Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Nomination of Christopher Hill to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA)
WITNESS: CHRISTOPHER HILL, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS
Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at email@example.com or call 1-202-216-2706.
SEN. KERRY: (Strikes gavel.) The hearing will come to order. Again, I apologize that we're starting a little bit late.
Senator Reed, thank you for being here. We appreciate it very, very much.
This committee will hold many hearings this year and many confirmation hearings, obviously, but I don't think there will be many as important than the two hearings we hold this week for ambassadors to Iraq and Afghanistan.
A hundred and forty-three thousand American military personnel remain in harm's way in Iraq, and about 40,000 more are in Afghanistan. And the outcomes of these wars will have profoundly important consequences for our nation. Our diplomacy is going to be crucial to the outcome of the struggle in these countries.
We begin today with Iraq. In Ambassador Christopher Hill, President Obama has chosen an extraordinarily talented Foreign Service professional with a long and distinguished record of service. And I am convinced that he is the right person for Iraq.
Often the reward for diplomats who succeed in difficult postings with long odds is tougher assignments with longer odds. Ambassador Hill has made a career, now entering its fourth decade, of tackling seemingly intractable diplomatic challenges. Make no mistake; Iraq today still presents extraordinary challenges. While we've set a timetable for withdrawing our troops, as many of us have long advocated, in an effort to accelerate the willingness of Iraqis themselves to take responsibility and stand up, we all understand that our work there is far from finished. The days when we could hope to impose solutions in Iraq are long past. It's the Iraqis who will ultimately determine their own future. Our task is to leverage our troops' redeployment into a sustainable political accommodation that prevents Iraq from sliding back into widespread ethnic or sectarian violence.
To succeed, we will need to address Iraq's potentially volatile internal conflicts and complex regional dynamics through a series of overlapping diplomatic and political initiatives involving a multitude of actors.
Fortunately, Ambassador Hill brings particular talents and experience well-suited to this mission. In addition to serving as ambassador to Macedonia, Poland and South Korea, he was also special envoy to Kosovo in 1999 and one of the top negotiators of the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia, both of which gave him -- both of those experiences gave him crucial experience solving complex problems of ethnic civil wars. As we all know, as assistant secretary of State for East Asia and special envoy to the six-party talks, he had to coordinate delicate multilateral negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program while dealing directly with an extremely difficult regime in Pyongyang.
Ambassador Hill, I believe that all of your considerable skills will be called on in Iraq. And among the many challenges you'll face there, let me just focus very, very quickly on several.
First, resolving the status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories. Arab-Kurdish tensions run high in Kirkuk, which remains a potential flash point for violence, and meaningful efforts to reach agreement on Kirkuk's final status cannot be put off indefinitely.
In Mosul, a strong showing in recent provincial elections by an anti-Kurdish coalition illustrated rising tensions there, as did a tense military standoff in Diyala province last summer between the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga.
If progress is not made in defusing our Kurdish tensions, while American forces remain in Iraq, the window for peaceful resolution in Kirkuk and other disputed territories may close.
Two, passing the oil laws. Despite repeated assurances that an agreement was near, negotiations to finalize a series of laws regulating Iraq's oil resources appear to be no closer to completion now than they were two years ago.
The fundamental issue is a disagreement, between Baghdad and the Kurds, on the Kurdish region's ability to enter into oil exploration and production contracts.
Though the Iraqis, to their credit, have been sharing oil revenues, the country still lacks an overarching legal and political framework for its oil industry, the lifeblood of the country's economy. Again time is of the essence, because of deployments on the ground that will only make the solution more difficult to achieve.
Third, involving Iraq's neighbors in stabilizing the country. Many of us have long encouraged vigorous, sustained diplomacy to encourage Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, to play more constructive roles in Iraq. The Arabs have begun to cautiously engage, with Iraq, and they should be encouraged to do more.
I believe that as Ambassador to Iraq, you are going to have an important role to play in this process. Your predecessor, Ambassador Crocker, had three rounds of meetings, with his Iranian colleague, in 2007. We hope the administration will strongly consider restarting these talks.
Fourth, full integration of the Sunnis. Although some progress has been made, in incorporating Sunni Arabs into Iraq's new political structure, December's parliamentary elections can play a key role in consolidating this process. Integrating the Sunni militias which played such a key role, in turning the tide in Iraq, remains a major concern.
Fifth, addressing refugees and internally displaced persons. Millions of Iraqis, perhaps as many one in six, have been forced to flee. The unwillingness or inability of the vast majority, to return to their homes, is an indicator of Iraq's continuing instability and a potential source of future conflict. Iraqi's religious and ethnic minorities are particularly at risk. This is a problem that will only grow worse if it is not addressed.
Finally the importance of training Iraq's security forces cannot be overstated, if they are to be fully capable of independent action once we leave. This highlights the importance of achieving a high degree of civil-military cooperation between our diplomats and soldiers in Iraq.
I strongly believe that one of the principle reasons that General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were able to accomplish so much is because they worked together so closely.
I know that General Petraeus' successor, General Ray Odierno, is looking forward to building a similar relationship with you, which is why both men and Ambassadors Crocker, Khalilzad and Negroponte have spoken of the urgent need to get our ambassador to Baghdad as quickly as possible. I emphasize that to my colleagues here in the Senate.
I understand that some colleagues may have objections to a nominee. That's their right with respect to any presidential nomination, but -- and some, I am told, may be considering holding up a vote on this nomination until after the upcoming recess. I could not stress more urgently to my colleagues the counterproductivity of such a move.
Senators have every right to vote against Ambassador Hill, but I believe that using Senate procedures to delay his arrival to Baghdad, at a critical time in this war, would do a serious disservice to our efforts there. This is not a time for delay. As the Pentagon made clear last week, quote, "It is vital that we get an ambassador in Baghdad as soon as possible because there is no substitute for having the president's envoy, the U.S. ambassador, in place and on the job."
So this committee will move quickly to discharge Ambassador Hill, who has committed to depart for Iraq within a day of his Senate confirmation. I told him I would do everything I could to see that he gets that chance. And I look forward today to hearing his thoughts on the path forward in Iraq.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): Well, Mr. Chairman, I join you in stressing the urgency of having our ambassadors in Iraq and Pakistan. And I thank you for scheduling this hearing today promptly, and likewise to hear General Eikenberry tomorrow morning, because these ambassadors are critical to the support of our armed forces in those two countries. We are at war. This is not a parliamentary struggle among senators who have diverse points of view.
And so I thank you for emphasizing that in your statement.
And I join you in welcoming our distinguished nominee today, Ambassador Christopher Hill. As you pointed out, during his 32-year career he has led three embassies, served as assistant secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, and in that position additionally was the administration's point man in the six-party talks on North Korea.
As assistant secretary, Ambassador Hill demonstrated outstanding diplomatic and managerial skills in dealing with one of the most difficult foreign policy challenges. His innovative and meticulous approach contributed to successes, including the ongoing disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear complex in the presence of American monitors -- I would point out that the staffs of this committee, both Republican and Democratic, have been to Yongbyon, have seen that situation, with Sid Hecker -- the reentry into North Korea of IAEA officials, and the potential transition of the six-party process into a forum for broader multilateral engagement in Northeast Asia.
I've appreciated especially Ambassador Hill's accessibility to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In addition to nine appearances before the committee in the last five years, he has always been willing to meet with us privately about developments on the Korean Peninsula or elsewhere in East Asia.
Through the confluence of many factors, Iraq is showing positive trendlines, and American casualties are at their lowest mark since the conflict began six years ago. The Iraqi government held successful elections last month, and those provincial councils are convening, electing chairmen, beginning to set their agendas.
But progress in Iraq remains very vulnerable -- to political rivalry, outside interference, and the slow pace of economic reconstruction. Government institutions at all levels remain underdeveloped, inefficient, in many cases, and subject to corruption. The economy, which grew at a rate of 3.5 percent in the first two quarters of 2008, has slipped as oil prices have dropped, and oil production rates are flat. Reduced revenues may slow the efforts of Iraq's government to make necessary infrastructure investments. Unemployment and under-employment remain high.
Ambassador Crocker and General Odierno describe Iraq's progress as fragile and reversible. With this in mind, we need the clearest analysis possible of the likely effects of downsizing the U.S. military presence. We also need a more definitive outline of the missions of the 50,000 troops that will remain in Iraq. And without a detailed mission statement it is impossible to judge whether the force is appropriate.
We also need to understand how the civilian components of the American presence, including the embassy and the PRTs, will be affected by the downsizing of the military operations. The six-party process that Ambassador Hill oversaw required the U.S. diplomatic team to address issues pertaining to the entire region. I believe success in Iraq will increasingly depend on regional factors involving the activities of both friends and adversaries. We must work to allies allies and send adversaries a clear message that the United States remains committed to regional stability and has no intention of leaving a vacuum in Iraq that could be exploited.
Prime Minister Maliki's outreach to Sunnis has already reached or rather reduced tensions among Iraq's Sunni neighbors. Leaders from Turkey, Jordan, Syria and virtually all of the Gulf states, including Kuwait, have paid high-level visits and appointed ambassadors, indicating acceptance of the Shi'a-run government.
Across the region and internationally, the incentive structure for involvement in Iraq is fundamentally different than it was two years ago. Coupled with the drawdown, the time is right to expand our engagement, solidify regional security gains and cultivate more robust regional and international cooperation in Iraq.
Ideally, this cooperation would include regular and wide-ranging talks with neighboring states on broader issues of regional security. And one of the purposes of these talks must be to avoid surprise and miscalculation in the region that could ignite further conflict. Trilateral talks between the United States, Iraq and Turkey could be expanded to include more participation, such as Syria and Jordan, and more issues, such as displaced Iraqis. Trilateral talks with Iran and Iraq should recommence and perhaps include more of Iraq's neighbors and other concerned powers.
We should seek to facilitate Iraq's return to regional, international institutions, which should reduce our long-term burdens. Iraq may not need development assistance, but it does need trading partners, expanded diplomatic and technical help from international agencies.
I look forward today to hearing Ambassador Hill's views on these and many other topics. I certainly appreciate, as you pointed out, Mr. Chairman, his willingness to accept this very difficult post, especially after several years of intense diplomatic activity.
I thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for calling the hearing.
SEN. KERRY: Well, thank you, Senator Lugar. And thank you for your important comments of why Ambassador Hill is the right person for this job.
We're pleased to have one of our colleagues who is recognized throughout the Senate as being one of the most knowledgeable about Iraq and who has spent an enormous amount of time as a member of the Armed Services Committee traveling there and understanding the situation and working with each of the commanding generals who have been there.
So Senator Reed, we really appreciate your taking time to be here and look forward to your introduction.
SENATOR JOHN "JACK" REED (D-RI): Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman and Senator Lugar and colleagues. I am just delighted to be able to introduce Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, the president's nominee to be the ambassador to Iraq.
Chris is a native of Little Compton, Rhode Island. We are awfully proud of him in Rhode Island for his contribution to the nation over a lifetime of service.
He graduated from Bowdoin College and later received a master's from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
He has a distinguished career exemplified by service across the globe. As a young Foreign Service officer, he served in Warsaw, in Belgrade and in South Korea. He later was the deputy chief of mission in Albania.
I first got to know Chris in 1996, when he was the ambassador to Macedonia. I was extremely impressed with the way he could handle a very difficult situation, a situation involving conflicting religious impulses, multi-ethnic rivalries and ancient animosities -- and also the way he worked so successfully with our military. We had division- sized units on the ground. His rapport and the mutual respect was quite obvious.
Those talents and those traits are going to be essentially critical to his role in Iraq. And as we all know, he later became the ambassador to South Korea, where he teamed up with another Rhode Islander, General Leon LaPorte, and once again, together with a distinguished military officer, took on a major mission requiring diplomatic and military sensitivities. And in a -- once again, he showed himself to be a master of the situation.
His efforts with respect to the dismantling of a main nuclear facility and the accounting for the plutonium of the Koreans, I think, represents some progress in a very, very difficult situation, at a point where many before Chris arrived thought there would be little or no progress at all. He has been recognized by the State Department with numerous rewards. He speaks Polish, Serbian, Macedonian and French.
And he is married to Patricia Whitehall Hill (sp), and their three children Nathaniel (sp), Emil (sp) and Clara (sp) continue to (sustain ?) him at difficult moments.
And Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Lugar, I can think of no one more qualified for this important job. Thank you.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Reed. We really appreciate that. And I know you have to be excused to run off to other business, but we thank you for taking the time to come here.
Ambassador Hill, we welcome your testimony and look forward to the chance to have a good dialogue with you.
MR. HILL: Thank you very much. I have a statement that I would like to --
SEN. KERRY: Your full statement will be put in the record. If you just want to summarize, that's great.
MR. HILL: Okay. Very good.
Chairman Kerry, Senator Lugar, members of the committee, it's an honor and a privilege to appear before you today as President Obama's nominee to be the next American ambassador to Iraq. Deeply grateful to the president, to Secretary Clinton for the trust and confidence they've shown in me in this crucial juncture in that relationship.
Mr. Chairman, on February 27th, 2009, the president announced a policy to end the war in Iraq. The essence of this policy is a responsible drawdown of our military forces in Iraq, combined with a political, diplomatic and civilian effort to preserve security gains and to lay the foundation for lasting peace and prosperity.
These security gains, indeed this policy, would not have been possible or achievable without the very real accomplishments and the very real sacrifice borne, by our men and women in uniform and by the thousands of civilians who have worked alongside with them.
I'm truly honored by the prospect of joining this select group of Americans, who have served with such devotion and courage. And I will always keep in mind and in my heart the fact that over 4,000 of our men and women gave their last full measure to this effort. For their memory and for our nation, we must succeed.
If confirmed, my job will be to lead this political, diplomatic and civilian effort, with the objective of normalizing our relationship with Iraq, based on mutual respect and interest. We need to work with the Iraqi government, on a broad-based relationship that includes more than just security and political cooperation.
We need to address the plight of refugees, of internally displaced people and other post-conflict issues. And we need to aim to build with Iraq the type of normalized relationship we enjoy with friends and allies around the world.
This is a mission that will be replete with challenges, some unique to Iraq and others that I have seen in other parts of the world. It is a mission that remains critical to our national interest, in the region and beyond. And we really have to succeed in this.
Iraqis have suffered through dictatorship and conflict. And they deserve a better day. They have made great strides toward national reconciliation. Yet much more remains to be done. We have a responsibility to help. But as President Obama has noted, it's ultimately going to be up to them.
In this context, Mr. Chairman, if I'm confirmed, my priorities will include ensuring that we provide the Iraqi government with the support it needs for parliamentary elections.
We need to help them achieve a pattern of peaceful and normal political transition. We need to deepen respect for human rights, for all communities in Iraq, including religious minorities. And we need to help them strengthen the rule of law.
My priorities would also include helping the Iraqis achieve sustained economic development and to put in place policies that help modernize Iraq's infrastructure, develop a legal framework that will attract needed foreign investment and for dealing with the problem of corruption.
The president has also called for a robust diplomatic effort to normalize Iraq's relations, with its six neighbors and with the wider region and more generally with the international community, many of whose members have helped Iraq through these difficult times.
I'm very fortunate that if I'm confirmed, I will work with one of the finest embassy staffs ever put together. And for that, I have to thank my predecessors Ryan Crocker, Zal Khalilzad and John Negroponte. Diplomacy is a team sport, if ever there was one. And what we accomplish is often what others have started.
In all of these efforts, I intend to work closely and in tandem, with General Odierno and with General Petraeus, to ensure that there is unity of effort in all that we do in Iraq. I've known both of these generals from previous foreign service assignments.
Indeed it's been my great privilege, over the course of my career, to have worked with some of the best military commanders, in this generation, on some of our toughest challenges -- General Eric Shinseki in the Balkans, General Leon LaPorte in Korea, Admiral Tim Keating of Pacific Command, to name just a few. And I know that maintaining a strong partnership, with our colleagues in uniform, will be key to progress.
If confirmed as chief of our mission in Iraq, I intend to coordinate and focus the contributions being made by all participating civilian agencies of the U.S. government. Coordinating the work of these civilian agencies and ensuring that they have the security protection they need to do their jobs effectively will be essential to the success of these policies.
Mr. Chairman, I'd like to mention the importance I attach also to ensuring that our taxpayers' funds are spent wisely and well.
Mr. Chairman, as I ask the Senate's support to take up the challenge of implementing the president's policy, I'm mindful of the lessons that I've learned over the course of my three decades in public service, from working on microcredit as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon in the 1970s to witnessing and to supporting the struggle for political freedom in Eastern Europe in the 1980s to being a part of the negotiating effort and bloodshed in the Balkans in the 1990s and most recently to working with like-minded countries to try to get North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.
For each of these assignments, I made it a matter of course to consult the best experts and the thickest debriefing books, but I found that the most important preparation for these overseas assignments was always to retain a sense of humility and determination in the face of the complexities that are certainly to await me on arrival. And so, if confirmed, I intend to approach the mission ahead with that same sense of humility and determination.
So thank you very much, and I'd be most pleased to take your questions.
SEN. KERRY: Thanks, Mr. Ambassador. We appreciate it.
Let me just begin by going straight to some of the questions that have been raised with respect to this. Share with the committee, if you would, sort of how you believe -- or how in reality the experience that you had in Bosnia and the Balkans in fact might prepare you for and in fact give you valuable experience with respect to what we see in Iraq today.
MR. HILL: Well, thank you. I think in many respects, Iraq is unique but the problems that Iraq face (sic) are not unique. We've seen these problems elsewhere and, indeed, I did see them in the Balkans.
For example, Mr. Chairman, you spoke of the problems along the Kurdish Regional Government boundary and the disputes of those territories. I saw a lot of these types of problems in Bosnia, dealing with the Bosniaks and the Serb entity there. I also saw them in dealing with how to -- how to manage some of the internal issues, some of the internal communities that were in Kosovo, the Serb communities there and the Albanian communities.
So these are very familiar issues. And unfortunately, with these issues, there's no sort of macro approach; there's no sort of wholesale way to deal with them. You have to get to them on a very local level and deal with them and understand the concerns of each community. And you try to put yourself in the shoes of these communities and try to be helpful.
As I said earlier, I think many of these issues -- these are issues the Iraqis are going to have to -- have to take up and resolve.
But I think we have -- and I'd like to think that I have, in particular -- some experience that I can bring to bear on dealing with some of these internal issues.
The problem of post-conflict, the problem of standing up institutions is absolutely essential. You know, the problems of corruption in Iraq are often a function of the problems of weak institutions and the failure to develop accountability, these sorts of things. I remember very well dealing with these in Albania.
When we came into Albania, when we opened up our embassy in 1991, it had been closed since 1946. I was the first permanently assigned diplomat there. We brought in experts, interagency people, people from different U.S. government agencies, to deal with trying to help build the capacities of these -- of these ministries. So I think a lot of what we need to do on the civilian side in Iraq is to build up the capacities, make sure finance ministries are making the right -- are looking at things in the right way, make sure that some of the civilian agencies that deal with law and order -- for example, police training; this was an enormous issue in Kosovo. So I'm very -- I'm very familiar with these issues.
And finally, I think if Iraq is going to be successful, it's going to be successful because it has good relations with its neighbors but also good relations with the -- in the broader international field. And I think working with the contact group in Bosnia and in Kosovo that is working with other countries to try to help Bosnia and Kosovo -- but also in the six-party talks, getting different countries of very different points of view around the same table to try to achieve the same ends -- is also going to be very relevant to anything I do in Iraq.
SEN. KERRY: Do you feel that that six-party-talk experience has particular similarities to any of the components of what you're facing in Iraq?
MR. HILL: Well, I think when you try to deal with -- in this case, these were neighbors of North Korea, all of whom had a different history with the Korean peninsula. And so while Americans may come with a short history, they come with a long history. So you have to work these issues through.
And I think, with respect to Iraq, we are -- it's a -- obviously a different mission. You know, it's a different goal that we're trying to do -- trying to accomplish. But I think clearly we need to, I think, make sure that Iraq has the opportunity to have normal relations with these countries, but also make sure that these countries respect Iraqi sovereignty. So dealing multilaterally to try to make sure that people understand our position very clearly on this -- I think there are a lot of similarities there.
SEN. KERRY: Share with us your sense of the state of play in Iraq now, post-election, in this transitional moment. How do you see it?
MR. HILL: Well, I think there has been, clearly, enormous progress in Iraq. But I think some real challenges remain. I think the recent provincial elections were a very good sign that people are prepared to come to the ballot box to deal with their problems.
And some of the results of the elections suggested that people really wanted to see some improvements. One of the issues that people were clearly concerned about -- and we know this from various exit polling -- is corruption was a main issue, and getting economic development going. So these are positive signs. I would say another key sign was the fact that the Sunni began to participate.
And so as we move to the parliamentary elections, these will be very key elections, indeed, because these happened, and during this period of our troop drawdown. And so what we need to make sure is that these elections are perceived by the Iraqi people and more broadly as successful elections. So I think one of the first issues that I have to deal with is to make sure this political process is going forward.
I think the issues that you raised about the internal boundaries within Iraq, and really the relationship of the center to the regions, and in particular the relationship of Baghdad to the -- to the region in the north with the Kurds, the Kurdish regional government -- that has to be dealt with. There have been some difficult problems there. You mentioned one in Kirkuk. We cannot allow a problem in one area to endanger the rest of the issues, so we have to be really on top of this. I know that Ambassador Crocker spent a great deal of his time monitoring these issues, and being involved where necessary. And I see these internal security issues of that kind to be very important, and ones that I need to deal with, and probably deal with very quickly.
A third issue is the issue of economic development. Now, in particular, there is one issue, which is the passage of the hydrocarbons law. This is a very complex matter. It is not just -- when you hear about the hydrocarbons law you think, oh, this must be about revenue sharing. Actually, it goes much deeper than the issue of revenue sharing. It's a fundamental question about what type of economy Iraq will be built on. The elements of it have been discussed for some time, but they haven't put it together yet. I think if that hydrocarbon law can be put together, if there can be Iraqi consensus on that, I think that will be an enormously good sign for Iraq's future.
And the fourth issue that I attach priority to is something that you discussed in your statement, Mr. Chairman, which is this issue of Iraq's neighbors, and to make sure that Iraq's neighbors understand what we are doing and what we are not doing. That is, we are looking to help the Iraqis stand up a stable, secure and sovereign country. And these neighbors, it is in their interest to try to engage with a stable, secure and sovereign nation and to try to get on with dealing with the process of calming down that region.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, sir.
SEN. LUGAR: Ambassador Hill, I have conferred yesterday with our colleague Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. He is not a member of our committee, is not present today, but he's asked me to raise with you issues that he believes are very important.
And as background for this I cite an article in the National Journal online of March 23, 2009, by Kirk Victor, in which he says: "President Obama's nomination of Christopher Hill to be ambassador to Iraq has prompted fierce criticism from a handful of senior Republican senators in what is likely to be a prelude to a bruising battle on the Senate floor. Critics including Senator Sam Brownback charge that Hill, a career diplomat, misled Congress in testimony last year when he was handling the six-party talks dealing with North Korean nuclear disarmament.
"Brownback charges that Hill failed to follow through on his promise to confront North Korea on its human rights record. The Kansas Republican, joined by four other GOP senators -- Christopher Bond of Missouri, John Ensign of Nevada, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jon Kyl of Arizona -- recently urged the president to withdraw the nomination, not only because of what they see as Hill's misleading testimony, but also because of his inexperience in dealing with Iraq."
"Obama and Senate Democratic leaders counter" that he is well- suited, that is, Hill is well-suited and he has a key endorsement from Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.
But "Brownback adamantly disagrees with Lugar. Last year, the Kansam even held up President Bush's nominee to South Korea until Hill agreed to take steps to make North Korea's human rights record part of the negotiations. But the senator says Hill went back on his word. In an interview with National Journal last week, Brownback discussed his determination to do everything he can to kill the nomination.
"Edited excerpts follow. `Brownback: We are going to fight hard against Chris. I met with him March 18 in my office.'" He did not allay my concerns. "`When he was conducing six-party talks, I asked him to involve the special envoy for human rights. He didn't want to do it. So I held up an ambassadorial nominee to South Korea. The State Department really wanted'" that ambassador.
Former Senator "`John Warner brokered a deal in the armed Services Committee, where Chris Hill was testifying, and Warner had asked me'" to question. One of these was, "`Will you invite the special envoy for human rights to the party talks -- six-party talks?'" He said, yes, he would. That didn't happen. On his word of doing that, in front of open committee, I lifted my hold on the South Korean ambassador. So he misled me.'"
And so it goes.
Let me just say, Ambassador Hill, you have tried in your opening responses to the chairman's questions to talk about the experience with regard to diplomacy and Iraq.
And I've attempted in my opening comments to indicate what I saw to be regional implications, not only the shoring up and strengthening of the Iraqi government.
But for this record, would you respond to Senator Brownback and to others that I've cited personally and from this quote who have raised serious questions about testimony, about the South Korean nominee before and the hold-up in the Armed Services Committee and other issues that need to be addressed as a part of our -- of our moving this nomination forward?
MR. HILL: Senator, I'd be happy to do so.
First of all, I want to make very clear that I very much respect Senator Brownback's concern about human rights. He -- these are concerns that are deeply felt and they are well placed. I have said on a number of occasions and I will say it again in -- here that the North Korea human rights record is one of the worst in the world. There is no question it's one of the worst in the world. And I have had those conversations with Senator Brownback.
Now, with respect to the specific issues that he raised, that were raised in the Armed Services Committee, I'd like to make a couple of points. What I agreed to do was that as we were going through a phase -- the Phase II of the disablement process and verification of their -- of the North Korean nuclear declaration, we anticipated moving on to Phase III or a next phase, if you look in the transcript. And what I told Senator Brownback we would do in that next phase was to -- the next phase was to include a bilateral normalization talks with the -- with the North Koreans.
Now, of course, we weren't ever going to normalize with North Korea until its -- it had done away with all of its nuclear materials and nuclear ambitions. But the plan was in Phase III to sit down with the North Koreans for talks aimed at normalization.
I told Senator Brownback that when we got to that stage, I would be prepared to support -- and I emphasize I would be prepared to support, because I didn't make the decisions. The decisions were made by Secretary Rice and an interagency group. But I would be prepared to support the creation of a human rights track within the normalization talks.
And what did I have in mind for a human rights track? I thought we could, in this track, acquaint the North Koreans with the fact that if their aspiration is to join the international community, which was the whole concept of the six-party talks, they would have to do something about their human rights record. Specifically, we would look at whether we could, for example, give them lists of prisoners of conscience, of whom there are many in North Korea. We would also look to see whether we could stand up some activities -- for example, help them with their -- with their criminal procedures code or things like that, work with other countries on this.
So I told Senator Brownback that we would create, in the context of this bilateral normalization working group -- we would create a human- rights track.
The second point concerns his concern that the human-rights envoy, who was envoy from 2005 -- and 2009 -- and Senator Brownback was concerned that this envoy should be made a part of the six parties. I told Senator Brownback that I would support -- indeed, that I would invite the envoy to any negotiations with the North Koreans that did not deal with nuclear matters -- that is, anything beyond nuclear, he would be a participant in. In fact, this statement on my part is addressed in a press release that Senator Brownback issued on July 31st, 2008.
The problem, Senator, was that we were not able to get beyond phase 2. We were not able to get beyond phase 2 because, although the North Koreans did issue a nuclear declaration, we did not get adequate verification measures to verify the entire declaration.
We got some verification measures. We got their agreement to allow people to visit sites. We got their agreement to allow people to visit sites that are not already listed on their declaration. We got them to agree to give us documentation on how the reactor operated. That is, we got daily production records from them from 1986 so that we could track the production of the reactor, and that would help verify whether, indeed, they had produced 30 kilos versus 35. So we got some verification.
But what we were seeking was a fuller international standard verification of the type that one would have in the context of a country that has completely denuclearized, and a verification that would be familiar to anyone who's dealt with the IAEA.
So we were not able to get that, and therefore we were not able to complete phase 2, and therefore we never got on to having these bilateral talks. And so that is why we were not able to do that.
SEN. LUGAR (?): Thank you.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Ambassador.
SEN. ROBERT P. CASEY, JR. (D-PA): First of all, I want to thank you for your willingness to serve again. And I think you're going to do a great job, and I think we should confirm you. I know it's not going to be an easy job, and I know that the assignments you've had over the years have never been easy jobs. You're used to taking on difficult challenges.
I think it's important to point out in this debate about your nomination -- there is some debate, and we should not shy away from confronting that debate -- that you have a -- you've had a commitment as a career Foreign Service officer. That's important. You didn't arrive at these appointments based upon campaigns or sometimes the way decisions are made in Washington.
You've had broad experience in different parts of the world, whether it was in Asia or in Europe. And those who might want to contest or debate or dispute the positions that you were advocating for with regard to North Korea should take their fight to the previous administration.
You work for a president, you work with a -- with and for a secretary of State, and that's where the debate should be directed.
I wanted to go through a couple of questions, principally based upon the role that you'll play. Obviously you're coming into a country that has been torn apart, been the scene of combat and misery and division over the last couple of years, but we're going to be -- our country's going to be redeploying our forces out of Iraq, and that's good news. But I know it won't be easy to do that effectively.
So I wanted to get your sense of what role you play in this new time period, and I know that at the -- as Ambassador Crocker was getting ready to leave, he outlined, I guess, three key challenges in the coming year. One he cited was holding of national and provincial elections. Two was the Iraqi division of responsibility between the federal and regional governments. And three was maintaining and improving the security situation.
Obviously all of those are critically important, but I just wanted to get your sense, A, of the challenge before you, and B, what role you can play in this rather unique security situation in Iraq.
MR. HILL: Thank you very much, Senator.
I think we are in really a crucial phase, because I think the task of withdrawing forces, of drawing down forces, is always or tends to be more difficult than the task of flowing in forces. That is, when you come in, when forces come in, they bring everything with them. And what we need to do as our forces leave is that some things we want them to take with them -- that is, a sense of the mission accomplished, and that's very important -- but some things we want them to leave behind as well, and that is a sense of security within the country.
I think we have the capability or the prospects of getting that done. This plan to draw down our forces was something done very carefully, in conjunction with our commanders on the ground and of course with Ambassador Crocker. So it is a tough period.
The first thing, Senator, I will do is work very closely with Ray Odierno on the ground, with our general on the ground. He and I know each other. We traveled around together, in Asia, a couple years ago. In fact, I've already had a very good talk with him in my office. We intend to really work very, very closely. So one team, one mission there.
The second thing is that we need to make sure that we manage this pivot, from military to civilian, meaning that these issues that Ambassador Crocker laid out are absolutely priority issues.
That is, we need to make sure these national elections go well. We need to make sure that we manage or that we assist and support efforts to work out the division between the power of the center and the rights of the regions.
So we need to work out some of these, to stand with the Iraqis, as they work out internal issues, namely with these border issues, internal border issues but also, as I mentioned earlier, with a hydrocarbons law. Because I really do believe that hydrocarbons law; this is a law about hydrocarbons the way "Moby Dick" is a story about a whale.
That is, there's a lot more going on in that law. And it really will signal what kind of Iraq there is in the future. And it will tell us a lot, about what kind of economy they will have but also what kind of political agreements they're going to reach. So we really need to stay on top of that.
And finally I think we cannot assume that the security situation will always be as good as it is today. There will be problems. And we need to be all over those. So what I would like to do, if I am confirmed, is to get out there very, very quickly. And I would really like to do that within a day if that is, you know, logistically possible, because we have not had an ambassador there since early February.
And then I would like to have a good look at what our assets are. And in that regard, I would see how -- you know, we have some-thousand people in that embassy now. But we also have 400 people out in these provincial reconstruction teams, these PRTs.
And I think a lot of what we've succeeded in doing in Iraq has been through these PRTs. So I'd like to get on out there and see what they're doing.
So what I'd like to do is to spend several weeks doing this and then come back here and consult with Washington and, in particular, consult with members of the committee.
SEN. CASEY: Well, I'm running out of time. I just will put one commercial in for a subcommittee hearing we're having at the end of the month on Iraqi refugees on March 31st. We'll talk to you about that and give you whatever feedback we get from that hearing.
But we're going to be -- I'm going to be supporting you, as so many others are. And we wish you not only best of luck on your confirmation, but Godspeed as you head across the ocean to do the work that you've been given the opportunity to do. It's such an important time in the history of our country, but especially with regard to how we transition in Iraq.
Thanks very much.
MR. HILL: If I could just add, with regard to the refugees, these are enormous numbers that we're dealing with in the refugee and internally displaced people. And it is very appropriate that we focus very hard on that and see what we're doing and also see what the Iraqi -- the Iraqi government is doing.
And I should also add, really, the first thing I'm going to do when I arrive is say hello to my son, who's been out there since September.
SEN. CASEY: Thank you.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much.
SENATOR BOB CORKER (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Mr. Ambassador, welcome. Thank you for your many years of service. I know that previous panel members have asked questions about experience and other kinds of things that have been brought up, some of the issues in North Korea.
So I want to focus on the job when you get there. I know that contractor abuse, as you know, has been a major issue there, or at least the discussion of it. And I just want to ask you a question as to how you envision eliminating, minimizing that and at the same time addressing the security needs of the State Department there on the ground.
MR. HILL: Thank you.
It is an enormous mission. I mean, when you look at -- currently, they have some 1,400 employees under chief of mission authority. That's bigger than anything I've seen. I think it's bigger than anything we've ever had under chief of mission authority. So I think it's going to require a real hard look to see whether it's right size.
And in particular, we have to look at how we're doing with the -- with contractors. Now, we're going to need some contractors. We're going to need contractors to handle our perimeter security. We do need contractors to handle the movement of diplomats. We need to keep our people safe. And a lot of the contractors are in the area of security.
But, you know, there have been some real problems there. And I think it behooves us to look very carefully, because we can't have more of those problems. We can't have issues that flare up and that cause problems with the -- with the Iraqi government and frankly with the Iraqi people. So I'll take a real hard look at that.
We're going to -- as you know, there's a -- there will be new contracts on some of these contracting organizations.
And as you know, one of them has been declared not eligible by the Iraqi government, but there are other contractors who are putting in bids.
We have individual contracts with individual -- individuals, some of whom have been -- we've had some very talented young people from all over our country who have come in on temporary civil service contracts and have done wonderful work.
I want to see how that is all working, with an ultimate goal of looking to make sure we have the right footprint in Iraq. And I don't want to make an adjustment with an 8,000-mile screwdriver; I want to get out there and a have a look and continue to see whether it's the right size mission.
SEN. CORKER: What kind of challenges do you envision with the U.S. withdrawals that are going to be taking place -- and some even in advance, I know, are being discussed -- but right after the parliamentary elections? What kind of challenges? What -- since I know I'll probably run out of time to some degree with this, how will that affect, for instance, the operations of our PRTs on the ground there?
MR. HILL: Senator, you put your finger on it. I think the PRTs have been very important, and we're going to lose a number of PRTs as the forces draw down. So what we need to do is see that other PRTs can extend their reach.
And what makes all of this -- political, economic -- work, what makes it all possible is the security situation. And so when you're reducing your forces, you need to make sure the security remains. We need to make sure the police training is going well. As you know, the Iraqis will be taking over more of the detainee population. That's ongoing. We need to make sure that is a smooth process and we're not creating security problems for us.
So I think the main challenge, as we reduce these forces and as -- in the short run, is to make sure the security is still there.
SEN. CORKER: What kind of -- but what kind of resource adjustment do you envision? I know that we still need to have a positive impact on reconstruction there, and I'm just wondering, as we think about these troop withdrawals and as we think about the PRT adjustments you're talking about, how do you envision us continuing to have a positive impact on reconstruction? Which, in essence, is incredibly important as it relates to the stability of the country.
MR. HILL: Right. Well, we envision on these PRTs, which have been the key way to get out to the Iraqi population -- we have some 26 now. We're going down to 16, and then we're going to go down to six. So we need to make sure they are still able to get to the Iraqi communities and do the job they need to do.
Now, I think it's important that in terms of reconstruction --
SEN. CORKER: Just the math of that --
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. CORKER: -- would make one wonder, though -- at that kind of glide path --
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. CORKER: -- would make one wonder how we're going to continue to have that positive impact.
And I might add, since I may be running out of time, especially now, as you talk about that and explain that to us, I'd like for you to balance that against the fact that I think a lot of people believe -- and I'm one of those -- that Iraq should be spending more of their own money on reconstruction. So if you will, walk us through the decline in PRTs --
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. CORKER: -- the way we're going to have continuing positive impact on construction --
MR. HILL: Right.
SEN. CORKER: -- reconstruction, but at the same time balance that against the fact that, in essence, Iraq needs to be playing a much larger role in their own reconstruction financially and in other ways.
MR. HILL: Yeah. Well, Senator, with regard to reconstruction, the U.S. in -- over the course of six years, we've spent some $50 billion on this. We see reconstruction in the future as something the Iraqis will take over.
And when you look at some of the -- what we envision in terms of assistance in the coming years, we're looking more at capacity building, that is, working with the ministries to make sure they are stood up and getting the job done. We don't anticipate having to build things for the Iraqis. That period is coming to an end, and that's when the Iraqi oil revenues and their own capacities have increased such that they can generate their own funds for that.
So I think we are at a pivot point where there will be -- reconstruction begins to come to an end and then we will do more in terms of the technical assistance in making sure they're making the right policy moves.
A key element, though, of our continued effort with them is to make sure that we are getting the police training module done well, because that, again, relates to security. And without security, it's very difficult to make progress. So police training is something that continues. And what we need to do on the civilian side is make sure that our capacity to deal with that -- as the military leaves, that we are able to take over a role that the military has had in the past.
So I would say capacities in Iraqi building and police training are two very key elements of what we're doing.
SEN. CORKER: Thank you very much.
SEN. KERRY: Thanks, Senator Corker.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT): Well, Mr. Chairman -- and thank you.
Mr. Ambassador, welcome. And I apologize; I wasn't here for the opening comments. But I -- I'll ask consent, Mr. Chairman, that my full statement regarding Ambassador Hill be included in the record.
SEN. KERRY: Without objection.
SEN. DODD: And let me just briefly say I think you did a magnificent job in North Korea. I think we're fortunate to have someone of your capacity and abilities willing to take on this responsibility. So thank you for doing so.
Let me ask you, if I can, about these awakening councils. One of the -- or tactics, rather, that the previous administration engaged in was of course to fund and support various groups out there, including the 90,000 Sunni groups, many of who were part of the insurgency -- bringing them in. And it worked very, very well, was very successful in obviously achieving some of the results we're seeing today.
The obvious question that others have raised is, at some point we're going to have to stop funding these awakening councils, and the danger, obviously, that these very groups that now are a part of the solution could become part of the problem. And I wonder if you might address that issue, not just of this large group, the 90,000 as part of the Sunni group, but others as well, as part of the ultimate political reconciliation effort that we're obviously trying to achieve. How much of a risk does that pose?
Tom Friedman and others have raised this point. It's not an original thought I'm sharing with you here, but it's obviously a concern.
MR. HILL: Well, Senator, I think the -- what happened in Anbar province was, in many respects, one of the key developments that has enabled the situation to get better. And clearly these -- this creation of the Sons of Iraq -- there's almost some 94,000 people -- have been really, I think, very key. And I think we wisely took on the task and began to pay -- you know, make the payroll of this, and I think it clearly contributed to security. Essentially, they were on our side.
And so what we have done with the Iraqi government is to look to see how the Iraqi government can take over this function, and they have been doing so in terms of taking over the payments that these sons of Iraq received, and more importantly -- and, I think, very importantly for the longer run -- incorporating them into the Iraqi forces and Iraqi security organizations.
So what we need to see is to make sure this is really continuing, because I think, as your question suggests, we've got to get this right. We can't have a situation where these people flip back in another mode.
So, so far we have had, I think, real -- an understanding from the Iraqi government of the importance that this has had on the security situation. And so, I think, so far, so good. But I think we need to keep close tabs on it.
SEN. DODD: Well, I thank you for that. And again, it is -- obviously the return to sectarian violence is the great fear here --
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. DODD: -- and if you end up shortchanging the funding, the very organizations that have been a part of the solution here become part of an ongoing problem.
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. DODD: And so I'd be very interested, Mr. Chairman, in being -- having the committee kept abreast of how that's working --
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. DODD: -- because I think it poses some major risks to the ultimate success of the political reconciliation.
MR. HILL: I think some of this reflects the fruits of our efforts with these Iraqi ministries to get their finances together and to help the Iraqis stand up a budget that can really handle their own security issues.
So I think this -- the fact that they took over the financing of this and so -- and that it's been going pretty well is a testimony, frankly, to some of the people who've worked with them on these capacity issues.
I think the Iraqis understand the importance of it, but that's not enough. You have to have people who, you know, know how to get the payments out to the people in the field. And I think it's been working.
The real question is -- you can't just have people sitting there receiving a monthly allotment for sitting there. You have to be doing something with them, and you have to bring them into the Iraqi forces. And that is often, you know, you're dealing with all kinds of different individuals out there in Anbar. So, you know, it's going to take some time, I think, to bring them into the Iraqi forces.
Ultimately, we don't want paramilitaries just out there --
SEN. DODD: Right. Yeah.
MR. HILL: -- receiving payments, cash payments. We want them in an institution. So again, it goes to capacity building and also to institution-building.
SEN. DODD: Let me just ask you quickly as well, we -- I think it's been fairly well stated what the strategic mission of the United States is, the president's commitment, obviously, to a patient but speedy withdrawal of U.S. forces. And obviously, that'll be a major challenge for you.
Tell me about our neighbors in the region there. What is their -- how are they reacting to this and what is their -- what strategic plans do Iraq's neighbors have? Are they conforming with our own? Are they hostile to our own or somewhere in between? How is that shaping up?
MR. HILL: Well, I think there is a growing interest among -- in the neighborhood to normalize with Iraq. And I think there's a growing realization that the Iraqi government is acting as a -- as a sovereign government and is not something installed by us but rather is something that is installed by the Iraqi people. So I think things are improved there.
Frankly, I think Prime Minister Maliki, who has, you know, been taking some tough decisions and decisions that were of concern to people at various times, but he stuck with them -- for example, his decision to send some forces down to Basra I think really got people's attention in the region.
Now, I think the real problem in the region for Iraq remains its ancient neighbor, Iran. And obviously we would like that Iraq, in the long run, has a good relationship with its neighbor Iran but we believe and the Iraqis definitely believe that Iran needs to respect Iraqi sovereignty and needs to respect their internal affairs. And I know there's concerns about that in Iraq, and I think that's something that we need to be very much on top of, and I intend to be so.
SEN. DODD: Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
By the way, just -- I should say as well, and we don't say it often enough, but the civilians who work in Iraq and our military people who are there and have been there -- there's been debate up here for a long time over policy questions, but I think all of us would want you to reflect, I think, our strong appreciation and deep appreciation for the people who've served under very, very difficult circumstances. And please convey that as you assume this responsibility.
MR. HILL: If confirmed, I will definitely convey that.
SEN. DODD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Dodd.
SENATOR JOHNNY ISAKSON (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Ambassador Hill. I thank you for your visit to my office last week, at which I took the occasion to ask what I considered the only question I really needed an answer to. And you gave it to me. And I want to repeat the question for the record today and hope the answer is somewhat similar. And the question was this.
I am a huge admirer of Ryan Crocker. And I think what David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker did, in Iraq, through the surge, through the provincial reconstruction teams, through the stabilization of relations with the Iraqi government, was nothing short of marvelous. And they deserve our praise.
And the question I asked you which I'll ask you again here today is, given their success, how do you see your role replacing Ambassador Crocker in Iraq?
MR. HILL: Senator, I told you then and I'll tell you now. I just don't want to screw it up.
SEN. ISAKSON: That's just what I wanted to hear. I think that was a very appropriate, candid answer. Because our -- in your opening statement, you made reference to respecting the sacrifice of over 4,000 Americans who died, so Iraq could have a chance to be free.
And regardless of the politics over how we got in, how we got out, what we did and everything else, those two men did a marvelous job, under immense pressure, in leading our troops. And I think as we withdraw, the State Department has an enormous burden, on its shoulders, to not screw it up.
Given one point, I want to follow up on what Senator Corker was referring to, and Senator Casey, with regard to refugees, I think, I'm right on this. The microloan program is funded through the State Department's budget. Am I not correct?
MR. HILL: Yes, that's correct.
SEN. ISAKSON: When I was in Gazaria last January, as the success of the awakening and the success of the surge had begun to show, I went out with a provincial reconstruction team, which was in a MRAP, which was made up of a rifle squad of the United States Army and a State Department -- two State Department people and myself and an aide.
And I noticed the commanding officer of the squad, a lieutenant, was the one making the loans and signing -- executing the documents with the bakers and the little automobile repair shop, the places that we visited, both of which, by the way, were refugees who had come back, into Iraq, to reopen businesses.
So obviously if we are reducing troops, and obviously if the microloan program has been, and I think it has been, an immense success, for both the refugees and those who remain in Iraq, will you have the personnel or do you have the personnel now or will you need additional personnel, to carry out that function?
MR. HILL: I think I have the personnel. And Senator, I want to assure you that we're going to carry out that function. And you know, I think what you saw is something that is really the hallmark of our military.
I have on my desk a little book. It's only about 14 pages or something. It was given to me by a lieutenant colonel I knew when I was in Macedonia. And the book is called "A Message to Garcia." And it's something that the military -- that people read in officer school in Leavenworth.
And the point of the book is that a guy is told, get this message to Garcia, who is some sort of bandito on the other side of the Cuban island in the late-19th century.
The guy salutes, and he goes out there and gets the message to Garcia.
He doesn't say, you know, "Where are my travel orders?", you know, "Who's going to do my voucher?", you know, "How am I going to do this? How am I going to do that?" He just salutes and gets the message to Garcia.
And I think what you saw out there was the guy who said, "Hey, these people need some loans to, you know, put a roof on a school or, you know, get some school books for kids, and I'm going to get this done. And I'm not going to, you know, run around asking for permission and, you know, seeing if we can, you know, set up some, you know, microcredit. I'm just going to get this done."
And I think that's the kind of mental -- that has what -- that is what has really made our military very successful, because I'm sure this wasn't done at the four-star level that they did microcredit out there. So I want to make sure we have that same sense in the embassy, and maybe I'll make them all read "Message to Garcia."
SEN. ISAKSON: Well, I appreciate that answer.
One other point on the -- Senator Dodd was referring to the Sunni awakening. There's no question that our ability to pay those people $3 a day was an immeasurable help in having -- letting them have an awakening. And I would -- when I was in (Ghazalia ?), actually, two young Sunnis, armed Sunnis, were helping to protect us on the points of this little shopping area that we were -- that we were in.
Did you say in your answer that the Iraqi government had begun to assume some of the financial responsibility for those payments?
MR. HILL: Yes, they have. And my understanding is they've assumed all the financial responsibilities with respect to the Sons of Iraq. And it's a crucial mission, and it needs to be accomplished. It's essential, and so I think we need to make sure that that's going well.
SEN. ISAKSON: Well, I want to just echo that. And I also do. I supported the funding of the microloan program and of some of the other investments we made in helping to turn this around. And I appreciate your acknowledgement of the importance of that, as well as getting the Iraqis to assume more of the financial responsibility for the good things that were done to help bring about stability in the country. And I appreciate your willingness to serve the country.
Where is your son stationed in Iraq?
MR. HILL: He's in Camp Slayer.
SEN. ISAKSON: And is he in the Army?
MR. HILL: He's in the Defense Intelligence Agency. I hope I haven't blown his cover. (Laughter.)
SEN. ISAKSON: I hope I didn't encourage you to blow his cover. But please extend him our thanks for his service.
MR. HILL: I will.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Isakson. Senator Feingold?
SEN. RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD (D-WI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I spent a lot of time in recent years calling attention to the previous administration's sometimes myopic focus on the greatest mistake in the fight against al Qaeda, and that was the Iraq war. Over many years, that war was a terrible diversion from our top national security priority and what should have remained a global fight against a global enemy.
The war in Iraq stole our resources, personnel, money and attention that could have been better spent protecting our national security and countering al Qaeda, its affiliates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia, among other places.
Thankfully, President Obama has already begun to move this country in the right direction. The announcement last month of a timeline, the redeployment of our troops is a long-overdue step in the right direction. And while I have concerns with the expected size of the residual force the president intends to maintain, there is a clear shift from a predominantly military presence to a predominantly civilian one.
During this period of transition, we will need a strong, qualified ambassador in place to help us ensure that that shift occurs as safely and swiftly as possible. We'll need an ambassador who knows how to handle challenging and complicated diplomatic situations, can work closely with our friends and allies and understands how the bureaucracy works here at home. I am pleased that Ambassador Chris Hill, a career Foreign Service officer, has been nominated to this post. And I look forward to our discussion today.
Ambassador, as you know, I've been a long-time proponent of redeploying our troops from Iraq. Again, while I'm pleased the president has set a timeline, I'm concerned about this residual force. I'm concerned that it could undermine some of the positive aspects of redeployment, for example, leading Iraqis to question whether we will ultimately leave and by preventing us from focusing adequately on the serious national security challenges we face around the globe. I'd like your reaction to that.
MR. HILL: Well, I think the president's decision was made in careful consultation with the commanders in the field. And I think what the president is very concerned about is as we reduce forces and reducing substantial forces in the months ahead, we need to be prepared for the bumps in the road that could come as we -- as we go forward.
So I think the president has put together a very prudent program, in consultation with the commanders in the field. I think the -- once the combat forces are out and we have a -- remaining some 35(,000) to 50,000 troops -- and I think where it precisely comes out will again be a function of what the commanders in the field believe. But we're looking, as we get to that level, that these are going to be advisory and assistance brigades, largely, rather than brigade combat teams, and we'll have to see what the situation is then.
I think it is so important, Senator, that as our troops come back from Iraq they come back with a real sense of a -- of a mission not only accomplished but a mission well done, because our nation -- our nation, I think, depends on that sense. And we need to make sure this is a success.
SEN. FEINGOLD: What's your assessment of Iran's influence and current role in Iraq? And do you think that Ambassador Crocker's initial conversations with his Iranian counterparts were useful and would you like to revive them? And if so, what would be sort of your priorities when you -- when you did that?
MR. HILL: My understanding is that the Iraqis are concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq. We are concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq. I think overall our approach to Iran is now under a policy review. I don't know what the outcome of that policy review will be, but if it does include my having contacts and following up on those contacts that Ryan Crocker had, I would be most pleased to do that.
I think Iran -- Iraq and Iran need a good relationship, and a good relationship would be served by Iranian respect for the -- for sovereignty in Iraq. And if it's concluded that I should speak to the Iranians, I would like to make that point and to hear any points that they have to make to me.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Ambassador.
Recent press reports bolster concerns I've heard from representatives of the Kurdish Regional Government that a rise in nationalism has the potential to further disrupt the already stalled efforts at national reconciliation. And the situation is further complicated by concerns that some in the Kurdish region may seek to sideline the central government in Baghdad to negotiate oil contracts in and around Kirkuk.
We spoke about this in our meeting last week, but given our long history with the Kurds and our interest in -- more generally, in seeking legitimate national reconciliation in Iraq, I'd like to hear your thoughts on how concerned we should be about the rising tensions and what the role -- what role the U.S. government should play in this situation?
MR. HILL: Well, I think all along this -- the border of the Kurdish regional government, that is the three -- the provinces in the Kurdish regional government, there are disputes. There are flat-out land disputes. Kirkuk is probably the most -- most difficult of these.
First of all, the U.N. has been working on this issue, and I think it's very important to support the U.N. on this and to see if, together with the U.N., we can work with Baghdad and with the Kurds to see what -- see if we can find a resolution of this.
These are in some cases just old-fashioned land disputes. And I've dealt with these sorts of things in the Balkans. You can't just wave your hand and say, "You do this, and you do that." You have to kind of go through this and see if you can be helpful, and see if they can get this done. My understanding is that there are no total deal breakers there. There are ways to address these things.
With regard to the issue of separate oil contracts, that was a process that got under way, and it has not happened in -- certainly in recent months. I think it does speak to the urgency of getting this -- this hydrocarbons law accomplished. As I said earlier, I think the hydrocarbons law will speak volumes about the future economy of Iraq, but it will also speak volumes about the internal political arrangements in Iraq.
I think Iraq is a -- you know, it's a sovereign state. It is -- it is one that I think can work through these issues. And I will do all I can to help, drawing on a lot of experience I have in -- in the Balkans, in particular.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, ambassador.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Senator Feingold.
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R-ID): Mr. Ambassador, thank you for taking the time to come to my office. And I sincerely appreciate that.
Just briefly -- and we had a good discussion at that point -- you referred to something here that I was interested in. You referred to the fact that you were going to continue to use contractors to protect the perimeter. Exactly what are you referring to there?
MR. HILL: Well, we have -- in protecting the embassy, we have --
SEN. RISCH: The embassy, or the entire Green Zone?
MR. HILL: No, just -- I'm referring to the embassy. And Senator, I might say that today is March 25th, and on March 25th, 1999, my embassy in Scopia, Macedonia was breached by 10,000 demonstrators who on this day, March 25th -- this is the 10th anniversary -- burned down all of our out-buildings and sent our embassy staff -- we had 50 people in the building at the time -- down to the basement. They broke off our flag pole, which was 16 feet long, and used it as a sort of Medieval-style battering ram on the front door.
And frankly, Senator, we were kind of worried. But fortunately, we were able to get help, finally. And even though they had knocked down all these fences, which were poorly installed, we were -- we had a U.S. military contingent, a Marine FAST team that arrived and installed razor wire and kept us buttoned up.
I don't want to do that sort of stuff again. That was kind of in my youth. But I think we need to make sure that the perimeter of the embassy is properly handled. My understanding is that diplomatic security has an enormous effort in Iraq, working with contractors and supervising contractors very closely. And so I have a lot of confidence in diplomatic security on this.
SEN. RISCH: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Risch. Appreciate it.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador, congratulations on your nomination, and we look forward to supporting you.
I do have concerns. In our subcommittee, where we handle all of the foreign assistance, I am concerned about the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction's report that said of 21 billion (dollars) in the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction fund, roughly 3 to 4 billion (dollars) has been wasted.
And he went on to talk about additional millions of dollars of U.S. reconstructions -- funds have been stolen by Iraqi officials, stating that there is corruption across the board in Iraq's ministries, high levels of corruption at the Ministry of Oil, the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Defense.
So the line of questions I want to get a sense from you is number one, what -- why do you think our efforts there in reconstruction got so badly off track? And if confirmed as ambassador, what do you consider your responsibilities to be with reference to overseeing the continuing reconstruction efforts and mitigating waste?
MR. HILL: First of all, Senator, I mentioned in my opening statement that I think when the American taxpayers give you money it is essential that we make sure that money is carefully spent, wisely spent. And there can be no room for corruption.
I think my understanding is that there has been a real effort over the years to increase our capacity to monitor spending. I think the fact that we've had a number of auditors who are actually in house, inspectors who are in house within the embassy, this is rather unusual, because we don't usually have this in other embassies. We have auditors who come out from Washington. In this case, we have some 35 auditors in this special Iraq inspector general.
So I think we've got a pretty good handle on how the money is spent now. My concern is to make sure this continues, so there's no slackening of this. Because, look, I know that we are into a situation now where a lot of the fundamental reconstruction in Iraq is coming down, but we have other expenditures if we're going to finish the job and make sure our troops are able to come out. And I know the importance of being able to tell you that we are monitoring every penny of this.
And so what I can do is assure you this is a priority. This is a very important priority. And I'll follow this.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Well, I appreciate that. Here's our problem: You know, tomorrow we're going to be marking up the budget in the Budget Committee. There are those of us, like myself, who are strong advocates for the 150 account. But the reality is, is that it's very hard to go back to New Jersey or any part of this country when we spend, you know -- when we have 3 (billion dollars) or $4 billion that our own inspector general says is wasted.
So, you know, how we continue -- even as we draw down troops in Iraq, I don't get the sense that there aren't going to be continuing demands for U.S. assistance to Iraq, unless you want to tell me that now, and then -- in which case, we can move on to another --
MR. HILL: No, I think there will be continuing --
SEN. MENENDEZ: Yeah. Okay.
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. MENENDEZ: And since there will be, I think it's going to be incredibly important. I understand about all of the auditors -- what the auditors end up doing is telling us what's happened.
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. MENENDEZ: And what I'm concerned about is ensuring that what we take place doing prospectively is going to give us the best results --
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. MENENDEZ: -- and obviously the use of the taxpayers' dollars in a way that we can stand by, those of us who advocate for greater foreign assistance, because it's in the national security and national interests of the United States.
In that respect, what do you see as dealing with the Iraqi government as it relates to improving elements of corruption of these ministries or where our monies are going through? What do you view that as? And what do you see as our role in terms of future humanitarian recovery and development assistance in Iraq?
MR. HILL: First of all, I think -- my sense is that a lot of the corruption problems in Iraq are the consequence of very weak internal controls and frankly no experience with internal controls and very weak institutions. So I think a lot of what our efforts, what our assistance efforts today are targeted at are the issue of building capacities within ministries to handle money and to handle money with proper controls.
I think it is essential to continue these types of programs, because I think that it is part of making Iraq the success that allows our troops to leave, and to leave with a sense that there is success. And I said earlier I think that's so essential.
So Senator, what I can promise you I can do is, if confirmed, I will get out there and I will meet with the agencies, the sections within the embassy who are in charge of programs, who are actually dispersing programs. And I have been doing some thinking about whether the organizational chart at the embassy might reflect putting all the money-dispensing offices under a person who could really monitor money-dispensing, as opposed to offices that are dealing with policy or information, that sort of thing. But money-dispensing I think we need to have a clear handle on.
We've got a lot of -- we've got AID there. We've got a number of still residual reconstruction money there.
We've got refugee and resettlement programs. And on refugee and resettlement, we're not going to get much for our money unless we get buy-in, from the Iraqis, that they really want to deal with resettlement and are going to put some money toward the cause.
So I want to look at all of these things and see how the money is being flowed. I don't want to see, for example, money for some, you know, three-month Iraqi seminar, if no one really wants to go to the seminar and no one intends to implement something from the seminar.
So I've seen a lot of these aid programs. I've dealt with them all over the Balkans. I've seen countries graduate, which is a very nice thing, to see a country like Poland, where they had all these assistance programs. Korea, which had assistance programs, graduated. So I've seen the good-news stuff, if you get it right. So I would really focus on this.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Well, I appreciate that.
Let me ask one very quick final question. And that is, picking up on Senator Isakson's questioning before, should the military be the face of microfinancing loans? Or are we looking to -- you know, this is a big debate, as we talk about our foreign assistance and how we in fact deliver that foreign assistance effectively.
MR. HILL: Senator, I believe, this should be a civilian activity. You know, I'm certainly willing to, you know, look at what the individual circumstances were in this case. And as I've said, I think, it is laudable that our military, you know, moves on things when they see problems. But I think these should be civilian-sector activities. I mean, I did that when -- I did microcredit when I was in the Peace Corps.
Now, alas we're not talking about the Peace Corps at this point. But I really do believe it's a civilian activity.
SEN. MENENDEZ: So do I and I appreciate your answers.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Menendez.
SENATOR JIM DEMINT (R-SC): (Off mike.)
SEN. KERRY: Absolutely.
SENATOR ROGER WICKER (R-MS): Thank you. And I do appreciate Senator DeMint being generous there.
Well, Ambassador, thank you for your testimony. Thank you for your service and your willingness to serve. Let me just follow up on Senator Lugar's line of questioning. He asked a question on behalf of Senator Brownback.
As I understand it, this assurance which Senator Brownback believes he received, took place in public testimony. Is that correct?
MR. HILL: Yes. There's a record, public record of it, yes.
SEN. WICKER: Have you gone back and reviewed the transcript.
MR. HILL: Oh, I have.
SEN. WICKER: Okay. And you know, you're a career diplomat. You're a professional civil servant. Words are very important.
Did it occur to you that perhaps you needed to get back to Senator Brownback and clear this up, when the party was not brought into the talks, as he thought should be done? Did you anticipate that this would be a problem?
MR. HILL: I said in the testimony that when we get to the next phase, and we did not -- the next phase, which in July I thought was going to come some time in the fall, it did not come.
And perhaps when we realized that we were having problems and they were -- they finally -- these problems finally culminated in December, when we had a meeting in Beijing and we were not able to get the verification protocol that we needed to do phase 2. That meant we were not going to get to phase 3.
And Senator, in retrospect, when I realized we were not going to get to this next phase -- in retrospect, Senator, you're right; I probably should have briefed Senator Brownback on the fact that we were not getting to phase 3.
SEN. WICKER: Because Senator Brownback had placed a hold on a nomination, and released the hold based on --
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. WICKER: -- what he understood your assurance to be.
Well, let me move on to another allegation that I'd like for you to address. And that -- I'll refer to a Weekly Standard column recently by Stephen F. Hayes in which he talks about the Bush administration's determination not to have two-party talks with North Korea. And I'll just quote Mr. Hayes and let you respond for the record, because I think it's important to clear this up.
"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had given Hill permission to meet face to face with North Koreans, but only on the condition that diplomats from China were also in the room. Although the Chinese participated in the early moments of the discussions, they soon left. Hill did not leave then."
Now, the article goes on to say that Secretary Rice was angry with you and that a CNN reporter, Mike Chinoy, wrote, quote, "Although Rice remained supportive of reviving the diplomatic process, Hill had held the bilateral discussion with North Korean negotiator Kim Gye Gwan in defiance of her instructions," unquote. And the author, Hayes, of this article, concludes that the secretary of State expressly forbade you from participating in the bilateral talks but that you thought otherwise.
So this is an opportunity for you to give us your version of that.
MR. HILL: Well, thank you. Thank you very much.
Actually, what this was was the start of the -- this was in the summer of 2005, and this was an effort to get the six-party process going because the North Koreans had boycotted. And so what Secretary Rice agreed to do was to have bilateral -- a bilateral meeting with the understanding that the North Koreans would then announce at the end of the bilateral meeting their participation in the six-party process. But she wanted the Chinese to be there.
The Chinese came, but the North Koreans were not willing to carry on the meeting with the Chinese. So I was there in the meeting room. The North Koreans were arriving, and the Chinese were disappearing. So the question I had -- and Secretary Rice was in the air in between Anchorage, where she had a refueling stop, and coming into Beijing.
So the audible I had to call at that point was, do I continue the meeting or do I walk out? And I made a judgment to continue the meeting. We had the meeting, and at the end of the meeting, the North Koreans announced that they were returning to the six-party process.
Secretary Rice arrived that night in Beijing, and in the morning -- and I remember this very clearly -- she was quite angry, but quite angry with the Chinese for not having remained through the process. And she expressed that directly to the Chinese foreign minister in a meeting that I attended -- that is, the next morning. So that was the incident with respect to the meeting with the North Koreans.
Now, I know there's some journalists who tried to make this a rather dramatic moment. Quite frankly, it was a little less dramatic than some of the -- (audio break) -- with the Chinese for not persevering, at least staying in the --
SEN. WICKER: You and she did not have a verbal confrontation about your audible that you called.
MR. HILL: Never.
SEN. WICKER: Okay.
Well, let me ask you one other thing. There's a letter signed by some five senators -- Ensign, Inhofe, Bond, Kyl, Brownback -- in which they are urging the president not to choose to appoint you. And they say this: "In testimony before the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, Secretary Hill said, `Clearly, we cannot be reaching a nuclear agreement with North Korea if at the same time they're proliferating. It is unacceptable.'" Your quote.
MR. HILL: Yeah.
SEN. WICKER: And yet they say that at a time when Congress was trying to answer key questions about Korea's proliferation to Syria, you were involved in those negotiations, contrary to what they believe was your clear statement to the subcommittee. So --
MR. HILL: That we cannot reach an agreement if they're proliferating, yes.
SEN. WICKER: Yes. Well, do you see a contradiction there? Congress was still wrestling with the fact that North Korea was proliferating to Syria, and yet you went ahead. I'd just ask you to respond to that.
MR. HILL: Well -- yeah. To the best of our estimate -- that is, other agencies in the U.S. government, to the best of their estimate -- the North Koreans ceased proliferating after this facility was destroyed.
Now, it is very clear, however -- at least it's very clear to me and, I think, very clear to most people -- that unbeknownst to us, the North Koreans had carried on a program to assist Syria in the construction of a nuclear reactor. We are not aware to this day of any transfer of actual nuclear material, but we are aware, of course, of the transfer of nuclear technology, or we became aware of this.
The North Koreans subsequently stated, and as part of our agreement, that they have no ongoing proliferation activity. We wanted that statement to be expanded to acknowledge the fact that they were proliferating. And so what they did was they acknowledged our concerns about it, but they did not acknowledge their past activities.
Do I think that is an honest reaction from the North Koreans? Is that in the spirit of what we're trying to do?
No, it isn't. The North Koreans are a people who try to play by their own set of rules, and it is difficult to get things done with them.
We felt it was -- given that we had assurances that they had stopped, but more importantly, we had indications that they had stopped -- because, frankly, getting assurances or getting any statements from the North Koreans are not what we're after; we're after facts, not statements -- but when we saw that the activities had stopped, we felt it was worthwhile to continue the effort to disable their nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, because at the end of the day, if we can prevent the North Korean nuclear problem from becoming a bigger problem than it is -- right now it is a 30-kilo problem -- had we not succeeded in shutting down their facilities and in disabling their facilities, that 30-kilo problem could have been a 60-kilo problem, a hundred-kilo problem.
But I am the first to say, Senator, that the job is not done. They have some 30 kilos, and we cannot rest until we get the 30 kilos from them.
The issue that I've had to deal with as an implementer of a policy -- and I want to stress there was a chain of command here, and I was not off on my own; I was receiving instructions pretty much on a daily basis, and during the actual negotiations I received instructions even --
SEN. WICKER: From? From?
MR. HILL: -- from Secretary Rice -- that our effort was to try to shut down and disable the production of nuclear materials and then to continue and get them to put on the table the nuclear materials they had already produced -- that is, the 30 kilos. And it was at that phase, which did not come -- but that was the phase where we anticipated, where I explained to Senator Brownback that is that next phase -- that we would be prepared and in return for that nuclear material on the table, we would be prepared to launch a normalization effort with the North Koreans.
Senator Brownback quite rightly -- and I fully respect this position -- said we can't be normalizing with a country with one of the world's worst human rights records.
And so I quite -- by the way, I really respect that position. As someone who's dealt with human rights in my 30-some -- 32-year career, I know about that. I know very well about that.
So I agreed to recommend -- and Secretary Rice completely agreed with this -- to create a human rights track. So as we're going forward in normalization -- this was not just going to be a normalization, "You give up the nukes and we treat you like you're some ally" -- this is a normalization that would include dealing with some of the issues that -- serious issues that stand between us.
And so that is what I supported doing. And I regret that were not able to get the verification agreement that would have allowed us to get on to this next phase.
SEN. WICKER: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Might I put Mr. Hayes' column in the record?
SEN. KERRY: Sure. Absolutely. And I thank you. I think it was an important line of questioning to help clarify these issues. And I appreciate the -- so I gave you a little leeway on the time.
Senator Webb, you've been very, very patient. And I want to also afford you the same opportunity, if you need some extra time.
SENATOR JIM WEBB (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I would offer my own observation about the thoroughness of Ambassador Hill's responses. I think you could probably categorize the explanation under the perils of adroit diplomacy or, as we used to say in the Marine Corps, when you're up on the skyline, you get shot it.
I strongly support this nomination. I have been pleased to work with Ambassador Hill regularly over the past couple of years, because of the interest that I have in Asian affairs, East Asian affairs.
And I just -- I fully respect the concerns of Senator Brownback and others with -- you know, with regard to human rights issues. But I hope Chris will -- Chris Hill won't become the Rorschach Test for what the policy should have been in the last administration with respect to Korea. There are -- with respect to North Korea. There are many of us who believe that Ambassador Hill was a bright spot in attempting to bring that matter to resolution.
Let's -- if there are concerns, we should have a full debate on the floor. I don't think this nomination should be put on hold in any way. We have too many things to be doing in Iraq and in that part of the world.
Now, that being said, I've just burned two minutes backing you up, here -- (laughs) -- Ambassador Hill. And I've got something I want to get clarified and it's something that's been concerning me for well over a year, and that is the nature of the strategic framework agreement and the SOFA agreement in Iraq and what our obligation actually is. And have you read those two agreements?
MR. HILL: Yes, I have.
SEN. WEBB: Okay. I read them last fall when they were, I think, wrongly categorized as restricted information, where you had to go to a room to read a couple of documents that were not even classified because the previous administration, in my view, was trying to keep this issue away from the public debate. I reread them again about 10 days ago.
And I'm a(n) old legislative counsel. Words are very important to me. You've been through this many times, and I also noticed in your testimony and in the phraseology that's now being used, we're talking -- you are talking, the administration now is talking more about the drawing down of forces rather than the withdrawal of forces. And I think -- I think that's a pretty important distinction, when we're looking at the verbiage in this agreement.
And my concern is this.
I was among a number of people. The chairman, I believe, also was. I know Vice President Biden was one who was saying that an agreement of such magnitude should have had the approval of the United States Congress.
Whether or not it was raised to the level of a treaty, it certainly should have had the approval of the United States Congress. It required the approval of the Iraqi parliament. And yet because of all of the machinations and the presidential campaign, the business of the Congress, this agreement was basically done through executive signatories. It wasn't brought before the Congress at all.
Now, if you go and read this agreement, this -- if you're not familiar enough in detail to give me an answer today, I really would like to hear what the administration thinks.
If you read this agreement in toto, if you take Articles 2, 24, 27 and 30 and read them, with the definitional phrases against each other, there really seems to be quite loose language, when we're talking about a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.
Just very briefly and I appreciate the chairman allowing my possibly a couple of minutes here.
In the definition of terms, member of United States forces means any individual who is a member of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard, any individual.
Now, if you read that against Article 24 -- I'm not going to go in detail through all the phraseology -- it says all United States forces shall withdraw from Iraqi territory no later than December 31st, 2011.
I am of the understanding, although I was not a participant, that that at one time said all United States forces must withdraw but now says shall withdraw, all United States forces shall withdraw, no later than December 31st, 2011.
If you then look at Article 27, there are two fairly lengthy paragraphs that I'm not going to quote in toto. But they basically talk about if there is any external or internal threat to Iraqi sovereignty, political independence -- some very loose language -- that we will take appropriate measures. And it also says that there will be close cooperation of training, equipping, et cetera.
And finally if you read all that against Article 30, it says, and this is important, because of the way that we came to this agreement -- it's important to me anyway as a legislator -- this agreement shall be amended only with the official agreement of the parties, in writing, and in accordance with the constitutional procedures, in effect, in both countries.
Well, the argument can now be made, since the Congress was not a part of the approval of the document, that an executive agreement, a signature, in the same form as the way this agreement was signed, could basically say, okay, we're not going to be out of there by December 30th, 2011 -- December 31st, 2011.
And in listening to the discussions, with respect to residual forces and this sort of thing, I'm not really hearing clearly that it's the intention of the administration to have a complete withdrawal of all United States forces by December 31st, 2011.
Would you comment on that?
MR. HILL: First of all, with respect to commenting on the specifics of the agreement, I would rather get back to you with a considered answer. Words matter on this. This is the fundamental document that is the basis for our having forces in Iraq today.
SEN. WEBB: So the question really to come back to us on is, is it the position of the administration that we will withdraw all American military forces, from Iraq, by December 31st, 2011, all?
MR. HILL: That is the position, as I understand it.
Now, I understand too that this will -- this will be in continued consultations. But my understanding is that it is the position that we will withdraw all forces by December 31st, 2011.
SEN. WEBB: I very much appreciate that answer.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Senator Webb.
Are there any other questions?
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Mr. Hill. I know you've had a long sit this morning in front of the committee, and I appreciate your questions. I very much appreciate you coming by yesterday in a conversation. As I shared with you, I feel like I'm asking questions on behalf of many constituents; that I find out when people are nominated that there are hundreds of experts about those nominees that call and demand that we ask certain questions. And I shared some of those with you yesterday, and I appreciate the openness of your answers.
I particularly appreciate the fact that in a role with Iraq that it is very important to honor the bravery, the sacrifices of our troops over many years, and that the resolutions there demand that we come away with a sense of accomplishment and victory for those who've given so much. And I appreciate that perspective that you share.
There's one question that I would like to ask because it's something that is coming through on our phone lines and the experts on you. It really gets back to a concern that during the negotiations with North Korea, that there was a flow of information not just inside government, but outside, outside information related to politics back here in America. And specifically what I'm seeing in media and some of the requests are a concern that you were communicating with Ambassador Holbrooke during those -- prior to him being ambassador, and that, in some way, was involved with politics.
And I don't know of which I'm even asking. But again, there are a number of people --
MR. HILL: I know what they're talking about.
SEN. DEMINT: Okay. Well, then you know more than I do and I'll just leave it to --
MR. HILL: I'll explain it. There was a -- there was a plan, and I believe this was -- we're talking January '07 at this time, and the plan was that the -- the six-party talks had been in abeyance for some time. And when we tried to meet -- when we tried to have a six-party meeting in December of '06, the North Koreans would not participate because this went to the issue of their -- of the fact that we had intervened to try to hold some of their financial holdings at a bank in Macau.
So at the end of this unsuccessful session in Beijing, the North Koreans had a plan to -- or told us that they would be prepared to meet us in a third -- in a third country to try to make progress on the nuclear issue, even though they had stated as a principle they were not going to talk about anything until this financial issue. But they agreed that they would meet us in a third country on the nuclear issue.
I took that back to Secretary Rice. She discussed it, as I understand it, with the president and with Stephen Hadley. And so it was agreed that I would go to Berlin and meet the North Koreans.
I was also under very strict instructions to keep this completely quiet; that is, not to have any press leak that I was going to have a meeting with the North Koreans.
Now, why in Berlin? There are a number of reasons, including the fact that Secretary Rice was going to be coming back from a trip to the Middle East and I could brief her immediately in Berlin. So the issue was, I'm the assistant secretary for Asia, why am I going to Berlin, unless it's to meet the -- meet the North Koreans?
So what I did was I talked to Ambassador Holbrooke, who is affiliated with something called the American Academy of Berlin, and asked if I could be invited to give a speech at the American Academy of Berlin. And so the answer was, yes, no problem. So we put out the word that I was going to give a speech at the American Academy of Berlin, which I did.
And so, in so doing, no one ever knew that the real purpose was to meet the North Koreans and make progress on the -- on the six-party talks. And so that didn't come out until after we had had the meeting. And I think it was referred to by the Japanese press as the Berlin shock, because no one knew that it was happening.
But that is the sum total of Ambassador Holbrooke's involvement in this matter. And a lot of people, knowing that I had worked with Ambassador Holbrooke in the Balkans, then assumed that he must have had some role in the negotiations. And that was not the case.
SEN. DEMINT: That's all I need.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Senator DeMint.
SENATOR TED KAUFMAN (D-DE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible) -- wrap up here.
SEN. KAUFMAN: Yes. The -- I've been struck by -- I mean, I know there's some questions been raised about your Middle East experience, but I -- ever since this thing started, I've been struck by the similarities between the Balkans and our involvement in Iraq and lessons learned in Balkans were never applied to Iraq and I think could have helped things.
And just to go over your record, you were a -- you were a member of Ambassador Holbrooke's team. You were deeply engaged in the success of the Dayton Peace Accords. You were ambassador to Macedonia. You helped to ensure refugee camps were established in the Kosovar -- refugees, and special negotiator for Kosovo. You were the architect of our efforts to secure human rights for the population. When those negotiations failed, you recommended NATO intervention to prevent ethnic cleansing. That's a great record for you to have, and I think it's -- it shows the kind of experiences you have there will be invaluable in Iraq.
Can you talk a little bit about community organization, training of police and things like that? Because a number of questions have been raised about the PRTs and how that's going to work. Lessons you learned in Bosnia and the Balkans that you think will be helpful?
MR. HILL: Oh, I think -- yes, I can, because I think some of the things we learned in Kosovo at standing up a police force have actually been very applicable in Iraq, because before Kosovo -- I remember when we started to do this -- it was not easy. We had had some experience earlier in Haiti dealing with police training, but getting -- you know, establishing the bureaucratic mechanisms, getting the police trainers out there, was a -- was a big task.
When I was -- even after I came back from Macedonia in the summer of 1999, I was asked to be the special -- I was in the national security council as the senior director for this Balkan group. And we had to coordinate interagency on getting police trainers out there, getting prisons built, too. That was another big problem in Kosovo.
And so when I see some of this -- some of these problems we've had in Iraq -- again, I'm looking at it from afar. I need to get my boots on the ground and see what it really looks like. But it does have a sort of "deja vu all over again" feel to it.
I will say, however, that I think things have gone more smoothly in Iraq than they did as we tried to stand it up in Kosovo at the time.
SEN. KAUFMAN: Good. Just a couple questions on Iraq. One is the -- it seems the popular consensus is that the elections really established the idea of a strong central government in Iraq. Is that how you feel things came out and that's the --
MR. HILL: I think the elections will help establish the relationship of the central government and the -- and the regions. And therefore, I think they are very important to Iraq's future status as a -- as a democracy, and therefore something that we need to keep a close eye on and be as helpful as we can.
SEN. KAUFMAN: And the final thing is oil and gas legislation. Are you concerned at the fact that the Kurds and the central government haven't been able to come up with a(n) agreement on the --
MR. HILL: Yeah. You know --
SEN. KAUFMAN: -- oil legislation -- oil and gas legislation?
MR. HILL: You know, I am -- I am concerned about that, because I think it's so important. But, in fact, just the other day I asked for a special briefing on it, from our experts on it, because I couldn't understand if all the elements are there, why haven't they cut the deal?
Well, I had the briefing, and it turned out it is a very complex issue. And as I said earlier, it is an issue that's going to -- that goes beyond just the issue -- for example, managing a profit -- how to divide the profits between the center and the regions.
In fact, relative to some of the other issues, that's not a major issue. So it does need to be addressed. The longer it goes on unaddressed, I think, is not good news for the Iraqi economy. It will not help get Iraqi -- foreign investment into Iraq. And I think I'd like to see if we can pick up the pace on that.
SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you. I'm looking forward to visiting you in Iraq.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Senator.
Someone had mentioned that Senator Shaheen might be on the way, but we're going to wrap up, I think, unless Senator Lugar has additional questions.
Let me just say on behalf of the committee -- and I think Senator Lugar would agree with me -- that I think you've shown here today why you are qualified and the right person for this job. I think you've answered the questions that were raised by colleagues, and all of them are legitimate. And in this business people have a right to respond to general questions and inquiries and sometimes conspiracies that circulate.
But I think you've answered them very directly, with candor, and comprehensively, today, and I hope that those people who've raised the questions have listened carefully to your answers, because I think the record which you have referred to -- and you've gone back and reviewed -- is very clear with respect to never having gotten to the other phase.
I thought one of the most important things you did say was that you had almost daily instructions that you were working under, as most negotiators and diplomats do. This was not a freelance operation. And I've heard any number of questions raised that this is not an area where you've spent most of your career. Well, the fact is that the skills one learns in many of these other places are what are important. The experience of the judgments you make, the puzzles you sometimes have to put together, have great similarities, in whatever part of the world.
And the mark of a great diplomat and of an expert, whether it was Henry Kissinger or Jim Baker or others -- they didn't always approach every place with the greatest amount of experience in that place, but like a good lawyer, when they got their brief, they studied it and they knew it, and when they appeared they were as skilled and capable as anybody else.
I think the president's confidence in you, the secretary of State's confidence in you, Senator Lugar's confidence, General Odierno and the Pentagon's confidence and others' speaks volumes.
And it is critical to us to get you in place. These are critical weeks. The Congress is about to go out for the Easter recess. It would be unconscionable, I think, to leave this post in its current state of transition during that period of time. And so for all those of us who -- and that's everybody in the Congress, in the Senate -- who cares enormously about the outcomes, I think people need to review this record today and expedite this nomination next week.
So we will leave the record open for 24 hours so that any additional questions can be submitted, if they need to be, in writing. We'll have a business meeting next week. General Eikenberry will appear before the committee tomorrow. And we hope to proceed rapidly next week, to be able to confirm these nominees.
Senator Lugar, do you have anything to add?
If not, then we thank you very much for appearing today, and we look forward to proceeding forward. We stand adjourned. (Gavels.)