U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), discussed United States Central Command and African Command with General Joseph L. Votel, USA, Commander of the United States Central Command and General Thomas D. Waldhauser, USMC, Commander of the United States Africa Command.
As prepared for delivery:
The Committee meets today to receive testimony on the posture of U.S. Central and Africa Commands. We welcome our witnesses, General Votel and General Waldhauser, and thank each of you for decades of distinguished service and for your leadership of our men and women in uniform.
In advance of this hearing, Chairman McCain asked that I submit a statement for the record on his behalf, and I’d like to read a portion of that now:
“As we turn our attention to the central challenge of great power competition, the National Defense Strategy challenged us to think about our efforts in the Middle East in new and different ways. With all of the recent success in the fight against ISIS, we must work to consolidate our gains and move forward with a coherent regional strategy to ensure security and stability.”
The committee looks forward to working on this year’s National Defense Authorization Act to provide the policies and authorities needed to adjust to this new approach—both in the Middle East and in Africa, where the threat of violent extremism has increased dramatically.
For CENTCOM over the last year, we have seen remarkable progress in the fight against ISIS. Your military victories in Mosul, Raqqa, and beyond have helped dismantle the caliphate ISIS once claimed in the Middle East.
At the same time, significant challenges remain in the region: the Syrian civil war rages on, Iran continues to grow its influence and fund its proxies. Across the region, we face serious questions about the Kurds, many of whom have fought by our side valiantly.
For AFRICOM, let me make one statement that I think is significant for us to keep in mind for the purpose of this hearing.
Gen. Waldhauser, it is my understanding the investigation into the Oct. 2017 ambush in Niger by ISIS-affiliated fighters that killed four US soldiers is completed. I understand it is now pending review by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Dunford, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
After his approval, AFRICOM will immediately offer to brief the families of the four soldiers, if they desire, prior to any in-depth briefings to Congress. Obviously, we want the families to have an opportunity to know what happened to their loved ones.
Accordingly, I understand you are not able to comment on the investigation’s results during this posture hearing. At the conclusion of the briefs to the families, I know you will provide us a thorough briefing of the investigation's findings and recommendations.
We do want to talk about AFRICOM. Our troops have an important mission there: to train and assist regional partners so that they will be capable of handling security threats before they become global crises.
Our engagements in Africa are critical not only to regional stability but to our own national security—but it lacks dedicated troop resources, sufficient basing, and strategic access.
We look forward to hearing from you both about the challenges in your AORs and any additional resources or authorities that would help you accomplish the mission.