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tv   Pentagon Officials Testify on Afghanistan  CSPAN  October 27, 2021 7:33am-10:01am EDT

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♪♪ >> down the senate armed services committee hears testimony on the withdraw from afghanistan and under secretary for defense policy and that the director for operations for the joint chiefs of staff testified. at this is just over two and half hours. [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> i will call the hearing to order. good morning peter the committee meets today to examine the security situation in south and central asia in light of the transition of u.s. military forces from afghanistan. this is the sixth even in a series of committee engagements isaac to assess the u.s. military's 20 year mission in afghanistan. understand factors that led to the taliban a rapid takeover of the country on its last day of forces, oversee dod operations before the fat-- afghan evacuees
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and operations in light of emergency threats. joining us today are doctor collins, under secretary of defense for policy lieutenant general james mingus director for operation joint staff. thank you both for being here appear i know there may be a tendency to focus on our final months in afghanistan and i was stressed that our withdrawal was somewhere in the event surrounding did not happen in a vacuum. a path that led to-- years of mistakes primary catastrophic pivot to iraq or our failure to grapple with support for the taliban. this is not a democratic or republican problem, these failures have manifested over four presidential administrations with both parties and our willingness to recognize and correct-- one fundamental question that
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requires close examination is how did the decade-long strategy for building the afghan national defense and security forces result in a force that was incapable of defeating the taliban and seemingly collapsed in a matter of days appeared to need to understand what led to development of afghan security forces that suffered from low morale, corruption in which were incapable of operating without u.s. and coalition support. in addition, we need to assess the extent to which the failure of the afghan government to earn the loyalty of the afghan security forces contributed to their being unwilling to defend the kabul government. further, our inability across multiple administrations to effectively deal with pakistan is another example of-- [inaudible] managing the relationship with pakistan will remain important as we seek to successfully implement a regional counterterrorism strategy with other allies. that is why it's vitally
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important for us to reflect upon and to study the entirety of the 20 year mission in afghanistan. i agreed with secretary austin and general millie's testimony last month that there should be a comprehensive review spanning the war in afghanistan. i would support formal independent study of the afghan war as senator duckworth in a number of our colleagues have taken the lead in preparing. i look forward to working to authorize such a review as part of the national defense authorization act. at the same time, we cannot allow our nation's past mission to come at the extent of national security today and in the future. while the u.s. has ended its military mission in afghanistan we must continue to ensure al qaeda, isis k and other terroristic groups cannot be-- leave afghanistan to attack the united states and our allies and we must remain vigilant about these threats to ensure we establish an effective and robust counterterrorism protection moving forward. the members of this committee
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received a classified update on regional security issues and threats. american people deserve reassurance that the department is willing to actively engage in defense of homeland against terrorist threats were emanating from this region undersecretary powell and the secretary i asked to the extent you can because of the sensitive nature of this material during today's open session to provide an update on efforts to address the threats from terrorist groups operating in afghanistan and across south and central asia. i would appreciate an update on progress towards building a new regional counterterrorism for our protection. i would like to understand the status of negotiations of the regional allies and partners to facilitate this new posture whether and how our adversaries may attempt to constrain such efforts and strategies of medication. before i turn to ranking member for opening remarks i would like to remind colleagues there will be a classified session immediately following this open session in the office of senate
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security and also remind my colleagues that there are scheduled of three votes this morning, so this will be somewhat complicated. with that, let me recognize ranking member. >> thank you, mr. chairman and think you two are witnesses for appearing here today if your welcome back secretary powell as the most senior policy advisor at the dod and that you agreed to testify in open session on these critical issues. let's be clear why we are here as a result of the withdraw of the u.s. troops in afghanistan 13 servicemen and women were killed. hundreds of american citizens were left behind and many thousands of afghan partners have been abandoned. although, some of our questions on this withdraw have been answered, we still have a long way to go until all of our
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questions are answered and i went to thank chairman reed for waking with us in continuing this oversight process. not too often the current administration tells us that president biden was forced to withdraw from afghanistan because of president trumps agreement with the taliban. that's just not true and i think everyone knows that's not true. first, president biden had himself bound by president trumps policies on anything else , i ran, southwest border or defending a military. second, the agreement was a condition -based approach under president trumps plan and the u.s. agreed to withdraw troops only at the taliban meant seven conditions. these conditions including preventing the al qaeda from
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threatening the united states from afghanistan and denying residents to those threatening the united states during these conditions were not met, in fact , as general millie told us. only one of the seven conditions were met and as we have heard in recent hearings al qaeda remains active in afghanistan and will likely threaten the united states homeland very soon and that's why all of the president biden's military advisers told him to keep at least 2500 troops to continue fighting the terrorists to protect americans here and in the homeland. president biden withdrew anyway. he did not feel bound by president trumps condition based approach and did not follow it. i wish he had. we would all be safer today if that were the case. secretary powell, you are
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confirmed on april 27. so, you did not make a recommendation on president biden's decision to pull all of the troops from afghanistan by a set date tear rather than based on the conditions on the ground. but, you were the most senior policy advisor at dod for the next four months as this tragedy played out. from may, through the end of august. what i want to know and what the people want to know and what our troops who served and sacrificed in afghanistan absolutely deserve to know is what did president biden most senior advisors do during those four months. we want to understand what this national security team did on a day-to-day basis as a warning light after warning light began to blink red.
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we need to understand and then affects what went wrong so that we can keep american families safe and protect our interest in the future. the consequences of the presidents disastrous decision are impossible to ignore. afghan interpreter for our australian allies was executed last week. china is going after rare earth metals there. girls are being prevented from going to school. that's just the beginning. the dangerous likely to grow across the world and in our own backyard. we have heard from our military officials and our intelligence officials how little we really know about the rising threat of terrorism now that afghanistan is a safe haven for these organizations. but, instead of an honest look at what went wrong, the biden
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administration has hunkered down and said this withdraw was an extraordinary success. instead of putting together a counterterrorism plan for the future, all we get is buzz words. so, i look forward to our witnesses testimony and thank you, chairman reed. >> thank you very much, senator. mr. secretary, please begin spinning chairman reed, ranking member and distinguished members of the senate armed services committee, thank you for the opportunity to join you today to discuss the military withdraw from afghanistan and the department's role in operation allied welcome. today i am joined by lieutenant general jim mingus director j3 joint staff who also provides opening remarks. let me start by echoing secretary austin and expressing my pride at the service members. over the last 20 years in afghanistan, and her men and
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women in uniform have performed countless acts of bravery. 2461 of them paid the ultimate sacrifice while doing so. i know members of this committee share our gratitude to our troops who have faithfully served and sacrificed, spent months and years away from family and loved ones and endured repeated combat tours to protect the homeland tear for two decades or many women serving in afghanistan acted with courage and compassion, yet at the performance of our soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines during that housework evacuation was unparalleled. in at the 48 hour span following the taliban takeover of cabal our troops on the ground secured an airport and contested territory and in just 70 days they evacuated the largest airlifted people in history, unprecedented in scope and scale enabling the evacuation of more than 120,000 u.s. citizens, lawful permanent residents, third country nationals, afghan partners including those
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eligible for special immigrant visas on the state department locally employed staff and other vulnerable afghans at risk. as i testified previously no other military on earth has accomplished that feat and we as americans that should be immensely proud. the success of the u.s. evacuation operation was enabled by our military planners and their development of contingency plans. immediately following the president's april announcement of our military withdraw from afghanistan, the department of defense went to work ensuring the drawdown would be accomplished responsibly. that we did not imagine a situation which the afghan government and security forces would collapse in a matter of days prior to the conclusion of our retrograde tear that apartment began iterating on evacuation scenarios including the possibility of a contested evacuation in the spring of 2021. not only did we plan, we proactively took steps in case of emergency. in a june, the secretary pre-position forces in the region and sent the ronald reagan carrier strike group to the gulf to cover their
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withdrawal. in august, as conditions worsened additional forces were placed on alert. for thought as much a skill and bravery allowed our service members to execute this extraordinary mission. to be sure there were complications and tragedy pure while airlifting up to 9000 people per day from a kabul we experienced overcrowding at the airport and our staging bases for evacuees is on the way to the u.s. in a highly dynamic environment we constantly had to adapt to access and evacuate u.s. citizens, lawful permanent residence in afghan evacuees and in the end we were unable to reach a sum of those we sought to evacuate by august 31. there were heartbreaking because. in the final days of the withdraw we lost 13 american service members to a horrific isis case was cited on the airport pick these heroes sacrificed their lives to save tens of thousands of innocent people appear we hold for-- we will forever more in their death and honor the humanity that they demonstrated in their final
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mission. i mostly am acutely aware by costs borne by afghans and last week i met with the president of attrition and education international. he told me of the extraordinary life lived by mr. sommer i ahmadi, an aid worker employed by them and when the 10 civilians mistakingly killed during the august 29, u.s. air strike and kabul. it was clear from our conversation that among the 10 innocent lives lost including children afghanistan loft a tremendous humanitarian in this erroneous strike and for that with the department are deeply sorry. just as i committed to doctor quan i committed to each of you that apartment will ensure a thorough investigation and accounting for the august 29, air strike, how we can more prevent civilian harm in the future and how we can support the family of those lost via condolence payment. our military mission in afghanistan may have ended august 31, but our service members diplomats and government
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employees remain hard at work. at the u.s. government continues to facilitate the departure of u.s. citizens or lawful permanent residents as well as afghans who work for and with us from afghanistan. from september 1, through october 25, u.s. government has directly facilitated the departure of 240 u.s. citizens and 157 lawful permanent residence as well as others who have come out on private charters. physically evacuating u.s. citizens, lawful permanent residence, third country nationals and other afghans at risk from kabul airport was only one step in the extraordinary accomplishment of our military. across the globe and throughout the country, over 10000 of our men and women in uniform continue to support the afghan people alongside our agency partners via operation allies welcome. we built out military installations across europe and the middle east to serve as temporary locations for evacuees as they underwent that vetting and health screenings to come to
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the u.s. this portion of the mission was enabled by america's network of allies and partners, a network at no other nation can rival tear demonstrates our bilateral relationship across the globe can be a source of great national strength. at home, we have drawn upon another strength of national power, the generosity and hospitality of the american people. we have welcomed over 65000 afghan evacuees to aid to safe haven sites located on military installations as they complete the steps to be resettled into the u.s. american communities are opening their arms and embracing the evacuees and with their support of the resilience appeared to the afghan people is going to lie. for example, in texas and afghan interpreter organize and started an informal education program for afghan children. at fort dix, new jersey, volunteers organized weddings for afghan couples who delayed their ceremony during the fall of kabul. american service members continue to work around the clock to ensure evacuees are safe and welcome on our
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installations. every day we see our men and women in uniform trading high-fives, giving fist bouts and playing ball with afghan children pure this mission has not been without challenges and we are proud of all those supporting the operation. despite the end of our military presence in afghanistan the work in the department is far from over. we are examining and learning from the past, reckoning with the uncomfortable truth that despite decades and billions of dollars of u.s. investment, afghan military evaporated in the space of the taliban assault. additionally, we are turning to the future bolstering capacity to engage in over the horizon counterterrorism operation to ensure no threat emanating from afghanistan for can harm our homeland or our interest even as we were refocused on the challenges posed by china, russia and other competitors and adversaries. another committee has questions about the work, evacuation on the path forward and i look forward to taking them, but before i do i would like to thank the members of the committee for your support and partnership and with that i would like to turn it over to
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general mingus appeared. >> good morning. i would like to start by thanking chairman reed, ranking member and half and nonmembers here today for your enduring support of our entire joint force. i would like to extend my appreciation to the staff for providing me the opportunity to speak with you today about the military's deliberate withdraw from afghanistan and the department's contribution to the interagency effort to evacuate fully vetted afghan special immigrant visa holders and execute a noncombatant evacuation operation for u.s. citizens and other afghans. our interagency coordination and partnership were and continue to be critical to the ongoing evacuation processing and resettlement of evacuees. i could not be more proud of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and civilians whose service and sacrifice throughout the afghanistan campaign is humbling. it's been the owner of a lifetime to serve alongside them here as the doctor just
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explained the threats and depth of the evacuation operation was unparalleled. neo operations are among the most challenging missions the military can undertake. by their nature, they occur with little notice and are often within continuous security environments. that apartment recognized that a neo could be the most dangerous course of action and with the interagency we planned it for this contingency. this preplanning allow the department to respond quickly to the department of state neo declaration deploying a force package of nearly 6000 personnel within days. this neo element executed the largest humanitarian airlift operation ever undertaken. i'm not sure that there's another event that better demonstrates what it means to be an american servicemember, willingness to sacrifice self while demonstrating compassion under fire so that others may enjoy the freedom and opportunities.
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unfortunately, 13 service members did pay the ultimate price they will be regarded as heroes forever. americans are not the only heroes lost over the course of 20 year campaign. nato allies and partners and especially afghan civilians were part of our efforts beginning with the initial invasion. countless afghans lost their lives trying to help the united states navigate. afghanistan difficult human and physical terrain and countless nationals and security forces were lost serving alongside u.s. service members. unfortunately, we lost 10 more afghan civilians leading up to our departure during a precision strike we employed to target ice escaped here as the doctor explained we are committed to the ongoing investigation into supporting the family members of those lost here we also understand how this strike may cause the committee to question the over the horizon counterterrorism operation now that we no longer have a physical footprint in afghanistan. i look forward to discussing these issues with you today.
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furthermore, it will be a case study the department will pour over in the ensuing years and we will analyze their development and their ultimate dissolution to determine how to chart better paths for our partners in the future. while we cannot and will never be able to instill the will to fight, we can and will take the opportunity to better understand those intangible factors that so significantly affect our mission in our nation's interests. our work did not and on 31-august. interagency effort that quickly housed on transport, vaccinate and resettle resulting evacuee population continues to be a herculean effort. one that would have been extraordinarily more difficult without our allies, partners and ngos. we are also continuing to support the interagency because they worked to re- club-- u.s. citizens and afghans to whom we hold special commitments including siv holders who remain
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in afghanistan and have expressed a desire to leave. despite the afghan withdrawal and evacuation that apartment remains focused on counterterrorism threats to the homeland. while weary prior-- following the withdrawal and withdrawal and the short term we are actively setting the condition to ensure we remain situationally aware in our posture to mitigate, neutralize developing terrorist threats and streams. i look forward to answering your questions today as we work together for the benefit of our country. thank you again for your time and your support. >> thank you very much, general. thank you, mr. secretary. we will go to the secretary and general mingus. when general millie was here, he testified that although al qaeda and other terrorist groups that significantly degraded in the past 20 years that there may be a resurgence in international terrorism and in the region
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within 12 to 36 months. do you concur with that assessment, doctor? >> i think the assessment depends on which group we are talking about. i think the intelligence community currently assesses both isis-k and al qaeda had the intent to connect external operations including against the united states, but neither currently has the capability to do so. we could see isis-k generate the capability somewhere between six or 12 months. i think the current assessment by the intelligence committee would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability and as you said we have to remain vigilant against the possibility of. >> thank you. do you concur, general? >> i do, sir. i know it was further refined last week when the intel folks were here to refine that assessment. the chairman's assessment, i concur with that. >> thank you.
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general mingus, when general mckenzie was here, he indicated given the departure-- physical departure of american personnel from afghanistan that our over the horizon situation will not give us the same picture. the resources will be greater, the risk will all be greater. do you-- also said at this time despite using the risks that were to disrupt terrorist activities emanating from the region-- >> i'm sorry sir, the last half of the? >> despite the increased risk which we all recognize, do you believe were appropriately postured at this time to disrupt terrorist threats emanating from the region and are adapting so that we can consistently disrupt these activities? >> sir, as you know when the chairman and secretary both briefed and so did general
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mckenzie that over the horizon counterterrorism capability that we have in place right now. we will go-- doctor collins and i will go into more detail during the closed session. as you know we have a control, architecture set up in the gulf and we are able to project assets from the gulf, we can collect across all the sources of intelligence, fuse that and continue to analyze and if necessary take action in afghanistan. as a general mckenzie and the chairman both indicated, it is harder, but we believe we have the assets in place right now if necessary to disrupt and/or degrade the terrorist networks in afghanistan. >> thank you. a secretary powell, as a some have that the administration should started evacuating people from afghanistan sooner. was at the administration's assessment doing so would have pasted the fall of kabul by suggesting the united states did not have confidence in the
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government and did we in fact give assurances to president connie that we would maintain a presence and not signal our lack of confidence? >> senator, the goal during the retrograde was to assist the afghan government, not undermine them. .. but that was the concern a mass exodus could undermine the government. >> thank you. finally, dr. kahl, can you give us updates with respect to our arrangement with pakistan regarding their cooperation with us in counterterrorism? there have been press reports
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recently that they are working with the taliban to attack isis-k, which is an enemy of both, but can you give us any further assessment? >> so pakistan is a challenging actor but they don't want afghanistan to be a safe haven for terrorist attacks, extra attacks, not just against pakistan the others. they continue to give us access to pakistani airspace and we are in conversations about keeping that airspace open and having to talk about that more. in the closed session but for right now counterterrorism cooperation with pakistan is a pretty good. >> thank you very much. senator inhofe, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. one of the many confusing things about this whole thing is we really don't know how many americans were left in afghanistan. the administration's number of u.s. citizens left in afghanistan keeps changing. we all understand that and it's
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very confusing. the administration always said 100-200 u.s. citizens left in afghanistan but has already withdrawn 234, and is in contact with 363 others. 176 of them want to leave. speaking slowly because i'm kind of put this together at the same time. administration by its own count left 600 americans behind, over 400 of whom want to leave. not the 100-200 that has been referred to several times. there still several thousands of americans unaccounted for, i claimed that there were ten, 15,000, mid august secretary of state lincoln tells senators, we were all there -- blinking --
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10,000, 10,000, 15,000 americans were in afghanistan. on the 31st of august administration claims it withdrew 6000. do the math as we're saying this. it withdrew 6000 americans from afghanistan. this means some of between 4,009,000 americans were left behind. but the administration says 100-200 our remaining. in october, the administration stated that 234 americans have been evacuated since january, since the 31st of august. state department says in contact, that says it's in contact with 363 more americans in afghanistan, 176 of whom wanted to leave.
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now, if we can figure this out, you can do a lot better than i've done and i've made a real effort to go down and document everything that is in there. so at the very least it's confusing. during the august 18 interview on abc, george stephanopoulos asked president biden weather use troops would stay beyond august 31, if there were still americans to evacuate. president biden responded, , quote, this is a quote, if there are american citizens left, we are going to stay to get them out. of course this didn't happen. secretary kahl, i would ask you the question, , when did you realize that the united states would not be able to get all of your citizens out of afghanistan by august 31? and did you present your leadership in the options for
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extending that sub oppose deadline to ensure that our people were out of harms way at that time? >> well, as a first matter come nobody was abandoned. we continue to get people out of afghanistan including american citizens. if you would like i'd be happy to go to the latest numbers with that. >> i would ask you to pause of their come the latest numbers, i've already done the latest numbers. maybe there are later numbers than -- >> i -- >> than i just read. >> i can give you some fidelity on numbers. >> i agree on that. >> so the validated numbers from the state department during the neo were 6000 americans. we estimate we likely to about 5500. since the end of the neocon so since september 1 the state department documented 240
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american citizens under part of afghanistan since september 1 in 157 green cardholders. when you account for additional individuals who did not, were not arrange for travel outside of afghanistan by the u.s. government but came out to other charters, dod numbers total out to 314, and 266 lpr total since the end of the neo. in terms of how many american citizens we estimate are currently in afghanistan, the department of state is in contact with 196 american citizens who are ready to depart and arrangements are being made for them to do so either via air or overground. and another 243 american citizens have been contacted and are not ready to depart either because they want to stay in afghanistan or on not ready. >> the question that i asked,
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did you present your leadership in the options for extending that deadline to ensure that our people were out of harms way? >> it -- >> if it wasn't you who? >> it was the consensus of civilian and military leadership of the department of defense that we should stick to the august 31 deadline and extending beyond that would make it harder to get american citizens out beyond that date. >> the same military leadership that insisted that we leave the troops down there at the time that we evacuate? >> that is correct. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much, senator inhofe. senator shaheen is next. >> thank you both for being here this morning and for your efforts to support the evacuations in afghanistan. i want to start by recognizing as both of you did the tremendous service of our men and women in the military who made possible that evacuation
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and continue to support afghan refugees. i was proud 11 members of the new hampshire national guard volunteered to go to joint base mcguire as part of operation allies refuge, and believe that the represent what we've seen across our armed forces. we have also heard in our office from a number of those men and women who served in afghanistan who continue to be concerned about people they served with, afghans they served with, during their time there who are still in afghanistan whose lives are being threatened by the taliban because of their service with the united states. and so general mingus, you referenced those siv applicants. i wonder if you can tell me what we continue to do to try and ensure that those siv applicants and those who have received special immigrant visas are
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ready, are going to be evacuated out of afghanistan, or either to the united states or somewhere else where they will be safe? >> thank you, senator. as you know the state department has a group that they've established underneath ambassador jones and underneath that there's a group that solely focuses on the additional folks coming out of afghanistan. they are also working with about 52 special interest groups that doctor call and the joint staff are a part of. we meet with those groups twice a week because they have knowledge and understanding contact with other afghans at risk they continue to try and come out. the state department works the documentation. there is generally a flight or two a a week that brings out t just american citizens and legal permanent residents but also afghans at risk. >> i'm sorry to interrupt but do you have a sense of how many siv
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applicants remain in afghanistan? >> so the total number of sigs in the pipeline is 28,000, according to our records, of which 8555 have come out with their family members there's a significant number of of siv still in afghanistan and i share your concern and will work to try to get them out and hold the taliban to their pledge for safe passage, people with the documents which should include sivs. >> i'm sure you both aware of one of the challenges for those siv applicants has been getting the documents they can confirm that actually worked alongside our military. and one of the challenges has been dod has not provided documents in many cases. and so what are we doing to reform that issue four, not just
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for the current siv applicants but for future? >> so as of this committee is where the siv process was not designed for emergencies. it's very slow. typically it took a year or two. nothing was done in the previous administration to speed that up. nothing was done to bring afghanistan out after doha agreement. the beginning of the biden administration the department took steps that shrunk the time to about eight months. that is still way too long. department of defense created an enormous database and has refined that data over time to try to speed up the confirmation of employment. the dod itself doesn't provide the document, the visas that comes to the state department. they have provided physical visas to people or in afghanistan in other cases there are electronic documents that are then transmitted because our embassy is not in afghanistan anymore. >> senator ernst and i worked on legislation that is passed congress to try to speed up that
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process but if there are other changes that need to be made i hope you will share that with the committee so that we can continue to try and ensure we don't have bureaucratic impediment to getting people out of the country. my other question because my type a short has to do with the status of isis-k in afghanistan and we seen an increase in the number of attacks in afghanistan. afghanistan. is it our assessment that the afghan, or that the taliban has the capacity to defeat isis-k in the country? >> i think it is our assessment that the taliban and isis-k are mortal enemies. taliban is highly motivated to go after isis-k. their ability to do so i think is to be determined. >> do you share that, general mingus? >> i do, ma'am. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator shaheen. senator wicker please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i first of all have a statement.
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undersecretary in his prepared remarks on page three talks about the work of the department is far from over. we are examining and learning from the past reckoning with the uncomfortable truths that despite decades and billions of dollars of u.s. investment, the afghan military evaporated in the face of the taliban assault. let me just remind everyone that for the past six or seven years before the debacle in kabul, the afghan military took almost all of the casualties, fatalities and fought bravely on behalf of their country. and, general mingus, i appreciate the fact that you been deployed a number of times and assert in dangerous
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situations, but on the final page of your written statement you talk about the a&e sf, afghan national security s can you say we have a case study for the department in pursuing this. there will be a case study for historians in the coming years. and you make this statement, while we cannot and will never be able to instill the will to fight, we can and will take the opportunity to better understand and so forth. may i suggest that both of those statements are unworthy of the secretary of defense for policy of this administration or of the director of operations for the joint staff? and, in fact, it was the decision by this administration to pull support for the afghan
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national defense forces that led to the debacle, and to suggest that this group of armed forces supported by the united states but populate almost entirely by afghan soldiers was unwilling to fight or evaporated him is n unworthy statement. mr. secretary, on august 10, the white house said that president biden believed it's not inevitable that the taliban takes over kabul for the country, and according directly. five days later we abandoned the embassy in kabul. do you think this set a signal to the afghan national defense
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forces, that we were out of there and they could not depend on us anymore? and was that part of, was the abandonment of the embassy part of the troop withdrawal plans? >> it was not part of the plan. the embassy was evacuated once the united states had essentially already collapsed. so starting on or about august 11, you saw a cascade of capitals that culminated in the taliban entering kabul. the andsf evaporated. president ghani left the country on the 15th, and we moved our diplomats to the airport. >> general mingus, who took the vast majority of the casualties in combat from, say, 2014 to the abandonment of kabul? >> the afghan national security forces. >> do you think it is fair to suggest that they did not have the will to fight? we will never be able to instill
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the will to fight. is that a fair statement, general? >> sir, i agree have a chairman and the secretary qualified women when we talked about this very topic during their testimony. the leadership and the will to fight when we pulled off at the tactical level from advisory perspective several years ago, our visibility in terms of the condition of the afghan national security forces became less and less here what i would offer based on my experiences is that i fought alongside the afghans, and there is no issue with their will to fight. i think the following one thing that we will study, we will need to study is part of history is the will to fight for what, and that i think is a fundamental question, i.e. did they have the will to fight in afghanistan against other afghans? that's the part i think we'll have to determine going forward. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much, senator wicker.
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now is -- excuse me, senator hirono. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary kahl, , did i do say that al-qaeda and isis-k are developing the capability to attack the u.s. within two years? >> i said with current intelligent assessment that they could develop the capability within six to 12 months and al-qaeda could potentially develop that capability within one to two years at it's precisely that threat that we need to remain -- >> yes, so how do we determine whether they have the intention or the will to attack once they have the capability to do so? >> what i think we're fairly certain they had the intention to do so, and i think the committee had the opportunity to from the intelligence community in a classified subnet to long ago, and we can follow up in the
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closed session but with considerable evidence they had the intent. the question at the moment is the capability. >> you just said he will have the capability within two years. >> they could have the capability within two years. >> so since they have the intent and then they will develop the capability, and so i don't know whether it's in the closed session you tell us what we're doing to defend against the, nation about the capability and the will to attack. i have an ongoing concern shared by others on this committee about how the taliban are treating women and girls in afghanistan, given their brutal history. it's unlikely this will improve. this is for you, secretary kahl. what is your extent of the conditions on the ground for women and girls in afghanistan under taliban rule following our withdrawal and what is your assessment of our ability along with the international community to effectively provide direct aid directly to these vulnerable groups under taliban control? either a series of questions so
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i will just put them to you. are there any ongoing operations to assist prominent female afghan leaders who are at risk for the retribution from the taliban? back in may i joined others in asking president biden to appoint ambassador for global women's issues and -- >> as a relates to the situation undergrad i think we have to feel humbled reports are largely anecdotal, systematic. conditions are not good. the taliban are ruthless authoritarian band. they promised to put forward an inclusive government. he didn't do that. reports suggest women and girls are having a hard time going to school. we've not seen evidence yet of
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widespread reprisals but that this means is that happening. there's clearly violence levels and human rights abuses to include against women and girls. the international committee has leverage point with the new taliban government. taliban government wants recognition. they should not get that recognition and last there are very different government than the one they are now. they have profound economic needs to provide some limited and we should continue to provide image and assistance not to the government but around the government to at-risk populations. as relates to the the state department's position on women and girls i'm having information on that and i would ask, i would do for that to the state department. >> i know the international committee has come forward with literally billions of dollars in aid that are supposed to go directly to nongovernmental entities but my understanding is that they have to work with the taliban in order to make sure the agents to the people they're
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providing the aide too. how much of the aid of the international committee included the united states, actually get to these organizations and out of taliban stance? do you have some sense of that? >> so obviously that's in the writ of the usaid and i would defer that come specifics to them but my understanding from a usaid colleagues is that ngos and international organizations are able to operate around the taliban government to provide aid directly that it's hard. >> we know they're still a number of people are seeking siv status, so what agencies are leading the effort that documentation et cetera is necessary for these applicants to get that status and then to leave afghanistan? >> the state department is in the lead for the siv issue but
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to the degree they need assistance from the department of defense to verify employment we've set up a project called project rabbit to streamline the data so we can make that process as sufficient as possible. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator hirono. senator fischer, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. last month generals milley and mackenzie both testified on the challenges of conducting over the horizon counterterrorism strikes against targets in afghanistan. unlike other places in the world where the conduct over the horizon ct operations, afghanistan is landlocked. we have no reliable partners on the ground and we don't have any basing agreements with neighboring countries. secretary kahl, in the months since secretary austin, , generl milley and general mackenzie testified have secured any basing agreements or arrangements with any country bordering afghanistan? >> we had not secured from
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basing arrangements. we've had extensive -- >> thank you. also, secretary kahl, since president biden made the decision to withdraw in april is touted over the horizon ct operations as our strategy going forward. can you share with the committee any tangible steps the administration has made in trying to secure basing agreements with those countries that, and keep it short, please. i've a number of questions. >> we have arrangements already in the gulf as you know. we are in conversation with pakistan to keep the air line of medication open for we also had conversations with others which we can document in the closed session. >> thank you. look forward to learning about the status of all those negotiations with those countries. general mingus, with the taliban in control of the afghan government and absence of reliable on the ground partners, is it more challenging or less challenging to expect
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intelligence on isis-k and al-qaeda in afghanistan, that particularly looking look at the intelligence that's needed to identify and also to locate targets for counterterrorism operations? >> yes, ma'am. that is a fair characterization. it is more challenging to collect. in the closed session relay at some of the percentages for you across all the different intel specialties in terms of what that degradation looks like. >> thank you. secretary kahl, prior to august were you aware of reports of extremely low morale among afghan forces or of reports that they had not been paid in months? >> broadly aware but i think our visibility of the exact conditions was differentiated. >> where you concern in june when the taliban took control of 21 districts across nine provinces over the course of four days, most of them without a single shot being fired?
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>> yes. >> at this point or any other point prior to august 14 did you ever question the intelligence communities assessment that the afghan government and afghan security forces would remain viable for weeks to months, even years following our departure? that's a quote. >> i engage my intelligent colleagues and as you know as it shifted from one to two years to months to years and ten weeks to months and then days to weeks. >> i think this disconnect between the reality on the ground and what the biden administration assessed would happen with respect to the collapse of the afghan security forces is deeply troubling. it was not just that are predictions were overtaken by events. some of the underlying assumptions upon which the analysis were based were very flawed.
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when you speak of six months as a possible leave when her homeland would be in extreme danger, those are numbers ever given to us several months ago. will we hear an update on that in the classified? >> so on the latter, we will give you the update. i think there was also a number of our intel colleagues a few days ago that provided you with the latest. i think we should all be hobbled we've all known less about afghanistan than we thought we did. i think especially after the doha agreement in 2020 our forces declined substantially and we pulled off the afghan security forces so that less deal for what was going on. that -- >> mr. secretary, , would you agree with general mackenzie that the quote the war on terror is not over and the war in
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afghanistan is not over either? >> there are terrorist threats all over the globe. the biggest one is speeded specifically in -- mr. secretary to come specifically to my question, it's on afghanistan. that war is not over either? >> i think the war as we know it is not contingent but the terrorist threat continue. >> and you agree with general milley's testament that the outcome of this war was a strategic failure? >> i think strategic objective of decimated al-qaeda and getting bin laden was achieved. i think the broader nationbuilding mission that several administrations had was not successful. >> do you believe the biden administration there's any responsibility for the outcome of this war or for the taliban now being in charge of afghanistan? >> i think what we saw unfold in the past few months would have happen whenever we left afghanistan. >> okay. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator fischer. senator king, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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i feel like we're in in a tip where history start on january 20 of .21 when fact history industry started for between nine of 2020 when the doha agreement was signed. i have read it i don't know probably ten times. i'm a country lawyer but it's not conditions based. it guarantees that will withdraw from the afghanistan and is a number of months and a certain number of days and even sets the day. does talk about that the taliban guarantees that al-qaeda will have safe haven. as far as we know that's still the case. it does talk about negotiation between the taliban and afghan government but that does not appear to be a condition of our withdrawal. the decision to leave afghanistan was made by the former administration in february of 2020.
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the question before president biden was come to you abide by that agreement, or do you abrogated? we're talking about the consequences of abiding by. but let's talk a minute about the consequences of abrogating their general mingus, what would've happened had the president said in april of 2021, we decided not to withdraw our troops from afghanistan, but to maintain our presence there? what would have been the result of that decision? >> it is my belief that attacks in the taliban, the one condition in the doha agreement that they did generally adhere to would have resumed. >> and in order to respond to those attacks it would've been necessary to augment our presence, would it not? >> potential. although the assessment with general mackenzie and general miller at the time was 2500 was
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sufficient to be able to deal with that. but time would only been able to tell based on the veracity and the type of attacks that would've started to occur. >> so, and then to get to auguse discussions, i remember the phone calls, the conference calls around that time. was it not the unanimous recommendations of military that staying the on august 31 which would've violated the the agreement with the taliban would have subjected our troops and the citizens who remained to greater danger than leaving and working with the taliban to extract the remaining citizens which, in fact, has happened? wasn't that the consensus that the danger to the troops, both from the taliban who would have been free to attack us at that point under, because of the abrogation of the august 31 agreement, but also the terrorist threat which we saw play itself out at the airport?
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>> that is correct, senator. the consensus among the joint sheets, commanders on the ground, that staying past 31 august attacks would have resumed and the ability to get additional american citizens and legal permanent residents out, actually the risk of that would've gone up higher and had we departed as we get. >> in fact, since august 31 the taliban is honored i don't know if it's an agreement or understanding or implicit understanding, that they have let these americans out and, in fact, they been letting as ss outcome is that correct? >> that is correct, senator. it has not been without challenge but they continue, those are properly documented they continue to let them depart and the numbers that dr. kahl briefed earlier. >> mr. cole, what is your assessment that the president made the opposite decision, which mincer admittedly we've established the testimony recommended additional 2500, with 2500 have been have been
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enough have taliban resumed attacks on americans in the country over the course of 2021? >> i think i think there are two points that weighed heavily on the president. when was the issue in the exchanges had with joe neguse which if we'd stayed behind, would with come under attack and, therefore, with president have taken pressure to send in reinforcement for force protection? the other issue which gets less attention but the president can send was the assessment by the intelligence community was us staying at 2500 was not producing a stalemate. it was an eroding stalemate. in other words, the afghans were losing. so at some point even if we were not taking casualties, the president would've faced pressure to escalate just like barack obama did at the beginning visit administration the afghans were losing and just like president trump did at the beginning of his administration. the president did not believe that 2500 troops was a stable equilibrium. if we had kept at that level he
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would have been under pressure to put in more. >> thank you. and i appreciated this. i think, i like to propose we have a nonpartisan commission to examine this truly get to the bottom of it. i would point out i think this is our six hearing on afghanistan in the last several months. i've had three or four in the intelligence committee. we had zero hearings that i can recall on the doha agreement, which was really the heart of the departure from afghanistan. so the umbrage and outrage about what's happened since this summer rings a little hollow for me because there was no umbrage or our outrage when the former administration essentially made an agreement with the taliban unconditional essentially really unconditional to get our troops out by certain date which by the way was may first of 2021, not august 31. so with that, mr. president, i yield. thank you. >> thank you, senator king.
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storefronts, please. >> thank you for being here today as we continue to examine the repercussions of president biden's disastrous withdrawal from afghanistan and the abandonment of americans to the hands of the taliban. mr. kahle, or dr. kahl, is it true that president biden said we wouldn't leave whenever americans left behind? >> we have not left americans behind. they continue to get out. >> we left americans behind. >> we did not leave americans behind. they continue to get out. >> did the dod, you represent the dod, dr. kahl, did the dod leave before all americans were out? >> it was a consensus, judgment lien on august 31 with the best way to continue -- >> general mingus, did the dod, did our soldiers leave before all americans were out? >> yes, ma'am. the last airplane left the edict
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of the 30th, morning of 31 august. >> thank you for your straightforward answer, general mingus. dr. kahl, is or more or less risk of terror attacks against americans and american interests because of the precipitous withdrawal of american military capability from the region? >> the intelligence mini ssa the overall risk to the homeland across the world is at its lows point since i live in. we discussed the possibility isis-k and al-qaeda could reconstitute and we have to be vigilant against that in afghanistan. >> that doesn't sound like a low risk, when you have just told us that the possibility, the possibility of attack from isis-k to the homeland could be six to 12 months from now. >> intelligence community assesses they can build that capability. we need to be vaginal in disrupting that. >> so it doesn't sound like low risk. so dr. kahl come what threat
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assessment used to plan security environment that would occur after the u.s. withdrawal? what assessments? >> well, when they came into office the decision had already been made and i was overseeing a civilian perspective the retrograde operation. >> yes, i understand you and for me the last time in a closed session that you are busy sitting on the couch, so you weren't paying attention to those assessments, which i disagreed with because i do believe that in a position such as yours you should absolutely be keeping up with various assessments, especially as we're pulling out our military troops, leaving americans and sab holders behind. so since you came into office, those assessments that were used by others, did they prove to be accurate? >> i think the consensus as we discussed a couple minutes ago
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the assessments constantly change. originally the intelligence community assessed one to two years after the withdrawal of u.s. forces would be the point where the andsf might collapse. and became closer to a year and then months to years and then weeks to months and then days to weeks in august and i was paying attention to all those assessments once i was in the position. >> thank you. and that would mean any policy recommendations and planning recommendations that were made at that time are now ill-fated for the security environment that we are now facing. >> we were posturing to an ir the horizon posture even before the andsf collapsed it obviously the andsf collapse makes that mission harder but hard is not impossible. >> what regional force postures, and this is going back to number of question you've already had,
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what other regional force postures, capability, isr, are we know recommending to be ready to do with the security five it that is now true on the ground? >> so we have a robust present in the gulf picky on that we should talk about this in a closed, and the closed session. >> and just in the time remaining as well, what measures have you recommended to address the reconstitution that we are now learning about with isis-k and al-qaeda? >> i think we need to remain vigil against that threat in collecting intelligence and we can talk about that in the closed session but we need to build out more capability so it's not just reliant on the facilities we have in the arabian gulf. >> and just in remaining time i had, thank you, gentlemen again for being here today. we're going to continue looking into this. i do hope we are able to form an outside committee that can take a look at the past 20 20 yeaf the war on terror but it also want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the men and women that it served a great united
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states armed forces, and all that they've given and the families have given over the course of the past 20 years. they have faced significant and sometimes insurmountable challenges. and yet they have overcome and they have served us well, and we can never diminish their service, especially in the face of an administration that would not listen to our military leaders. so god bless them and their service to our great united states. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you. senator gillibrand. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i come to come want to commend service of all of our service members who served in afghanistn and intelligence officers and afghan person who supported them. i want to focus on the last point senator ernst made about a review. dr. kahl and general mingus, names of the committee myself included have proposed a comprehensive rigorous and objective audit on the war in
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its entirety. last month searing general milley acknowledged there been many lessons to be learned from america's longest war. secretary austin further stated any commission or review of the war should be in an agency effort. give any recommendations for an external independent review in a war in afghanistan? what you think congress is role should be, what u.s. agencies countries and organizations do you recommend be included? >> so we're supported of the proposal for an independent commission on this. strongly supportive of that. we also have efforts underway at the department defense or about to be underway, joint staff has an effort. my organization is working to identify an independent institution that can do an independent review especially at the time frame from fabric 2020 through the end of the neo and we're in conversation with the nsc and the state department and intelligence community to make
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sure whatever we do is align ald with their ongoing lessons learned, activity. >> general? >> i would echo those comments, fully support for 20 years and all the treasure and resources we owe our nation some better answers in terms of what we have learned. >> with the testimony that's been given earlier in this hearing, an estimate that isis-k could launch an attack within six to 12 months, that the taliban, excuse me, al-qaeda could launch an attack within one to two years, , acknowledgig where in an unclassified setting what are some of the broad objectives are at it may have within afghanistan and what plan is dod doing in response to those recommendations and objectives? >> yes. so i think intelligence community would say that isis-k and al-qaeda could have the capability to do attacks within
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the timeframe. whether the do or not is that something that can be predicted with any degree of certainty. we are deploying isr over afghanistan every single day. we also national technical means which we can talk more about in the classified setting. we are sharing intelligence with regional partners and with our other partners, the uk and others were very focused on this problem set. so we would get after this challenge and will try to grow our capability to get after it. i would said you think the taliban is highly motivated to go after isis-k for the reason we discussed earlier. they are mortal enemies. outside is michael conficker because they have a relationship with al-qaeda but we have seen signs and we could talk to get more and classified setting that the taliban is wary about afghanistan being a supreme court for al-qaeda extra attacks, not that the taliban are good guys, but because they fear international retribution if that were to occur.
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>> if i could compasses, showtimes in terms of the timeframe for al-qaeda and isis-k. those estimates from intel committee, that's based on no u.s. or coalition intervention. when applied and we will talk back and classified session in terms of strategy and what we're doing, local would be to keep those time horizons with her at now if not even further. >> can you give an assessment in the setting what your view is with regard to regional instability and how that may impact both russia and china? >> both russia and china are nervous frankly despite with the propaganda outlets would suggest. afghanistan is now a problem that's much more on their doorstep than on ours. i think both of them have counterterrorism concerns inside afghanistan. think both moscow and beijing are more willing to work with the taliban than we are but i
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think, i think afghanistan other neighbors we hope to talk about pakistan but the other, the central asian states, there were about the counterterrorism chattels. they also worry about the implosion of afghanistan and leading to refugee flows that would spill across their borders. >> what resources, trade agreement, military operations or bilateral relations improvements do you think will be necessary to gain support from regional partners such as uzbekistan to enable over the horizon operations or any other collaboration? >> we have specific ideas but on that score i recommend we talk about that in a closed session. it's very sensitive. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator gillibrand. gillibrand. senator tillis, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and mr. chairman, i want to thank you. i think you've done an extraordinary job with the oversight on this matter and appreciate your willingness to do that. we gather a lot of very important information through these hearings, and secretary
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kahl, i think it would be helpful, i like the fact that you support an independent commission but i think it would also be helpful as at ramps up for our committee to compile a bipartisan congress a report on what we have all learned through these oversight hearings. so can i get your commitment to work with the minority majority staff to put such a report to give? >> you have my commitment to provide you information you need for that effort. >> general mingus, and when we talk about the 2500 troop and secretary kahl, i may come back you if i have time, but he think we need to understand more broadly what i believe, i just want to confirm, i have my facts correct. general milley, mackenzie posted there was a consensus of 2500 troops that we could maintain a relatively stable situation. nothing is guaranteed. learned we, in fact, talking
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about 2500 -- that weren't we, in fact, talking about 2500 fighters, the intelligence community relatively met with remaining in place in afghanistan and another 6000 troops from our nato partners and allies? so were talking somewhere in the order of about may be 8000, 850-0500 being present in afghanistan is at roughly the numbers? >> if the nato coalition contractors, siblings would of stayed consistent yes, that number is accurate. >> and that would've been our assets, strike capabilities, all, all the other things that would be inherent with that sort of troop presence? >> that was large inside the 2500 but then there was from a strike perspective, assets in afghanistan and from the gulf. >> and by the way, senator king, i had been the doha agreement since february 29. i thought it was a bad idea. it was fundamentally flawed and
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enough surprise we are today but i do have to question, seems to me based on briefings that we received that the were a number of examples since the signing of the agreement with the taliban either did not live up to the letter or the spirit of the agreement. i think one thing that we heard consistently is they were doing targeted attacks of afghan national leadership which was one of the destabilizing influences with respect to the eroding confidence and afghan national forces. general mingus, you said a generally honored the agreement or me then secretary kahl but i can tell you of examples where the have. they slit the throat of a pregnant woman -- excuse me, that we working on to get out who had, she was anything p1 category. they also slit the throat, with
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pictures the family members boldly sent to us, two of the 900 people we have on the list that we're still can get people out of the country. so the taliban may be doing a better job in the marketing department but we know every single day people are dying there, that have legitimate reason to be out of the country. so with respect to the broader agreement though can you give me other examples? you said they generally adhered to the terms of the doha agreement. can you give me a couple examples where that's not the case? >> i apologize if i misspoke. i meant they'd only complied with one of the many, and that was largely not attacking u.s. forces since the doha agreement. >> so i'm glad you did that because that's consistent with what general milley testified to a couple of weeks ago. and so we can't say the agreement did not have terms or did not have conditions, and they broke that.
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so now secretary kahl, want to go back to you. you testified before that some of the decisions or recommendations of the remaining 2500 troops predated your confirmation. but after you were confirmed where you briefed on that, and to what extent did these discussions -- to what extent did these proposals even get considered when we saw the eroding process occurring in afghanistan or was that pretty much covered ground, not considered by the time you got in at the end of april? >> so by the time i got into the decision have been made by the president of the department was executing on that decision. there was not a major relitigation of kind of reversing course. i think it should from general miller in closed briefing to you, in his view once we did the retrograde because we are already so small, , so compact, speed was safety. so we really had the retrograde -- the bulk of the retrograde done by july. the main mission was to protect
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the embassy which is why to concentrate at the embassy compound. we get put in a couple hundred additional troops to assist with close air support in the july august timeframe as the taliban was making gain. but that was essentially a short-term measure. we were still as the plan will still to stick to the august 31 date and does not relegated to the best of my knowledge. >> thank you. secretary kahl, i look forward to our committee being able to compile a report based on what we learned through these oversight hearings. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator tillis. senator warren, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the u.s. went to afghanistan almost exactly 20 years ago now. that is only about two months to dislodge the taliban from power, and another three months to root out al-qaeda from the mountains east of kabul. but then we just stayed. we started nationbuilding and
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attended to great and afghan national army. we were used by warlords and by other government officials to target their enemies, not our enemies. we had little understanding of the underlying political dynamics. we went into places like passion and valleys in search of osama bin laden and al-qaeda. and created new enemies instead. wesley morgan the hardest place details of those areas were actually not fertile ground for the taliban before our arrival, but that with each civilian we accidentally killed, and we killed many, we drove their friends and their families into the arms of the taliban. the opium fields created another dilemma. we would bomb or otherwise destroy the opium crops and drive those farmers into the arms of the taliban or watch the
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taliban shaked and the farms and use the proceeds to finance their operations. or we would give the farmers fertilizer to grow something else and then watch the farmers sell fertilizer to the makers of ieds. on top of all that we flooded the country with billions of dollars, fueling the epidemic corruption that was undermining the very legitimacy of afghan government that we're trying to prop up. so dr. kahl, what do you believe has been the impact of u.s. actions in afghanistan on the conditions that allowed the taliban and al-qaeda to regroup and gain strength? >> so i think, senator, the stories and examples you just use i think strongly suggest that we have no known as much about afghanistan as we thought
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we did. i think the secretary testified that we didn't have a 20 year strategy in afghanistan. we had 21 year plans -- 20 -one year plans. although zigzagging zigzagging on the narcotic front you provide are illustrative of that. i think that we made some progress in afghanistan. i think living conditions for many of them prepare a think access to schooling for women and girls was improved. i think things got better but a lot of the deep structural challenges that afghanistan had, it's tribal structure, it's endemic corruption, the fact it's never had a long history of a a strong central government that could impose its will on the hinterlands of the country, we were not able to overcome any of that. and the taliban were fearsome fighters who are going to fight for ever. so i think those were realities were not able to overcome. >> i only want to push back on one point to understand we can point to women made progress in the country and they may be
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losing a part of that. but he think it's to describe overall that things got better in afghanistan. who was caught in the middle of all of this violence? who watch varies government official in which themselves through corruption? who suffered the most? innocent afghan civilians. the cost of war project at brown university estimates that approximately 47,000 afghan civilians were killed, along with another 66,000 afghan military and police. and what all of this was happening while we were creating the very conditions that were used to justify our continued presence, military officials came before this committee one after another, time after time, and said we are making progress. we are turning the corner. general milley told this committee last month that our
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presence would have been needed indefinitely. dr. kahl, do you agree with that assessment? >> yes. >> and what would that have meant for the taliban and al-qaeda? >> it would have meant that we would've had thousands of people, probably more than 2500 over time, as the united states continue to lose or with the casual ease. that was at least the president assessment. we would spending tens of billions of dollars every year and also sacrificing our service members and a participation in the war and the cost that you describe would have continued. >> and i would argue it our presence would've been required indefinitely, that casts grave doubt on years of military assessment that we were ever making progress here. this whole enterprise with a catch-22 and it should humble everyone in this room. it should cause all of us to reflect on how badly everyone
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got it wrong. and above all it should be a call for congress and this committee in particular to start exercising more oversight of the pentagon during ongoing military operations. instead of waiting until it's over and then politically advantageous to do so. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator warren. senator cotton, please. >> mr. kahl from you testified that you will were not gets what and when president biden announced the decision to withdraw from afghanistan a few weeks ago in a close a business we told senator ernst you on your couch during that period. while you're on your couch,, where you preparing for your confirmation hearing and then to take it the office you now h? >> it was after my confirmation hearing and i was referring as best i could by reading the newspaper and open source materials. i was not in the pentagon. >> from the time you were nominated to the tiger confronted you speak with
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national security adviser jake solvent? >> i don't believe so. >> ever want. >> was no period was under instruction not to do anything that would presume confirmation. >> okay. but you were following the news through open sources. at what point did you become aware of president biden's decision to withdraw all of our troops in afghanistan by september 11? >> on april 14. >> when he announced it to the nation? >> yes, sir. >> from your couch what was your opinion on whether we should withdraw all those troops or whether we should remain some residual troop presence in afghanistan? >> i think as i said in my testimony during my confirmation hearing i think was an exchange with senator hawley, i was supportive of the conditions based drawdown, condition most probably on a peace agreement between afghan government and the taliban. >> did president biden's decision to withdraw troops by september 11 comport with that conditions based drawdown? >> it did not. >> once you were confirmed did you express a personal opinion
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similar to what this committee has heard from secretary austin and generals miller, mackenzie and nelly that we should maintain a small residual troop presence in afghanistan? >> by the time i came in office the debate of moved on. the president made his decision and we were executed on that decision. i was involved in what our present doesn't present should look like if he is in the sand at the airport to make sure we can safeguard the embassy, and it was involved in the oversight of the retrograde and meal planning. so you did or did not have personal opinion on that matter? >> my personal opinion never changed but by the atomic yemen office the president had made his decision and were moving on that decision. >> did you agree september 11 was an appropriate date by which to withdraw? >> i had no insight to how, why that it was picked. >> since you been confirmed you've never once spoken to secretary austin or jake sullivan or anyone else in the administration about why
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september 11 was chosen? >> i have not. >> delete september 11 was a wise date by which to withdraw from afghanistan? >> i don't know. >> the biden administration has also said there was no intelligence indicating the afghan national army would collapse so quickly. we also surprised by the speed in which the afghan secret forces claps? >> i think we were all surprised by the speed. .. >> general miller has testified in june there was a brief pause at the drawdown and
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ultimate closure at the bagram air base to decide whether or not it should proceed. obviously, it did proceed. was it your position in late june given the condition of afghanistan that the closure of bagram air base should proceed? >> it was general miller's recommendation. the president of course had instructed the department to leave afghanistan. there was no situation we would leave afghanistan and not close bagram. the concentration of a few hundred forces we would have left beyond august, that's where they would have been concentrated. >> in 2011, mr. kahl, in your role as assistant secretary for the matter east. you stated despite the often exaggerated media-- remains strong. unfortunately not long after that statement iraq was, the islam state rose and palm
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majored across iraq and collapsed a new counter terrorist operation. you couldn't perceive the unravelling of iraq, you didn't perceive the unravelling of afghanistan. are there any other countries that may be about to cause national security debacles that you're not forseeing now? >> i don't know, i pay pretty close attention and we're on the terrorism front on somalia, we continue to be vigil in iraq, yemen, and afghanistan, there are greater challenges when it comes to china, russia, iran, north korea, so there's a lot that we have to focus on. >> there are many challenges out there. let's hope that we perceive them better than in the past. >> thank you, senator cotton, senator peters, please.
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>> thank you, mr. chairman, dr. kahl, i'd like to start with bangladesh and ongoing wave of violence against minority hindu temples and homes which is just yet another reminder that disinformation spread on social media all too often results in real world violence. acts of terrorism like these not only threaten innocent civilians, but also the political stability of an ally with whom we have a long history of cooperation on security, development and humanitarian assistance as well as disaster relief. my question for you, as we consider our strategic interests in a regional security context, how do you prioritize the information domain and can u.s. security assistance in south and central asia enhance our allies resilience to information warfare? it's an issue that i've raised
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in this room many times with the general and admiral aquilino as well, but would love to hear their thoughts. >> so, senator, i agree with you that information and information operations envelop everything. >> and they can be violent extremists, they can be one ethnicity and social media doesn't do enough to crack down on misinformation along the lines that you suggested. i think there are things that the department of defense can do to help our partners especially in the cyber rounds and to coordinate if we have incidents in the past of counter isis campaign to coordinating to push back on propaganda and disinformation, but a lot of this will fall outside of dod. but department of defense plays a vital role. obviously, if you can counter these activities that ally
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becomes less vulnerable to external influence, we see the influence from the chinese as well as the russians so you would acknowledge that that piece of it needs to be something that the department of defense is looking at in particular? >> absolutely. >> thank you. dr. kahl, india's policies towards afghanistan have been conceived largely through the lens of competition and conflict with pakistan. it stands to reason that new delhi should be no less concerned that the possibility that a taliban government could benefit anti-indian terrorist groups especially kazmir. and in view of the critical partner and india is the only designated major defense partner of the united states, i believe it's important for us to understand how its view toward afghanistan has and will evolve. so if you could please discuss
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this, but before you answer that question, i'm not asking you to speak for an ally. just for your thoughts or any insights that you have gained from co-chairing the u.s.-india defense policy group earlier this month. >> yes, thank you. i've had a number of encounters to include the one you that you mentioned with my colleagues. one, they're aware about the situation in afghanistan, they're concerned about the intersection between instability there and their counterterrorism concerns. they want to work with us on those issues, sharing intelligence, cooperating where we can, but i would actually, senator, in line with your question, i would zoom out. i think there's a tremendous convergence between u.s. and indian national interests right now that provide a lot of opportunity for us to cooperate with india, not just on afghanistan and counterterrorism, but on broader regional security questions in the indian ocean as relates to the broader endo
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pacific. thank you. general mingus, russia bolstered the posture in central asia and the selective treaty organization make russia the primary security garantor against afghanistan into central asia. could this have deconfliction for our operations similar to what we used in syria. >> senator, i think we can go into more detail in closed session. but russia and the central asian states and the nexus of our counterterrorism goals and objectives are intertwined and we can go into more detail. >> i'll look forward to that. thank you, gentlemen for your answers, thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator peterson. let me recognize senator cramer. and i'm going to go vote, and
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ask senator king in my absence. thank you, mr. cramer. >> thanks gentlemen for being here. as i've been listening to all of this, i'm struck by the fact that several people have referenced the miscalculation of things, whether it's the intelligence community, you know, through the intelligence itself or analysis of intelligence or communication of intelligence, it does seem like for the last 20 years or so we've been miscalculating on the wrong side, the capabilities whether it's afghanistan and iraq, to reconstitute or isis or isis-k in afghanistan. and i don't know what the answer is going forward, but management of expectations sometimes becomes part of the formula, i'm afraid and i worry a little about that, you guys. and that is to say, and maybe i'll put it in the form of a question, secretary cohen. >> this is obvious, raw,
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spontaneous question. do you feel whether it's-- whether it's just a feeling or whether it's deliberate, do you get a sense of political pressure in your job to communicate something other than the worst news possible at any given moment? >> a strategic advantage from that, but politically, do you feel that as a political dom nominee? >> i've never felt that personally, but it's true what you said at the outset. on a number of issues relates to afghanistan there has been miscalculation over 20 decades. >> and there's obviously a lot of consequence to thatten i'd like to say we could have a longer talk about how to do that better obviously. i'm going to get to one point related to the miscalculation of isis-k and maybe talk about what we do know or what you might know if we could talk about it here and if not later in the closed session.
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how financially field is isis-k? as part of that calculation, obviously, that's a big part of it. and how well off are they financially, do you think? >> i don't have a precise number of what's in the bank. i don't think they are nearly as well resourced as isis and iraq and syria were at the heyday. things 2014, 2015 time frame when isis controlled those oil wells and had a billion dollars in annual revenue, nothing like that. i think for the moment, isis-k is focused on creating havoc within afghanistan, but they have a cadre of a few thousand folks some of which would love to have external attacks, they're linked to the broader isis network globally, so i think we have to be vigilant that a sub set of isis-k to strike outward to the homeland and we have to be poised so that never comes to past.
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>> so your statement raise havoc within, obviously, that can be a part of the strategy to, on, access generosity and acquire both financial resources and recruitment resources. how do you sense that's going for them? >> i've not seen a lot of evidence that they-- going back to the iraq example, isis was able to knock off a bank in mosul and-- i don't think there's a willpower there. taliban capability to be determined, but intent on doing it. i'm not seeing isis-k, we've seen bombings on minority population in afghanistan and i think that some of that would continue. but from a u.s. national interest perspective we should be focused on the subset of the
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streams that could emanate out toward us. >> and raising havoc as you put it and what you just described, is inspiring to others, you know, whether it's-- again, it could be al qaeda for that matter as well. but whether it's financial resources or recruitment? >> i do think that that's something we have to watch. i think the taliban is not keen for a lot of other arab foreign fighters and others to flow into afghanistan. frankly either for al qaeda or isis-k. i do think we have to look at how events in afghanistan or anywhere else in the world, could be nigeria, could be somalia, could be yemen, could be syria, could have a galvanizing effect on the internet and others to inspire recruits and homeland security and our intelligence community is pretty focused on that. >> general, anything to add to any of that? >> if you look at kind of how we pars violent extremist
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organization out and how you analyze our ensuing efforts. the threat itself, internally, externally focused, doesn't have a post nation capacity to interdict that, the will and intent and the capacity and the capability. right now, as doctor kahl pointed out. they're internally focused to be externally focused and they're still limited. our efforts in the months ago ahead and as we continue to improve our over the horizon architecture is to ensh your that that external capability never comes to fruition. >> thank you. >> on behalf of the chair, senator rosen via web ex. >> well, thank you, senator king, appreciate that and ranking member inhofe for this important hearing on security in afghanistan. i also want to once again thank our troops who served our nation there for nearly 20 years and of course, their families who love them and serve alongside with them.
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as we look ahead to the security of south and central asia, we must also take stock on this point. we have 20 years of decisions in afghanistan to evaluate. plenty of responsibility to go around and particularly to the prior administration, which set us on the path to the capitulation to the taliban. nonetheless, it remains frustrating and shameful over the past few months despite our efforts to save lives and bring vulnerable individuals to freedom we have failed so many. for this, the american people deserve accountability and they demand answers. like others on this committee i'm also concerned about the regional implications of our withdrawal on security, counterterrorism and american interests. so i'd like to follow up on some of the questions i asked secretary austin last month and he didn't have time to answer at that moment, so the ability to combat terrorism in the
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region. now that we know have the boots on the ground in afghanistan. so, to both of you, secretary kahl and general mingus, what the execution for counterterrorism strategy that will be able to fully address and counter the influence of the violent extremist organizations that everyone is talking about in afghanistan, and how has this changed now that our afghan partners are no longer in control of the country? i guess we can start with-- general, we can start with you. >> yes, ma'am. first, i would start with no two of these organizations are the same. each one of them has to be looked at independently. in the variables that i talked about so they don't pose a threat to our partner, our u.s. or homeland. we look at the-- from my perspective on the military side, the resources necessary to be able to
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prosecute and continue to disrupt and degrade and we move those baseded on recommendations that come up with the commanders, through the secretary of defense, to ensure the authorities from a resourcing standpoint are postured to be able to do that. in this session before we go to closed, i would say we continue to routinely conduct operations in syria, in iraq, and in other places where these threats are emanating to make sure they're not there. in terms of afghanistan, we continue to mature that, but we're going to talk in a few minutes in terms of what the specific assets that are applied to that, and dr. kahl, i'll defer to him in terms of his thoughts in the broader strategy for final extremist organizations. >> thank you. >> i think in afghanistan as relates to the problem set there, you need to think of it in terms of layers. so, ideally, you would have partners on the ground that doesn't happen, that's not the
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case in the afghanistan. this isn't the first time where that's been the case. libya is a good example of where we were able to knock isis back pretty hard in libya in 2019 time frame without boots on the ground and we can talk about that more in the closed session. but as relates to afghanistan we have these assets in the gulf projecting isr into and national technical means, imagery, et cetera, that gives us insight into the organization. we're sharing intelligence with regional actors and international partners to share our counterterrorism objectives. we're seeking to build out a more robust eco system for over the rise in ct, which would include regional players in conversations with respect to others and again, we can talk more about in the closed session. i also think that to senator peters' point, it's not just what we're doing on the ground in these places, but the cyber
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realm to disrupt their finances, what we're doing through sanctions, through operations that isn't kinetic. >> and how do you attest the collapse of the afghanistan government and iraq and syria. >> do you see that afghanistan will see a surge of foreign fighters coming in. >> i think it's possible and we need to be vigilant against that possibility. my read, at least, based on intelligence assessment, they're not to see others come in, isis-k and al qaeda. particularly isis-k, as i mentioned, isis-k and the taliban are mortal enemies. >> i see my time expired, so i yield back. >> thank you, let me recognize senator sullivan, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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thank you, gentlemen. i want to talk about the issue of taiwan and our policy there. mr. secretary, 20 years ago president bush said in an interview that he was the full force of the u.s. military would come and defend taiwan, a prominent u.s. senator in an op-ed was very critical. he said in this case, president bush's inattention to detail has damaged the u.s. credibility with our allies, sowing confusion along the pacific rim, words matter says that senator. that was senator biden. last week or two, his words have dramatically sown confusion on this. and the men and women are doing a great job preparing for military contingencies, but the
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president said we're going to defend taiwan publicly, is that our new policy? >> the white house clarified that there were-- the president wasn't trying to establish new policy. i think the policy remains that it was established under the taiwan relations act. >> so the president's statement was incorrect? >> the way i would defer to the white house. >> well u'the secretary of defense for policy, so-- >> from the white house, the view is that our policy remains under the taiwan relations act, which is that we are prepared to ensure that taiwan can defend itself and we also have the capabilities to deter and prevent coercion across the strait. so do you agree with president biden 20 years ago when he criticized president bush, saying that his statement and his inattention to detail, words matter, has damaged u.s. credibility with our allies and sown confusion? >> i don't see any confusion on
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taiwan or china or anyone else. i've engaged with our endo pacific allies and partners repeatedly. they know that the department and the u.s. government treats china as a pacing challenge and taiwan is the pacing scenario and after that-- >> let me talk about that, this is our budget relative to china's budget. when national democrats get into office, unfortunately, they cut defense spending, you see the blue is our cuts during the obama years. the blue up there is increase that republicans and the trump administration put to our budget, but one thing is certain, china keeps spending, 10, 14% increases gdp growth. can i see the next slide? and the one thing with our allies is this, the prioritization of our military. if you look the at biden budget, $6 trillion budget, two agencies that they actually cut, they're proposing to cut is dod and homeland security.
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those are cuts. that's your budget. that's what matters to the chinese and our allies more than anything. that's president biden's budget, that's bernie sanders's budget, that's senator schumer's budget, but something happened recently, mr. secretary, this committee and the house committee rebuked that pretty dramatically, the budgets we've put forward in the ndaa and house version of ndaa, increased spending a real increase of 3%. that would be moving from about 715 billion to 740 billion. does the department now agree with what in a very bipartisan way this committee and house armed services committee said, we shouldn't do that? that's a bad message to the chinese. do you agree with what we did here on this committee? are you going to change your
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budget submission? >> it's within congress's prerogative to do what you did. i would say from the department's perspective, china is the number one pacing challenge. the secretary of defense has been laser focused on it. our budget-- >> but i'm asking. do you agree with it? do you agree with it? do you agree with what we did in the committee? >> i know it's our prerogative, of course. >> i agree we should be spending significant resources to get after china as the pacing challenge. >> general, what about you? i know it's difficult you have to support the president's budget. i know that members of the uniformed military don't support it, but they have to constitutionally, but in your opinion would you rather have the house and senate's $740 billion top line or the bride administration's 715 billion top line. my personal opinion is yes, given the modernization bills and the force design and force structure challenges that we're going to have in the future, i
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agree. >> with the 740? >> predictable, sustainable is the most important to the department of defense, but when you look at the modernization bills coming forward in the coming years, the 740 is a better number than what was proposed, in my personal opinion. >> thank you, general, for your honesty on that. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. sullivan. let me recognize by web ex, senator duckworth. >> thank you for your proposal drafted with a backing of a number of my colleagues is who are sitting here today. and i'm looking forward to my afghan committee as a part of the authorization act. i'm glad to hear the support of an independent commission because this is too important to get wrong. if we set too narrow a scope,
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we'll fail to learn, and or worst the wrong lessons. if we look only at dod we'll miss important conclusions. if there's another report without a truly nonpartisan, independent body to make forward-looking recommendations then we won't have done our duty to prevent future generations from repeating past mistakes. and if we don't resort the commission appropriately or rush the commission's work because we want to look like we're taking action, but don't want to commit to doing the work early then we will have wasted everyone's time. after today's hearing i'm more convictioned we need a nonpartisan, independent commission to examine the entire scope of the war in afghanistan. thank you, general mingus for your support for the entire span of the war in afghanistan. can you please explain-- why not sufficient and what
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further lessons could be examined by an independent commission looking across government agencies? how would this benefit future planners and policy makers? >> thank you, ma'am. i think and you alluded to much of this, when you look at general milley and others a couple of weeks ago, from the mission set. we could started with counterterrorism, to nation building, nation, we invaded iraq two years into the operations in afghanistan, we never dealt with the sanctuary in pakistan adequately, and corruption has been discussed several times, legitimacy, how mirror imaged the government and afghan national security forces. we didn't understand the culture as well as we should have. the will, a that component as well. when you take all of those and there's several that i'm omitting, that's much larger than just a dod or an interagency thing. it's got to be whole government
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approach. as many as look at this independently will always be good for the nation going forward. >> thank you. dr. kahl, thank you as well for your statement of support. before you were confirmed, much of your recent work focused on analysis of american post 9/11. i know you've been thinking of many different agencies that shape our national security. did the failures in afghanistan rulth result from the actions of the dod alone or, multiple conflicts and administration impact outcomes in afghanistan? >> i think it's important to have a scope and scale that matches the actual war. so it needs to look holistically at 20 years, it shouldn't just look at dod involvement, but interagency involvement what we were doing diplomatically, intelligence and counterterrorism
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perspective to include the pieces outside of dod's lane, but frankly, i think it is an opportunity, senator, to explore the mentality, the overall approach to foreign policy that we had after 9/11 and how that manifested in 20 years in afghanistan. >> thank you. so i want to ask you the same question i just asked general mung gus. how could this work if such a broad committee for future planners and policy makers, you just said we understand the mentality post 9/11 and how could lessons learn from this kind after independent commission benefit future planners and policy makers? >> i think it's crucial because it's an opportunity to take a holistic view. there are different time frames and we're looking through a soda straw, it's a straw, but-- >> the departments will do the
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same and ns. c might pull the threads together, but at the end of the say there's a wider context, but the opportunity to make this independent and have the scale be appropriate will have tremendous value. >> ma'am, quickly. >> the other thing that i would add that needs to be a part of this, when you look the at vast nature of the nato component of it, there has to be a partner coalition aspect to that commission. >> very good point, general, i agree with you, because we certainly expected our partners to do a little bit more and they were not as able to help maintain afghanistan as we had opened, but thank you. gentlemen, thank you for your testimony today. bottom line for 20 years we've prosecuted this war without a viable strategy and loss and consequences and if we fail to learn from our history in afghanistan we will be doomed to repeat it. i urge my colleagues to join me in the act. we owe it to the veterans that
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served honorably and families of loved ones and service members. . thank you, senator duckworth. let me recognize senator scott, please. >> thank you, chairman peters-- i mean, chairman reed. general mingus, given that the president committed to evacuate all americans before our military would leave, would you say a successful evaluation would have included all americans being evacuated before our troops left? >> defining success is hard and i know this has been talked about and debated in what the president said with the decision with the recommendation for the military to leave. historically we've gone back and looked and i'm not sure there is an example where we've done where we've brought all the american citizens out of a given country so given the remote nature of afghanistan and the various locations that the american citizens, i'm not even sure it's a reasonable
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expectation that we could have got 100% out before the 31st. >> but the president did commit that we were going to get all of the american citizens out before we would remove troops. do you think it should be the policy of the united states that we will remove u.s. military assets from a hostile country with enemy forces bearing down on us, before we evacuate american citizens and partners in the future? >> i think it would be hard to quantify a hypothetical because there were so many variables in this one and no future scenario will be identical. the situation and recommendations of the joint chief to depart on the 31st took into account for this particular situation and it was deemed that the calculus was actually in the risk of the american citizens higher had we stayed beyond the 31st than we
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did when we left actually on the 31st, to include the risk to our troopers that were were on the ground. >> if you were an american citizen and listened to the president say troops would not leave before all american citizens were evacuated, would you feel like our president and our military let them down? >> there may be some that have that view, but i think our commitment to continue to bring american citizens out has been important. >> so, i assume that military knew the risks of removing the troops before the citizens, and did you look at risks of bringing out our troops before the american citizens were evacuated? >> did we provide that risk? >> did you warn that the way it ended up happening we brought out troops first before
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everybody was evacuated and the fact that we could have evacuated people earlier and we didn't, that the path they were going down was putting american citizens at risk. i know -- i was not present for that's conversations and i was not with the chairman when he made the recommendations to the president, he was prepared off the neo port and decision to come out in april, i know he was prepared and armed to provide the risks associated with the withdrawal. >> did the state department or the pen com choose to rely on the taliban for security at the airport as we withdrew? >> they were a part of that security eco system. >> who made the decision, state or the pentagon? >> if memory serves it was a combination of the commanders on the ground up through the chain of command. >> so the commanders on the
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ground made the decision that the taliban would do the security knowing the taliban's history? >> it was deemed it had to be a relationship that we had to work through and whether they had stayed on the outside of kabul or on the outskirts of-- once it folded that was the outer perimeter, that was the outer security for forces where we were at. >> and was the president warned a risk of taliban for security around the airport? >> i'm not aware if he was aware of that or not. >> thank you, senator scott. >> mr. blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you for your continuing attention to these issues and having this hearing today. gentlemen, last week i had the
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opportunity to visit quantico camp up shire as of the date of my visit camp upshire housed 4,410 afghans, men, women, children who were able to escape afghanistan, the camp has a maximum capacity of about 5,000 people and a number that it will probably soon reach. i want to first of all commend the extraordinary work done by the united states marine corps at quantico and their partners from other military branches as well as the civilians from the state department, c.d.c., and others. but during our briefings there, we had the opportunity not only to meet those marines who were hosting these afghan guests, they call them guests quite correctly, but also representatives of the civilian agencies charged with their
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resettlement and we were fortunate to speak with the people housed in camp upshire the refugees who have escaped and who have managed to avoid death that was threatened to many who remained there. i met with a family of five that were able to escape on charter flights, they left after withdrawal, had completed our withdrawal of our military. these were flights that my office was involved in facilitating, so i was just incredibly moved to meet with this family. it happened by coincidence that this family was chosen to meet with me. they were the beneficiaries of the charter flights that my office worked day and night to facilitate. sadly, more members of their very family are hiding and seeking assistance so they can
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leave afghanistan. literally brothers and other family members who are in great danger, more needs to be done to help these people escape and-- with them. and after my shift to the camp i have a concern about the pace of resettlement. we were tragically slow in planning the execution of the evacuation mission airlift of 120,000 people that was accomplished even though many, many remain. we cannot again rely on optimistic expectations, we must plan for reality and be ready to use-- be ready for the worst case situations. we were told that the afghans brought to camp upshire would be depart for resettlement three to four weeks. i don't believe that number can possibly be accurate, three to
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four weeks, when i had visited there had been already 52 births, joyous occasions for sure, but one that prevents not only the mother and child from being able to travel and be resettled, but the entire family unit. that's just an example of the impediment to resettlement and i think we need to focus on the fact that the pace of resettlement, very simply, is not keeping up with the pace of new arrivals. as these locations reach maximum capacity, we face a looming crisis, the processing of our afghan guests completed quickly, one or two days. for intake, at that point they await resettlement opportunities. currently the weather is good, it's the fall. and the temperate one at that. but it will change.
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and even with the heating in those tents, life will become more and more difficult. the tents and other expeditionary structures used for housing and feeding people do not currently afford the kind of heat is that necessary if the temperature drops, inevitably close the tents at pioneer city which currently houses 1,000 individuals. so before my time expires, i just want to close by saying we face 75 to 80,000 seeking resettlement of those afghan refugees, a total of 120,000 evacuated. we have failed to provide the
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resources so far that will enable effective resettlement. it is a looming crisis and i'm going to ask for your response in writing, since my time has expired, as to how medical care, housing, and other services will be provided at the camp and what will be done to ensure more expeditious resettlement. thank you. >> thank you, senator blumenthal, senator blackburn, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. undersecretary kahl, you're going to recognize my questions because i asked them in the hearing in september and you didn't want to answer them then. so let's take another round, another go at it. so as the under secretary of defense for policy or in the time between president biden's inauguration and your confirmation, did you ever have a conversation with general
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scott miller about the future of afghanistan? >> no. >> you did not. okay. during your september testimony on the topic, you told senator ernst that you basically didn't have an opportunity to participate in the decision process on afghanistan because you were at home sitting on your couch. we're all aware that you were pending confirmation prior to late april, but were you actually at home sitting on the couch or were you involved in the president's decision calculus on when and how to withdraw from afghanistan? >> i had no interactions with the administration because i was trying not to presume confirmation. >> okay. were you ever part of a rock walk in which general miller was in the room. >> it happened on the 8th after i took office. so you were present for the may
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rock walk? >> the rock drill, yes, i was. >> and what we're concerned about and what i hear from tennesseans about. you all have a tendency to point a finger at the trump administration and say they didn't know how to lead, but you've taken over and what you've done is to fail to lead, and the dod leadership is something that people in tennessee have a lot of concern about. they are seeing apathy. they are perceiving apathy and they are perceiving a self-righteous indignation that the individuals or the military would question you all. so, in this vein, i want to read for you portions of the letter that i received in my office this week. and i'm reading from the letter. thank you for your work in trying to find the answers about the horrible afghanistan
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withdrawal. i saw a news report yesterday that the suicide bomber who took my son's life and 12 others was actually a prisoner at bagram. so then not only did we leave all of our military equipment, but we also just left these terrorist prisoners in bagram and now we find out that the taliban just released them, which is not a surprise. i have not expressed my anger or political thoughts through this grieving time, but now i hear that this coward had been locked up and someone on our side made the decision to just let these bad guys evaporate into the wind. it really frustrates me beyond belief. please, continue to try to find out who is responsible for this the decision to run from bagram. it sounds like that decision is directly related to the deaths of my son and the 12 other u.s.
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service members. now, i am duty bound to my constituents to tennesseans, and to these military families from our state who have reached out to me about this horrific debacle in afghanistan. so i need to ask you a few questions and please bear in mind that you are not speaking to me, that you are speaking to them. so let's throttle any animosity that you have toward me and speak to the tennesseans, to our service members who want these answers. who specifically is responsible for the decision to withdraw u.s. force froms bagram airfield? >> when the president decided that we would withdraw from afghanistan we were always going to leave bagram as a consequence of leaving afghanistan.
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>> so, it was the president's decision? >> president directed that we leave afghanistan and general miller executed a retrograde leaving bagram airfield. >> so the president. who specifically is responsible for the decision to leave terrorist prisoners in bagram despite the impending advance of the taliban forces? >> so par one prison the prison you're speaking of at the airfield, it's off airfield and transferred to afghans, it had been transferred eight years prior. so you're saying that leaving bagram had no impact at all on the prisoners being freed. is that the position of this administration that you had nothing to do with this? >> i think that people of good character and good judgment can disagree. i think that the afghan national security forces had control of the prison and they were handed control of bagram
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airfield so when the taliban overran those forces they took over both the airfield and the prison. >> so that was a decision made by the president to give up bagram airfield and to execute speedy withdrawal from afghanistan. >> the decision was to leave afghanistan which means we're going to leave bagram and general miller's retrograde plan included leaving bagram. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator blackburn, senator kelly, please. thank you, mr. chairman. secretary kahl, countries like china have long benefitted from our presence in afghanistan and the stability that we've provided in the region. the conclusion of u.s.-led operations has forced countries in the region to reassess their policies towards afghanistan, and nations, including china and russia are developing closer relationships with the taliban. china, in particular, has sought to call attention to aid donations and pushed the u.n.
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too lift sanctions without asking much accountability from the taliban. so secretary kahl, how would you assess china's intentions and priorities with respect to afghanistan and what concerns do you have for how these could impact u.s. interests? >> they're important questions, i think china's actually quite worried at the moment. they did benefit from our presence in afghanistan despite the fact that they railed against our military implant vengses across the world. they're worried about growing instability or their bohn border. remember, china does share a small border with afghanistan and worried that our withdrawal from afghanistan will allow us to refocus elsewhere in the indo-pacific in checking back the challenge that they present. we know that. you're right that china is trying to influence events in afghanistan largely through economic levers. they're not able to do that unilaterally because of u.n.
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sanctions, it's the policy of the biden administration not to recognize the taliban unless there are things that they are meeting. >> and how does the u.s.-china into the strategic-- >> i would not put afghanistan at the top of the list. we have to focus on the western pacific and places look the indian ocean. and there are also places in africa and places where they're looking the bases. i think we need to look at what china is doing in afghanistan, but i would not-- thank you, general mingus, the u.s. military with south and
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central asia and the national security and many of these relationships are strengthened through our commitment to joint exercises and training and these activities can serve as a deterrent to aggression. we've continued to see russia with actors, including a joint exercise afghan border with uzbekistan this summer and similarly china had a joint exercise in august. from an operational standpoint, are we doing enough militarily to train, equip and prepare our south and central asia partners? >> senator, thank you. and that's one of the things that dr. kahl kind of alluded to that we like to talk about in closed session in terms of the recent trips just made in terms of the outcomes of that. but we are looking alt ways to expand our training opportunities and those things
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in central asian states. >> all right. i'm looking forward to hearing more about that in the closed session. dr. kahl, i want to come back to you for a second here and talk it a little more about china and how -- well, actually let's switch and talk a little about the taliban for a second. in media interviews and in public discourse, the taliban have attempted to downplay the threat posed by isis, including the recent attack on worshippers in kanduz. and they pointed to several arrests and suggesting that they've averted isis plans. what can we learn from the fact that the taliban is more interested in putting a positive spin on its ability to govern than they are in working to address known threats to both afghan and international
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security? >> yes, senator. first of all, i don't think that we should trust the taliban, whatever they say. i think we have to watch what they do. i think the only thing we can have any confidence or faith in is that they'll try to advance their own narrow interests. i think as relates to the isis-k problems that they do not have an interest in isis-k establishing a beachhead in afghanistan. either to destabilize afghanistan or to conduct external operations, so i actually believe that the taliban is highly motivated to go after isis-k. their ability to do so, i think, is to be determined. >> and have we seen any success? is there any intel that you could talk that shows any success with them going after isis-k? >> so, i think we've seen instances of them going after isis-k. during the war, of course, there were ferocious battles between the taliban and isis-k as well, but you know, we--
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i do want to keep in mind for this committee that as relates to the threat streams they were most focused on fra isis-k, it's the ones that might be externally from afghanistan. we haven't seen those threats materialize and we would not count on the taliban to be the ones responsible for disrupting that, we'll have our own unilateral capabilities. what can we do now to contain that threat. >> we should continue to question the taliban on these situations, we had a high level delegation in doha to hold the taliban toward their commitments under the february 2020 doha agreement to not allow afghanistan to be a safe haven for international terrorism. the taliban say they remain committed to that, but it's not just their words, but their actions. >> thank you. >> senator hawley, please. >> thank you, very much,
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mr. chairman. mr. kahl, i understand on august 18th the consul general, quoting now, president biden phoned ambassador wilson with the following directive who to clear to board the evacuation flights, number one, anyone with a valid form of i.d. should be given per miss to go on a plane, if that plausibly falls into the category, u.s., plus their families, les plus their families and those entitled to siv and afghans at risk. number two, families, women and children held to fill out the planes. number three, total inflow to the united states must exceed the number of seats available, err on the side of excess, still quoting, provides direction to fill seats and provide special consideration for women and children when we have seats and i expect that
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c-7 volume will increase. >> and are you aware of any direction from the white house for afghans that fit the categories, whether the passengers were, to fill up excess? >> i can't speak to that specific engagement, but our priorities in that time frame, as were as you mentioned first and foremost american citizens and legal residents, green card holders and locally employed state department staff ap other agencies and departments. siv's and others with documents. but it was also the case that has we were bringing forces in, we had excess capacity to bring people out so what the president was signaling was, if there were other clearly afghans at risk, that we could safely bring into the airport and get off the airfield. we should do that. but that's not what the e-mail says, it doesn't say clearly,
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it taste plausibly, it says that the flights need to be filled out. we need to err on the side of excess. >> we now know we've got major problems with vetting for people brought to this country, evacuated and brought to the country. the e-mail seems to say the administration says just fill up the plane. if they plausibly, put them on the plane. >> vetting was foremost in mind, but the vetting wasn't happening. >> where did the vetting happen? >> it was at what we called the lilly pads. >> and the vetting consisted of what? >> so in places like qatar, kuwait, bahrain, ramstein and elsewhere, essentially teams of dhs, cvp, dod, would collect biometric information, fingerprints, sets, biographic information and then that information would be fed through the nctc, cvp and fbi
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data bases, and only those who did nt have contact with the taliban, icahny, isis, would be manifested to bring to the united states and people who required further processing were not brought to the united states. >> was any in-person vetting done? >> the at little lily pads. >> that's a screening, was there vetting done where you sat down and asked the person questions. >> that's a good question, for those, period of time there wasn't sufficient information or derogatory information, keep in mind the derogatory information could be you shared the same name or your phone number touched the phone number of a phone number and derogatory information, then vetting was done. >> at the lilly pad? >> yes. >> and there may be information
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that people came to the united states that received additional vetting, but i would direct you to dhs. >> i'm talking to dhs believe me and dhs says there was never any in-person vetting done anywhere not in the lily pads and in the united states. your testimony is that there was and i want to be clear on that. >> my understanding alt the lily pads so forward. >> right. >> qatar, bahrain, kuwait, et cetera. >> those who popped derogatory information if they couldn't be cleared because of misunderstanding, example someone with the same name. >> right. >> if you require further information there were times where the fbi spoke to those individuals. >> so you testified in september that those evacuated 6,000 american citizens and you testified in september siv's were 1200 to 1300, 1116,700 people based on the 124,000 neo
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number you've been offering, 116,700 people who were not citizens, who were not siv's and we don't know much about who were those people. >> so we're working off the same set of numbers, so we evacuated around 2,000 u.s. embassy personnel. we evacuated 5,530 american citizens. we evacuated 3,335 third country nationals so think of that as somebody who works for another embassy, not an afghan. we evacuated during the neo 2496siv holders. and then we evacuated 64,052 afghans at risk some of those on our p-2 or p-1 or p-2 refugee rolls and others were, you know, some of these were, i know, every office on capitol hill was calling too try to get people out whether they had a
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formal relationship or not, or may be a relationship with ndi or some other ngo and 2004 nato citizens, and we facilitated 44,874 people coming out on non-u.s. aircraft by other folks, so it's a mix mash of a lot of different categories. about 84% of the people we brought out were afghans at risk of various kinds. siv's, p-1's, p-2's. >> my time expired and i've got a lot of questions for the record. there's a lot to sort through here. >> thank you, senator teuberville, please. >> we're going to leave the last few minutes of the senate hearing on afghanistan to keep our over 40-year coverage of congress. to watch this entirety at
10:00 am the u.s. senate about to gavel in and 111:00 eastern laiment are expected to start a series of votes on u.s. district court nominations and for justice department posts for u.s. senator general. now live coverage of the u.s. senate on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. almighty god, teach us the mystery of life. help us not to be victims but victorious in this season of


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