about when you submitted your budget? LANGLEY: Senator, I -- even my predecessor also put the other piece of that cost on there -- on ISR. We never had enough, (inaudible)...
WARREN: I -- I'm not hearing a yes or no. Are you telling me that your unfunded budget priority list will have nothing on it except things that you could not have known about when you submitted your budget?
LANGLEY: There -- there is a persistent threat that we have to account for, so on that -- on the list (ph)...
WARREN: That's what your budget is for, accounting for the persistent threat.
Let me ask General Kurilla the same, last year CENTCOM submitted a request for $35 million in its unfunded priority list, are you planning to submit a wish list again this year?
KURILLA: Senator, I am, but on last year's I am the one who signed last year's. That was for the massive ordnance penetrator for heavy, deeply buried targets. I do not have procurement dollars in my baseline budget, that is why I requested it.
WARREN: So, what you're really telling me is that this unfunded priority list is just a way to say I need a bigger base budget.
KURILLA: I don't have that color of money, Senator to ask -- to request that, but on -- what -- what I do is a commander is I mitigate risk, and I go through my priorities and the missions I have, and then when I have any risk left over, by the law I will submit per the UPLE (ph).
WARREN: You know, look, I -- I appreciate this -- you all know I have raised this issue before, if we're going to have a budget, we ought to have a budget. And there's no reason that DOD shouldn't be able to work within the budgeting process like every other part of government.
I'm out of time on this, but I'm going to be submitting more questions for the record, Mr. Chairman on what these commands are doing to prevent civilian harm. DOD is on the right path, but I remain concerned about whether or not we're getting accurate and honest reporting.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you Senator Warren. Senator Mullin please?
MULLIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you both for being here. General Kurilla, I just want to personally tell you how much I appreciate your service, upon reading more about you I was even more impressed -- any of us that have been in situations like you were in Mosle (ph) and being able to keep her head in the -- in the fight after being shot three times, and still be able to direct fire, I commend you for that.
That's that why it (ph) should be common -- everyone in front of you or -- and behind you knows that's not always common, so thank you for doing that.
I want to talk about -- about Afghanistan a little bit. The American withdrawal from Kabul in 2021, as you know, was a complete disaster, and brought in (ph) systematic failures from the top down across multiple agencies, but it's not enough to just say this was a disaster and move on, lives were lost and our posture on the world stage has been forever changed.
As -- as you reach your -- one year in your current position, can you explain what you've learned in the aftermath of the Afghan -- Afghanistan withdrawal, and how we can prevent these types of failures moving forward?
KURILLA: Senator, just for clarity, the -- specifically about the withdrawal or the overall?
MULLIN: The lessons we learned from the withdrawal and how we can prevent this from happening again, and how's this changed your position?
KURILLA: So, in terms of the actual withdrawal, one of the top lessons we learned is the importance of partners, access basing overflight. We would not have been able to execute the actual execution of the withdrawal with all -- all of our partners that we have in the Middle East...
MULLIN: I think -- I think executing would be a hard word to say...
KURILLA: It would -- it would not have been possible...
MULLIN (?): Right.
KURILLA: ... for (ph) the scale at which we did it, without our partners who provided the access basing and overflight.
I think one of the other big lessons learned initially, it was just -- the mission was given to CENTCOM, it became a five combatant command mission. And then also with our -- our partners, bringing them all into that planning session (inaudible)...
MULLIN: You think people should be held accountable from that withdrawal?
KURILLA: I think anybody should be held accountable for -- if there was a -- there's (ph) (inaudible) failure on something.
MULLIN (?): Well, you know, as -- as you know, there was a tit-for-tat going on between a couple of people during that whole situation. General Mackenzie (ph), General Donahue. I found myself caught in the middle that we -- was (ph) trying to get them amsets (ph) at -- out with the team that I was part.
At the end of the day, we did end up getting over 300 Americans out, but it wasn't from the assistance of our government, and in fact I found that it was easier to work with (ph) the Taliban because I knew the price I was going to have to pay for each one than (ph) it was to get them out and dealing with the -- unfortunately us. In fact, Ambassador Promijine (ph) that was over Tajikastan (ph) literally told me, Mr. Mullin, I was told not to assist you or your group in any way. Unfortunately it cost the life of a three-year-old young girl.
And -- and at the same time I see no one, not a single person held accountable. In fact, Gerald Donahue is now over 18th Airborn, he irony of that is -- he's looking over Europe now and deterrence in Europe. General McKinsey (ph) retired. No one in the State Department has been held accountable. What does that say to our partners, our partners that lost lives -- I was with (inaudible) His Highness in UAE and he was even upset about it.
He said that if America is willing to walk away from the billions of dollars that they spent in Afghanistan, what is that say about our region? And then he went on to say that I fought -- him -- his Royal highness fought in Afghanistan, his two sons fought in Afghanistan, and every single soldier that they lost, he visited their house personally, and yet we pulled out, lost the lives of amsets (ph) that didn't have to be lost, not to mention her 13 soldiers and Marines, and no one, not a single person has been held accountable.
You think that's right?
KURILLA: Well, Se -- Senator, if I could, I -- I have great respect and I've known Frank McKenzie (ph) and -- and Chris Donahue (ph)...
MULLIN: I know you (inaudible) -- I know -- I -- I'm very familiar -- familiar with the relationship, it doesn't make any differences underneath their command and no one was held accountable. In fact, the only person that was chastised about it was the one Colonel that came out and chastised the withdrawal mechanism, and how daring him speak out negative about something.
I get it. I get the chain of commands, I remember (ph) -- I know he broke protocol, but don't you think someone -- you cannot sit here and tell me that that was a successful (ph) withdrawal. Don't you think that someone should be held accountable? It was an absolute disaster.
KURILLA: Senator, I served five years in Afghanistan, every year...
MULLIN: I know.
KURILLA: ... from 2009 to '14...
MULLIN: I'm aware of it.
KURILLA: I am -- I am vested in -- in there...
MULLIN: So, am I.
KURILLA: ... the actual thing -- I was not part of the...
MULLIN: I know...
KURILLA: ... of being a (ph) force provider, but I would say that the execution...
MULLIN: You were there before Donahue (ph), and you came back. You know it intimately...
KURILLA: I just...
MULLIN: I'm just asking you once again, shouldn't someone be held accountable -- someone's (ph) below your command and they went through this and they had an absolute disaster like this, losing Marines, don't you think someone at that point be (ph) held accountable?
KURILLA: I think it's an absolute travesty that we lost those 13 Marines at Abby Gate (ph)...
MULLIN: But you don't think anybody should be held accountable?
KURILLA: I don't know if accountability has been assigned to anyone, Senator.
MULLIN: You -- well, you know it hasn't. I mean I -- I get what you're saying, but you know there hasn't. At some point we got to -- our -- our adversaries and our allies are both take a look at this, and we look weak. And I know you're dealing with this, and we are dealing with this. And it's time for someone be held accountable.
And what I'm looking for your help and your assistance in moving forward. We got to right this wrong. With that, I yield back.
REED: Thank you, Senator Mullen. This issue of accountability is -- it's a serious one, but it would take in a 20 year history of the struggle in Afghanistan, and based on the operation, (inaudible) is one of most of the most difficult operation (inaudible) a lot (inaudible) e -- evacuating over 120,000 people was something I think was remarkable, would you concur?
(UNKNOWN): I absolutely agree. Again, I think the execution of the -- of bringing the people out was -- was done very effectively, in terms of the numbers. We would not have been able to do the numbers.
REED: Thank you. Senator Kelly?
KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Langley, good to see you again and thank you for being here. As you know, I recently returned from a bipartisan codelle (ph) to Africa, where I had the opportunity to travel across the continent to Niger, Zambia, South Africa, Morocco, Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire, and had conversations with a lot of experts, senior leaders on a -- a wide variety of topics that we care about, including food security, conservation efforts, critical mine -- minerals and defense, and while we, the United States, is doing a lot of great work across the continent, I worry that it's not well known that were providing this.
At the same time, it's clear that China and Russia have a lot of influence in Africa and (ph) this concerns be a lot, and I know it does concern you too. I mean Africa has strategic importance to us for a number of reasons, including that many critical minerals that our defense industry requires are mined in Africa.
And this is something that China knows, and they have begun to exploit. You know, last year Senator Cotton and I introduced the Reshore Act (ph) to reduce our reliance on China for these critical minerals. But the important work in securing US supply chains need to continue.
So, General Langley, what are you seeing in Africa with respect to China's mining activities and their infrastructure development?
LANGLEY: First of all Senator, thanks for that question and -- and thank you for going on the codelle (ph), as I -- I -- I saw in -- in Munich and when you were (ph) on -- on your way down there. That -- that really matters. That shows -- those are assurance actions of our -- our nation's leadership, going on to the continent, and I thank you for that.
And it -- and it pressurizes, and -- and it makes -- causes hesitation in countries that are thinking about picking the PRC or even Russia as their partner choice, because that -- those are the (ph) assurance actions that matter and resonate.
Yes, I agree, were not telling our story well enough, and that's why I -- you don't when the (ph) codelle (ph) came through, right after I took command, and (ph) on their way to the continent, they asked what was being done on the continent, show us -- just -- we -- we know what the PRC is doing -- their investments -- the showing (ph) -- show us what we do.
And that's why provided the blue map, just to show our investments. So, all that falls into collectively across our whole of government approach, as I engage across the interagency, and also us State Department and USAID, how we can be able to coalesce this into actions that resonate...
KELLY: General, can you talk a little bit about what China is doing and how it's impacting countries that we have had relationships with? You know -- I -- I -- I don't want to -- you know, lead you into -- but I'm -- I'm really interested in the negative impact that China's mining and infrastructure activities have had on the continent.
LANGLEY: Yes, Senator. So, yes as I -- I also provided the -- the Foreign Actor Reliance on the -- on the African Mineral Stores, and that is a very compelling story. So, for economic reasons, and also how they go about striking deals with some of the countries, on some of our critical assets, for not only for our rare earth minerals that feed into our clean energy, but also into the military side as far as our (ph) high technical type of arsenal and -- and equipment, China is trying to harvest that.
So -- so as they're engaging with countries, laid out on that -- on the slide, the last slide we have on the critical reliance on foreign minerals, this is our new economy. This is going to be in big demand, as we start to modernize our forces and China realizes that.
So, those are actions they're trying to take on the illustrated cou (ph) -- countries that -- that we have highlighted on here. So, yes it is a strategic consequence that we need to be able to face and -- and -- and turn (ph) to these countries to ensure that they're a partner of choice (ph).
KELLY: General, how we do a better job telling our story, because we got China in there making bad deals, building that infrastructure. This isn't good for you know, the African nations. You know, at the same time, the Russians have Wagner and there supporting, you know essentially -- you know, terrorism, what can we do to better tell our story on the African continent?
LANGLEY: Senator, illuminate and amplify. I saw a good story this morning in -- in -- in the press about the Kenyans have gone to the street, tired of some of the stuff that the PRC's doing for them, how -- how they're taking advantage of their economy and taking advantage of their environment. News stories like that resonate, they -- they change ideas.
I guarantee you the rest -- if it happened in Kenya, it's happening all across the continent of Africa, and people read the stories and it resonates. People are taking action.
KELLY: Thank you, General. And Mr. Chairman, I'll have a couple of questions for the record. Thank you.
REED: Thank you, Senator Kelly. Senator Scott, please?
SCOTT: Thank you, Chairman. The first one -- I agree with Senator Mullin that we need to have some way to -- you know, hold people accountable for what happened in Af (ph) -- Afghanistan, so I've had a bill that would have a bipartisan committee that would investigate exactly what happened there.
I want to thank the military for what they did, but the decisions that were made don't (ph) -- don't seem to make much sense.
What -- what does the American public not know about China that if they knew would change -- because I assume you spend a lot of your time thinking about what China is doing all of the world, so what does the American public need to know that China that they don't know right now that maybe would impact -- would have a positive impact on impacting their ability to spend the resources to -- to impact Africa, anywhere in the world? For both of you.
KURILLA: Senator, so I would go to -- what one of the Chiefs of Defense told me, he says you have no idea how much they've closed the gap on you and your technology. And this was someone who was buying Chinese equipment.
I also think that they -- the American public don't have an understanding of how much they have penetrated into the Middle East, in terms of their diplomatic. Informational, military and their economic instruments of national power.
SCOTT: General Langley?
LANGLEY: Senator, I -- I agree with my good friend Eric (ph) here. China -- we have enjoyed, for a number of years, a decisive overmatched, but that gap is closing because of China's advancements or stealing of (ph) technology, you name it how they're -- the -- the -- the procedures they are by executing to close that gap. That's what has me concerned.
And even in the economic realm, as they're trying to harvest a lot of the critical min -- minerals on the continent of Africa. Now all that falls into them of being able to -- from -- from a economic standpoint, to actually try to close the gap on that decisive overmatch as well.
And then also change in the international order and international systems, as they try to get the some of the African countries to vote or abstain -- something that is not along social norms or the right -- the right thing to do in voting, specially -- especially with mining or -- or other things that are -- or of (ph) humanity or (ph) human rights, because they commit some of the atrocities (ph) back in China or some activities they do in Hong Kong.
So, just changing the economic system, so in those three areas is where it's most pressing of the illicit activities of the PRC.
SCOTT: So, if -- if elected leaders spent more time explaining exactly what China was doing with the end result that -- that every American would call out China for their human rights violations or stop buying their products or not putting their devices on our phones, would that -- you think that would impact their ability to -- to do the bad -- you know, to spend the money in their -- on the resources that -- to counteract our military, not be able to go into places around the world and lend money on and unreasonable -- on unreasonable terms?
KURILLA (?): Senator, I think education is very important -- that people understand what China is doing.
LANGLEY (?): And Senator, I think it'll impose costs on them as well that they have to reckon with.
SCOTT: Yes. General Kurilla, what is the optimal cooperation you envision among the US, Israel and the Arabian -- our -- our Abraham accords members? Is it air defense -- what -- what do you -- what would you hope out of that?
KURILLA: So, I think there's several areas, Senator that we can do. So, the Abraham Accords are also economic, and I think that's going to -- the -- the economic benefit you get in terms of job creation, also is a -- reduces instability in some of the Abraham Accord countries.
We do have -- we talk about a Middle East air defense. We talk about maritime security and cyber defense as well.
SCOTT: General Langley, you -- you talked about what's happening in Kenya now (ph) on top of the -- the public being up in arms about what's going on (ph) -- what China's doing, are -- are the governments pushing back at all in Africa?
LANGLEY: Senator that -- that's -- that's part -- part of the problem, because what they invest in and when they strike these deals, they're striking the deals -- well (ph) for mostly autocratic or authoritating (ph) type governance -- those of democracies have a voice because they know that the people watching. So, I think it's -- it -- it really matters, what particular country that they're pressurizing.
SCOTT: General Kurilla, do you have -- do you have the resources and personnel that you need to conduct your counterterrorism mission, yes (ph) -- that's laid out in the national defense strategy?
KURILLA: So, Senator, we are currently balancing the missions that we have with the resources we got, and I'm adjusting risk every day dynamically with the resources that I have and I'm requesting the additional resources I would need to be able to accomplish all of my tasks.
SCOTT: And what you requested is adequate?
KURILLA: Though what I've requested adequate, and then it's up to the -- the allocation of those resources in accordance with the national defense priorities.
SCOTT: Thank you. Thank you, Chairman.
REED: Thank you very much, Senator Scott. Sen. Rosen please?
ROSEN: Thank you, Chairman Reed, appreciate it. Appreciate you holding this hearing, and I'd really like to thank Generals Kurilla and Langley for your service and for being here today. And I'm just going to kind of get right into it about Iranian aggression. Of course, top of everyone's mind.
So, General Kurilla, the Pentagon estimates that hundreds of American troops have been by Iranian back militias in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet Iran's regime has never been held accountable for orchestrating attacks against Americans, the men and women who gave their lives or -- by these -- that -- for the -taken by these state forces, there are thousands of families they're (ph) without their loved ones as a result.
And so today, Iranian aligned militias, they're increasingly targeting US installations, service members in Iraq, in Syria, the rocket and drone attacks. On a regular basis, we know Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, is threatening the US and our allied interests in the Middle East and around the world, again via both direct attacks and also through their support for Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic's other terrorist proxies.
So, could you discuss in this setting, some specific threats the Iranian aligned militia groups pose to the US and -- and our coalition forces? And what can we do to proactively -- not just defend against them, what can we do to proactively maybe push them back?
KURILLA: Thanks, Senator for the question. So, again, Iran is the number one malign actor in the Middle East. The latest attack we just had was less than 60 hours ago on one of our bases in Syria that we know that was Iranian aligned militia groups that conducted this attack.
We do see the threat that we pa (ph) -- face from them are from rockets, from unmanned systems that are increasingly longer range and more accurate. Just in January we had three UAVs attack our base in Ontomf (ph) Garison (ph) in Syria. That was Iranian drones that did that.
So, we do see that across the region, and also against our allies and partners, whether that was from the Houthis (ph) coming out of Yemen against Saudi Arabia and the UAE or from Lebanese Hezbollah against Israel or from elements coming out of Iraq and Syria against (inaudible) -- Iranian aligned militia groups.
What we can do is it's going to take a whole of government approach to be able to go after this problem, (inaudible) it's not just a military solution.
ROSEN: So, we can work with you on the resources we need to take care of that, because I want to get to something we talked about a little bit earlier, Taskforce 59 and some other interesting things we're doing, but really Israel's transfer to CENTCOM, it's now within your area of responsibility and it's my sincere hope that this realignment is going to potentiate even greater military cooperation between the US and our shared goals, as well our -- as well as greater cooperation between our Arab and Israeli partners, as we see with things like the Abraham Accords coming forward.
So, I know that -- I'm pleased to see the increasing pace of joint exercises between the US, Israel, Arab partners, and so can you tell us a little bit about the progress you've made in advancing the integration of Israel into your multilateral maritime partnerships like the very exciting taskforce, the development they're doing -- I was able to learn about them when I recently visited NAVCENT (ph) in Bahrain.
KURILLA (?): So, thank -- thank you, Senator. We -- we think it's going very well with the integration of Israel into the CENTCOM AOR and including our exercises and our training as well.
We did have a bilateral exercise called Juniper Oak that we just did in January, which was the largest exercise with 142 aircraft that we participated with them in January.
When you talk about Taskforce 59, that is our maritime security innovation taskforce. It's an unmanned and undersea unmanned vessel taskforce, where we basically are enhancing the manned platforms that we have, so one police car -- one -- one destroyer in the Red Sea is the equivalent of one police car patrolling the State of California.
When we take a bunch of unmanned platforms like sail (ph) drones and other unmanned surface vessels and undersea vessels, they act as a series of indications and warnings with centers out there in a mesh network. They can feed it back into a structured database that then we run algorithms against to help us make decisions, is that normal behavior, abnormal behavior to then use our manned platforms better to be able to get after the problem set (ph).
ROSEN: I -- I'm going to -- hopefully you'll come and show us all a -- a briefing on what you're doing there, it's pretty exciting.
But in the few seconds I have left, we're talking about the region integrated air missile air defense, naval, maritime partnership, how is CENTCOM reassuring our regional partners that the US is really committed to regional stability and security. When we were there leading the Abraham Accords Caucus delegation, when I was there, this was the number one thing people wanted to know, are we committed to the region? How are you showing them that?
KURILLA: I spend 50 percent of my time in the region. We have a series of exercises and training events, so last 41 training and -- and exercises that we do multilateral and bilateral, and that is the way we are trying to build up our partner capacity with them by integrating them into the systems that we have as well.
ROSEN: Thank you. I see my time's up, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you very much, Senator Rosen. Senator Budd please -- oh excuse me, Senator Tuberville has arrived. Senator Tuberville?
TUBERVILLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Generals, thanks (ph) for being here and thanks for your service. You've got your hands full.
General Kurilla, in your organization, Taskforce 59 has had some great success filling (ph) unmanned systems, I'm familiar with one other platform Celdrone (ph), it seems like these systems have a lot of potential for both CENTCOM and the Navy and it's encouraging to see your command taking advantage of cutting edge technology out of (ph) commercial sector. What do you think has contributed to the success of Taskforce 59 work with system (ph) like Celdrone (ph)?
KURILLA: I think what's successful us the people. It's the people that we hire that are innovative and creative and critical thinkers and when we push these systems into their hand, they're using them in ways that we never thought possible. A lot of the systems in the unmanned and the undersea that we use, they're used for commercial fishing.
When fishermen go out, they're not going out to find fish, they're going out to catch fish and so we use a lot of these systems with their integrated sensors. I think Celdrone (ph) initially was an -- was used for a maritime oceanographic capabilities, and we've turned that into something that can act as indications and warnings with the sensors that are on it.
TUBERVILLE: Yes, we almost lost a couple of Celdrones (ph). I think Iran tried to load a couple on one of their ships, was during your...
KURILLA: It was.
TUBERVILLE: Yes. How'd that go out?
KURILLA: We got 'em back.
TUBERVILLE: Got 'em back? Good. Well, that's good to know. At one time, we had 60 balloons over Kabul, Afghanistan. Our ISR (ph) is very limited, how confident are you in the intelligence you have (ph) to see new threats rising from the Taliban?
KURILLA: So, currently our -- our intelligence has (ph) degraded since we are no longer in Afghanistan. I believe we can see the broad contours of an attack. Sometimes we lack the granularity to see the full picture and we're working to close that gap with our alternative airborne ISR and some of our other intelligence that we're working (ph) to penetrate into those networks.
TUBERVILLE: It seems like for some reason, this administration is going to accept Iran developing a nuclear weapon. If Iran does develop a nuclear weapon of mass destruction, which the United States spent trillions trying to keep out of the hands of dictators in the Middle East, how will that scramble your AOR?
KURILLA: It would change it overnight and forever.
TUBERVILLE: General Langley, I'm aware of several vacancies in key diplomatic posts (ph) -- I was in South Africa recently -- China is there daily trying to move in. Is that important to you, the diplomatic posts (ph) being filled?
LANGLEY: Senator, it absolutely is. (Inaudible) capacity as our (ph) -- talk about the 3D construct, having a full -- full edged (ph) bolstered capacity at our diplomatic posts (ph) is essential. And it -- it makes a difference of us being able to maintain our partnership and capacity, moreover ensuring our strategic access.
TUBERVILLE: Could you talk ale bit about South Africa and -- and what you've done since you've been there, your relationships that you've made and what you see coming from China and maybe even Russia?
LANGLEY: Senator, I haven't been to South Africa yet, it is (ph) -- I -- I will be going there in the coming months, but right now and what I'm really concerned about Mosley 2 (ph). That exercise -- that naval exercise, that was just (ph) a messaging campaign by -- by the -- the Russian Federation and also by the PRC.
So, I've been having discussions with (inaudible) Ambassador Brigady (ph) down there and then saying (ph) what's South Africa's story. South Africa, they are -- they have been a good partner, we're building that relationships (ph) but they don't want to be pressurizing who they choose, so I have to use assurance actions to compel them that we are the partner of choice.
TUBERVILLE: Don't you think it's vital that we keep China from overtaking that -- that port there in the South Africa?
LANGLEY: Absolutely so (ph) -- sir, because as we look at the Cape of Good Hope and look at how much transit that our -- our -- our commerce goes across, and it's also -- it can also be a power projection point as well, so we can ill afford, from a geostrategic position allow either the PRC or even Russia to use that as a platform.
TUBERVILLE: Yes, I know it's not your purview, but they're trying to do the same thing in Argentina, you know which is the point of South -- South America, and we definitely don't need to lose -- lose those two point contacts, in terms of navigation.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Tuberville. Senator Peters, please.
PETERS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Kurilla, welcome. It's good to have you here. I, along with my colleagues on the Committee have worked to strengthen our partnership with -- with Israel, in particular the -- the collaboration synergies between our two countries in the innovation space, so I believe probably has never been greater, and it -- certainly it's an area that I believe the United States must do more to take advantage of our friendship with a like-minded, I guess you could call them techno-democracies that are highly sophisticated in that area.
I -- I was proud to sponsor legislation creating a US Israel operations technology working group to help further other DOD efforts in that area, and my question for you is if -- if you could please speak to the strategic advantage that our relationship with Israel offers in a global environment where rapid innovation end the fielding of the emergent -- of emerging technologies rapidly is absolutely key to our national security?
KURILLA (?): Thanks, Senator. Israel is one of the world leaders in -- in technology in terms of the innovation and how to take that to the -- in areas of national security. I have been over there several times. I have seen how they are implementing that.
I do find that the relationship that we have with them is already bearing fruits, in terms that. I look at that the counter UAS (ph) field, where I've been all the way down from Iron Dome, all the way up to the XO Atmospheric Arrow Three (ph), and its ability to understand their technology and be able to proliferate that as well.
PETERS: Great (ph). General, at -- at the end of this month, we will mark the eighth year of the war and in -- in Yemen. This -- this conflict is been a humanitarian catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions displaced and tens of millions Yemenis (ph) suffering from both famine and disease.
The war has been exacerbated by the -- the role of a pac (ph) -- a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and has been the people of yo (ph) -- Yemen who will -- unfortunately have been the victims and have suffered as a result of this geopolitical strategizing.
Congress is been active ensuring that US support is not the cause for any innocent the suffering in Yemen. A June 2022 GAO report regarding civilian impacts of US military support for the Saudi coalition provided recommendations to the DOD on measures to help mitigate civilian harm from our support.
So, my question for you, sir is has the Department developed and implemented guidance for reporting any indications that US made defense articles were used in Yemen by Saudi Arabia or the UAE against anything other -- other than legitimate military targets?
KURILLA: Senator, I'm aware of the GAO report. I have read it. I've seen it and I -- my understanding right now is the Department is working through any implementation instructions from it.
PETERS: Very good. General Langley, drug trafficking and the cartels profiting from that trade are -- are without question a global threat. African (ph) is certainly not immune to these issues with West Africa, in particular now serving as a popular vector for cartels to move products from Latin America to -- to Europe.
The drug trade destabilizes lawful governments, undermines public safety and provides critical funding and resources for other transnational criminal organizations. So, my question for you, General is what efforts is Africa (ph) making to strengthen the ability of local governments to conduct counter narcotics operations and to attack this insidious trade?
LANGLEY: Senator, thanks for asking that question. Because that is of particular concern with our partners. The Gulf of Guiney (ph) is like the wild, wild west, illicit activity, especially the drug trade. Two exercises that just (ph) had -- just happened in the -- in the past month.
Obagani (ph) express -- Obagani (ph) express is where's (ph) we (inaudible) had a number of countries to come together to focus on illicit activity across the (inaudible) -- across the Gulf and dru (ph) -- the drug trade is one of it, smuggling is another and transit -- transiting citizens as (ph) well across the -- across that region, but it's inextricably (ph) linked to South America as well, so I work with General Richardson (ph) on that and I thank this Congress for legislation that gave us $200 million to address this -- this issue.
But building partnership and capacity (ph) with African nations, especially in the Gulf of Guiney addresses that issue as the build their maritime capacity. But that's also an opportunity for -- for another ask, Hershey (ph) (Inaudible) Williams (ph) and even the Coast Guard when they -- when they bring a cutter in, it makes a difference.
This is naval diplomacy at its best. If we get an assignment of (ph) another ship, I wish I had another Hersey (ph) (Inaudible) Williams (ph) to cover the other side of Africa continent, but just naval activity and bolstering our -- our partners' ability for their maritime expertise -- to (ph) build upon that building capability is essential going forward. Thank you.
PETERS: Thank you, General. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Peters. And now, Senator Budd.
BUDD: Thank you, Chairman. Good morning, gentlemen. I want to thank you both of your -- your leadership and your service, particularly your commands of units in North Carolina and Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune.
So, I recently returned from both of your overseas areas of responsibility, a common complaint from our allies and our partners is that the foreign military sales process, it's overly complicated and slow, it's just downright bureaucratic. So, in that vein, I had a series of questions, so if you would, just -- if you would give me simple yes or no to the answers, and at the end I'll (ph) hopefully have a little more time and I'll give you some time to elaborate.
So, General Kurilla, is the current FMS process fast and flexible enough to meet our foreign partners' security needs in your respective AORs?
KURILLA: In CENTCOM, no.
BUDD: General Langley?
LANGLEY: AFRICOM, no.
BUDD: Does the transfer of US defense products build our partners' capacity to provide for their own defense and respond to threats?
KURILLA: Yes, Senator.
LANGLEY: Yes, Senator.
BUDD: Given the success of Western Arms against Russian equipment in Ukraine, is there an increased interest in U.S. Defense products in your AOR?
KURILLA: There is a very strong interest in U.S. products.
LANGLEY: Very strong in AFRICOM, Africa as well, Senator.
BUDD: Thank you. Thank you. Is China increasing arms exports to any countries and you air AOR General Kurilla?
LANGLEY: Senator, is kind of flatlined right now.
BUDD: But they have been before?
LANGLEY: They have been before in the past.
BUDD: Thanks. Is the United States still the security partner of choice in your AORs?
KURILLA: It is Senator.
LANGLEY: Absolutely, Senator. It is an Africa
BUDD: Is the United States at risk of losing that security partner of choice status to either China or Russia?
KURILLA: China is making inroads. I do not assess Russia is.
LANGLEY: It is a risk, Senator.
BUDD: So, if you elaborate a bit, if you could each explain how FMS challenges are impacting strategic competition with China and Russia in your AORs, if you'd elaborate on that please?
KURILLA: Sure, Senator. So, in the CENTCOM AOR, with the number of attacks that we see in there, our partners have real security needs. And so, they want to have the equipment they need fast. What China is able to do is come in very quickly, open up their catalogue, let them pick from anything in it, very quickly deliver it, there is no end user agreement. But what they don't do is they don't follow up with it, and they don't have the training, the expertise, the sustainment, the upgrades, and what we do find with our partners is when they buy Chinese equipment, vast majority of it becomes non-mission capable a year or so after they have that equipment. And we do see a complaint from that. They want to buy U.S. equipment, but sometimes it is the timeline to get it that a hindrance.
BUDD: And the process?
KURILLA: (Inaudible) the process is what takes the time to do it. And there are -- I know that the Department of Defense has a tiger team to look specifically at what the Department of Defense can do to increase its -- there's four levers, Department of Defense, State Congress and industry. And I know Department of Defense is looking at their lever.
BUDD: Thank you. General Langley.
LANGLEY: Senator, I've characterized in my assessment since taking command that West Africa is at a tipping point. And what I mean is how these extremist groups, whether we're talking about ISIS, West Africa, or even (inaudible), or Boko Haram, they're all at the door, especially in the Gulf of Guinea states. As I've done my travels and I was in Ghana, they said we don't want your boots on the ground, but we would like your equipment. All we need in Ghana all we need it to affect the quad initiative, which is a coalition of willing of states of Togo, Bonin and Cote d'Ivoire, but they want equipment. Before they go across a line of departure, they need equipment, they want U.S. equipment, they know how long it takes.
So, they're considering because that these affiliates are at their back door, they need something now. They want to come with us senator, but the process is too slow. And they need to be able to affect a viable offense to help Cote d'Ivoire -- excuse me to affect Burkina Faso, save their own country. So, we're showing a good -- what we would like to see partner led us enabled, but we need to step with a U.S. enabled at this point.
BUDD: Yeah, that matches conversations with our allies recently. Can you please discuss how your requirements for Special Operations Forces has grown and what cuts to SOF (ph) in strength would have on your operations?
KURILLA: Senator, I relied very heavily on our special operations forces in the CENTCOM AOR, they are doing tremendous work in a cuts to in the CENTCOM region would affect me significantly.
LANGLEY: You would take the heart out of our efforts both in the east and the west with our special operations forces of AFRICOM.
BUDD: Thank you both. Chairman. I yield back.
REED: Thank you very much, Senator Budd. Senator King, please.
KING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Langley, we've been having a lot of discussion today about China's activities in Africa. Is there any buyer's remorse? China has sort of scaled back on Belt and Road to some extent and some of the debt issues are now coming to the fore? Are there -- are the countries in Africa starting to rethink some of those commitments? Buyer's remorse is probably the best term.
LANGLEY: Senator, great question. And I traverse for that, for any indicators for that and I. Lo and behold, I saw a story this morning out of Kenya. They take into the streets of how China has been taken advantage of them in the deals of a strike. There's other indicators across the continent other stories of debt trap diplomacy that ...
KING: They call it debt colonialism?
LANGLEY: Oh, yeah absolutely, Senator. So ...
KING: Let me follow up, if that's the case, and it appears that it is, does this create an opening for us to be more active in infrastructure projects, support for, for development in these countries, that that we can come in and show that it can be done in a much more efficient and skilled way.
LANGLEY: Absolutely, Senator, that we do have that we see that as an opportunity, as we call it, a consolidated strategic opportunity. And we need to match it up with our key strategic activities. And whereas we can use a whole government approach, we can use prosper Africa, digital Africa, and get these programs off the ground and going. I know that I met with, you know, Assistant Secretary Molly Phee last week, and also, I was over at USAID. And they -- we have a plan of action, collectively whole of government to be able to put it in motion.
KING: Well, you use the term whole of government. And I think the private sector also has to be included in this in terms of development of resources. You used a phrase earlier that I that I noted about the Chinese efforts to monopolize and get a hold of these rare earths and minerals forward thinking by the PRC. We haven't been doing that forward thinking, we've allowed them to take, to take control of, for example, lithium, an essential element for EV batteries, 87 percent of the processed lithium that goes into EV batteries in this country comes from China. And we haven't been doing that forward thinking. I'm suggesting that that's something we should start to think about. And it should be a combination of government action, but also the private sector. We don't do everything by the government here.
LANGLEY: Senator, that's correct. And we don't tell the good news story enough. And that's why I provided this, the blue chart here. But on legislation passed force effectors, such as Prosper Africa, is also a message to our private industry to invest in Africa. That's what I talk about when I talk to the country teams, as they are heavily recruiting back into U.S. for investment in the African nations and states.
KING: Thank you. General Kurilla, King Abdullah was here about a month ago and he said that this was the most dangerous moment in Israeli-Palestinian relations that he'd seen in decades. Give me your analysis of the status of that? It seems like it's a very heightened sense of danger in terms of open conflict.
KURILLA: Senator, I agree with the statement of King Abdullah on that, and we watch this very closely. We think the conditions are there, the tinder and the kindling is there and we don't know what it could take for what spark to be able to start a larger conference conflict in the West Bank.
KING: Let me just ask sort of parenthetical questions. Often, we get the question about Iran's nuclear capacity. In your -- do you have a military analysis of what a strike, an airstrike a significant substantial airstrike on Iran's nuclear capacity would actually, what would be the impact of that on their ability to move toward a nuclear weapon?
KURILLA: I do, Senator, but I best believe that would be in a classified setting.
KING: OK. Thank you. One other question of in your AOR, about stability, and that is Pakistan, a nuclear armed country. They've had a lot of political issues lately, assessment of the of the stability and long-term prospects for stability in Pakistan.
KURILLA: So, they have a, you know, idea with a military relationship there. I have a great relationship with the Chief of the Army Staff General Munir. I think the concerns right now in Pakistan are their budget, their financial situation, the current political situation, and the counterterrorism situation, as they see the Tricky Taliban Pakistani, the TTP, the attacks are significantly increasing at the end of a ceasefire there.
KING: Are you confident of their nuclear security procedures?
KURILLA: I am confident that their nuclear security procedures.
KING: Thank you. That may be the first good news we've heard today.
Thank you, General. Thank you, gentlemen.
REED: Thank you, Senator King. Senator Schmitt, please.
SCHMITT: Yeah, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you all for being here. Appreciate it.
I want to follow up a little bit on the question that Senator Scott asked about. I think part of our challenge right now is, you know, as the newest or one of the newest members of this committee, it is become very clear to me that chair China is an immediate threat, long term threat, intermediate threat, how are you going to characterize that China is, should be a very, very important focus of ours. And so, one of their tools, obviously, that they deploy around the globe is the debt trap. And I'd like for both of you, if you could help us communicate back home to the folks who are wondering what are the most pressing needs of the country? What is the most concerning thing from a national security perspective? How that affects what you guys do? And what are some of the most egregious examples that you've seen in your roles.
KURILLA: So, Senator, thank you. What I see, again, is the penetration economically, where they go in and they provide infrastructure, with the financing that goes with it. And I can use an example in one country where they went in, they provided infrastructure, and it was almost like a balloon mortgage payment in the peak of the COVID crisis overseas, at the worst point of their economy. And this one country, they came and they demanded their payment. And that absolutely crushed that country to do that. And it caused them to see the way that China does in terms of their debt trap.
And there's several other examples also through the Central Asian states as well. It's important to understand though, what China is doing, they are doing it for their own benefit, not for the others benefits.
LANGLEY: Senator, the same thing has taken place on the continent of Africa as well, whether in the vein of debt trap diplomacy. Here's the difference that makes us a partner of choice. We go of aid first, financing last. China, does it financing first. And that financing is at puts at a disadvantage of those that are asked for the funds, very few times will they actually do any type of aid. So that's the assurance action that causes those our partner countries on the African continent to side with us.
There's a number of initial deals, struck in a memorandum of agreement in the Belt and Road Initiative across 40 countries across the continent of Africa. That's very compelling. It hasn't matured yet to actually show the negative effects. But in aggregate, we do communicate cautionary tales from signing such agreements.
SCHMITT: Eighteen months ago, Israel was integrated into CENTCOM. And I just wanted to find out how that has gone, what your -- is there, you know, fully integrated into that theater? How you view that?
KURILLA: It's going exceptionally well, and we view it as a net positive, Senator.
SCHMITT: OK, that's great. I guess it's finally because I've got about a minute and a half here. We talked about the debt trap. But I think that, you know, the building of the islands in the South China Sea being fully weaponized. With the spy balloon that traversed over the, you know, Alaska and the continental United States. It has certainly raised awareness, I think, at a point now that we've not seen before, I think, and these are terrible things that have happened. But I think the American people now recognize the threat that China poses to the United States.
And not just I think, you know, obviously, economically, some of the theft from an intellectual property perspective has been well documented for a while, but the clearly as they tried to project that strength into the Indo Pacific in the South China Sea, and those islands are fully weaponized.
Beyond the debt trap that you, you know, illuminated, what are a couple of other examples that you see that maybe most people don't know about that that certainly raises a lot of concerns. And the alarm bells are going off about how serious China is about global domination.
LANGLEY: Senator, our focus is on them trying to change international order, trying to change the international system that is very compelling and how they engage with African cont -- African nations on the continent, and how they vote in the UN General Assembly. That's an indication that they cannot gain a strategic advantage unless it's along their norms, what they consider their norms. They an economic piece is very compelling of how they're trying to corner the market on what we call some of the rare earth minerals or even resources that are on the continent of Africa and how they're trying to strike bad deals with these countries extracting these resources without the benefit of the African nations. That's a cautionary tale that needs to be told.
KURILLA: Senator, we see 19 of 21 countries in the CENTCOM AOR have signed Belt and Road Initiative agreements with China. That is for China's benefit. We've also seen 20 of 21 countries have Huawei contracts in them. They're building smart cities, and a lot of this is for Chinese advantage.
SCHMITT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Schmitt. Senator Blumenthal, please.
BLUMENTHAL: Thanks, Mr. Chairman, thank you both for your extraordinary service to our nation.
I want to focus on the Wagner group, which I think is kind of the elephant in both of your rooms, so to speak. I am a strong supporter of designating the Wagner group as a foreign terrorist organization, which will have a constructive impact, I would think, in both of your commands. General Langley, if I remember correctly, in your testimony, you talk about the price of the Wagner group in Africa as being quote, the failure of government institutions, the withdrawal of Stalwart (ph) security allies, the extraction of mineral wealth, and long-term resource concessions and debt that chip away at Africans future in Ukraine. As we all know, the Wagner group poses a very severe and immediate threat, not only in Bakhmut, but throughout the country, it's probably one of Putin's most effective fighting forces right now, a mercenary, murderous organization.
The argument that I've heard against it is that designating Wagner as a foreign terrorist organization complicates our interests in Africa, because government's doing business with the Wagner group could suffer sanctions as a result of that business. I think that is totally a bogus argument. I see no valid reason not to designate Wagner's foreign terrorist organization. Please give me your views. General Langley, and then General Kurilla.
LANGLEY: Thank you, Senator for asking that question. Because I do need a message of some of the atrocities going on with the Wagner group, not only in the Central Africa, Republic, but also in Mali since this past summer, and they have been reported on by the UN multinational force there of the atrocities and egregious actions are taken on the public. This is very serious.
The Wagner group, even though we know that Yevgeny Prigozhin everything is about power and profit. But they are inextricably linked to the Russian Federation. So, the further they're on, the more they're on their continent, preying upon fragile governance will be a problem and destabilizing across the African continent.
BLUMENTHAL: So, would you feel they should be designated as a foreign territories, or they?
LANGLEY: Will Senator, I'll just say this collectively ...
BLUMENTHAL: (Inaudible) terrorist organization. Are they not?
LANGLEY: Senator, I think that's -- if we're policy representative, you know, like stay out of that. And I'd like to just focus on what we need as AFRICOM to be able to do this, and we do it in the information space, but across all other -- rest of the whole government. We do have pressurizing things and I can take that into if you let me bring this up in closed session.
BLUMENTHAL: Of course. Let me ask you both. Maybe I can ask General Kurilla first. Israel is going through domestic unrest, protests. I've been visited by a number of members of the Israeli military on a number of occasions, some personally, who feel that this unrest is impacting their readiness. Do you have any views on that topic?
KURILLA: So, I talked to the Israeli chief of defense often, I talked to him yesterday morning, what we talked about is he's trying to ensure that his military stays out of the political conversation.
BLUMENTHAL: Do you think that that the recent proposals for changes in their judicial system is in any way undermining their readiness or prepared?
KURILLA: I think as you look at the Israeli system, they have reserved units. And that is where we're seeing some of this manifests itself. But I do not want to make a statement really on the judicial system without knowing all the facts of what they're doing.
BLUMENTHAL: Let me ask to follow up. I think it was Senator Mullin, who was asking you about our Afghan at risk allies. I've been a leading advocate of the Afghan Adjustment Act, I have played a part in trying to extract translators guard, security personnel, my own son served there in Marine Corps. Actually, was able to get his translator out of Afghanistan, but there are thousands still at risk, targets on their backs, having served there repeatedly with great sanction. Are we doing enough to get them out?
KURILLA: I think we have a moral obligation to get those out. Again, we think the numbers you know, I would defer to the State Department the exact number. The State Department works the aspect of getting them out once they come to us in Camp (inaudible), we provide the in processing security and basic life support for them.
BLUMENTHAL: I agree, totally. We have that moral obligation. Veterans' groups agree steadfastly and passionately about it. And I'm hoping that not only will pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, but also take greater measures to enable them to escape the person persecution, torture and death that many of them are at risk.
KURILLA: I do applaud our veterans' groups that are doing the taking that action on as well.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Blumenthal. Senator Ernst, please.
ERNST: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And gentlemen, thank you very much for your service and your leadership.
General Kurilla, just a few quick questions. Some of this has been covered briefly by a number of other senators. But we do have the great powers that are out there. Very, putting a lot of pressure on us in Asia and in Europe. We also have competing priorities here at home. We've got a Fentanyl crisis. We've got southern border issues, and then the various sobering fiscal outlook right now. So, we're entering into an era where being able to support defense with everything we've got has really slowed down significantly. The belt is tightening and you've heard concerns today.
So, I know that the NDS has directed the Department to right size, your forward military presence and your AOR. And of course, doing that accepting prudent risk as necessary. So how has CENTCOM improve the economy of force in your theater?
KURILLA: So, thank you, Senator. CENTCOM is 85 percent smaller than at the peak in 2008. That was in the midst of two conflicts. After the withdrawal from Afghanistan, even in 2022, we reduced by 15 percent, post Afghanistan withdrawal. What we require in CENTCOM is a sustainable and sufficient force structure to be able to accomplish the missions we've been given. Again, I go back to if there's one place that can derail the NDS, it could come out of CENTCOM with a flashpoint.
ERNST: Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. I know, the President during the Afghanistan withdrawal, told us that if we withdrew from Afghanistan, there would be a windfall of resources to prioritize China. So, what resources did this action free up in our budget? And then how did DOD reinvest those?
KURILLA: I really Senator would defer to OMB and the Department of Defense on any cost savings, but I believe those resources were then moved to against the higher priority of INDOPACOM and EUCOM.
ERNST: OK, thank you. And I would be willing to bet there weren't as many cost savings, maybe as, as we would have thought. But you -- different topic, but you've heard a lot of discussion about the Abraham Accords. today. I also am a co-chair with Senator Rosen on the Abraham Accords Caucus. And I'm very proud that our legislation on air and missile defense cooperation to get passed last year in the NDAA, and it does help our partners with their security burden.
So, you have talked a little bit about this. But when you're implementing this or trying to implement this integration framework, what challenges are you running into now that we might be able to iron out without legislation? And is there an area where we might need legislation?
KURILLA: I can tell you where we are right now. We're making progress. We're going towards a shared air picture between a group of countries. And the challenge we have, though is if there is Chinese equipment that we cannot integrate. And so, whether that's a radar, or whether that's an actual air defense system, we can't let that touch our network based on the -- on what we know about the Chinese equipment. And so, it just it's not compatible with it either. So that's the one challenge that we have to be able to do that.
And so, I'm not sure what legislation, the legislation that could help us potentially is, how do we get FMS faster, so they don't have to choose to buy a Chinese system.
ERNST: Excellent. And this has been a discussion as well about FMS, and whether it should be the jurisdiction of armed services or another committee here in the United States Senate. And that's something for us to iron out. So, you don't necessarily need additional authorities for implementation then, that you're aware of.
KURILLA: I believe I have all the authority that I need right now, ma'am.
ERNST: OK, I would just encourage our partners in that region to buy American. Maybe that's the message that we need to send.
KURILLA: I'd be happy if they just bought Western ...
ERNST: Western, well ...
KURILLA: (Inaudible) all of our systems.
ERNST: No, excellent point. Excellent point, General. I do want to thank you for your tireless efforts to build partnerships in the region. I was recently on a CODEL where we visited Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. And I heard over and over again, your name mentioned specifically, and we describe that or we have described that in the past as leadership by walking around. And you did state earlier that you spend 50 percent, of your time in the AOR. And I know that that is greatly appreciated by our partners. So, thank you for doing now. I truly appreciate your leadership, presence is power.
And General Langley, I know that you're out there and engaged as well. I do have a question. I'll submit for the record for you. It deals with a 127-echo program, which I think is incredibly important in your region, to maintaining stability.
So, thank you, gentlemen, very much. My time has expired. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
REED: Thank you, Senator Ernst. Let me note that the vote has begun. I recognized Senator Sullivan.
SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, thank you for your service testimony today. Very much appreciated in your -- a team members behind you. I know how much they put into these kinds of hearings.
General Langley, I wanted to begin by also mentioning you we probably are getting the picture we had a number of Senate CODELs to the region recently, I think that's actually important. I was part of the CODEL with Senator Rosen and seven U.S. senators to the Abraham Accords, countries started in Morocco. Really impressive ally, one of our longest standing allies, anywhere in the world. I don't know, to what specificity you can provide thoughts, and maybe this is kind of even against your own interests. But it did occur to me that I think it's time to have AFRICOM headquarters in Africa. Somewhere, Morocco? I think they'd be a great candidate. What do you think about that?
LANGLEY: Senator, this has come up numerous times in the past ...
SULLIVAN: I know, and it's been blocked by some members of the committee. And they're always like, well, we don't know where to put it. So, let's keep it in Germany. That's not a good answer. Right? Come on. We don't know where to put freaking CENTCOM forward headquarters, we chose cutter. So, like real countries make real tough decisions.
What do you think we should do? I don't think that's a good answer, which is too tough. Too many good countries. So, let's keep it in Germany. What do you think?
LANGLEY: Senator, I see the -- I see some utility being on the continent. But at this time, just with our processes of getting down to visit to numerous countries has been beneficial. As far as how we are laid out now, I think we're right size, because when we are in, in Europe, there's other partners there in proximity that that we can play ...
SULLIVAN: How about like CENTCOM is headquartered in Tampa and as a forward headquarters in Qatar, what about a forward headquarters for AFRICOM somewhere in?
LANGLEY: Senator, I can talk about that in closed session, because we do have something established to that contract.
SULLIVAN: OK. Let me both of you keep talking in the military loves of phrase whole of government, all instruments power, we've been talking about critical minerals, which is really important and a big part of the discussion. How much sense does it make for the United States to shut down our critical mineral production capacity, as the Department of Interior has done in Alaska? And then you guys come here and say, boy oh boy, we sure got to work on critical matters. Do you think that's smart like that we have -- not you guys, but other agencies literally shutting down. There's something called the Ambler mining district in Alaska, one of the resource rich, critical mineral areas of the world. We had a Environmental Impact Statement, EIS seven years, $10 million ready to go. And then Department of Interior came in and reverse that said, hey, America, Alaska, start all over. We'll keep getting critical minerals from China.
Were you guys informed of that? Were you informed of that interior making that idiotic national security decision?
LANGLEY: No, Senator.
SULLIVAN: Do you think it makes sense for us to look at areas of critical mineral capacity and Americans say, we're not going to do that? Because lower 48 environmental groups don't like it. You think that makes sense from that a national security perspective to shut down our critical mineral production when this whole hearing has been about critical minerals? Does that make sense? General, in your personal opinion?
LANGLEY: Senator, I'm just here to pass a cautionary tale about China and their illicit activities on the continent of trying to corner critical ...
SULLIVAN: And so that we can help and corner it by producing our own. Doesn't that make sense?
LANGLEY: Senator, I don't have a position on that.
SULLIVAN: Come on. General, you do have a position? You just don't want to say it? What's your personal opinion on it? Is it make sense to produce more critical minerals in America if we have them?
LANGLEY: Senator, we can discuss that in our closed session about essentials for ...
SULLIVAN: This is a problem. We talk all instruments of power whole of government and we don't do it. Again, that's not you. But it's Biden, it's the administration. It's national security suicide, and we do it every damn day. When we shut down resource development in our own country. It's idiotic. That's the right answer, by the way.
Real quick, General Kurilla. You mentioned Iran taking, you know, shots at our troops, are we retaliating against them? I think one of the lessons we learned, you know, when they were providing very sophisticated IEDs to kill and wound thousands of Americans in the 2005, 2006, 2007 timeframe that that was a bad signal, the let them just kill our people, the best and brightest in America. I'm sure you lost soldiers to the Quds Force IEDs. And until we killed Soleimani, which I thought was a really important message. We weren't retaliating.
So, I hope either covertly or overtly. When these guys are trying to kill Americans, which they're pretty good at. And they do a lot that we are sending messages like, all right, you want to try and kill Americans? Game on. What are we doing to retaliate against these guys?
KURILLA: Senator, I'm prepared to retaliate overtly, but also not all responses are overt.
SULLIVAN: OK. But can you assure this committee that we're not just letting them try to attack Americans? You've already mentioned that they are.
KURILLA: Senator ...
SULLIVAN: Without some form of retaliation.
KURILLA: Senator, we have all the capability to be able to retaliate. But not all, not all. retaliations are over.
SULLIVAN: Good. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Sullivan. And thank you, gentlemen, for your testimony. We have a vote on, so I would encourage all my colleagues to vote and we will reconvene within about 15 minutes and SVC217 (ph) for the closed session of this hearing.
I will now adjourn the open session. Thank you.
SEN. JACK REED, D-R.I., CHAIR
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN, D-N.H.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.
SEN. MAZIE K. HIRONO, D-HAWAII
SEN. TIM KAINE, D-VA.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-MASS.
SEN. GARY PETERS, D-MICH.
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, D-ILL.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN III, D-W.VA.
SEN. ANGUS KING, I-MAINE
SEN. JACKY ROSEN, D-NEV.
SEN. MARK KELLY, D-ARIZ.
SEN. ROGER WICKER, R-MISS., RANKING MEMBER
SEN. DEB FISCHER, R-NEB.
SEN. TOM COTTON, R-ARK.
SEN. MIKE ROUNDS, R-S.D.
SEN. JONI ERNST, R-IOWA
SEN. DAN SULLIVAN, R-ALASKA
SEN. KEVIN CRAMER, R-N.D.
SEN. RICK SCOTT, R-FLA.
SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE, R-ALA.
SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN, R-OKLA.
SEN. TED BUDD, R-N.C.
SEN. ERIC SCHMITT, R-MO.