U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), questioned General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of the United States Central Command, this morning at a SASC hearing to receive testimony on United States Central Command.
Inhofe: I'm going to bring up three things that have grown into some controversy and they should not have and just very briefly get your opinion on that. First of all as we draw down, I made some statement about characterizing what the President's position was in Syria and I was challenged by some not too friendly media on this. I'd like to quote what the President actually said initially. He said "we'll have a slow and highly coordinated draw down and we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary. Do you think these are the proper conditions and this is your understanding also of his position.
Votel: In the instructions that I have been given and that we have issued down to our organizations in Syria, that represents our approach. A very deliberate approach to how we depart Syria.
Inhofe: Yes, I think that was certainly our understanding. Do you believe that the territorial state of ISIS will be eliminated by the time that U.S. draws down?
Votel: I do, Chairman.
Inhofe: What what's being done to prevent ISIS from reemerging at this time?
Votel: Well we continue to work with our Iraqi security force partners and international coalition here to continue to keep pressure on ISIS and we continue our efforts by, with and through our partners in Syria. And in some cases for them to keep pressure on ISIS as they continue to present threats to us. We should expect that they will attempt to attack us and continue to regenerate themselves and we will to put pressure on them to prevent that.
Inhofe: Alright, very good. The second area that could be subject to some misinterpretation has to do with Yemen. I am concerned that disengaging our partners in Yemen will undermine Israel, bolster Iran and increase human suffering. In your assessment what are the cost of disengagement from our partners in Yemen.
Votel: Certainty, it is a very significant humanitarian disaster in Yemen, but I do believe departing from our partners there removes the leverage that we have to continue to influence them, which I think we have used in a positive manner, and I think it further endangers Americans in the region.
Inhofe: Yes, I appreciate that. And the third one has to do with the IMET program. I have always been very partial to that. Primarily my activity has been in Africa. It's been so successful, not just in Africa but around the world that we see China and Russia both, particularly China, trying to beat us to the punch in the IMET program recognizing that some of our middle officers are getting training in a country that they are wed forever. We've seen this happen but the thing that's disturbing right now is China starting to do the same thing. So, what do you see as far as the benefits of IMET and is China moving in on us?
Votel: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I think China is opportunistic and they're going to look for places they can step up in where we or others may create voids. To your comments on IMET. I think that IMET (International Military Education Training Funding), dollar for dollar, is perhaps one of the best tools that the Department Defense, The Department of State can wield in building our partnerships throughout the region. Typically the people who take advantage of these resources and come to our schools in the United States often rise to positions of leadership in their countries. They don't forget the experience they had in our military schools and most importantly they don't forget the American people. I think this is an extraordinarily wise investment for us to continue to make if possible.
Inhofe: Yes, I sure agree with that. You're probably aware that in Africa, China has invited in one meeting, 50 of the leaders of the 52 nations in Africa to China wining, dining and all this, trying to move in on that program. That's the one we have to be all very sensitive to because they realize the benefits that we've received from the program. Senator Reed.