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DoD Transcripts

TRANSCRIPT | March 8, 2024

Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing Posture of United States Central Command and United States Africa Command in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2025 and The Future Years

March 7, 2024

REED: Good morning. The Committee meets today to receive testimony from General Michael Erik Kurilla, Commander of the United States Central Command, and General Michael Langley, Commander of the United States Africa Command.
Thank you both for your service, and I am grateful to the men and women serving under your commands, and please convey that to them. The CENTCOM area of responsibility has always been fraught with complexity, but I'm concerned that we face a uniquely dangerous moment. With Israel and Hamas engaged in a
violent conflict in Gaza, Iran is seeking to exploit the chaos as an opportunity to force the United States out of the region. Iran appears to have calculated that the best strategy to achieve this is by directing its proxy forces to attack American, Israeli, and allied interests in the Middle East.
To date, the Iranian linked Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched more than 50 drone and missile attacks against U.S. and international vessels in the Red Sea, including a strike yesterday on the Liberian commercial ship that killed three innocent civilians. The Houthis have disrupted nearly 15% of global commercial trade, driving up costs and inflation around the world.
Similarly, Iranian-linked Shia militias in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan have conducted more than 175 attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, including a drone attack that killed three Americans in Jordan. In response, the American led coalition has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian proxies across the region, significantly degrading their capabilities.
The ISA should continue to take appropriate military actions. But I must underscore there is no ultimate military solution to our conflict with Iran. Direct war with Iran would have devastating second and third order consequences and would likely engulf the entire region in war. President
Biden has balanced these considerations by synchronizing military operations with strong diplomacy, economic sanctions, and tools of statecraft.

I'm encouraged that Iranian linked militia attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan have paused for a significant period of time. We have to remember that Hamas ignited this regional conflict exactly five months ago, on October 7, when it murdered, kidnapped, and committed unspeakable atrocities against thousands of innocent Israelis. Israel launched its own campaign to defend itself and degrade and defeat Hamas. And the United States deployed troops and assets to the region to support our ally and prevent a wider regional war.
Five months into this campaign, Hamas has been degraded, but the Palestinian people in Gaza are suffering extreme costs (ph). Unless there is a pause in the fighting, the humanitarian situation will continue to worsen, Israeli hostages will continue to be held captive, and Israel's long-term security could be weakened. General Kurilla, these challenges are compounded by many others, including Iran's nuclear enrichment activities and Hezbollah's attacks in northern Israel, all of which must be addressed while maintaining the counterterrorism mission in south and Central Asia.
I understand that you just returned from the region, and I would ask for an update on how CENTCOM is postured to meet these challenges and what resources and support you need to be successful. General Langley, AFRICOM remains an important theater in the United States strategic competition with China and Russia. Many African countries have longstanding 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 preexisting 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 the region in light of these factors. Over the past year, the security situation in West Africa has continued to decline.
Violent extremist organizations have expanded across the region and are now threatening to push down into the lateral states IN the Gulf of Guinea. Partner nations are working hard to address these challenges, and AFRICOM is working in collaboration with many security forces in the region to enhance their capabilities to respond effectively. At the same time, military coups in places like Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso have required the cessation of U.S. training and advising in those countries.
Given these challenges, I understand that AFRICOM must explore new methods to maintain U.S. security interest in the region. To do so, it is important that your command become more synchronized with the U.S. interagency and that AFRICOM receives the resources it needs to maintain situational awareness. This must include adequate intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support, and the capabilities to continue to work by, with, and through our regional partners and allies.
General Langley, I would appreciate your thoughts on this wide-ranging set of challenges and what plans you have to address them. Again, let me thank our witnesses. We look forward to your testimony. 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. Senator Wicker.

WICKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are banding together. They hope to weaken American resolve and shift the global balance of power away from the United States. The effects of their sinister activities are on full display in both CENTCOM and AFRICOM theaters, which we are discussing today. I begin with a particularly acute example. Hamas's barbaric October 7 massacre was not merely a Palestinian terrorist attack on Israel. It was also an Iranian proxy attack on the United States.
The Palestinians attacked Israel. They were proxies of Iran attacking the United States. 33 of our fellow Americans were killed, and 12 were taken hostage. Iranian proxies then began near daily attacks against U.S. troops in the region. They attacked Israel with missiles, and they tried to close maritime shipping routes in the region. It is indisputable that Tehran controls its proxies, and those proxies have killed Americans. Iran's objective is and has always been to evict the United States from the Middle East so it can achieve regional hegemony.
We will not be evicted from the Middle East. I believe the Biden administration should address Iran's culpability head on. And we can do this without going to war against Iran. The administration spent its first three years offering Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief to restore the Obama era nuclear agreement. President Biden ordered minor counter strikes on Iran's proxies in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, apparently hoping to manage escalation through pinprick responses.
This approach has failed and will fail because it assumes that we can deter terrorist groups without causing pain to their chief sponsor, Iran. General Kurilla, I hope you will share your assessment of what it would take to end Iran's terrorist proxy attacks on our forces. China and Russia view the African continent as a power projection platform. They use the region to flex their muscles, undermine Western influence, and bolster their economic interest.
Beijing and Moscow do all this through exploitive practices that often come at the expense of African communities. China, in particular, approaches Africa as a critical terrain for its global military expansion. Its first overseas military base was established in the strategically located country of Djibouti. According to public reports, this base is now capable of hosting some of China's most advanced naval vessels. Additionally, we know China is actively pursuing a naval base on Africa's Atlantic coast.
General Langley has said this would, quote, change the whole calculus of the geostrategic campaign plans of protecting our homeland. General Langley, I hope you will tell the Committee what is being done to address this disturbing development. Russia's destabilizing activity in Africa is to trade security assistance for access to African natural resources. Putin does this by spreading disinformation and propaganda to sow unrest, prop up sympathetic regimes, and undermine support for Western engagement on the continent.
We cannot lose sight of the continued threat al Qaeda and ISIS pose in Africa. Political instability and weak security institutions have allowed these groups to expand territorial control. We must maintain sufficient force posture and resourcing in Africa to support our national interests there. At the same time, we must develop more effective non-defense tools in Africa.

These would include our ability to use private sector financing in non-development contexts through DOD's office of strategic capital.
The world has changed drastically since the publication of the national defense strategy. This is particularly true in the Middle East But the strategy that drives our investments and force posture in both these command theaters must reflect those changes. 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, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I'm joined today by Command Master Chief Fleet Derek Walters, the command senior enlisted leader of U.S. Central Command. And I am proud to testify next to my good friend, Mike Langley. On behalf of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and guardians who serve this command in our nation, I welcome the opportunity to talk to you today.
I just returned from my 27th trip to the central region. As I sat here just a year ago, the region was on the verge of improbable, unprecedented, and transformative progress. Today, the central region faces its most volatile security situation in the past half century. This is not the same central region as last year. The events of 7 October not only permanently changed Israel and Gaza, it created the conditions for malign actors to sow instability throughout the region and beyond.
Iran exploited what they saw as a once in a generation opportunity to reshape the Middle East to their advantage. Iran has worked for decades to strategically encircle the region with its proxies, and in the past six months, we have seen every proxy in the Iranian threat network operationalized in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and Yemen. Iran's expansive network of proxies is equipped with advanced sophisticated weaponry and threatens some of the most vital terrain in the world, with global and U.S. implications.
Houthi attacks on international shipping and an Iranian aligned militia attacks on our forces in Iraq and Syria are direct result of an Iranian threat that has been incrementally spreading.
However, Iran knows that its decade long vision cannot be realized if countries in the region continue to expand integration with each other and deepen their partnership with the United States. Violent extremist organizations have also seized on this opportunity. ISIS surged their attacks in Iraq and Syria earlier this year, and the risk of attack emanating from Afghanistan is increasing. ISIS Khorasan retains the capability and will to attack U.S. and Western interests abroad in as little as six months and with little to no warning. Strategic competition has also continued to evolve across the region. China and Russia are quick to capitalize on destabilizing influences. They have shown meager interest or capability to reduce regional tensions, but rather they have increased their efforts to pressurize regional partners
across all elements of national power.
Collectively, Iran, Russia and China are strengthening their relationships and fostering a chaotic landscape favorable for their exploitation. Iran continues to sell 90% of its oil to China, funding

Tehran's subversive activities across the region. And Iran has developed a full-scale production pipeline for supplying weapons to Russia, fueling their war on Ukraine. The ramifications of this partnership have global implications.
The convergence of crisis and competition makes CENTCOM the area of responsibility, the most likely region to produce threats against the U.S. homeland, trigger a regional conflict, and derail the national defense strategy. The CENTCOM region also remains critical to the world's energy supply and remains essential for the flow of global commerce. But CENTCOM provides strategic depth to our defense of the homeland, and Americans' security and prosperity are at risk
if we cede this space to Iran, terrorism, and China.
The stable future envisioned by our national security strategy and shared by our partners supports broader U.S. national interests and is worth striving for. Our partners in the Levant, Arabian Gulf, and Central and South Asia are committed to advancing the region, and the United States remains the partner of choice for now. The degree of U.S. investment in the central region will be decisive in shaping this future.
Our years of a continuous engagement throughout the region serve as the foundation for this investment. U.S. Central Command's strategic approach of people, partners and innovation reinforces the vision of an integrated central region and supports the whole of government effort to secure our regional and global interests. Our people are the bedrock of everything we do.
We are laser focused on optimizing their talents and highlighting their character and competence to our partners, our strategic advantage remains our strong military-to-military partnerships, while our adversaries and competitors rely on parasitic transactional relationships. We also innovate with our partners and are developing approaches, concept and technologies to address the threats we face protecting our forces and creating strategic depth in our force posture. These efforts have saved lives.
We are clear eyed about the task before us. The shockwaves of the past year continue to reverberate globally, and our service members are standing to watch side by side with our regional partners right now. They operate in harm's way every day, whether it a small outpost in Syria fighting ISIS, or on a destroyer knocking down a barrage of ballistic and cruise missiles fired by Iranian backed Houthis. And they do so with honor and courage.
Five of our teammates gave the last full measure of devotion as they lived out the oath we swear and the freedoms we cherish. They represent the very best of us and is the honor of my professional life to serve as their commander. And I look forward to your questions.
REED: Thank you very much, General Kurilla. General Langley, please.
LANGLEY: Chairwoman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, distinguished committee members, it's an honor to appear before you today representing the outstanding service members, civilians, and families of the United States Africa Command. I'm proud to testify with my good friend, General Kurilla, the commander of United States Central Command. Now, today, I'm also joined by my USAID advisor, Ms. Maura Barry Boyle, and also my State Department Foreign Advisor,

Mr. Phil Nelson. They represent AFRICOM's whole of government team and integrated approach to Africa.
In the last year, thanks to your authorities, resourcing and support, AFRICOM's all-star team responded to numerous crisis and conflicts across the continent. They performed flawlessly, and I'm honored and proud to serve among them. Today's global events, ranging from Russians Federation's War in the Ukraine to the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, directly impact the lives of millions of Africans. Terrorism, poverty, food insecurity, climate change and mass migration shatter African lives.
These factors sow the seas of violent extremism and Russian exploitation across entire regions of the continent. AFRICOM's campaign revolves around central themes of ensuring strategic access, countering threats to the homeland and U.S. interests, preparing for and responding to crisis, and lastly, bolstering our allies and partners. This campaign places our African partners at the center.
Achieving positive change by executing African led and U.S. enabled operations focused on our shared objectives. In today's dynamic environment, our whole of government partners require appropriate resourcing. I strongly advocate for our state department and USAID partners to receive the resources they need to guarantee our combined success.
I would also like to highlight a campaign that benefits from our Congress, which supports the African Center of Strategic Studies, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. In Africa, modest investments and resources go a long way towards achieving our national security interests.
Africa faces many challenges, but also offers even more opportunities.
With our African partners at the forefront, reinforced by our efforts and the efforts of our allies, we will continue to gain ground towards achieving lasting stability, security and prosperity on this crucial continent. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to be here today, and I look forward to answering your questions.
REED: Thank you very much, General Langley. General Kurilla, you are facing numerous and complex threats, and that's probably an understatement. Is there a purely military solution to the complex threats you face?
KURILLA: Thank you, Chairman, for that question. There is no purely military solution to all the complex threats that we face. We need, not only a whole of government, all the instruments of national power, between diplomatic, informational, military and economic. We need an international solution to a lot of the problems that we're seeing in the Middle East.
REED: Thank you. And how are you trying to integrate these efforts? I know you were just in the region. I know personally, you're engaging. What are you doing to get the whole team on the field?
KURILLA: So, what we do is we have a lot of regional conferences that we bring people together. I spend the majority of my time either talking to my partners or over in the region, physically looking at them eye to eye, and we work together to be able to try and solve a lot of these problems. I try and look at the problems and their challenges in the region through their eyes because they understand the region far better than we ever will, and they provide some interesting solutions and very helpful solutions on how we should approach certain aspects of that. We do have a regional security construct that we get together and we discuss these on.
REED: The Houthis have and are continuing to disrupt significant trade and threaten our ships and international ships. It seems difficult to deter them. I know we spoke about the lack of intelligence. Could you indicate some of the obstacles you're facing in deterring the Houthis or taking them out, if you will?
KURILLA: So, Chairman Reed, our campaign in the Red Sea is to restore freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab and the Gulf of Aden. It focuses on protecting the ships that are there. We have 24 nations that are part of the operation protecting those ships. 17 of them talk about it publicly.
And then we also want to degrade the Houthi's offensive capability, anti-ship ballistic missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, and the myriad of other systems that they are using, all provided by Iran. But to degrade that capability means nothing if Iran is able to resupply them. So, we have an effort to deny Iran the ability to resupply them, and that's where we need more of an international and a whole of government approach to be able to stop Iran from resupplying the Houthis.
REED: Thank you very much, General Kurilla. General Langley, last year you spoke about the Wagner Group's activities, and though there's been some changes in the Wagner Group, they are still a presence in Israel (ph), I assume?
LANGLEY: Yes, Chairman, there is.
REED: And last year you indicated how they are really extorting these countries rather than helping them any way, shape or form. The question arises, what are we doing in terms of information campaign to try to inform governments and the people of the dangers that these groups, not just Wagner Groups, that other entities are posing?
LANGLEY: Chairman, thanks for that question because I would say the Russian Federation's narrative drowned out the U.S. governments in the past years. They were accelerant. The Russian Federation, not just through Wagner, stoked a lot of the instability across the Sahel. They did this
through misinformation, disinformation campaigns.
So, I see how we could double down in our efforts is through our own information campaign, but matched with our assurance efforts, assurance efforts across the whole of government, just not building military and security capacity. But all the story needs to be told about the successes of USAID and State Department collectively in all of our operations, activities and investments.
REED: And that requires additional resources, I presume.

LANGLEY: Yes, Chairman, it certainly does. Especially in the information operations.
REED: I also will presume that timely passage of the supplemental appropriation, as well as the regular appropriations would be critically important to your command. Is that correct?
LANGLEY: Absolutely, Chairman. Because as we're looking at the CR, and during this period of the continual resolution, we're at cusp of canceling a number of operations, activities and investments. And also, my biggest capstone exercise in Morocco, African Lion. It's going to have effects.
REED: Thank you. General Kurilla, passing the supplemental as well as the budget is critical to central command?
KURILLA: It's absolutely critical on the supplemental, Chairman. 2.4 billion, 531 million of which is for counter unmanned aerial system defense. The very systems that are shooting down a lot of these systems. It's for our command-and-control systems. It's for a lot of the modernization efforts that we need.
REED: Thank you very much. Senator Wicker, please.
WICKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I do appreciate the Chair and the General pointing out the importance of passage of the supplemental. I would gently make this point about the regular appropriation bills. In the Senate, they were all reported by the Democratic Chairman and the Republican Ranking Member. For reasons not clear to many of us, the distinguished Democratic leader has chosen not to bring the bills up to the floor before the end of the fiscal year in regular order.
And that's mystifying to me. There's no one else on the face of the Earth that can bring an appropriation bill to the floor other than the Democratic leader. And I certainly share the unhappiness and disappointment on both sides of the dais about the fact that we have not been able to get our appropriations done on time. General Kurilla, we would like to avoid war with Iran, correct?
KURILLA: That is correct, Senator.
WICKER: Now, does Iran seek war with the United States?
KURILLA: They do not, Senator.
WICKER: They'd like to avoid head-to-head war with the United States. And so, they use proxies. From October 2023 through January of this year, Iranian backed militia groups targeted U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria more than 150 times. Iranian backed militia groups attacked our forces more than 150 times. That is correct, is it not?
KURILLA: That is correct, Senator.

WICKER: OK. We responded just eight times militarily, is that correct, General?
KURILLA: That number sounds correct, Senator.
WICKER: OK. Now, unfortunately, the proxy attacks continued, and on January 28 of this year, three U.S. servicemen were killed and more than 30 were injured at Tower 22 in Jordan. That's also correct, isn't it?
KURILLA: That is correct, Senator.
WICKER: OK. My understanding is that with a little bit of extra luck, the Iranian backed militias would have been able to inflict earlier casualties. Is that correct?
KURILLA: That is correct, Senator.
WICKER: OK. So, before the deadly attack on Tower 22, how many instances were there in which Iranian backed attacks came close to killing U.S. personnel?
KURILLA: I don't have the exact number, Senator, but there are several incidents where UAVs coming into a base hit another object, got caught up in a netting, or other incidents where had they hit the appropriate target that they were targeting, it would have injured or killed its service members.
WICKER: OK, well, in your military judgment, to us as members of this branch of government, what type of military action might we have taken to prevent the attack on Tower 22 and earlier ones that you just referred to?
KURILLA: Specifically on Tower 22 and the other one specifically, there was action taken, as we said, on the eight times that were taken. My job as the combatant commander is to provide options ranging from kinetic to cyber. And I balance the risk of those options against escalation, when I provide those to the secretary of defense and the president.
WICKER: Sure. I would not ask you what advice you gave up the chain to the Commander in Chief. But what are you telling us your opinion is as to whether we should have responded more than seven times?
KURILLA: I think the key to establishing deterrence is Iran has to understand there are consequences to their actions. I think on the last attack that we did against 85 targets, our messaging matched our actions. And then we killed an individual named al-Saadi. He was the Kata'ib Hezbollah overall commander for Syria. And I think that sent a very strong deterrent message. And we have not had an attack in 32 days in Iraq and Syria. But I will tell you that deterrence is temporary.
WICKER: General, in 1988, Operation Praying Mantis, you're familiar with that, are you not?
KURILLA: I am, Senator.

WICKER: And that involved the United States destroying much of the Iranian Navy. That did not lead to a war between the United States and Navy, but it pretty much put a stop to what they were doing at the time. Is that correct?
KURILLA: That is accurate, Senator.
WICKER: Do we have the capability to degrade, either the Houthi maritime security or the Iranian maritime security?
KURILLA: The Houthis don't really have a maritime force. They do have explosive unmanned surface vessels and underwater, unmanned vessels. We hit those when we see them. In fact, we hit three of them yesterday and destroyed them. In terms of the Iranians, we do have the capability in the Department of Defense to do that.
WICKER: Thank you, General. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Wicker. Senator Shaheen, please.
SHAHEEN: Thank you.
And thank you, General Kurilla and General Langley, for your service and for being here this morning. And thank you for the maps. I love the maps that DOD gives us. And picking up on that, I thought it would be helpful for us to have a map of AFRICOM. And most of CENTCOM, I think, is in there. With respect to where we don't have ambassadors, I really appreciated both of you talking about a whole of government approach that you're doing in your areas of responsibility because, as you point out, there isn't a military solution in these countries.
And I wanted to show this map. You can see by the pins where we do not have ambassadors in Africa and also in Turkmenistan. So, we have eight open missions in Africa. The African Union in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, the biggest, most populous country in Africa, Cabo Verde, Djibouti. Where, as Senator Wicker pointed out, the Chinese have a base. Liberia, Somalia, Burundi and Burkina Faso. We also do not have an ambassador in Turkmenistan in CENTCOM. So, how important is it for us to have ambassadors in the countries where you're operating to help us move the missions that we have in these countries? I ask both of you to respond to that.
LANGLEY: Senator, it's very essential that we have, especially with our whole of government approach. Our African partners understand, understand that we're here to help them reach their overall national goals of civility and security. But when we bring our assurance actions and our African campaign plan and say, 3D, they said, OK, then why aren't we important enough to have an ambassador? So, it does draw a strategic communication that can be exploited and leveraged by the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China. It is certainly essential.
SHAHEEN: Thank you. And I would point out that the PRC has ambassadors in all of those countries. General Kurilla?

KURILLA: Thank you, Senator. Actually, it's been a great year for CENTCOM in terms of getting ambassadors confirmed. So, I thank this body for that. And at Turkmenistan, the recent ambassador did recently leave. So, we actually had a very good -- it's critical to have an ambassador. I talked to the ambassador from Iraq just this morning.
SHAHEEN: Well, thank you. I would hope that our colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, but particularly those Republican colleagues who have been blocking these ambassadors, will help us get this done. It's in our national security interest to have ambassadors in these countries. It helps not just with your mission, but with other efforts that Americans are making in those countries.
General Kurilla, I just returned from a trip to Turkiye. I met with President Erdogan. We were the first congressional delegation to meet with President Erdogan since 2019. It seems like there may be an opening for a new, to reset somewhat our relationship with Turkiye. And one of the things we talked about was Syria and the potential for us to cooperate more going forward in Syria. And I recognize we have challenges in trying to do that.
But as we look at the role that Iran and Russia are playing in Syria, it seems like that might be an opportunity for us. So, can you talk about what we're doing currently to maintain military to military deconfliction relations with Turkey since and how we might benefit from more cooperation there?
KURILLA: Thank you, Senator. I welcome the opportunity to collaborate more with Turkiye.
As you know, that's part of the EUCOM combatant command. But we are in Turkey. Sorry. We are in Syria for the enduring defeat of ISIS. And that is the whole reason that we're inside of there. And what I do look forward to is the ability to cooperate with Turkiye in a more wholesome manner going forward on that.
SHAHEEN: Well, thank you. And what's CENTCOM doing to try and ensure the repatriation of
ISIS fighters who are a real threat in that region?
KURILLA: Senator, last week I was in Syria. I was at the Al-Hawl IDP camp. And I was in the Al-Roge (ph) IDP camp. We have been making quite good progress. I think almost 7,000 have been repatriated in 2023 when I was in there. What we try and do, the large population of those are Iraqi. We're trying to move those back into a place called Jeddah-1, and it's the throughput there before they go back into the communities.
There's been other countries that have done a tremendous job on repatriating their people. Kyrgyzstan is one of them. And we've gone from a high of 70,000 in Al-Hawl camp. We're down to 43,000 right now. So, we are making progress. Wed like to make faster progress. The other thing is briefly (ph), the ISIS army in detention, over 9,000 detainees across 27 different detention facilities in Syria. We need to repatriate those detainees for either the face prosecution or reintegration, rehabilitation, back into their societies.
SHAHEEN: Well, thank you. Thank you both very much.

REED: Thank you, Senator Fischer. Excuse me, Senator Shaheen. Senator Fischer, please.
FISCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you both for being here today. General Kurilla, in your written testimony, you stated that, quote, despite gains in the counter-VEO fight, various groups in the central region retained the capability and will to target U.S. interests abroad in under six months with little or no warning. I remain deeply concerned about our ability to conduct over the horizon counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. We've conducted only one strike against a target in Afghanistan since that withdrawal.
We don't have reliable partners on the ground or basing agreements with neighboring countries, and we rely on Pakistan for access to Afghan airspace. Despite these challenges, your mission of preventing ISIS-K or other terrorist groups from successfully conducting another large-scale attack on the United States or our partners remains an integral part of our national defense strategy.
So, General, in your written testimony, you also stated that, quote, the reprioritization of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance targeting expertise and linguists creates gaps and seams in our ability to detect and disrupt plots, increasing freedom of movement for VEOs to plan a strike against the homeland, end quote. And that quote, this could be partially mitigated by additional and alternative ISR assets and cooperation with our central and south Asian partners.
Have you requested any additional or alternative ISR assets from your chain of command that have not been provided?
KURILLA: Senator, I've made the assessment of all that required to accomplish all of these missions, and I've passed it up to the chain of command.
FISCHER: Have you been provided those assets?
KURILLA: I don't think any combatant commander has all of the assets that they have. As you look at the secretary has to balance this globally. Across all the combatant commands, we have received some, and there's some that I've asked for that I have not received.
FISCHER: Have you been able to do an analysis when you do not receive those assets on negative impacts that has had on any of your forces or strategic plans?
KURILLA: So, Senator, what I do is, if I dont get these resources, we measure that in terms of risk, we look at the consequence of an action happening, should we not get that resource and the probability of that action happening based on that. And we look at that across all the different resourcing emissions (ph) that we have.
FISCHER: I would hope that you would make use of your unfunded priorities list in the future so that Congress has a better idea of what you need and what we need to do in order to provide you with the resources that you and your men and women need.
KURILLA: I look forward to doing that, Senator.

FISCHER: Thank you, sir. Also, can you tell us if a mix of kinetic and directed energy weapons in CENTCOM would provide you with better options to defend against the Houthi attacks that Senator Reed was talking about and ask you about that we're seeing in the Red Sea?
KURILLA: So, we do want to get-
FISCHER: Senator King and I love this.
KURILLA: So, we do want to get. It's a layered defense, whether that's on a ship or it's on a base. We do have directed energy. The Army's transformation and contact forward, they've sent us some directed energy, mobile, short range air defense that we are experimenting with right now over in the Middle East. I would love to have the Navy produce more directed energy that can shoot down a drone, so I don't have to use an expensive missile to shoot it down. But what's worse than not having that expensive missile shoot it down is hitting that $2 billion ship with 300 sailors on it.
FISCHER: Agree. I hope that we can see some further usage of those developmental systems that are out there. But as you said, your first and most important priority is to protect the men and women that are serving this country. So, thank you, sir. Also, how is CENTCOM supporting the Israeli military as it seeks to root out Hamas? Are you -- and in conjunction with that, working with Israelis, are you also working to continue to develop partnerships with our Arab allies, friends, neighbors as well?
KURILLA: So, that is one of the biggest things that we work. And I'll tell you, up until October 7, we are on a trajectory that we had not seen any time in the past, and that was in developing these relationships with our Arab partners and also with our Israeli partners there.
FISCHER: Thank you, sir.
REED: Thank you very much, Senator Fischer. Senator Manchin, please.
MANCHIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you all for your service. Appreciate very much. General Langley, if I could on this. I hope you've been made aware of the thing's just been brought out. In the case of West Virginia National Guard has announced yesterday a new state partnership with Gabon. I don't know if that's been brought to your attention or not.
LANGLEY: Yes, Senator.
MANCHIN: OK. I'm biased, but I confirmed that National Guard of West Virginia specifically asked to take on the partnership, given their close relationship that they built with Qatar and Peru. We've been working there very strategically. Part of the reason that I believe West Virginia was selected was due to the seven countries in Africa having gone through a military coup in recent years.

However, the August military takeover, Gabon saw positive reactions from the public, due to previous Gabonese government's corruption. So, how productive have your previous engagements with Gabon been, and how do you plan to use the new partnership to expand your relationship? Or how will the West Virginia National Guard fall into that?
LANGLEY: Thanks for that question, Senator, because I will tell you that the state partnership program writ large is something that's unrivaled. When I say it's unrivaled. Because this is not offered by the People's Republic of China, nor is it rivaled by the Russian Federation. So, a continuance to engage through this authority is going to be able to assist Gabon into being increasing their partnership and capacity.
We're going to operate within the imposition of 7008 sanctions because there was a coup. But I think there's enough, notwithstanding authorities, to increase their overall capacity in their security construct and also get them back on the road to democracy.
MANCHIN: Does their military is taking over, the coup was done by the military. Do they still have control and are they running the country?
LANGLEY: Yes, they do. And General Gandhimi (ph) says that he is laying out a plan. State Department, our African Bureau, Assistant Secretary Phee is going to ensure that they lay out the benchmarks that will be acceptable to the U.S. government for them getting back to that end state.
MANCHIN: General Kurilla, if I may. Iran continues to fund their terrorist organizations and all their allies that they've been working with. They've killed U.S. troops, they're backing more recent destabilization activities with Hamas, and it goes on and on. Despite a state sponsored terror, they continue to evade sanctions. How knowledgeable have we been at the ghost ships and turned a blind eye to that?
KURILLA: Senator, that is actually Department of Justice and Treasury in terms of the ghost ships. But in a closed session, I can tell you what I know of the number and how they operate.
MANCHIN: When we go into that session, I'd love to hear more about that. Alongside our partners and allies in the region, are you able to prevent Iranian vessels from selling sanctioned oil used to finance terrorism or do you have to have approval from Justice to do that?
KURILLA: So, Department of Justice is the one that then does the-
MANCHIN: Unless they give you the order. If you don't get the order directly, you cannot stop.
KURILLA: We don't seize those ships.
MANCHIN: You don't seize them or stop them?
KURILLA: They generally what happens is they talk to the master of the ship, and they take it to a port. But what I would highlight is that 90% of that oil is going to China. So, China is funding that, and the very dollars are then going out to fund Iran's malign activity through their proxy network.
MANCHIN: It's a lose-lose proposition for the United States of America and all of our allies and freedom loving countries around the world to allow what's happening to happen. And putting that oil into that market, such as that, makes it much more challenging and difficult for us and just makes no sense at all. Are you aware of the delays in theft and equipment of deliveries from the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq?
KURILLA: The vast, vast majority of all the equipment makes it up to the Kurdistan region and the Peshmerga. There has been some delays of some of that equipment in Baghdad. As they work through some of the processes (ph).
MANCHIN: You're able to close that loophole? I mean.
KURILLA: I'm sorry?
MANCHIN: Were you able to stop? Are we able to stop that from happening?
KURILLA: What we do is we work with the government in Baghdad to be able to make sure that that equipment makes it up to the Peshmerga.
MANCHIN: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Chairman.
REED: Thank you very much, Senator Manchin. Senator Cotton, please.
COTTON: General Kurilla, General Langley, welcome. Thank you for your service and the men and women who serve in your commands. General Kurilla, last year at the same hearing, you said that Iran was undeterred. You've touched on this a couple of times today. What's your current assessment? Iran deterred, not deterred?
KURILLA: I would tell you Iran is undeterred in support to the Houthi. They are undeterred in their support to Hezbollah, their support to Hamas, the support into the West Bank. They are deterred right now in Iraq and Syria and their support to the Iranian aligned militia groups, but not in terms of attacks, but not necessarily in terms of their funding and equipping.
COTTON: OK. I think in response to Senator Wicker, you said there hasn't been an attack in Iraq and Syria in 32 days?
KURILLA: About 32 days.
COTTON: And that's what you judge they're deterred?
KURILLA: I also base it based on the intelligence that I read.
COTTON: OK. But you also use the term temporary?

KURILLA: Deterrence is always temporary.
COTTON: OK. But they are still training and equipping those militias and other proxies in Iraq and Syria?
KURILLA: 100%.
COTTON: If you raise and train a pit bull and then you let it off the chain in the neighborhood, do you think you're responsible for the actions of the pit bull?
KURILLA: Senator, I do.
COTTON: OK, thank you. Talking about those attacks, Senator Wicker asked you how many occurred since October 7. What was that number?
KURILLA: Number of attacks in Iraq and Syria or where?
COTTON: I think he asked Iraq and Syria.
KURILLA: Iraq and Syria is approximately 175.
COTTON: And how many times since October 7 have we struck Iran proxy positions in Iraq
and Syria?
KURILLA: I believe it is eight.
COTTON: That doesn't seem like a very good balance. 173 to eight. What's up with that?
KURILLA: I think, when we strike, we aim what we are hitting at. The last strike that we did, we hit 85 targets, and we killed them. We waited, and then we killed their top commander for Syria from Kata'ib Hezbollah.
COTTON: Unfortunately, though, it wasn't just attacks on October 7 and since. Do you know the number of attacks from January 20, 2021, to last October 7?
KURILLA: I don't have the number, but it's up there, Senator.
COTTON: Would it surprise you that Secretary Austin testified to this Committee last year that it was 83 attacks?
KURILLA: That would not surprise me.

COTTON: And how many retaliatory strikes had we launched in those two years and nine months?
KURILLA: Don't have the exact number at tip of my fingers.
COTTON: You testified that it was four. Would that surprise you?
KURILLA: That would not surprise me.
COTTON: Again, not a very good balance, if you ask me. OK, so you said they're not deterred with the Houthis, which I think we can see, obviously, since the Houthis keep sinking ships and killing people every day in a global truck point that accounts for one-sixth of the world economy. Have you offered strike options against the Houthis that go beyond the current strikes that have occurred?
KURILLA: I provide options, a wide variety of options. Everything from cyber to kinetic. And with the risk of escalation based on those.
COTTON: Can you tell me a little bit about the Campaign to Compel?
KURILLA: The Campaign to Compel is one we wrote back in October, and that is to compel Iran to cease their support and attacks of their proxies. And it is to hold Iran accountable for those.
COTTON: Are you currently implementing that campaign?
KURILLA: We are implementing portions of that campaign, but it requires a whole of government. There is no just big M military in our instruments of national power, between diplomatic information, military and economic.
COTTON: OK. You testified, or you stated that, one of your priorities is limiting Iranian resupply of the Houthis. What about striking their indigenous manufacturing capabilities that Iran has built up substantially over the years?
KURILLA: Internal to Iran?
COTTON: No. In Yemen. Yemen is making a lot of its own drones.
KURILLA: Absolutely, Senator. And I can talk to you in a closed session some of the challenges with that.
COTTON: Those are fixed sites, aren't they?
KURILLA: They are if you know where they are.

COTTON: OK. Do you think it was a good idea to remove the Houthis from the foreign terrorist organization list in February 2021?
KURILLA: That was a policy decision, Senator.
COTTON: Do you think that emboldened the Houthis or encouraged them to think they could get away with this kind of action?
KURILLA: I'm not certain how much that changed their current action.
COTTON: OK. They were recently designated a specially designated global terrorist organization, which is a pale simulacrum of being designated a foreign terrorist organization. That doesn't seem to have changed their calculus, does it?
KURILLA: It does not.
COTTON: Thank you. One final follow up on a statement you made earlier. You said, and this is close to a direct quote, that we could see attacks against U.S. or Western interests abroad with little to no warning in as little as six months. Are you speaking there about ISIS and al Qaeda from Afghanistan?
KURILLA: ISIS Khorasan, specifically, and also out of Syria, which they are trying to vector into predominantly European countries.
COTTON: So, ISIS out of either Afghanistan or Syria, attacks against U.S. interests and Western interests abroad in as little as six months. Now, abroad can mean a lot of things. Abroad can mean our embassy in Tajikistan. It could also mean western Europe or North America. Could you be more specific?
KURILLA: Europe and Eurasia.
COTTON: OK. What is the timeline you foresee in which those terrorist organizations could launch an attack with little to no warning against the American homeland?
KURILLA: You'd think, is it a lot more difficult for them to be able to do that and require substantially more resources?
COTTON: OK, so six months anywhere across Eurasia, an indeterminate time in North America?
COTTON: Thank you.
REED: Thank you, Senator Cotton. Senator Duckworth, please.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I slid right in there, didn't I, Jack?
REED: No, you're right on time.
DUCKWORTH: Good morning, General Kurilla, General Langley, thank you for appearing today. I have the honor of being a member of both the Senate Armed Services and the Senate foreign relations committees. And because of this, I have a responsibility in ensuring strong interagency coordination to address pressing national security challenges. We continue to see increasing PRC investments in the CENTCOM and AFRICOM AORs that involve economic, diplomatic and military activity.
This poses a threat to our national security, requiring strategic coordination across the interagency. So, we must also leverage our allies and partners to counter this PRC activity. General Kurilla and General Langley, can you explain the importance of DOD working across the interagency, especially with the State Department and USAID, to counter malign PRC activity in your AORs? And how can Congress help you?
LANGLEY: Thanks for that question, Senator. And so, collectively, at our headquarters, we have representation across the interagency and also USAID and Department of State. And collectively, when we campaign with our African partners, we take this into effect. We do this to counter, on one, the information space. There's a number of things by Russia and China that are pushing and shaping onto our African partners, especially across their society, that changes ways and a departure away from international norms. So, what we're doing is with activities and investments across USAID and the State Department to employ type of efforts that are unmatched such as in global health, just strategic health is unmatched. But just one thing. When I was with Minister Councilor (ph) Maura Barry when we went to Zambia. We went to Zambia because we knew that they had already put out information about the helicopters that we delivered there for crisis response were all about fighting a war. That was a skewed message, but what it was I was with Minister Councilor Barry, and she says, hey, tell what the numbers were PEPFAR about. We saved 25 million lives. We increased the life expectancy by 20 years when we started this 20 years ago with President Bush. This was and others that supported these Congresses supporting funding of PEPFAR. That's something that's unmatched by our partners, by our competitors.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you.
KURILLA: Thanks, Senator. Very similar in that we also have interagency representation across all of CENTCOM. And really it takes a whole of government approach to solve all of the challenges we have in the region.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you. And General Kurilla, the PRC has continued to target the U.S. relationship with our longstanding allies. How can we strengthen our military mil to mil engagement with our partners in the CENTCOM AOR?

KURILLA: One of the challenges we have sometimes is the bureaucratic process of our foreign military sales, which goes across all of our elements of the government. What China does is they come in and they provide basically like Amazon, anything in the catalog, express shipping. They give them funding, which they don't know there's a little bit of a catch sometimes in their funding with no end user agreement.
The time it takes for us sometimes to bring foreign military sales to actually deliver is a challenge for some of our partners because they have real security needs. So, anything that we can do, and there's elements in the Department of Defense, State, Congress and Industry, to be able to get that to happen faster would be helpful.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you. Since October 2023, there has been a significant increase of missile and drone attacks in the CENTCOM AOR, leading to the tragic death of three servicemembers in Jordan back in January. I worked with my colleagues to add a provision to the F.Y. 2023 NDAA that would provide an assessment of the Iraqi security forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga Forces air and missile defense capabilities, and would provide a training and equip plan.
Kurdistan has been targeted with missiles and drone attacks for hosting U.S. military forces. That plan was due February 1. The required implementation timeline for the training is 90 days after the development of that plan. General Kurilla, can you provide my office an update on the status of this training plan and what you are doing to ensure its implementation within the required timeline? Or are you going to miss the timelines?
KURILLA: Senator, I'll get that to you.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you, General. How is CENTCOM working to ensure that it has an integrated air and missile defense system to counter the increased threats posed to U.S. servicemembers in the region (ph)?
KURILLA: So, that is one of our top things that we are working on, Senator, through our regional partners. One of the first things that we're trying to do is come up with a common air picture. You have to be able to see the threat before you can defeat it. And where there's many elements that we are doing in terms of radar sharing agreements with a lot of our regional partners.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you. I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Duckworth. Senator Scott, please.
SCOTT: Thank you, Chairman. First out, thanks both of you for being here. Thank you for your service and the men and women that serve with you. Thank you for what you do. First, General Kurilla, can you talk about what's caused us to put all these assets in the Red Sea area? Why are you there?

KURILLA: So, the U.S. economy relies on open sea lanes. Right now, when you look at the Red Sea, 30% of all container traffic travels through there. Twelve to 15% of the entire global economy flows through there. And by our national security strategy, we will not allow a state or non-state actor to affect the freedom of navigation, the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab al-Mandab or the Suez Canal.
SCOTT: How many of those container ships come to states?
KURILLA: I can't give you the exact number of those container ships, but right now what we are seeing is a diversion of not going through the Red Sea. For instance, if you're talking oil that comes through, we're seeing a diversion of that, and it goes around the Cape of Good Hope. What that's going to do is bring products late to need to market and it'll price increases as well.
SCOTT: Do you have a feel for how much money we're spending right now with all the assets we've added since the Houthis started shooting at us?
KURILLA: I don't have an exact number for you, Senator.
SCOTT: Do you have any feel for how much they're spending?
KURILLA: I don't have an exact number for you, Senator.
SCOTT: So, the attack on the ship that killed the Filipinos, how is that going to change anything?
KURILLA: In what sense, Senator?
SCOTT: Are you going to get more international support? Are you getting that much international support, or is this really borne by the American taxpayer?
KURILLA: There's 24 countries right now that are providing support in Operation Prosperity Guardian. The first ship that responded to that was an Indian ship, an Indian destroyer. There was an Iranian ship 30 nautical miles away from that that sat and watched. And another thing I've ever seen is a Chinese ship respond to a safety of life. And all these ships that we have out there from all these 24 different nations, whether it's ships or servicemembers participating in this, we work together to be able to defend those ships or respond.
SCOTT: Do you have any feel for what percentage of the cost is being borne by our military versus the Indian military, the British, anybody else?
KURILLA: I'm assuming that the cost of a ship is roughly the same to operate. So, I would have to look at that by the number of ships that are out there. We see several Indian ships that are out there right now. There are several European ships that are out there as well.
SCOTT: So, what we've done so far, do you feel like it's not stopping anything? Right? The Houthis haven't changed.

KURILLA: So, if we look at the campaign for establishing freedom of navigation, protect those ships, and we protect our U.S. ships we are escorting, to degrade Houthi offensive capability, one of the challenges is determining the exact number of what they had to start with. And I can talk about that in a closed session.
And then really, the most important thing is to deny their ability to resupply from Iran. The Houthis are not building. They're putting it all together and assembling. But they don't create inertial navigation systems. They don't create medium range ballistic missile engines. They don't create the stage separations on these medium range ballistic missiles or the anti-ship cruise missiles.
SCOTT: Do you know of any products that we would miss if the Red Sea was -- there was no travel through the Red Sea?
KURILLA: I think you'd have a lot more expensive products and would affect the global economy.
SCOTT: So, do you have any examples?
KURILLA: I think the stuff that flows through the Red Sea in terms of products, I think you would see products late to need. You also have shipping containers that the market will adjust, free markets adjust, and what you'll see is a higher price of commodities.
SCOTT: Thank you. General Langley, can you talk about why we care about what's happening in Africa right now? I mean, if you tell the American taxpayer why are we there? Why are we spending the money we're spending there?
LANGLEY: Thanks for that question, Senator. For access and influence. I'd say that a number of countries are at the tipping point of actually being captured by the Russian Federation as they are spreading some of their false narratives across Libya. And from a strategic answer piece, access,
influence across the whole Maghreb, that is NATO's southern flank.
We need to be able to maintain access and influence across the Maghreb from Morocco all the way to Libya. Excuse me. The PRC and Russia are also remaining exploitative where possible and coercive when necessary. They want that ground. They want power projection capabilities.
So, for the most part, the rest of the continent is also for mining concessions, whether it be gold or rare earth minerals. Both of them have a long-range plan, but I think at the accelerated pace, a Russian Federation is really trying to take over central Africa as well as the Sahel.
SCOTT: Thank both of you.
REED: Thanks, Senator Scott. Senator Blumenthal, please.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you both for your service and all the men and women who serve under your command.
I recently visited the region, particularly our base in Jordan, the MSAB Base jointly manned by our Air Force and armed services and the Jordanians. And read also Tom Friedman's piece in New York Times, detailing his travels with you, General Kurilla, through western Jordan and Syria. What I saw there and heard from our commanders was about the small, nimble Iranian drones, Shahed-101s that were apparently used in the attack that killed three of our service people.
And the potential for those small, cheap drones to swarm and to strike targets because of their number and because of the difficulty of detecting them, they fly low and they are slow. We have apparently a counter weapon called the Coyote, which has been produced apparently in limited numbers. Wonder if you could talk a little bit about the use of these small drones in that setting and elsewhere in the region where our forces and our allies' forces may be at risk because of those small, inexpensive Iranian drones, like the Shaheds that are being shipped all over and what we can do to counter that threat?
KURILLA: Thanks, Senator. I appreciate that. That is one of the top threats because it is inexpensive. It's a precision guided weapon. Yaron produces some that can go over 2,000 kilometers with those weapon systems. The bigger concern is if you start talking about swarms (ph). Swarms, so we need to continue to invest in things like high powered microwave to be able to counter a drone swarm that is coming at you. And in a classified setting, I can talk about some
of the activities also that we can do against them. But when you look at things like the Coyote missile has been very effective. I mean, nothing is 100 percent. And at some point, the law of statistics will come up to you. You have to have a layered defense. And they are -- certain systems cost more than others. What we want to get to
also is directed energy, where it costs a dollar or $2 a round. We do have those right now in the Middle East that the Army has provided us.
And what we're going to do is they're transforming in contact and be able to provide that feedback back to them of what's working well. What I asked the chief of the Army is, don't give me something to replace it. Give me something to augment, and I'll tell you how it works, because it's a pretty rough and harsh environment to operate there.
BLUMENTHAL: Do you think that there are sufficient countermeasures under way right now, or should we be focusing more resources to develop?
KURILLA: So, one of the things I would ask is to pass the supplemental because I have $531 million in counter UAS technology that I need to get forward into theater that will save lives. And there is the technology. There are things out there we have to continue to experiment. We're experimenting right now with a system that actually can go after both UAVs and land attack cruise missiles because it can go 300 knots. But if you go out there and you decide not to engage, you can bring it back and have it land. What we have to get better at is the cost curve on that, to get those systems to be less expensive.

BLUMENTHAL: In response to some of my colleagues' questions about Iranian oil, you rightly observe that it's not simply or solely a military problem. Obviously, a lot of it is sold to China, so it's an export control or sanctions issue. But at the same time, this regime employs a fleet of rogue vessels that use a myriad of evasive technologies.
And those practices include, for example, turning off GPS trackers before docking in Iran at sea, transfers of oil between tankers, repainting vessels mid journey, labeling oil as different types of fuels. I think that clamping down on these practices to intercept the shipments requires an investment of American military resources. Correct me if I'm wrong. Do you think we've invested enough?
KURILLA: So, right now, we do not do any of the seizure of any of that oil. It's generally done by the Department of Justice and Treasury. But Justice then usually contacts the master of that ship and tells that ship that they are carrying, if it's on a larger commercial ship, they tell them they're carrying sanctioned Iranian oil. But then there's this whole ghost fleet that you mentioned that is out there, and we can talk about that I think best in a closed session.
BLUMENTHAL: And wouldn't our interceptions be more effective if it were more than just the Department of Justice? I worked for the Department of Justice as a prosecutor. I have great faith in the lawyers there, but they're not military people. I don't know how much they understand the logistics or the force requirements.
KURILLA: And Senator, if I was given that mission and the appropriate resources to accomplish it, I'm certain that we could accomplish the task given to us.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. Thank you both again for your service.
REED: Thank you, Senator Blumenthal. Senator Tuberville, please.
TUBERVILLE: Thank you. Good morning. How are you? Commander Langley, you stated that you seamlessly integrated CENTCOM regarding activity with Red Sea. What type of support are you giving them? And would you support an increase if the activity continued to increase?
LANGLEY: Senator, I can get more explicit in closed session, but I can tell you both myself and General Kurilla can always use more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. That's something that's in high demand globally. With the challenges and the emergent threats across
the globe. That's just one of the areas that would actually help us in protecting the force. And also, indications of warnings against attacks on America.
TUBERVILLE: Thank you. China has been investing in economic infrastructure developments in Africa since the '90s. What are the operational advantages that China has over our efforts in Africa, and what are we doing to help out on that?
LANGLEY: So, Senator, right now, China has a plan, a long-range plan, but they're coming in with their belt and road initiatives. But I think they do have global aspirations for a security construct to get a decisive advantage over the United States. We need activities and investments to deter that, especially engaging with our partners, our African partners, telling them to ensure that they're not militarized. So, this takes information campaign that's successful, but also
assurance actions of building partnership and capacity where they won't need China in their false offerings of security construct.
TUBERVILLE: Thank you. General Kurilla, we feel your pain on needing more money. Most of us are for the Israeli supplemental. I know we have a disagreement on all of it up here, but we surely want to help. I'm going to ask you. You might not want to answer this one. Ask about your rules of engagement for our military forces. They appear to be very lax. What's your thoughts on that?
KURILLA: Senator, in terms of where or what?
TUBERVILLE: Engagement with...
KURILLA: The Houthis?
TUBERVILLE: Anybody that attacks our forces in the Middle East.
KURILLA: Senator, so when I look at the Houthis, for instance, I think in the last 72 hours, we've destroyed, under my authorities and really all the way down to the individual self-defense authorities. We've destroyed probably eight anti-ship missiles, shot down one way attack UAS's, explosive, unmanned surface vessels. They have all the authority they need to protect themselves. The other strikes that we do, those are presidentially approved strikes.
TUBERVILLE: Any other bases in the Middle East? Do we have different rules of engagement?
KURILLA: Everyone has the right to self defense, and those are the strikes that we take. Other than that, those are Presidentially approved strike.
TUBERVILLE: You know, most of us up here, we don't really get it when it comes to this administration's support of Iran. Seems like we're fighting on both sides of the coin here. You know, I've talked to a lot of people that even been in the fight for Israel, been in Gaza, and it's horrific. We all know that. But I think they need to focus more on survival than they do winning because there's going to be a gang up here and we need to fund this fight. There's no doubt about it. And I'm not going to ask you to comment on this. This is not a Israel problem when it comes to Palestine. This is Arab problem. Arabs need to take care of their business over there. If they want to help the people of Palestine, they need to help them. They need to get them out. And I totally agree with the problem of genocide. So, that's all the questions I've got, but I've got a few in classified. Thank you.
REED: Thank you, Senator Tuberville. Senator King, please.

KING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us this morning. General Kurilla, one of my nightmares is terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons. Deterrence has been our strategy for 80 years, and it's worked, but it doesn't work if somebody doesn't have a capital city or care about dying. Share some thoughts. I mean, that's one of the things that worries me about Iran moving toward a nuclear weapon. North Korea, countries that may not be as responsible as others in regards to the security of their nuclear weapons. Thoughts on that issue?
KURILLA: Senator, I'll just speak for CENTCOM. In terms of Iran, as you know, Iran has kind of a three-pronged approach. One is to remain a nuclear threshold country. They do not have a nuclear weapon right now, and I don't believe they've made the decision to go to a nuclear weapon. Their advanced standoff weapons, and then use of their proxies.
They have, and this is open source and unclassified, their production of 20 percent enriched uranium has increased by 64 percent, and their production of 60 percent highly enriched uranium has gone up 39 percent over the last year. And that is all creating the highly enriched uranium, that is not the nuclear weapon, you would then have to weaponize that. But is the assessment that they could create enough highly enriched uranium, i.e. 90 percent, in a matter of weeks, of approximately three systems, and then they would have to weaponize that going forward.
KING: And then the question, if they take those steps, what about Hezbollah, Hamas? I mean, that's the danger that I'm worried about is Iran has to worry about Tehran, and deterrence is a factor. If it gets into the hands of a terrorist, then deterrence doesn't work.
KURILLA: That is a great concern. But a nuclear armed Iran would change the Middle East overnight and forever.
KING: It would probably lead to nuclearization of other neighboring states.
KURILLA: 100 percent.
KING: Of course, one of the issues in Gaza right now is humanitarian aid. Very complicated, difficult to get in, checkpoints, trucks lined up. What about the option of seaborne humanitarian aid? And also, Admiral Strafitas (ph) suggested a hospital ship coming to Gaza to provide medical care, which would avoid some of these problems of Hamas being embedded underneath hospitals.
KURILLA: So, Senator, I was in the region last week. I will tell you, the suffering in Gaza is significant, the human suffering. I was in Al-Arish in the Rafah gate. I saw 2,500 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid waiting to go in. The challenge is the security and distribution internal to Gaza. Just this morning, about several hours ago, we did another third drop to the northern part of Gaza. That is where the human suffering is the greatest. That's north of the Wadi Gaza. That's an area that kind of cuts Gaza in half. There's about 300,000 individuals that live there. There used to be 1.4 million. There is no Israeli presence in the north. They've predominantly defeated that by getting the distribution of the aid up to there.

So, I've also stood at the Erez crossing last week, and I was down at the central crossing into Gaza to look at options of how do we increase the land-based trucks going into there that then can get into the north. And then we have provided options of a maritime based option to be able to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza as well.
KING: And a hospital ship would be an option?
KURILLA: I mean, there are obviously many wounded, if that is the direction. I know that there is hospital ship on the east coast. If I was given that, I would figure out the best way to utilize that.
KING: Let's move to Yemen for a minute. I've been surprised, frankly, that once we identified that Yemen was firing these missiles into the Red Sea, that it's taken so long to disable them. And I understand they are continuing to make those kind of attacks. First question is, why has it taken so long? I thought we had fantastic intelligence and targeting ability. How come a small country like Yemen is still at it?
KURILLA: So, what I would tell you the Houthis, while they are a tribal force up in the northwest of Yemen, they are fighting with the most advanced weapons that Iran has, and they are being provided by Iran. So, we're basically fighting the Iranian weapons through the hands of the Houthis. In a closed session, I'll go into great detail the challenges right now internal to targeting inside of Yemen.
KING: Well, I think Senator Fischer mentioned this, but directed energy, this is a place where directed energy would really pay off because those missiles that we're firing to knock down their relatively inexpensive missiles are two, three, four, $5 million a pop. Directed energy is about $0.50. So, I think that's something. I hope that there can be an acceleration of the development of that capacity.
KURILLA: I'm 100 percent supportive of that, Senator.
KING: Thank you. When he's 100 percent supportive of something, I suggest that's a good time
to stop. Thank you, Mr. Chair, Mr. General.
REED: Thank you, Senator King. Senator Warren, please.
WARREN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So, the United States has put a number of rules in place to ensure that we don't inadvertently contribute to civilian casualties. But rules on the books are not enough. I want to make sure that these rules work and that our military leadership is putting the protection of civilians at the forefront. Defense Secretary Austin has said preventing civilian harm is, quote, a moral and strategic imperative. And during your confirmation hearing, General Kurilla, you agreed and you said you would work to improve those processes. And the DOD has taken an important step in that direction when it issued the civilian harm mitigation and response instruction last December to provide guidance on how the department should prevent and respond to civilian harm.

And I want to thank you for that. Among other things, the guidance directs the department to identify whether the partners and allies we provide weapons to will mitigate civilian harm. Now, General Kurilla, can we get an accurate picture of whether U.S. arms transfers contribute to civilian harm if we don't collect information about how these weapons are actually used?
KURILLA: Yeah, so, Senator, I am not involved in the advising of the ground operations.
WARREN: I understand that. I understand. But do you need information about how the weapons are used to figure out if the rules are effective?
KURILLA: To be able to answer that last question, we would.
WARREN: Yes. All right. It would seem to me to be crucial, but the Government Accountability Office identified significant gaps in our oversight about how the weapons are used, particularly in Yemen. And in response, the Department of State established a civilian harm incidents response guidance to investigate, and it created an internal database to track reports of partner governments suspected of using U.S. weapons against civilians. And yet the Department of Defense has not created a similar process or committed to work with the State Department on its efforts to get the information needed for civilian harm. So, General Kurilla, why is that? Why wouldn't DOD want the information on whether our partners are using U.S. weapons against civilian populations?
KURILLA: I can't speak for why the Department of Defense does not have that, Senator.
WARREN: But I take it you'd like to see it?
KURILLA: I think anytime we can do anything to do civilian harm mitigation. So, once, as you mentioned, we stood up our own civilian harm mitigation response team. We have hired nine of the 10 individuals to fill that...
WARREN: And I'm grateful for that. I'm just asking about getting the data. More data helps us make more better decisions.
KURILLA: Better data always does. I will tell you, it will be a difficult data to get, though.
WARREN: OK, I understand that, but State Department is committed to that. I'd like to see DOD committed as well. Now, another tool that we have for preventing civilian harm is Leahy laws, which require DOD and State to vet foreign forces for any gross violations of human rights before providing U.S. funded assistance.
This vetting process is a cornerstone of our human rights policy and is supposed to ensure that we don't contribute to human rights abuses abroad. However, DOD seems to find ways around it, and I just want to take one example, General Langley. Should the U.S. provide assistance to a military that is notorious for targeting civilians or that recently overthrew its democratically elected government?
KURILLA: Senator, no.
WARREN: No? Good. I like that answer. That's exactly right. And yet the U.S. military's exercises last year and planned exercises for this year included Mali and Sudan, where that has occurred. DOD claimed that under the Leahy law, it does not need to vet foreign forces for human rights abuses when it engages in activities such as joint military exercises because DOD does not technically categorize that help as assistance.
Now, when Senator Cardin and I found out about this practice, we sent a letter to DOD raising our concerns. And I'm glad that DOD stopped its exercise plans in Mali and Sudan. But we need to proactively close this gap and protect civilians going forward. The protections that we have for civilians, both in the statute and in guidance can't just be pieces of paper. They need to have a real impact.
We need to strengthen our tools. We're preventing civilian harm. And I look forward to working with the Committee and with you to do that. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Warren. Senator Peters, please.
PETERS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, welcome. And thank you for your service. General Langley, you briefly mentioned earlier the State's partnership program that the National Guard has and how they work with our global allies and partners to make sure we have stronger relationships between them. As part of the State partnership with Liberia, the Michigan National Guard engineers have trained, and they've built critical military infrastructure as well as help to
combat infectious diseases in Liberia that's gone through some significant challenges. As you know, in years past. These partnerships advance state partner priorities, as well as objectives of combatant commands, including AFRICOM. So, my question for you, General, is if you would expand before this Committee on your earlier comments about the strategic importance of the National Guard state partnership program in your command, and specifically, how have Liberia and other countries benefited from this ongoing relationship with the Guard, and how do you see that developing in the future?
LANGLEY: Senator, thanks for that question. Because what myself and General Hokanson have been laying out into the rest of the decade is a plan that will get more strategic partner programs across the continent. And here's how it helps. In our overall competition with the PRC and Russian Federation, they can't match that. The way we build and partner with our countries, with our African partners, builds capacity and capabilities and also gives them appreciation for the rule of law, law of armed conflict, in working with their partners, and makes them even more resilient in getting into their own civil society and closing the gap between civ-mil, some of the drivers of instability. Partnering with just California and Nigeria and others have been the bedrock of stabilizing and increasing capability in our African partners that is unmatched by our competitors.

PETERS: It's great to hear. Great. Thank you, General. General Kurilla, CENTCOM has become a proving ground, I think, for new operational concepts, for technologies, weapon systems, as well as formations, whether it's deterring the Houthi attacks that were out of Yemen or countering Iranian proxies. CENTCOM provides a valuable operational environment for experimenting with some cutting-edge innovations and what is, without question, as realistic and as relevant as you can possibly get. CENTCOM task forces 39, 59, and 99 are combining AI. They're combining that with unmanned systems, as well as some commercial technologies that clearly will give the DOD an edge in future conflicts. So, my question for you, sir, is what lessons learned are you sharing with other combatant commands, as they stand up to similar task forces? And how are you helping to accelerate the adoption of these commercial technologies into the broader DOD mission?
KURILLA: Thank you, Senator. I appreciate that. When I look at something like Task Force 39, what we're doing with robotic logistics, or what they're doing, they've just stood up an additive manufacturing 3D printing center in the CENTCOM AOR, and how we're going to then use that to distribute. So, I don't have to do a logistical convoy to get parts out somewhere when I can actually build those parts right on site. I don't have to wait for those parts to come, or Task Force 59, which right now, we have dozens of unmanned surface vessels out on the ocean right now, providing indications and warnings in real time back to our maritime operations center to help feed that intelligence picture. What we can do in the central region sometimes might not. If you were to put some of the systems out in the middle of the South China Sea, they might not last very long right now where we can put those out and be able to learn and experiment and then figure out how best to use them in all the combatant commands, and we do share our lessons learned.
PETERS: Great. Thank you, General. General Langley, African military leaders are enrolled, to my understanding, in as many as in many of China's 34 military officer academic institutions and their associated noncommissioned officer schools. In fact, I think the PALA annually educates roughly 2,000 African military leaders currently. And I'm certainly troubled by that. And concerned that these training efforts are clearly part of PALA's broader efforts to have control, or have significant influence in Africa. So, my question for you is, how is AFRICOM establishing military academic partnerships with African nations to counter China's efforts in this area?
LANGLEY: Senator, thanks for that question. Because that leads into my request for more international military and education training for our African partners. They treasure our values. They acknowledge and best practices of a civilian led military. And what we offer in our value proposition is why they keep asking me for more seats. Morocco, I was there a few weeks ago and talked to their higher learning of their command and staff and top-level schools. And they said, we're replicating what you guys do in the United States. Because they keep asking us for more seats because United States doesn't offer enough. That is also competing with the Russian Federation. They're beating us 12 to one, Senator.

LANGLEY: So, 12 to one. And then all the statistics you just stated there in the PRC trying to get influence, they are trying to unseat us as a security answer of building capacity and capability to meet all the threats these African countries have to endure.
PETERS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you, Senator Peters. Senator Sullivan.
SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Kurilla, I want to go into our approach towards Iran in the region. Thomas Friedman, a very astute observer, in a New York Times piece entitled a titanic geopolitical struggle is underway. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to put this in the record. This Thomas Friedman article. He says that today, while U.S. is indirectly degrading Russia's capabilities through its proxy Ukraine, things are different in the Middle East. There it is Iran that is sitting back comfortably, indirectly at war with Israel, at war with the United States, at war with Saudi Arabia. By fighting through Tehran's proxies, Hamas and Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria, and Shia militias in Iraq. Iran is reaping all the benefits in paying virtually no costs for the work of its proxies. And the U.S., Israel and their tacit Arab allies have not yet manifested the will or the way to pressure Iran back. Do you agree with that, General?
KURILLA: I think Iran is using all of its proxies in the region.
SULLIVAN: But are they paying no cost?
KURILLA: I think they are not paying the cost.
SULLIVAN: OK, well, let me get into some specifics, and one that I just cannot fathom we have not undertaken yet. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the former commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, now the deputy commander at CENTCOM, recently appeared on 60 Minutes when asked if the Houthis could execute these attacks against U.S. Navy vessels in the Red Sea and international shipping without Iran's support. He said, quote, no. Iranians have been supplying the Houthis, resupplying them. They are advising them, and they are providing them target information. This is crystal clear. So, let me go into that. This is I've raised this with the Secretary of Defense, the
deputy secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
We have the biggest terrorist group in the world providing targeting information on the USS Eisenhower, the Carney. The Carney shot down three different missiles from the Houthis. Why are we not sinking those Iranian ships? If there's an Iranian spy ship providing targeting information to kill sailors from Alaska and North Dakota, why aren't we sinking those ships? By the way, isn't that part of your ROEs? You don't even have to ask the President for that permission.
KURILLA: That is not accurate, Senator. That I wouldn't have to ask the President to do that.

SULLIVAN: OK. That's not part of your ROEs? Third party targeting? You have third party targeting Americans to kill them, and you don't have the authority to take that target out?
KURILLA: Not on the Iranian ships.
SULLIVAN: OK. Have you made a recommendation to take out and sink these Iranian ships that are targeting our sailors?
KURILLA: I provide options ranging everything from cyber to kinetic. And I also identify the risk of escalation and all of those options.
SULLIVAN: OK. We always talk the risk of escalation. The Iranians are escalating on us. We have it backwards. I talked to the Chairman about this. It's not useful when you guys start by saying the risk of escalation. The Iranians are killing our service members. They're escalating. Hamas is escalating. I think we need to drop that talking point. In your personal opinion, do you think the best way to get the Houthis and the Iranians to stop shooting at American ships is to covertly or overtly announce that the next time you target an American ship with an Iranian spy ship, we will sink that ship? In your personal opinion, what do you think that will do from a deterrent standpoint?
KURILLA: Senator, I think there needs a whole of government approach...
SULLIVAN: I know, but I'm asking about this...
SULLIVAN: I'm going to get to the whole of government here. I got 50 seconds left. On that issue, in your personal opinion, is that how you, you heard the Ranking Member talk about Operation Praying Mantis. Are you familiar with that operation?
KURILLA: I'm very familiar with it.
SULLIVAN: And so, what is your personal opinion on getting the Houthis in Iran to stop trying to kill our sailors? I had a meeting with the CNO recently. She mentioned that the Navy worries about one of these missiles slipping through.
SULLIVAN: OK. So, how do we get them to stop doing it? It's obviously not working.
KURILLA: There has to be cost imposition on Iran.
SULLIVAN: And there hasn't been. Thomas Friedman and all of us believe there's been no cost. I'm not blaming you, General. I'm sure you've had strong meetings where you say, of course we should sink these ships, they're targeting our sailors. But so, I'm asking you not what advice you've given to the President. Remember when you got confirmed here, we gave you a letter saying we can ask you in your personal opinion, you don't have to talk about what you said to the President. What do you, as a 40-year general, decorated, knows about combat, what's your personal view on whether we should be sinking intel ships from Iran who are providing targeting information to the Houthis to kill American sailors and Marines?
KURILLA: I think it's best if in a closed session, I can talk you through the intelligence of what we know Iran is providing and the implications and what we can do about that.
SULLIVAN: I think this is a scandal, and to me, it's shocking. And I'm sure you probably in the closed session will tell me, of course you think we should sink their ships, but I just don't understand it. One final question. I've talked to the President directly and Jake Sullivan and their whole team about non kinetic actions like reimposing sanctions on the oil and gas regime of Iran. At the end of the Trump administration, the Iranians had $4 billion in foreign reserves. That's not a lot. Now, they have about 75 billion because we lifted sanctions in essence. Have you recommended, and by the way, the President said he thought was a good idea. Looked at his national security advisor. Talk to Senator Sullivan and the team on this. That was in December. We're not doing that. Have you recommended non kinetic options, like stronger sanctions against the Iranians in their oil and gas regime?
KURILLA: My recommendations are military in nature, but I do recommend a whole of government approach for cost imposition on Iran.
SULLIVAN: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Senator Kelly, please.
KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Langley, General Kurilla, good to see both of you again. So, AFRICOM and CENTCOM have seen conflicts involving extremists and terrorist organizations for decades now. And the recent wave of coups, especially in West Africa, is creating some fertile ground for VOEs. And it's creating a big problem. I was there in the region last January. Iranian backed extremists continue to wreak havoc in the Middle East, as Senator Sullivan was talking about.
And it's a problem that I think requires some new solutions, as we are currently pivoting to fifth generation fighters for readiness against peer adversaries like China. It's critical that we don't lose sight of the very real threat that we face every single day from extremists in Africa and the Middle East. And General Langley, you've previously highlighted the need for more ISR capability, calling ISR an active deterrent in Africa. Yet there are limited number of ISR aircraft to go around.
There are also limited number of assets that can provide any kind of close air support in the region. And then SOCOM has begun its acquisition of the new light attack aircraft, the OA-1K for armed overwatch and close air support. And it seems to be capable in filling some of this gap. And it does seem to be an aircraft that's uniquely positioned to excel in AFRICOM. Just a few months ago, I was flying an F-16 in Arizona, and I was reminded how difficult it is to do close

air support in a really fast-moving airplane like an F-16, F-35. So, can you talk a little bit about how platforms like armed overwatch can provide some important capability against extremist groups?
LANGLEY: Yes, Senator. As I was saying that, in my statements that we need more capability, capacity, and especially in our positioning, on the continent and especially in the Sahel, because I said we are at a tipping point, and there's modest investment for us to do the whole tasking for indications and warnings, especially with the metastasis (ph), with the violent extremist groups, JNM (ph) and ISIS of hell (ph), bordering towards the northern borders of the Gulf of Guinea countries. Any increased ISR and expanding my ability to give a persistent stare, if you will, Senator, is going to be helpful.
KELLY: What do you have now doing that mission?
LANGLEY: Right now, we just have a cocoa (ph) contractor owned, contractor operated ISR, and a B350, 350, which is actually cocoa.
KELLY: So, how many aircraft total?
LANGLEY: Right now, I would cover that with you in closed session. As far as how many-
KELLY: Do you feel what you have is enough?
LANGLEY: At this time with given this emergent threat, Senator, no, I don't.
KELLY: And General Kurilla, can you talk a little bit about the importance of an armed overwatch capability in CENTCOM?
KURILLA: Anytime you can have armed overwatch overhead that also provides an ISR and intelligence capability is beneficial. The only thing we have to watch for is the ability of air defense systems that could take that down because it is a slow mover.
KELLY: And do both of you think that the air tractor, the OA-1K is appropriate for this mission?
LANGLEY: Certainly, I had to do a full assessment on it based on the threat that we have. Because there are other characters on this AOR, especially in the west.
KURILLA: It depends on the region we would operate it with.
KELLY: I was in Jordan about six weeks ago, Saudi Arabia, Israel as well. But in Jordan they had some of these on the flight line, not ours, but the Jordanian air force. And then they had a lot of stuff hanging on it.
KURILLA: The king's daughter flies one of them.

KELLY: Oh, really? I did not know that. Yeah. And it's seemed like you could hang a lot of stuff on it and it has a lot of loiter time and can fly to pretty low altitude. Even an airplane like that that's designed initially as a crop duster can fly around and turn really effectively below 50 feet. So, I was just looking at it. I haven't flown it either, but it seemed quite impressive. And for the kind of missions that you're involved in, in your AORs, it seems appropriate. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
REED: Thank you, Senator Kelly. Senator Cramer, please.
CRAMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Generals, for being here. I'm going to follow up with Senator Kelly's line of questioning and going back a little bit to Senator Fischer's with regard to ISR now that we're getting a little more specific. And I'll try to avoid having to get into secrets.
But you mentioned in your opening statement, General Kurilla, that the continued threat from Afghanistan, have you had to divert ISR from Afghanistan or from anywhere else to cover other areas? I mean, remember, Afghanistan was to be protected by over the horizon. I mean, I just I worry that we're so thin. So, give me some specifics about diversion of ISR providing gaps?
KURILLA: So, every day, Senator, I have to determine where the risk is, and I have to move intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets around, just like I do with my defensive counter-air fighters. And the only places I was being shot at at the time were Iraq and Syria and in the Red Sea.
So, for a period of time, I did divert ISR out of Afghanistan, to be able to cover down on those areas that are most critical. I do know that when Iranian aligned militia groups or Houthis are out and they're trying to launch UAVs, rockets, missiles, that when we have ISR over the target, that is a deterrent effect. So, we do need, and this is something that I do think we need to continue to fund as additional capabilities.
CRAMER: And I worry about that because we're going just the opposite direction. I mean, we're retiring particularly unmanned systems at a very fast rate and not building more of them nearly fast enough. And I worry that we're leaving a lot of really expensive assets out there unprotected. That survivability of the sea fleet, in some cases, the carrier fleet, as well as the, you know, the men and women on the ground. With regard to AFRICOM, General Langley. Now, the MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-9 a Reaper is pretty important in your role. Can you just maybe elaborate a little bit on the importance of that system?
LANGLEY: Again, in comparison to the MQ-1, it just has more on station time, and let's put it that way, exponentially. And given the tyranny (ph) of distance, especially across the hill and even in East Africa, that platform is dire need. So, to continue with that, understand that there's going to be a transition coming up. So, we need other type capabilities that are equivalent or even more, given the emergent threat that we have across Africa.
CRAMER: What you just said is really, really important, that the best we have is older maybe than the threat requires, and we ought to continually be developing more modern, more durable, perhaps more sustainable, more lethal, as well as covert. Maybe in the later session, we can talk more specifically about potential solutions to that. That's all I have, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
REED: Thank you very much, Senator Cramer. Senator Rosen, please.
ROSEN: Well, thank you, Chairman Reed, for holding this hearing. I'd also like to thank General Kurilla and General Langley for testifying today and always for your service to our country. Thank you. I want to talk a little bit about Iran and the long term strategy to deter Iran, because our brave service members in the central command area of responsibility, while they're facing drone and rocket attacks on a regular basis from both land and sea. Recently, three U.S. soldiers were killed, dozens more injured in attack against our troops in Jordan. There were staff Sergeant William Rivers, Sergeant Kennedy Sanders, and Sergeant Brianna Moffatt. They all made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, and their service will never be forgotten. And I'm going to add, may their memories be a blessing to all those who knew and
loved them. But we know where these attacks are originating, Iran's hostile regime and its deadly proxies, and yet we lack a sufficient deterrence strategy.
That's why Senator Ernst and I have successfully led initiatives to mandate CENTCOM air and missile defense and maritime strategies to defend against Iran's regional aggression and protect U.S. service members. So, General Kurilla, please. While recent U.S. strikes and Iranian aligned militias may have degraded their short-term capabilities, what is our long-term strategy to deter Iran and proxies? And for what we can say here. I'm sure we can have it classified as well.
KURILLA Thank you, Senator. I mean, deterrence is always temporary whenever you do establish it, but we need to have a whole of government approach on our ability to deter Iran's malign behavior. They are the epicenter of instability in the Middle East.
ROSEN Well, and proactively, what are we doing proactively to prevent these militias before they attempt to harm us? I think that is, deterrence is one thing, but how do we proactively stop what they're doing? Try to cut them off before they can do anything.
KURILLA So, part of that comes with the use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. Defensive counter error over the top. We know that has an effect. On a classified session, I can tell you exactly how that works. But in terms of our ability to stop them, we have struck back. The last strike we did in Iraq and Syria hit 85 targets. And then we waited several days, and then we killed the commander of Kata'ib Hezbollah in Syria, in downtown Baghdad. He was directly responsible for conducting attacks on U.S. service members. That has had a temporal deterrent effect. Right now, there has not been an attack in over 32 days in Iraq and Syria.
ROSEN: Well, good. I'll look forward to the classified briefing so we can hear more. And I want to also talk about CENTCOM support for Israel, because Israel is our closest and most reliable ally in the Middle East. And in recent years, the Abraham Accords and Israel's absorption into
CENTCOM have enabled unprecedented regional security cooperation between the U.S., Israel, and some of our Arab partners.

At the same time, Israel faces, as we know, we're seeing it coming from Iran, mounting threats from Iran and its proxies, and General Kurilla, again, how can CENTCOM support Israel's defensive needs as they face a war with Hezbollah up north?
KURILLA: I think you're seeing that right now in terms of the material support we were defined (ph) for their ability to defend themselves.
ROSEN: And so, when you think about the Abraham Accords and what that means and what we've been able to do so far, of course, I started the Abraham Accords caucus. We've traveled to the Abraham Accords countries. How do you think that you can leverage the Abraham Accords and grow that relationship between Israel and CENTCOM?
KURILLA: I think we do that through encouraging the relationships between those countries and Israel.
ROSEN: Thank you. I'm going to kind of keep on this issue here and thinking about water and food insecurity. There's a lot of things that make the region unstable. Right? Terrorism, water and food insecurities. And so, what are the security implications of the scarcity of water and food in
CENTCOM? How might a regional, we think about the Abraham Accords, that's what some of these things are built on. How might a regional water and food security working group help
CENTCOM and reduce the security risk caused by a lack of good, clean water and food?
KURILLA: Water and food insecurity drive migration, which drives instability. I think a working group could identify where the greatest need is when we work with our USAID partners and others to be able to provide that aid to there.
ROSEN: Thank you. I appreciate that. I think there's a lot to do with soft power like food and water insecurity, intelligence and other things that we do. I look forward just having both of you come in a classified setting so we can ask some more detailed questions.
KURILLA: Thank you, ma'am.
ROSEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
REED: Thank you, Senator Rosen. Senator Schmitt, please.
SCHMITT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. During the first few weeks in office, the Biden administration ended the sales of the sale of offensive arms to Saudi Arabia and focused on achieving a ceasefire in Yemen. They also reversed the previous administration's, the Trump administration's designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization. To what extent do either one of you believe that the Houthis exploited that ceasefire to increase their missile arsenal and other capabilities?
KURILLA: I'm certain that Iran exploited that and continued to provide funds and equipment to the Houthis.

SCHMITT: Would you agree with that?
LANGLEY: Yes, Senator.
SCHMITT: Okay. If the administration had continued to sell Saudi Arabia offensive weapons, do you think that the Houthis would be stronger or weaker now?
KURILLA: I think Saudi Arabia would be stronger right now.
SCHMITT: And in effect, do you think that that would have weakened the Houthis?
KURILLA: Are you talking if they did not stop them, Senator?
SCHMITT: Yeah, if we didn't stop the sale, if Saudi Arabia continued to have offensive weapons that we stopped selling them, and then we lifted the terrorist designation from the Houthis, do you think the Houthis would be stronger or weaker today?
KURILLA: I mean, I think that's a hypothetical. Without knowing exactly how they were going to implement.
SCHMITT: Okay. Was this a mistake? Right now, 15% of the world's commerce is being disrupted by the Houthis. And I don't pretend to know all the considerations of the Biden administration put into this decision to do those two things, which was to not sell arms to Saudi Arabia and also lift the terrorist designation. But it hasn't worked out. They've been emboldened. What is it that you think, General, we should do right now? This can't go on. This terrorist organization cannot hold 15% of the world's commerce hostage. What is it that you suggest that we do?
KURILLA: I think we need a whole of government and an international approach to this. We have-
SCHMITT: Maybe like sanctions, maybe like selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Would those two things be included in your whole of government approach?
KURILLA: I think that would be something for the State Department and the Department of Justice and Treasury. I can talk about the military aspects of this. And what we do need, though, is the international community, just like we did for counterpiracy to stop the flow of Iranian arms. But there must be a cost imposition on Iran for what they are providing.
SCHMITT: I agree with you on that. And you would agree that there is no cost right now on Iran for any of this? Correct?
KURILLA: There is some, but not enough.
SCHMITT: Right. Like enforcing sanctions as it relates to them. Selling oil would be one of them. A whole of government approach. Right?

KURILLA: Well, I think sanctions have to be international. One unit just, I mean, their oil is sanctioned. All the oil there is selling to China right now, 90% of Iranian oil, that goes to China. China buys 90% of Iran's oil. That is all sanctioned oil.
SCHMITT: Yes. And I guess I have limited time, so I want to sort of turn the attention to Israel for a second. What more can be done or what can be done to bring our hostages home? Sort of this gets lost, I think, a lot in the news cycle, but there are Americans there. What more can be done to bring them home?
KURILLA: Our hope is that all of them will become home. And in a classified session, I can give you a little more details of what is being done.
SCHMITT: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REED: Thank you very much, Senator Schmitt. Senator Budd, please.
BUDD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Generals, thank you for being here today. General Kurilla, as you know, the United States must take a firm stance against Iran and its proxies. This is essential to get Iran to back down and stop its barbaric and destabilizing activities in the Middle East. But
how we achieve that goal, it's as important as achieving it in the first place. Europe and the Middle East are at war. Indo Pacific look like it may not be far behind. So, if we're going to avoid a war in the Indo Pacific, then we must defend U.S. interests in other theaters without using up capabilities that are needed to deter China. So, we know that long range missiles like tomahawks will be needed to deter or defeat Chinese aggression. Other things like air and missile defenses will be equally vital.
We also know that based on DOD and CENTCOM's public statements, that CENTCOM is using significant numbers of all these capabilities in its ongoing operations. General, are you concerned that CENTCOM's use of these capabilities, such as critical munitions, air and defense missiles and the like, is coming at the expense of America's ability to deter China? I know, not in your AOR, but the materials you use may be of concern.
KURILLA: I'm concerned with defending our soldier, sailor, airmen and marines and coast guardsmen out there right now. What I would encourage is that our defense industrial base ramps up production of these systems. I would like cheaper systems that we can use that are just as effective. Things like directed energy and other systems that can bring down the -- but there's only one thing that can bring down a ballistic missile right now from a ship, and that's an SM-6 missile.
BUDD: Thanks for that, General. Continuing on, can CENTCOM achieve its objectives against the Houthis and others in the region without using tomahawks or other weapons that are vital to deter China already in short supply? You touched on that a bit, but if you would expand, please.

KURILLA: Yeah. In a classified session, I can tell you the exact number we used. We can tell you why we used them when we did, but I don't think we fired a tomahawk missile anytime recently.
BUDD: Has OSD or the joint staff directed CENTCOM to stop or reduce the use of weapons required for China contingency in CENTCOM's ongoing operations against the Houthis?
KURILLA: They have not.
BUDD: Can you provide this committee with a full list of munitions? I think you may have mentioned that in the confidential setting that CENTCOM has used during operations in the aftermath of the October 7 attack. Would you be willing to share that with us?
KURILLA: I'll provide that through the department.
BUDD: Yeah, thank you. General Langley, I'm very proud of the North Carolina National Guard State Partnership program. As you mentioned in your written testimony, the North Carolina National Guard recently expanded this program in AFRICOM to include both the Republic of Malawi and the Republic of Zambia, in addition to its current partnership on the African continent with the Republic of Botswana. Can you please provide an update on the state partnership program in Africa and particularly on the new partnership with Malawi and Zambia?
LANGLEY: Yes, Senator, this was just talking to General Hokanson, especially at the anniversary last summer. We see that outsized effects of the institution of state partnership programs. I wish we had more because in competing with our competitors of Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, they have nothing to match that.
So, these are the assurance actions that really solidifies us as a partner of choice. Other countries see this, and they ask, when are they going to get their country partnership? So, this vastly outweighs some of their rhetoric. And when I say their, I'm talking about the competitors of how they're trying to replicate what we're trying to do.
Because we already know that Africa, within Africa, the Russian Federation wants to establish a ground game that resembles a state partnership program, but it doesn't have the values and doesn't have the values, the democratic values of what we bring, that is intrinsic values for stability, security and security, security and prosperity with our African partners.
BUDD: Thank you, General. So, how do short-term continuing resolution CRs, how do they impact the execution of the state partnership program?
LANGLEY: They participate in building resiliency and getting on the continent and partnering with them. So, there's no new start. So, if they're going to be part of an exercise such as, like, African Lion, I'm not sure if the Utah National Guard can actually come this year because that's on this next budget's money that hasn't been appropriated yet.
BUDD: Thank you both. Chairman.

REED: Thank you, Senator Budd. And thank you, gentlemen, for your excellent testimony. For the benefit of my colleagues, there is a vote on the floor now. We'll go to that vote. We'll reconvene in SVC 217 at 2:15, which will allow people to stop along the way. 12:15. I'm sorry. I was going to give you a long break. You need it after this session, but we will recess until 12:15 in SVC 217. Thank you, gentlemen.