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Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Iraq After the Surge: Military Prospects

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Location: Washington, DC

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SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): Mr. Chairman, thank you, and thanks to each of our witnesses this morning for your contributions and your continued contributions over the last two years on not only this issue, but service to our country that you all have given a lifetime to.

The testimony of the four of you and of course of the questions and answers this morning, has brought I think into some clear focus, first, we have no good options as you have all noted in different ways. We, second, have been captive to the reality of a great array of uncontrollables and we will continue to be a hostage to those uncontrollables regardless of what we have done or what we are doing.

A third aspect of what you've all noted is the absolute burden we've put on our military and ask our military to essentially do everything. And as spectacularly effective as our military has been --- and one of the comments that General McCaffrey made when he said that the de facto governments at the local level are army units.

Now, as we are in our sixth year in Iraq, we are not just at a point where I believe that the so-called "pause" which some have been talking about --- and we'll get further refinement on that when General Petraeus is before our committee next year or next week --- but the bigger point as to the purpose and what you have just had some exchange with Senator Kelly about, and others so far, where is this going?

You laid out, Ms. Flournoy, three options. One of the points that General McCaffrey made, in fact maybe his opening statement, was how did we get in this mess. Well, the real question is how do we get out of this mess. I mean that is the only question.

And as I listened to the four of you, and as General McCaffrey started framing --- and I think a good and clear comprehensive way --- the dynamics of not only the dangers that we are dealing with, but the astounding amount of damage that we've done to our force structure and our standing in the Middle East, and our self-destructive policies that have actually taken away diplomatic flexibility and latitude. And if you inventory all that, as General McCaffrey I think, quite well, what struck me about that testimony and the other testimony given here, that all the so-called "good news" is about --- we have a competent secretary of defense, we have competent generals, we have spectacular soldiers --- but all the "good news" is on the American side of the ledger. I haven't heard the four of you talk much about --- not because it's your fault, or not because you're not creative --- but the good news should be as much on the other side, or at least some good news. In fact it is in the negative column.

And I am well aware of General Odom's position on this over the years and as he says in his testimony the surge is prolonging instability not creating the conditions for unity, as the president claims.

Senator Lugar said something in his comments in the beginning, which a number of us had been talking about for many years, and that is we've really never had a regional strategy, we've never had any strategy. We have ricocheted from event to event, catastrophe to a catastrophe, to crisis to crisis, and until we are framing a regional strategy, and also a strategy within Iraq, and taking the heavy burden off the military to do everything, then we will continue to have these kind of hearings, and of course the American people.

We talked about a confluence, general. As we all know, elections are about self-correction, and this election will self-correct on this issue as other elections do on all issues. The American people have made themselves pretty clear on this, and the four of you know this, everyone on this committee, that we can't sustain a foreign policy, certainly two wars and the damage we're doing to our country and the military without the support of American people.

So that's over, this game is over, and we can dance around the hearings all morning or all afternoon, but what we must get at is how do we then unwind in a strategic way with our allies protecting our interests and it's going to force us into some tough choices and none will be very good.

And one of the obligations I think we have on this committee as elected officials is to prepare the American people for that as that there isn't --- there is not one good choice here, where we're going. And I'd like to ask this general question: In picking up on what General McCaffrey said at the front end of your statement, General, about how did we get into this mess, I'd like to ask you if you could opt for briefly giving me an answer to how do we get out of this mess.

I know it's not simple one, two, three, but we've heard pieces of this, certainly, Ms. Flournoy has laid out three options that she thinks we have, but I would like to hear from the three of you, give me two or three or whatever points you want to make briefly on how do we start responsibly unwinding our involvement because we --- if nothing else, no one is pretty clear here --- what Senator Lugar noted in General Cody's testimony yesterday is unsustainable if no other reason than our military can't sustain the burden. Start with General McCaffrey. Thank you.

GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, it seems to me that --- I totally agree there are a series of unpalatable choices. There are a couple of things we're not going to do, so not much sense in talking about it --- what we're not going to do is substantially withdraw in the remainder of this administration. And I'm not too sure it's a good idea if it goes totally chaotic with no continuity in government between November and January, isn't such a good thing.

So I think the so-called "pause" they may be able to draw down to 12 brigades, who knows, but essentially the next administration comes in, they've got to sort it out.

I think step one is, we tell Iraqis we're leaving, and we give them a timetable. You can argue for a year, you can argue for three years, we tell them, we're coming out. We try and build the Iraqi security forces, no question. We try, and without and prevarication engage the region in a dialogue and a serious conversation with the Iranians, or Syrians or Turks, the Saudis, the Jordanians and others and to including the larger Muslim world. I don't think the Europeans are going to help us, so I'd really focused on the regional engagement. It's not to their advantage to have all-out civil war in Iraq as we pull out.

And then I think finally we do have to rebuild our capability to act in phase two. We've got to rebuild the army, rebuild the air and naval power in the Gulf so it's not we've turned out the light and gone home, but we've refused to continue to take part in a civil war inside Iraq. And I think that's essentially where we're going to end up with the next president of the United States.

SEN. HAGEL: General Odom?

GEN. ODOM: Let me say that I just have to repeat what I've been saying all along. You get out of Iraq in boats and airplanes and you drive down to the harbor to get into the boats and you don't have a much better choice than that. And let me say, what do you do next? When you're working in a strategy to do something like this, you can't lay out a bunch of steps and follow them one, two, three. You can have a general concept of where you're going --- as everybody knows once the first shot's fired in a new movement, you're going to have to duck. But you need to keep your eye on where you're headed. The target is regional stability and we will have regional stability when we have better relations with Iran.

Let me point out the advantages of relations with Iraq. They don't want instability there and they don't want instability in Afghanistan and they don't want the Taliban and Al Qaeda running out per se. We are denying ourselves a major ally in Afghanistan. The Russians are able to play a spoiling role in this region because of an unnatural alliance between Russia and Iran. Had we had better relations and you took Russia out of the equation here, you could then start bringing pipelines out of Central Asia, down through Iran and unlock this lock Putin has had on energy, oil, the Western Europe.

You have a country that has very strong interest in Iran in taking instability in Iraq. They don't want that there. We don't have to worry about stabilizing the Kurdistan area. The Turks, the Iranians and the residual Kurds-Iraqi government will do it. We can say all we want to --- there's a problem with training up the president's army and the president's government. It's probably not going to be the army and the president's government that rules. So we're going to have to let that take its natural course, we've a lot of options.

So I won't say any more than, get out, create new options, certainly do the diplomacy General McCaffrey is suggesting with the regional powers, but you're going to make real progress when you improve your relations with Iran. It will have more change, as much change for that regional balance as the U.S.-Chinese recognition in the Cold War.

SEN. HAGEL: Thank you. General Scales?

GEN. SCALES: Very briefly, sir, first of all, let's be very clear, regardless of the strategy or who is in office, we're going to get out of Iraq just driven by the conditions of the military. The question is how do you do it without allowing chaos to reign in the region and without breaking the army and the Marine Corps. That's really what your question is and the answer is to do it responsibly. And I agree with General McCaffrey in this regard, is there are several factors involved.

First of all, beyond just regional --- talking to our regional partners, is we need to have regional partners is we need to have regional engagement and we need to buttress our alliances there. It's not just about talking to them; it's about getting our regional states to engage.

Secondly, as we begin to pull out, as General McCaffrey said, we need to do the best we can to leave behind the best fighting force that we can that has allegiance to the Iraqi flag. We have an obligation to do that. And third, we have to find regional enclaves, I believe, to Bill's point, regional enclaves that will allow us to have an unobtrusive presence in the Middle East simply because the Middle East is absolutely vital to our national interest.

And then the final point, and I couldn't --- I can't emphasize this enough, we must spend the resources to rebuild the army and the Marine Corps as quickly as we can to put them back on the shelf, so that they can be a responsive force to the strategic threats of the future which we know are going to emerge. And I would suggest to you it's not about refurbishing what we've already got to do that as we have to rebuild both of these services in light of our very painful experience over the last six years.

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