July 10, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today delivered the following opening statement at a SASC hearing to consider the nominations of Adm. William Gortney for reappointment to the grade of admiral and to be commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command; Gen. John Campbell for reappointment to the grade of general and to be commander of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S Forces, Afghanistan; and Lt. Gen. Joseph Votel to the grade of general and commander of U.S. Special Operations Command:
As prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming our distinguished nominees and thank them for their continued willingness to serve this great nation. They have been chosen to take on some of the most challenging positions in our military at a time when our national security is being threatened like never before.
General Campbell, as Commander of ISAF, you’ll be tasked with overseeing our mission in Afghanistan during one of the most consequential periods of the war. General Dunford – our current commander – has done a great job of leading our troops as they combat the Taliban and solidify the gains we’ve made in training the Afghan security forces. However, I remain deeply concerned about the future of Afghanistan.
The recent presidential elections have been marred by allegations of widespread voter fraud. For example, in Wardak province Ashraf Ghani’s vote count went from about 17,000 in April to 170,000 in the runoff – an implausible increase of 1000%. Meanwhile, rural areas had 75% turnout while urban areas had only 24% turnout – the exact opposite of what we would expect.
There must be a thorough and independent audit of the vote and we should do all that we can to help ensure a free, fair, and transparent election that respects the will of the Afghan people. If the Afghan people don’t trust the legitimacy of the election’s outcome, the ability of the next president to govern effectively will be irreparably damaged.
I’m also deeply troubled by the President’s plan to draw down our forces based on arbitrary timelines instead of the best advice of our military commanders and the facts on the ground. The President tried the same failed policies in Iraq in 2011 and I fear we’re doomed to repeat the same mistake in Afghanistan.
General Votel, contrary to the claims of some that Al-Qaeda is on the run, it’s clear they now operate in more countries and control more territory than ever before. Iraq and Syria have become the largest terrorist safe havens in the world and are serving as a breeding ground for the next generation of jihadis.
It’s only a matter of time before the thousands of foreigners who traveled to join the fight will return home to places like Africa battle hardened and ready to continue the fight. I’m interested in your views on the growing terrorist threat and what current budget cuts and resource shortfalls will mean for our counterterrorism capabilities.
Admiral Gortney, as Commander of NORTHCOM, you’ll be accountable for one of the most solemn responsibilities of our government: the defense of the U.S. homeland. The threats to our country are no longer confined to geographical boundaries. What happens in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and in Asia has a direct impact on the security of the country.
In particular, I’m interested in your views about the growing ballistic missile threat from North Korea and Iran and the effectiveness of our homeland missile defense system to protect us against the improving capabilities of our adversaries. North Korea continues to develop delivery systems for its nuclear weapons arsenal and public intelligence reports still assess that Iran could have the means to deliver a nuclear weapon to the U.S. as early as 2015.
I look forward to hearing from our nominees on these and the many other important issues facing our national security during today’s hearing.