General Thomas Waldhauser, the U.S. Africa commander, testified at a hearing on military operations in the region. He talked about working with regional partners to counter violent extremist groups across the continent, the growing influence of China in Djibouti and other countries on Africa’s eastern coast, and the resources and support provided by the December 2017 National Defense Authorization Act for his combatant command.
He also addressed a recently completed review of the October 2017 ambush and deaths of four U.S. service members in Niger, saying details of that report would be shared once approval was granted by the secretary of defense and the families of the service members had been briefed.
Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the U.S. Africa Commander’s 2018 Posture testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2018.
By U.S. AFRICA COMMAND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, United States Africa Command Stuttgart, Germany Mar 07, 2018
Transcript | Gen. Thomas Waldhauser at HASC Hearing on National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activities in Africa
6 March 2018
While the National Defense Strategy emphasizes strategic competition with Russia and China, it also makes clear the department will have maintain its focus on defeating the terrorist threat to the United States. Many of the conditions that allow terrorist groups to proliferate, such as vast and governed spaces, weak governmental institutions, poor security and struggling economies exist on the African continent.
A concern is that the terrorist threat in and from Africa will grow as ISIS is pushed out of Iraq and Syria. At the same time, Africa has the fastest-growing population in the world, immense national — natural resources, and great potential. We are witnessing the strategic competition talked about in the NDS taking place there too.
China established its first overseas military base in Africa last year, just a few miles from the U.S. base in Djibouti, for example.
Using a small number of U.S. military forces, AFRICOM largely works by, with, and through our African partners to address threats on the continent. It also uses DOD security cooperation programs to develop African military partners capable of providing their own security.
But this approach entails risk, especially given the enormous distances and lack of infrastructure on the continent. Our witness today, General Waldhauser, commander of AFRICOM, will provide his assessment of the threats to U.S. national security and how the recently-released National Defense Strategy affects U.S. military priorities and posture on the continent. He’ll also help us explore the risk versus the benefits of our approach to Africa within the strategic context of our national security goals.
THORNBERRY: I understand that AFRICOM has completed its investigation into the October 2017 ambush in Niger by ISIS-affiliated fighters that killed four U.S. soldiers. I understand that the results of that investigation and its recommendations are now being reviewed by both the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford and by Secretary of Defense Mattis.
In addition, the families of the fallen have not yet been briefed on the results. Accordingly, I understand General Waldhauser is not able to comment on matters related to that investigation today, and I would say that’s despite of some purported leaks in the press this morning.
The ranking member and I have previously requested a copy of the investigative report on behalf of the committee, and we expect to receive it right away when it is finished. We further expect that General Waldhauser and his staff will be available to the committee promptly upon request, as we conduct our oversight into the issues raised by that incident.
Yield to the ranking member.
SMITH: I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think you gave an excellent summary of the situation within Africa on why this testimony’s so important. I thank General Waldhauser for being here and for his leadership in Africa. I think it a very important part of our national security picture that does not get as much attention as it should — as it should, in my opinion.
We have certainly seen the threat from various transnational terrorist groups popping up in various places in Africa, and containing that threat is enormously important.
But beyond that, I think there are tremendous opportunities in Africa for partnerships, as the chairman alluded, for all of the challenges there are in Africa there is a great promise, as it’s a rapidly growing population and a rapidly growing economy.
So building those relationships and building those partnerships is going to be important. There obviously are a number of different aspects to that, but our military relationship with countries like Ethiopia, and Kenya, and Uganda, and others is very important to building the strong relationship we need to make sure that our interests are protected in Africa, and that we help Africa become a more peaceful and more prosperous place.
I am particularly interested in your testimony. I’ve been to East Africa on a number of occasions, and I think is an excellent model for how we can work, as the chairman said, by, through, and with our local partners to achieve national security objectives.
Again, working with Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya, amongst others, we have been able to deal with the situation in Somalia and the threat from Al Qaida, I think, reasonably effectively in a very difficult part of the world.
I’m interested how we can replicate that a little bit better in West Africa, where, frankly, we have a tougher time finding the partners, where you have the chaos in Libya spilling out. You have, obviously, problems in Mali and elsewhere.
How do we — who do we work with there? How do we make sure that we don’t have a growing, metastasizing terrorism problem coming out of West Africa? Who are our best partners and how do we contain that, is something that I’m most curious about.
Otherwise, I agree completely with the chairman’s statement, and I look forward to the statement from our witness. And again, I thank him for his service.
Thank you, general.
THORNBERRY: Thank you, General, thank you for being here today. Without objection, your full written statement will be made part of the record, but you are recognized at this point for any oral comments you’d like to make.
WALDHAUSER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Chairman Thornberry, Ranking Member Smith, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to update you on the efforts of the United States Africa Command, known as AFRICOM.
I would like to begin this morning by remembering the soldiers and sailor we lost on the continent during operations this past year. These brave men died valiantly in the service of our country, and we honor their dedication to duty. I offer my sincere condolences to their families.
Mr. Chairman, I have completed my review of the Niger investigation and forwarded the report to the secretary of defense through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Once the Secretary completes his review and the families have been briefed, I intend to provide a comprehensive and detailed account of the investigation to you as soon as possible.
WALDHAUSER: This morning I would like to talk to you about AFRICOM’s strategy for the continent then update you on our priority regional efforts. The U.S. interests in Africa are reflected in our mission statement. AFRICOM, with partners, strengthens security forces, counters transnational threats and conducts crisis response in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity in Africa.
Our mission statement deliberately highlights the importance of “with partners.” In reality, very few, if any, of the challenges on the African continent can be resolved through the use of military force. Accordingly, AFRICOM’s first strategic tenant underscores that our military activities are designed to support and enable U.S. diplomatic and development efforts.
We can create time and space for governments to establish effective and accountable governance while fostering conditions for economies to develop. Our second theme describes our strategic approach of by, with, and through. This framework emphasizes our main effort to build capacity of our African partner-nation defense forces to credibly provide for their own security.
While our African partner nations have enormous potential, they are often challenged by instability and exploitation, stemming from the disruption caused by Violent Extremist Organizations, or VEOs. These VEO groups take advantage of vast ungoverned spaces and recruit from populations lacking economic opportunities.
We approach these security threats through our third strategic principal of keeping pressure on the networks of VEOs, such as Al Shabaab, ISIS, Al Qaida, and Boko Haram in order to mitigate their destabilizing influence.
At the same time, we remain postured and ready to respond to contingencies and to protect U.S. personnel and facilities on the continent. These strategic themes and AFRICOM’s approach are aligned with the national level guidance.
In accordance with the recently-released National Defense Strategy, and in the context of changes in the operating environment, we are updating our strategy and theater-campaign plan to reflect the guidance provided by the secretary of defense.
Turning now to our regional efforts, I would like to describe for you some of our challenges that we face each day on the continent. In East Africa, AFRICOM’s contributions are part of an international commitment to help Somalia implement their recently-designed national security architecture.
Al Shabaab remains a threat to Somalia and the region, as demonstrated by their October 2017 bombing in Mogadishu that killed over 500 people. The challenges facing the federal government of Somalia are enormous. Nevertheless, they continue to slowly make progress, and by doing so continue to maintain the support of the international community.
With international partners and organizations, including the African Union and the European Union, AFRICOM’s kinetic and capacity-building efforts assist the federal government of Somalia with their implementation of their comprehensive approach to security and sector reform.
In North Africa, Libya remains politically and militarily divided with leaders and factions vying for power ahead of potential elections later this year. In close cooperation with the Libyan external office located in Tunis, and as part of an international effort, AFRICOM supports diplomatic objectives for political reconciliation. We will continue to work with the U.N.-established Government of National Accord and maintain pressure on the ISIS-Libya and Al Qaida networks.
The Sahel refers to the Sahara to Savannah transition belt spanning the broadest part of Africa, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. AFRICOM supports multinational efforts in the Western Sahel and in the nearby Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa. We provide training, advice, and assistance to the G5 Sahel countries in the Multinational Joint Task Force, in order to help them contain violent extremism and secure their borders.
In conclusion this morning, the continued progress on the continent with our partners reflects dedicated efforts by the men and women of AFRICOM. I am proud to lead these professionals who have built strong and trusting relationships with the U.S. interagency and with our international community in order to foster security, stability, and prosperity on the African continent.
On behalf of the service members, civilian employees, and families of United States Africa Command, thank you for the opportunity to be with you this morning, and I look forward to your questions.
THORNBERRY: Thank you. General, I think your statement was clear, but I just want to make sure. You commit to that when the secretary has signed off and the families of been notified, our committee will receive a copy of the investigation of the Niger incident, as well as the recommendations, and that you and your staff will be available to brief and answer any questions we have. Is that right?
WALDHAUSER: That’s correct, Mr. Chairman. We definitely want to conduct a brief for you.
THORNBERRY: Do you have any idea when that will be?
WALDHAUSER: I really don’t. It is up to the secretary now to review and for him to be comfortable with the information in this exhaustive investigation. So once that is complete, then again, our first order of business, as we have said from the outset, is to brief the families and provide them the information.
THORNBERRY: OK. You heard in the beginning, Mr. Smith and I both discuss the importance of the African continent and in a variety of ways, but I would like to hear you answer the question, why should we care? What is it about Africa? What are the national security interests that the United States has in your area of responsibility that justify sending United States military men and women in there conducting missions, and possibly even at the risk of their lives?
WALDHAUSER: Mr. Chairman, one of the huge challenges of the African continent are the violent extremist organizations that I described at the outset. They — they permeate the entire continent in various locations. At the present time, they really do not have the capability to conduct operations, for example, in the United States, but they certainly aspire to do that.
And so one of the big things that we try to do with our efforts to build capacity inside the continent is to ensure that those violent extremist organizations, who wish harm in the region, wish harm on the European continent, and ultimately wish to harm United States, they are contained, and then ultimately be able to be handled by security forces of those countries. So that’s a significant challenge that we have. In other words, we’re trying to prevent something from happening before it does. That’s a big part of our strategy and I think it’s very, very important.
WALDHAUSER: The second thing that I would say is that you know you mentioned China and Russia and their ability to gather influence on the continent, and one of the things that when we talk to our African partners all the time, is they really have a strong desire for U.S. leadership, U.S. involvement. So it’s important that in areas, as you mentioned Djibouti in your opening remarks, we have strategic interest there, and the Chinese have built a base just outside our gate. So it is important that we are there, that we’re present, and the African people see our commitment to their overall desires.
And then, finally, I would just say that, you know, that — you talked a little bit about the population and the scale of potential problems on the continent; 1.2 billion people today in Africa, in 2050 2.4 billion people with the population. That’s one in four people on the planet will be — will be — live on the African continent.
So any type of situation, whether it be humanitarian or security, the scale of potential problems there is really enormous. If there were, for example, outbreaks of some type of disease, Ebola, if the HIV continued to spread, the numbers that we talk — that we would talk about in this scale and scope would be significant.
I mean, if you think today, inside Somalia as an example, with food insecurity, virtually half the population is food insecure. Last year it was 6 million people, this year a little bit less, maybe around 5 million people. These are numbers of a scale and scope that if security issues or humanitarian issues were left unchecked, or if we didn’t participate in trying to contain those, we would have significant challenges with large scale for a long period of time with those type of problems.
THORNBERRY: Just to clarify, at some point that was great concern — in recent years, there was great concern about a terrorist threat to the United States connected to, in some ways, Somalia. Are you saying that has basically gone away?
WALDHAUSER: Mr. Chairman, I’m not saying it’s gone away. What I’m saying is that some of the organizations in Western Africa — the Sahel, for example — that have a flag of convenience, perhaps, with a group like Al Qaida or with a group like ISIS, they are small in number, and a lot of their activities are focused right there, direct, that have to do with regional problems, with grievances to the local governments, and the like. But they aspire to the teachings and to the — of groups like — of ISIS. And so when they are supported by ISIS, whether it’s financial backing and the like, then you have to assume that their desire to attack American citizens in the region, American citizens in Europe, American citizens at the home country, that still exists.
Today, though, specifically to your question about Al-Shabaab inside Somalia, I mean, we have — you know, I think you may be referring to the bombs — their computer bombs, that, if you will, that were put on airplanes and so forth.
But right now, we have had continuous pressure on the Al-Shabaab network inside Somalia over the last few months, and we’re working hard in conjunction — this is all in conjunction with the federal government of Somalia.
I mean, one of the big changes there over the last year is the President Farmajo, who’s been elected and has been in office now for one year, and he is struggling to put together a strategy that the — that a federal government will have a — will be — will be a contributing factor to the federal member states. So all of our efforts kinetically with Al-Shabaab are tied to his strategy. And so I would not say that that threat has gone away, but I would say right now that based on some of the kinetic activity we have done, in conjunction with international partners, has got Al-Shabaab on this — has got Al-Shabaab in a situation where they’re trying to control some territory.
Now, there obviously was the big bombing in October, in Mogadishu, then there was four months where there wasn’t any, and then here in the last week in February they had another bomb go off in Mogadishu.
So these groups never really — they don’t never go away. I mean, you’ll never really defeat them, but our overall intention is to get them to a situation where the Somali national security forces can handle that, and then we can then leave.
THORNBERRY: OK. I might just remind all members that after the conclusion of this open hearing, we will reconvene in a classified session upstairs, as we have been doing with the combatant commanders.
SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to follow up on the West Africa question. I think, as we were just talking about with Somalia, while you’re correct, you can never say there is no threat, because obviously Al-Shabaab is still active. There are still problems there. That threat was able to be contained, at least, as we worked with our partners over there.
In West Africa, you have a — a far more chaotic situation, I believe, in terms of not knowing the — can you educate us a little bit? Al Qaida’s active there, they have AQIM, Al Qaida in the land of the Islamic Maghreb. ISIS is becoming active. You have Ansar Al Sharia in Libya. You have a really crazy mix. And part of it is terrorism. A lot of — a lot of it is also organized crime. Human trafficking, drugs, a whole lot of other things.
What exactly is the threat coming out of West Africa, obviously, that’s gotten to everyone’s attention after the Niger incident? But it was there before. I remember being there in 2009, when we were just trying to figure out what was going on and really didn’t have many assets in that region. What is the threat emanating out of that region, and how are we trying to confront it?
WALDHAUSER: Thank you, Congressman Smith.
Look, there are basically two significant areas where the threat emanates. First of all, it’s northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa are.
The second area, in the Sahel, is primarily in the Northern Mali-Niger border area, where the AQIM groups have consolidated in the past year into one group called JNIM, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin, “the group in support of Islam and Muslims.” They’re a handful of Al Qaida groups who have joined together and, this weekend by the way, conducted this attack in Burkina Faso, and they’ve taken responsibility for that.
So inside Northern Mali is a significant problem in the north, where the peace process that was agreed upon in Algeria several years ago with the federal government and various groups has not taken hold. And meanwhile, the AQIM groups, now under the banner of JNIM, really, really have a lot of freedom of movement in that particular region. So there is a particular threat there.
Then inside of Nigeria — we talked about Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa. And I know over the last week or so with the kidnapping of schoolgirls inside Northern Nigeria again, ISIS West Africa has demonstrated their ability to do these types of things.
And so in both of these areas, this is where we work with the by, with, and through philosophy. And right now, I mean, our guidance has been to contain those. Contain Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa inside Northeastern Nigeria while we build up the partner forces’ ability to handle that.
Then inside in the Niger area, I mean, specifically Niger is a country that’s surrounded by problems on all of its borders. And in that northeastern — northwestern part there, on the border with Mali, this is where these groups come back and forth across that border and have freedom of movement in these large, ungoverned spaces.
These countries — I think one other thing to underscore is the size of these countries. I mean, Africa, I think as we all know is — you could fit three and a half of the United States inside that continent. So when we’re talking about a country like Niger, it’s almost two times the size of Texas. If you’re talking about a coastline of Somalia, it’s over 1,100 miles from the Kenyan border up to the northern part of Puntland. That’s like from Jacksonville, Florida up to northern New York.
So it’s important to understand the scale and the size of all these — of all these situations. And then the bottom line — so those are the two big areas there in the west. You mentioned Libya, and we continue to work with Libya. We really have a strategic framework with four key items in mind. One of them is to the counterterrorism effort to keep that inside — keep that under control.
We need to work to prevent civil war inside Libya. We need to work to support the political process. And we need to work to try to combat the migration issue, which ultimately makes its way on many time — in many occasions to the coast of Somalia, where these migrants move into Europe.
SMITH: Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Wilson?
WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And, General Waldhauser, congratulations on your service as commander of U.S. Africa Command. My homestate of South Carolina is grateful to have a shared culture with West Africa, with Liberia having been established by freed slaves from South Carolina.
When I visited Monrovia with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the AME University, which has been sponsored by many churches in South Carolina, I felt immediately at home, and so what you are doing there is just so important.
As terrorists flee from the Middle East because of our successful military efforts there I’m concerned about other emerging terrorist threats trying to establish operations in Africa. In order to prevent these terrorist organizations from establishing themselves, I believe that effective information operations are essential to disrupt and counter terrorist propaganda and recruitment efforts.
What capability do you have to rapidly organize and execute our information operations in Africa when you recognize that terrorist — terrorist organization is trying to establish operations in the area? Are you able to utilize local nationals who speak the language and know the culture to expedite the process — the process of standing up an operation. And also, are you able to effectively coordinate your efforts with the Department of State?
WALDHAUSER: Thank you, congressman. I would say in the session that we — our efforts primarily in the information world are at the tactical level. We have organizations that are in various locations with our partner forces on the continent, where we go — where we take the messages via social media, radio, print, billboards, what have you, to try to knock down or — or — or mitigate some of the messages that come from the terrorist organizations.
I will tell you it is a tactical level operation. We have been recently given authorities inside Somalia to do some other things which we can talk about in a closed session, and they have proven to be helpful very — very much as well. But the bottom line is, we — we pay close attention with our partners in state.
As I indicated, you know really our first tenant is to be in support of diplomatic and developmental efforts because at the end of the day, that is the long-term solution for the continent. And so we are very attuned to that, we work closely with them, and we have a very good working relationship with the interagency. But information operations is one of the things that we primarily work at the tactical level.
WILSON: Well, this is encouraging, and I am sure that the USAID and other government agencies are helpful too. With the recent opening of the first Chinese Port near Djibouti, have you noticed any operational activities by the Chinese military in the region? Have you had to alter your approach to engage the recent establishment of their military influences?
WALDHAUSER: China on the African continent is a very interesting question because first of all, there they are involved primarily all over the continent, for minerals, resources, and the like. But interestingly, in Djibouti, it is obviously, perhaps, the first overseas base that they have built. Djibouti is a very strategic location for us, not only AFRICOM, but CENTCOM, special operations command, EUCOM, TRANSCOM; we all use that location, so it’s very, very important to us.
We are not naive to think that some of the activities the Chinese are doing in terms of counterintelligence there — there are taking place, but it just means that we have to be cautious. We have to be on guard for that type of situation.
Meanwhile, though, there are opportunities especially in Djibouti where we can work together with the Chinese. I mean they have roughly 2,500 or so peacekeepers on the continent. Their military activity is primarily in countries that suit their needs. In other words, the One Belt, One Road concept which has a lot of countries in the eastern part of Africa where they’re – where they’re – where they’re located, you’ll see some military presence.
We have started to engage them, however, because — but it is under the — under the — the rubric or the framework of our overall national strategy. I mean, there are opportunities on the medical side. There are opportunities training-wise, that they’re right there right next door to us. But we are working closely with OSD and the State Department to plot out a way that we can — we understand the — the nature of our overall strategy with China, but there are some unique places where we can cooperate on the continent.
WILSON: And — and that’s really encouraging to see is not adversarial that it can be working together be mutually beneficial to U.S.-Chinese relations and then externally bene — beneficial in the countries where you’re operating. And another point back on countering terrorism information campaigns, do you have the military authorities you feel sufficient to carry out the efforts you feel need to be made?
WALDHAUSER: Yes, we do Congressman.
WILSON: And with that you’ve answered everything.
I yield back.
WALDHAUSER: Thank you.
THORNBERRY: Ms. Davis.
DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, general, thank you very much for being here.
And in many ways you — you answered my first question, which really related to our National Defense Strategy, which states the great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus. As you allude and speak to how you are — you’re working in a positive direction with China, perhaps that that answers part of how you deal with that, but what is the impact? How does that affect you and the command there?
WALDHAUSER: Well, congressman, thank you very much for the question. You know it, we — we read and I have read and reread the National Defense Strategy several times now since its been out and obviously there’s a lot in there about China, Russia, North Korea, and the like. So I really hone in on those paragraphs to talk about Africa and AFRICOM and on page 18 of the strategy there’s a huge paragraph in there that talks about a huge — shouldn’t say — there’s a paragraph in it illustrates really in quite a — quite a directive manner what the department’s role is vis-a-vis Africa.
So the first piece of it is under the section that we should be engaging with partners and making our relationships, enduring and trusting relationships. That is very, very important. And is also, I think, the only place in the National Defense Strategy where by with, and through is directed to us.
And if I have time this morning, either now or in the other session, I’d like to spend more time on defining what by, with, and through means because is more than just a bumper sticker.
DAVIS: Yeah, I am really glad you brought that up, Sir, because I think, actually there is a lot of concern that due to a lack of investments in the State Department, and particularly having people at posts that really matter, with the kind of experience and background that we need, that we’re — you know, we’re really falling short in this regard. How do you — how do you see that? I mean is that — do you have full confidence that that’s not occurring? Or what role — what role should the Congress, what should we be doing to shore up that right now because we’re not going to have those people, those relationships that are built even in a few years from now.
WALDHAUSER: Congresswoman, thank you.
Look, I would just go back to my first tenet again. I think the — the long-term goal for AFRICOM is to support the political and the development process on the continent. That’s the long-term solution. And so when I see cases like in Somalia for example, on December 4th when the security conference was there, USAID signed a five-year contract for $309 million, which gets at developmental issues — infrastructure, education, health care — and that’s really a whole of government approach and that’s what we need, and specifically in a case like Somalia, that’s what they need to keep moving forward.
So we certainly encourage that. We look for this whole of government approach. We — we advocate for the development side all the time, and it is a big part of what we do. On the by, with, and through if I may, so the by, with and through essentially is a — is a — is a architecture or strategy that allows us, or our forces us, to build capacity for partner nations with the military in a support role and not in a direct combat role.
WALDHAUSER: So in other words, the engagements of the operations are conducted primarily by the partner force with our support in a — in a background role.
WALDHAUSER: The “with” piece of this is the — the things that we do to train, advise, assist, and accompany and equip, those are things that we do with our partner forces.
DAVIS: Sir, I hate to interrupt but my time is — is running out. Could you talk a little — how do we measure the success of that, by, with and through?
WALDHAUSER: This is a very difficult question, and I don’t have a good answer for that. I mean, one of the things we have to do is build institutions while we build the tactical level, we’ve got to build an executing, an executive agency, in other words, an OSD-like group. We’ve got build a generating force like a service headquarters so that — so that we just don’t continue to train soldiers after soldiers after soldiers, don’t know where they are. We lose track of their — of their service.
We really got a hone in on the institution side, and we have been forced by Congress to do that in the last few years, so all of this has to have that aspect to it in order to be successful.
DAVIS: Thank you. Do you have sufficient tools?
WALDHAUSER: We have sufficient tools to what — our job is to do it a small footprint. That’s what — with economy of force, and our people understand that. It requires us to be innovative in how we do business. So we — we’re — we’re — we’re fine in that regard.
DAVIS: Thank you very much, sir.
I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Conaway.
CONAWAY: Thank you Chairman. General, thanks for being here.
You spoke about China’s work on the continent. Can you speak briefly about what Russia might or might not be doing on the continent as well?
WALDHAUSER: Thank you, congressman. From the AFRICOM perspective, our concern in Russia, at least at the — at the moment has to do with the northern part of Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.
I am specifically referring to Libya. I think that the Russians are looking to have influence on the continent through weapon sales, through some of the agreements with Libya, for example, that were in place prior to the Gadhafi departure. Our concern would be their ability to — to influence and be on the southern flank of NATO, and also them to, kind of squeeze us out, if you will, by them taking a prominent role.
So Russia, to — to large degree, is all about influence and their weapon sales don’t come with — a lot of strings attached so they make their — they make some revenue from that. But again, it’s about influence, and that’s what our concern is.
CONAWAY: Thank you. The water crisis in South Africa, particularly Cape Town, is that something that — that your guys look at in terms of not necessarily solving it, but the potential for unrest within a population of four million people who run out of water, and the impact it would have on the stability of the government and the ability to maintain the rule of law?
WALDHAUSER: So that’s one of the places where what’s unique about the AFRICOM staff when it was — when it was first built 10 years ago — we’re on our 10th year anniversary — is that we have a very, very highly skilled and very much represented by interagency partners. So our State Department and USAID — USAID people track that. I mean, we don’t really have any direct involvement in it, but we’ve had exercises and we do military engagements with South Africa, but we pay attention to that, watch that, and see how it may impact various aspects of — of our engagement.
CONAWAY: So and then on counter narcotics, obviously the drug routes coming out of Venezuela across West Africa, can you just speak about any potential drug routs for drugs coming out of South Asia going into Kenya, Tanzania, and the impact it might have on corrupting those already fragile governments?
WALDHAUSER: Right. I guess I would have to say that my — my knowledge and interest in the drug trade primarily comes from Western Africa as it moves in through Mali moves in through Niger, moves up through into Libya on into the European continent, and perhaps even in the United States.
There’s no doubt about it. I mean, a lot of these terrorist groups — they call themselves terrorist groups — but to a large degree, they’re heavily involved in criminal — criminal activities — trafficking weapons, people, drugs, and that is how they make their livelihood. That’s how they tap into — to recruit young men of this youth bulge that’s on the continent to give them a livelihood, give them a better life.
There is no doubt about the fact that this — this drug smuggling piece is a big part of what — what goes on. And that’s why one of the challenges I think that we have as AFRICOM, is to try — when someone — when one of these groups labels themselves as ISIS Al Qaida, we have to really look closely at their ties to the historic cattle and livestock rating and those type of things, and just try to see and get an understanding as to what they’re trying to do, vis-a-vis carry out the ISIS, let’s just say, norm of trying to attack the West.
These are all very complex problems, but many of them are rooted in — in things just as you described — drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and the like.
CONAWAY: General, thank you for your service.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Courtney.
COURTNEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, general, for your testimony this morning.
I understand that again the report on the ambush is still a little bit on hold, until again, you clear it with the families and that certainly makes sense. I wanted to ask you a question though that is somewhat related to it and I don’t think really, you know, delves into the specifics of that incident. I received an e-mail from a constituent, who was serving in Niger in December, who asked what I thought was a pretty good question, which is why people serving over there don’t receive imminent danger pay. And again, he looked on the chart, and there’s countries in Africa like Algeria, Chad, Egypt, and Kenya, that currently qualify for IDP, but folks who are serving in Niger and Mali don’t.
And — and we know enough about the incident from public hearings in this committee that it was a particularly violent and vicious event. And I want to ask your opinion: Should our service members who are serving in Niger qualify for IDP?
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, thank you. The short answer is yes, and we submitted that with Niger and other countries in the area where it is dangerous several months ago to OSD. My understanding is that it is at OMB for reconciliation. But we have made that request a while back.
COURTNEY: Well, thank you. Again, that’s something that I think a lot of members might be interested in following up with OMB to make sure that they do the right thing.
Again, I just want to sort of spend a minute on Djibouti in China’s presence there, which is pretty close physically to our installation that’s there. I mean, is there any steps being taken in terms of just worries about surveillance or intelligence gathering that there might be some vulnerabilities, again, given the proximity?
WALDHAUSER: Well, first of all, you’re absolutely correct. It’s right next door. I mean there’s been — there’s been rumors that the Chinese military wanted to come over and use our PX over at Djibouti. There is engagement periodically. I mean these — these individuals come to, let’s just say, events over on Camp Lemonnier, so there’s a lot of interaction there, a lot of contact there.
We have taken — we are taking significant steps on the counterintelligence side so that we have all the defenses that we need there, there is no doubt about that.
But I think that one of the challenges that we’re going to have is things like this. I mean, the Djiboutian government is probably over $1.2 billion in debt to the Chinese. At some point in time that money needs to be collected. The Chinese have built infrastructure, which is good. They’ve built buildings and roads inside Djibouti and other places on the continent, but this continues to pile up the debt in — in countries like Djibouti.
WALDHAUSER: And so what is of concern to us here last week is a small item. I am sure it didn’t probably hit your radar screens, but the Djiboutian government took over the main port in Djibouti from a company that is in UAE. And the Djiboutians have told our country team there that there’s no intent to have the Chinese run that port. There is no intent to give that over the Chinese. But the bottom line is, they took it over because this is another way for them to — to — to gain revenue in order to pay back this debt.
So we’re going to watch that very close because if — if, in the worst-case scenario if it happened, if the Chinese did take over that port, and, again, we have assurances from the Djiboutians they won’t, but if they did, I mean, down the way that that restricts our access. That restricts the Navy’s ability to get in there and just simply offload supplies and the like.
So there are challenges with this. When we talk about influence and access, this is a classic example with regards to China, of how we’ve got to proceed, and how we’ve got to be careful as we move forward.
CONAWAY: Thank you.
I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Hunter.
HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Waldhauser, or General Waldhauser, for being here. You’ve got a lot of fans up here and you’ve got a lot of fans in the crowd as evidenced by some older Marines of notoriety that came to be with you and show their support. So thank you very much for being here.
I guess the one thing I’d like to touch on is you’re in Germany. That’s where you’re stationed at. You own (ph) Africa, that’s your area of operations, and the movement of transnational criminals or terrorism to Europe, and then making its way here to the U.S. Could you just touch on that?
WALDHAUSER: Thanks, congressman, I appreciate it, and I won’t identify who those older Marines are off to my side — they — whatever.
So we have, so for example we talked about in Libya one of our tasks is to try to help mitigate the — the migration issue. Our presence in Libya at the moment is small in numbers. We are heavily involved in the counterterrorism piece, and we’re heavily involved with support to our State Department to be able to get them into Tripoli on a predictable basis.
You know that today inside Tripoli, there are 24 embassies that have predictable presence; 16 are full time. They include Turkey. They include China. There eight that are but are part-time at the moment, initial-operating capacity — E.U., U.K., France, Germany and Russia.
I — I met with Salame Suresei (ph), who’s the U.N. special representative to Libya here, about a few weeks ago at the Munich Security Conference. He indicated to me that the main effort or the center of gravity now is moving into Tripoli to try, to get these things done, to try to get — there’s many meetings that take place there and so we’re working closely with our and we support our State Department, to try help them get in there full time, not full time initially, but episodic presence in order that they can make a difference. So with regards to — one of our tasks in Libya is the migrant issue.
And we do that to a large degree indirectly. I mean, really you need a functioning federal government and then even then there’s no guarantee that trafficking and the migrant issue will go away, but at least it would be a start.
But where we help is kind of indirectly, where in Niger for example, we have some partner forces who are there specifically to train Niger forces on the policing, if you will, of the migrant problem.
But the bottom line is the migrant problem is not going to go away until there can be a livelihood replaced for the — for the money that these individuals all across the chain make on the migrant issue.
But the migrant issue is a livelihood. It’s a way of life. It’s a business case. This is how many of these small villages, many of these individuals, this is how they make their money. Because the migrants, to a large degree, our statistics will show that a — a good majority of them will come from countries that they’re able to pay to do this, whether they sell all their belongings to make it to happen or whether family members will garner the money that will get an individual up into Libya across the coast into Europe, and ultimately bring more family members on. It’s a livelihood. It’s a business.
And so this is really the heart of the problem. So we deal, at the moment, indirectly with helping and assisting and — our partners who trained police forces to try to get after this thing.
But the bottom line is that this — this will not go away until there is a developmental side of this, where there’s a livelihood that can take the place of the money that is supplied by the migrant problem.
HUNTER: Who is the number-one agency that you work with that tries to track the bad guys that have moved in with the good guys just trying to make a better living? Who’s tracking that on our side with you?
WALDHAUSER: Well, I would just say that we work in conjunction with — with the special operations command, was global interest in that. We work with our other agency partners on intelligence side to do that. Maybe in closed session we could talk a little bit more detail, but…
HUNTER: The German authorities and the European authorities obviously push back to you and you give them information and they give you information and that helps you operate in Africa? Or do you have that kind of back and forth crosstalk?
WALDHAUSER: I would have to say that working with the Germans in that regard, we probably don’t work in that level of detail. I mean, we have FBI, we have those individuals on the on the staff. I would have to get back to you if we’re doing anything specifically with the European countries. For the most part, I would say that it is probably very, very little, if any.
HUNTER: Thank you very much. Thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. O’Rourke.
O’ROURKE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, general. I — I understand your comments about the report on Niger, and I think we all want to respect that the process in the investigation, and certainly want to respect the ability for those families who lost a service member to learn the findings of the report first.
But I also want make sure that, you know, given the importance that — that Africa has for the United States national security, our growing presence there, that there is a full hearing on what we find in that report, and I hope that this committee and — and you will appear before us in the future so we can have that appropriate oversight and accountability and lessons learned, so we can apply them going forward. I think I think we all want that, and so I appreciate your willingness to — to share that information with us at the appropriate time, and also make sure that the broader public has a benefit of — of understanding that as well.
I wanted to ask you a couple questions about Somalia. My understanding is that we — we are engaged there under the legal auspices of the 2001 authorization for the use of military force, having connected Al Shabaab with Al Qaida and the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack that allows us to use military force there, to have U.S. service members there. Is that — and functionally I would argue, we are at war in Somalia. Is that an accurate reading of the situation there?
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, I would say it’s an accurate reading. I wouldn’t say — I wouldn’t characterize that we’re at war. It’s specifically designed for us not to own that. And I think that one of the things that gets lost sometimes is the overall international effort that’s ongoing there that we are a part of. So, for example, the European Union trains institutional level, Turkey trains there, the UAE trains there, the U.K. trains there, and we have a part of that as well.
And I think the second thing I would point out is that, you know, our authorities come from — execute orders that come from the secretary of defense. And so what we do there kinetically and what our niche is there in terms of building partnership capacity all comes from those authorities.
And I think the other thing I would just mention is that it’s important to understand that we are just not there just pinging (ph) targets on a daily basis.
O’ROURKE: If — if I could interrupt you, just because I just want to make sure that I — that I get these questions answered, and I apologize for the interruption. But we are taking the lives of enemy combatants there under that authority, is that correct?
WALDHAUSER: We are — we are conducting direct-action strikes inside Somalia, yes.
O’ROURKE: And what other countries under your command are — are we doing that in right now?
WALDHAUSER: We have — we have the authority to do so in Somalia and in Libya.
O’ROURKE: OK. And I wanted to ask you a follow-up question to some of the other questions that were asked about complementing resources with the State Department’s diplomatic resources, economic resources to complement the military presence that’s there, and also the human rights dynamic of this. There was a report this last summer about a raid in Somalia that was supported by the U.S. military as reported, and reported that 10 civilians, including three children, were killed there. The follow-up from the Pentagon was that you all were investigating — or that the Pentagon was investigating that attack.
Can you tell us a little bit about the repercussions of that? What your findings have — have determined? And how that affects your mission in that country? And what we can do on the diplomatic side to complement the — the military side of this?
WALDHAUSER: Thank you.
I’m sure you’re referring to the incident in Bariire, where immediately upon — where our forces were not — were not involved in direct combat. But there were casualties there, and immediately it became very unclear, as it happens most — almost every time when there’s a strike in Somalia with regards to an IO (ph) campaign from the enemy.
We did conduct an inquiry into that, and, you know, some of the issues that were brought up with children and women and that — and that just didn’t happen, right? I mean, just — the investigation, the facts just weren’t there.
We had received — there were several media articles on that particular topic, and I just decided at that point in time — so it’s kind of a dilemma.
I mean, if you react to every item that shows up on social media, we would spend our entire day trying to hit back things that weren’t — weren’t true. But there were some — several media articles, and in this particular case, in order to demonstrate transparency, I just decided to have an investigation take place. And there is one ongoing right now by — by NCIS to do that.
So we just said we looked into it. The facts as — the facts as we have known don’t support some of the things that were out there. So let an — let an agency take care of it. But we’re confident that this — our case is going to be accurate, but if it’s not, we’ll take the appropriate action.
O’ROURKE: Thank you. Appreciate that.
I just feel like, as we work with these partner countries, we then become connected with their actions. And of course…
WALDHAUSER: Well, we did (ph)…
O’ROURKE: … it’s great that there’s an investigation. We look forward to seeing the results of it.
WALDHAUSER: If I may say, if I could, I would just add that, look, the dynamics of the clans in Somalia are something that is very, very complex. I mean, President Farmajo, who — who was a U.S. citizen and went — lived in Buffalo, New York, got his master’s degree at the University of Buffalo, his master’s thesis was on the fact that the United States does not understand the clan dynamics in Somalia. I made that required reading for our team, and even after reading it we still probably don’t.
But the bottom line is the clan dynamics, the information campaign from Al-Shabaab in the social media, is something that is very, very difficult for us. And we have to be aware of it. We have to combat it all the time. Because — because they have an inordinate amount of just false information that they put out all the time as part of their strategy.
O’ROURKE: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
THORNBERRY: Ms. Hartzler?
HARTZLER: Thank you.
General, you have a very large job, and I appreciate all your efforts.
In your written testimony, you discussed the importance of increasing partner institutional capacity in Africa. So, can you discuss the benefits and shortfalls, and give us an example of progress that you’ve made in this region?
WALDHAUSER: Thank you very much.
As I perhaps alluded to earlier, perhaps one of the cornerstone or keys to any of these building partnership capacity programs is — is development at the institutional level. You have to have an executive organization who has strategy. You have to have an operational organization who takes care of training, organizing, equipping, paying and the like. And then, of course, the tactical — the tactical areas.
And I think that, you know, we have plenty of examples on the continent where this has not gone well, where we have trained, advised and assist, and we’ve given all kinds of numbers, and all kinds of dollars in conjunction with State Department, and yet we still don’t have good accountability.
So one of the things we’re trying to do is work at the institutional level to make sure that is there.
This is very difficult in some of the — in some of the nations where the — it’s a fledgling democracy, and there’s all kinds of issues — issues with regards to education and the like.
But I would say one of — one of the places where we’ve had — is a success story is Tunisia, where really this whole thing all started.
We have been working extremely close with the Tunisians on a whole host of activities, but I think at the institutional level, the development of their intelligence service — an overall comprehensive intelligence service that has the ability to synthesize, gain information, and then disseminate that information on a strategic and operational level — is a success story.
And when you look at some of the — some of the factors that go into that, you look at a — a government that supports it, a government that works, and you have an educational level, and you have the ability for them to absorb that type of capacity.
So that would be an example of a — of something that’s gone very well.
HARTZLER: Very good.
Several years ago, I — I read an article that was new to me and pretty shocking, just talking about — and at that — at that time, the article was about Sudan, and the reality that there is slavery going on there today — this was 20 years ago — but how people from the north were coming down, were capturing young men from their huts, taking them, selling them, and, you know, piercing their ear and they became basically owned by that person.
Is there still — I believe it still is going on. But could you articulate more what countries there is slavery going on, and are we doing anything in this regard to stop this?
WALDHAUSER: Congresswoman, I really couldn’t say what countries where slavery is going on.
I mean, there certainly are fragile states that have histories of — as you described, and those type of activities. I mean, you mentioned Sudan, and also the problems obviously today with South Sudan in terms of that particular challenge there, with a government that continues to use military force to beat back an opposition.
Look, I would answer that question by saying that all the training that we do has a human rights aspect to it. I mean, we train militaries to adhere to the laws of armed conflict. We train them on laws of war. And we try to make sure there’s a humanitarian side to that.
But as far as which countries, right, today have slave trades ongoing, I mean, I wouldn’t — I’d have to get back to you on that one.
HARTZLER: As we have worked hard to increase and pass a bipartisan budget to help address some of the readiness shortfalls, could you articulate some of the concerns that you have in your command with readiness issues, and what you need to address that? And do you feel like the increased resources that we’ve given you in this past budget will help meet those shortfalls?
WALDHAUSER: Congresswoman, thank you very much.
The budget is certainly something that is a big — we’re very happy about. And the resources that we have are adequate for what we do.
AFRICOM, historically, in the 10 years it’s existed, has always been an economy-of-force organization. I mean, we have said time after time, commanders before me, some of the things that regard — with regards to personal evacuation and medevac, and then ISR support, those are things that we would like to have more of. And I don’t think there’s any COCOM who would sit before you — in fact, I think General Votel the other day talked about how no COCOM would say that he has adequate ISR.
But the bottom line is, we know — we have adequate resources to do what we’re supposed to do, and we have to work within those right and left limits. We have to be innovative, we have to be creative, we’ve got to coordinate. But I think the overall budget certainly gives us what we need.
And my job at AFRICOM is to continue to advocate for those assets that we need. But then when we have some, or if we buy them as a result of OCO funding and the like to fill some of those gaps, like in the medevac arena, then that’s how we will attack the problems of the — of adequate resources.
HARTZLER: Thank you very much.
I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Brown?
BROWN: Thank you very much.
General, thank you for being here today. Thank you for your leadership at AFRICOM. And I want to recognize that in a few months, in October, you’ll be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of AFRICOM, so congratulations.
I wanted to ask a question — it’s been asked before, perhaps a little bit differently — about the allocation of national resources to different lines of effort, both military and nonmilitary, on the continent.
I have information, you know, that shows that, from fiscal year ’12 to ’17, our aid to Africa — USAID and the State Department — has been pretty level, $7 to $8 billion. But, in recent requests, that level has — the request has been cut by $3 billion.
Now, that hasn’t been approved by Congress, but that’s a request that’s in by the administration. And that $3 billion is a cut, essentially, to two programs. One is development assistance, and the other is Food for Peace.
Also, I noticed that, from fiscal year ’13 to ’15, the Title 10 security assistance, which includes train and equip, has gone from about $100 million a year to closer to $600 million; almost a half-a-billion-dollar increase.
You had mentioned at the outset of your testimony that the national security interests in Africa are threefold: one, to fight violent extremism, particularly those who aspire to strike the United States; the other — this is my paraphrasing — is to sort of check Chinese or China — encroachment by China and Russia; and, the third, you — you reference that one-quarter of the global population and the needs that that population has.
It seems to me that, if we don’t address the needs of that population, that — that those are the underlying causes that fuel that first concern you have, which is the violent extremism — no jobs, no housing, no opportunities tends to drive people or draw people to extremist-type activities.
So my question is, given those trend lines and the request for a decrease in development assistance and the increase in Title 10 train and equip, do you see a disconnect there? And — and does that create any additional challenges for you in what you’re trying to accomplish?
WALDHAUSER: Thank you very much, Congressman Brown.
First of all, I would just like to say that, with regards to the funding piece, we — we have to be cognizant and be a good partner, a good steward of those funds.
So, for example, recently, a month or so ago, inside Somalia, State Department and the charge down there stopped some of the equipment coming to the Somalian National Army because their ability to account for it was not there.
And so we told them, “You need to account for this. You — you need to be — you need to be responsible for this, and we’re not going to continue just to give you equipment that — that we don’t know where it went. So we have to be responsible for that.
Secondly, in order to have development, you have to have a secure environment, and so they go hand in hand. And we certainly are very cognizant. We — we get this question a lot — is — have we militarized our policy or — on the African continent? It is not what we want to do.
But we have to have a secure environment, so we have to build partner capacity so that they can — so various countries can secure their borders from these violent extremist organizations who want to have freedom of movement, who want to essentially overthrow some of these governments. So you do need to have security.
But, on the other hand — and the bottom line is the development side is the long-term solution. And, with the youth population that we’ve talked about today — I don’t know if I’ve mentioned these, but, you know, over 40 percent of the population is under the age of 15. If you take up to 24, you’re — somewhere over 60 percent of the population is under the age of — of 24.
Niger, for example — 19 million people in that country. The average age is 15; 50 percent of those people are 15. So you can see that the requirement for education, the requirement — requirement for job skills, the requirement to have a livelihood to give these individuals a better life is certainly a developmental issue that needs to be addressed.
And so, even though — if the trend lines may be in the direction of, perhaps, more for DOD, with regards to building capacity — it’s necessary. We’ve got to have security. But, at the same time, you’ve got to have development. Otherwise, you’re not going to get to where you need to be.
BROWN: I just also want to point out that there are a few unfilled positions at the State Department. One is the ambassador to Tanzania and Congo — both are on the state fragility index as either high at risk, or very high alert.
Is that creating more challenges for you to be able accomplish your mission?
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, so, look. I would support that. You know, we work closely with the charges. They’re very, very good. But I would support any nominations and — and securing of ambassadorships to these countries, because it is very, very important.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Scott.
SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General, thanks for being here.
I spent a week last year with General Farnaz (ph) in Camp Lemonnier and went into many of the various countries over there. And it’s not possible to explain to people just how vast that territory is unless you actually get to see it from an airplane or a helicopter.
And there are tremendous sums of ungoverned territory out there. We have seen in the past where China has attempted to actually purchase land in areas like Iceland. Are we seeing the Chinese try to actually purchase land — significant amounts of acreage in Africa?
WALDHAUSER: Well, Congressman, I would just say that the port in Djibouti is not the last port that China will build on the continent. There are some indications of looking for additional facilities, specifically on the eastern coast, because, again, it ties into the “Belt and Road” concept, so they have access to move their goods in and out.
But, you know, again, this is their plan. It’s out there, and they’re really executing it. So Djibouti happens to be the first. There — there will be more.
SCOTT: One of the things that I remember from that trip is that the Chinese actually had a hospital ship in — in the Port of Djibouti. And, of all the things that I heard from General Farnaz (ph) and the other people that we met with over there, the one thing that surprised me the most was to actually see a hospital ship where they’re now delivering services to the citizens.
And certainly happy that the citizens are getting that, but that seems to be a marked change in the Chinese approach to influencing a country.
As the — you mentioned the ISR and the lack thereof. The JSTARS fly out of Robins Air Force Base. It’s a platform that we have spent tremendous sums in development of, and now we’re ready to purchase the new JSTARS platform.
And the Air Force did not include it in its budget this year because of the shift towards — the National Defense Strategy’s shift towards China and Russia. The potential loss of those ISR platforms because of the shift towards China and Russia — what impact would that have on a continent like Africa and on the AFRICOM mission?
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, one of the things that, from our ISR perspective, is — we desire and I continue to advocate for: access to all of the intelligence capabilities — signals intelligence — ground movement — ground movement, for example, video signals and the like. That’s how you put a picture together.
So the JSTARS does play — a place in that. It has a piece in that. And so, from our — interestingly, the National Defense Strategy does talk about readiness in China, Russia. But the specific parts about Africa, though, still deal with “by, with and through” and this terrorist-type threat.
WALDHAUSER: Now we know where the priority is and we know when it comes to making decision – hard decisions on assets, we understand that. But I would just say that from our perspective, that any intelligence from the various levels, as I just described, are helpful to us.
SCOTT: It is it seems to me that if we — that stopping the procurement of this stage to develop another system might actually delay the ability — we simply won’t have the platform, the right platform to develop the I – to develop the ISR to you if we — if we delay the purchase in hopes of being able to buy another system in the future. Any — any information that you can give us about the links between the terrorist organizations inside of the continent of Africa and links to terrorist organizations inside the U.S.?
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, in this session what I would say is that the links that we see deal more — more directly with ISIS core, deal more directly with AQ core at this point in time.
SCOTT: I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman, so I yield the remainder of my time. General thank you and I look forward to seeing you in the next session.
WALDHAUSER: Thank you.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Panetta.
PANETTA: Thank you Mr. Chairman, General, good morning. Thank you for being here. You talked about you have the authority to take lives in Somalia and Libya, doesn’t the AUMF give you authority to carry out those actions throughout the country, excuse me throughout the continent?
WALDHAUSER: Right, the authorities that we work under are Title X authorities that come from execute orders from the Secretary of Defense to go ahead and – and — and do those direct action type missions.
PANETTA: Right. I traveled with Representative Scott to Africa and those countries and I completely agree with him that it is very vast, very big. That also leads to the problems of having timely QRS if you could give us a sense of the current QRFs. If you could, give us a sense of the current QRfs and if you have any recommendations of how you improve having QRFs in that – in that area?
WALDHAUSER: So let us talk about the medevac (ph), the P.R. piece of this, as in terms of being able to react. Inside, we talked about the size and scope of the Somali seaboard for example, 1,100 miles. And so what we have to do is we have to be innovated and we have to be agile. So we have to move damage control surgery units, role-two units as we call them, move them around to where the operations are so we’re closely linked to that. We have to move the aircraft along, our helicopters for example, move them around to be positioned where they can support the ongoing operations, all designed to be as quick as we can.
And that’s – that’s really how we — we get after that. We — we have to — we have to, you know, be methodical. We have to be tied to the operations and we have to make sure that our — our assets and the way we think about it, our medical planners and the like and our operational planners, how they think about it so we’re able to accommodate of faster response time.
PANETTA: In regards to the operation that took place in Niger, what was the nearest QRF?
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, we made a commitment to the families and I think that particular question, we’d like to have them get the information and we will be happy to answer that when we come back to brief you.
PANETTA: Understood. Right now there’s about 5 to 6,000 troops on the continent, U.S. troops?
WALDHAUSER: You know on any given day, there’s about 6,500 troops and about 1,000 contractors for about 7,500 troops in the continent. The bulk of those troops are in two places the first one is on the eastern part is you are probably well aware, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya, is where a huge number of those car — probably over 4,000 of those troops are there. And the other – other places where there are large are in the west. And, you know, some of the countries are a little bit — do not want us to make a big deal out the numbers that we have there and I respect that, but the bottom line is they’re in the West and these problems with the with the G5, Sahel, and these problems in Lake Chad is where the bulk of our – of our people are there.
But I think it is important to underscore though, is that when it comes to issues like QRF and medevac and you know and so forth. Is this size is huge for us. In other words, 3 1/2 times the United States inside the African continent, and then you have small pockets of people distributed in many different places. So our challenge QRF medevac-wise is significant. And I did — as I described earlier, that’s how we accommodate and — and we use — I would also add that we use agreements with our partner nations to include their medical facilities, to include their helicopter and airplane facilities.
We work by with and through with with partner forces in our case. We’re encouraged by the National Defense Strategy to work and support those partners. And so we leverage what they bring, as well, in order to get at some of these issues we talked about.
PANETTA: You’re — you are based in Stuttgart?
PANETTA: How often are you on the continent of Africa?
WALDHAUSER: Me personally, probably once, twice a month. It just depends on the travel schedule.
PANETTA: Right. Thank you, General. I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Mr. Byrne.
BYRNE: Thank you Chairman, General good morning. I know you’ve answered a number of questions about Djibouti but if you don’t mind, I’d like to go back. Obviously it’s an important country. The Golf of Aden flows in with Red Sea, very narrow body of water there right across from Yemen.
The reports that I’ve heard about the actions of last week were that Djibouti actually illegally seized control of the Doraleh Port and reports that I’ve read say that they didn’t seize it for purposes of operating it for profit but that they actually intend to gift it to China. So my first question to you is is that your information that the port was illegally seized and then secondly, have you heard reports you think they’re valid that there is some intent to gift it to China?
WALDHAUSER: Well what can tell you, Congressman, is I do know from the open sources that Dubai Port World is taking this to court I believe in London. They are going to challenge this activity in London. The Djiboutians believe that they have the inherent right to nullify the contract so it will have to be taken care of in court. Now with regards to the future, and again our country team our ambassador there talked with senior officials. They were assured by senior officials that there is no intention to eventually give this over to China. We’ll have to wait and see.
I mean, whether Djiboutian country is able to run – they’re going to run the port as I understand for the next six months and then maybe transition it to someone else, another — another company. The key at that point would be is who owns that those companies and how that works. That’s just something, so that’s my information on the — on the port.
BYRNE: Well, let’s look out there, suppose that they did gift that port to China, what would that mean to the United States interest in that region?
WALDHAUSER: Well the consequences if the Chinese took over that port, then the consequences could be significant if there were some restrictions in our ability to use that, because obviously the supplies that come in and not only take care of Camp Lemonnier and other places inside the continent, it’s a huge place, it’s a huge activity there.
Moreover, I believe our U.S. Navy ships come in and out of there to refuel and whatnot so there — there — there could be some consequences. That’s why it is important to watch this and it…
BYRNE: Go ahead.
WALDHAUSER: … if I might say, I mean talking about Congressman Scott’s question about visibility and the Chinese and the like, this is why our — your visits there are very, very important. This is why our visibility there is very, very important. The Chinese there are building facilities. They are building a shopping mall, they’ve built a soccer stadium, they’ve changed – they built the infrastructure for communications in Djibouti. Now Djibouti is a small country, and not a lot of resources there. They sell their – it’s a strategic geography situation, but when you have a hospital ship that is serving Djiboutians, they see that. And that — that enhance, and that is good, but enhances the — the Chinese view from the Djiboutian population and so it is important that we are visible there. It’s important that when we tell Djibouti we’re their best partner, that we back that up with visits, with training that we do with the Djiboutian Armed Forces, small investments, and small items, but it’s an effort to let our Djiboutian partners know that we’re a serious partner.
I mean, our lease there is a 30-year lease. I think we’re, I don’t know, 6, 7 years, 8 years into the 30-year lease, and so it’s a strategic geography location for us, and we need to keep it.
BYRNE: Well the Chinese aren’t there for purely charitable reasons. We all would recognize that. They obviously believe it’s a strategic location. Look our 10 years. Where do you see China in that area, not just Djibouti, but that entire region? Where do you see the United States?
WALDHAUSER: Well I think in 10 years, if — the Chinese involvement and engagement in the continent is certainly on an upward arc. If we don’t — you know, if we don’t — I won’t say (ph) “challenge” that, but if we don’t go with that, then at some point in time, that our — we have a very high approval rating by the — most places in Africa.
But as I said, when you see visible signs, soccer stadiums, shopping malls and the like, they know that’s (ph) the Chinese have built that for them. So unless we’re — we need just to continue to do small things. I think small — you know, small things go a long way in the African continent. They want to know that we’re trusting partners. They want to know that we’re engaged. They want to know that we’re there to assist them, in our case, build capacity for their security.
If we continue to do that, we can — we may not keep pace with the Chinese in terms of what they’re doing, but at least our influence and our involvement there will not go away.
BYRNE: Well, I thank you for your service. I just want to register my concern watching the events, particularly of the last week, that things are moving perhaps faster and in a different direction than we may have thought. And remember, if this was an illegal seizure of that port, what’s to say that that government wouldn’t illegally terminate our lease before its term is up? So I just register my concern, and I know that you’re monitoring it, we will as well.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. O’Halleran?
O’HALLERAN: Thank you, Mr. — oh, there it goes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would appreciate — I’m going to follow up on the China issue also. You know, in the South China Sea, where we’re looking at their expansion, and we’re — we have kind of a strategy that’s pretty public there as far as what — how we’re going to address it.
When we look over to Africa, we see the cuts, potentially, to USAID. We see cuts to other programs. We see cuts to the State Department. And I’m just trying to understand, what’s our strategy over there? How — and you’re latest answer was, basically, we don’t have to outdo the Chinese, we just have to make sure that we’re incremental in keeping what we do. But as far as the whole of government approach, I don’t — I don’t see that at all going on in the African continent.
WALDHAUSER: So thank you, Congressman. Look, we’ll never outspend the Chinese in the continent, and I think — and that’s, I guess, the point I was trying to make. But I think our involvement and our contributions there can be made, and I think they’ll be noted.
I think that one of the things we’re try — I mentioned in my opening remarks about how, as a result of the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy, how we’re rewriting our theater strategy and Theater Campaign Plan.
And one of the elements in this is the China piece. China has been on African — in — on the African continent for quite some time, but we as a combatant command have not dealt with it in terms of a strategic interest. And we’re in the — we’re taking baby steps in that regard. I mean, we have to understand that there’s a global strategy for China — you mentioned the South China Sea and what goes on there — but it’s a little bit different context inside Africa.
But that context inside Africa has got to be folded underneath our overall strategy. And so we’re in the initial stages of trying to at least get Africa and China in the same sentence, and that we’re going to try to make progress with them in a way that, you know, that they’re not a — they’re not an adversary, but there are some ways that we can work together.
And so that’s kind of where we are. But we’re trying to move that ball down the court with the rewrite of our theater strategy to include China.
O’HALLERAN: I guess — China, you — we don’t have to build islands in China, the Chinese don’t have to build islands. They’re doing that in the South China Sea for a purpose.
But they’re doing this African process to develop the — and get — capture natural resources. They’re building infrastructure to transport those — those resources. They’re having tremendous influence money-wise, as you’ve indicated. How do we — how, with the incremental approach, it appears, do we get this to the point where we’re competing on the same playing field, at least, with the Chinese on both investment, getting aid out there, and having a posture of a military (ph)?
WALDHAUSER: Well, I think from the military perspective, they are — the hospital ship was mentioned. I mean, these are areas, medical engagements, medical exchanges with the Chinese would be something that would be beneficial. It’s very easy. It kind of has a humanitarian piece to it. And it’s something that we’re going to try to pursue.
With regards to — excuse me, with regards to our business aspects, or in terms of development, in terms of money — you know, some of the issues in — the Chinese don’t have to deal with some of the situations that we do with regards to money and human rights and the like.
I mean, they — they go into areas where it suits them. They go into areas that they’re — they’re concerned with minerals, for example, in a potential market of a consumer class. They’re not bound by any particular laws or rules. And so they have kind of free reign to go where — in these kind of gray areas, where we probably wouldn’t venture.
O’HALLERAN: Thank you. I just want to stress that I feel that there’s a critical need to have an overall whole of government approach strategic plan, and I don’t know if there is one, yet, but I’d sure like to see one.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
THORNBERRY: Ms. Stefanik?
STEFANIK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Waldhauser, thank you for being here today. I am concerned about our long-term counterterrorism strategy, and what we’re doing to make sure that that is sustainable.
For example, we make tactical gains in Libya and even in Somalia, but oftentimes we see those hard-earned gains rolled back because we lack a larger strategy and diplomatic approach to realize those tactical gains. Can you provide your assessment on how we improve this, and how we ensure that we’re building on our tactical gains to achieve a long-term strategic approach when it comes to our CT efforts?
WALDHAUSER: Thank you. I mean, that’s one of the — really, one of the — the pillars of what we try to do, is our tactical gains to buy time and space for governance to take hold. And this is where we get into this idea of us supporting political efforts. This is why we, in this — in DOD, and AFRICOM in particular, have devoted significant energy and resources to assist state department to get back into Tripoli, for example, on an episodic basis.
That’s where the activities are taking place these days. Is Tripoli totally safe? No. But, more meetings — as I’ve said, Salame, the U.N. representative there — more meetings are taking place there. We realize this.
And so when the State Department — and I mean, when I work with the LEO and the charge — the LEO being the Libyan external office in Tunis — when I work with them, and they come to us and say, “hey we want to, you know, get our security people in there to do the reconnaissance to see if it’s safe,” then we work really hard.
And I work with the secretary, who supports this, that military assets are devoted to that. Because at the end of the day, and that’s where the political process will begin to take over and leverage the CT effort that is ongoing in Libya. The final thing on that is one thing for sure in Libya they — they don’t agree on much but they do agree on a counterterrorism strategy whether your LNA, GNA or any tribe in between, is a counterterrorism piece is something they all agree on.
STEFANIK: Shifting gears here, my next question deals with how we counter adversarial — adversarial propaganda and disinformation efforts. From your perspective, what do you think is your most effective tool as a combatant commander to counter adversarial information operations, for example those used by Al Qaeda, ISIS, or even broadly by China and Russia?
WALDHAUSER: Well, first of all at the — at the larger level our actions on the continent go a long way to combat that, so we can talk about tactical things, social media and the like, but our actions, our commitment to the — and our face inside and our leadership inside these African countries can go a long way to counter that, that we’re actually there backing up some of the things that we say. That’s very, very important. Our developmental efforts are very, very important. It’s like I — I said though, there’s many polls that we look at. And so for example, in places like Djibouti, where the Chinese have built things and the — and the citizens can see these things, they have a very high rank — rating.
A place like Somalia were when people think of the U.S. to a large degree they think of the kinetic activity. Our rating, it’s not — it’s not that good, it could be better. So in sum we need to make sure that our actions back up our words and then at the tactical level, we use those assets and authorities that we have to get a message out there that — that — that is one that is, it throws back or mitigates with the terrorists are trying to espouse to.
STEFANIK: So drilling down a little bit into specifics, how you work with the State Department specifically, the Global Engagement Center, which for the record I’m deeply concerned that the funding hasn’t been spent in terms of our efforts to countering disinformation from our adversaries and from our terrorist organizations. Are we doing enough, are we effectively working with the Global Engagement Center and the State Department from your perspective?
WALDHAUSER: Well, I mean, I am not sure I can really answer that. I mean we — we work overall, with state there — there — there — the first thing we do anytime whether it’s what does the country team think, what does the ambassador think? Now we have a great relationship there. One of the unique things about AFRICOM is I have two deputies, one of whom is a former ambassador and can speak the language with his colleagues. And we utilize that line of communication a lot. So we have very good relationships on the continent and we also have the relationship with our African components at State Department.
I really couldn’t say at this point, I can get back to you on details, but I don’t really have anything other than that on that particular question.
STEFANIK: Do you, from your perspective, what role should DOD play here play here compared to the State Department?
WALDHAUSER: In respect to?
STEFANIK: Countering disinformation.
WALDHAUSER: Well, we have a big part, I mean we have — we have authorities and we have capabilities that we need to coordinate with State Department on and we do that all the time, to be honest. It’s more of tactical level, but again, many these place in Africa we’re not talking about high-end, let’s just say activity. We’re talking social media, we’re talking, newspapers, radio, billboards, and we work closely with our partners to — to try to make that happen, especially where we have specific units in specific embassies to do that type of thing.
STEFANIK: Thank you. My time has expired.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Khanna.
KHANNA: Thank you Mr. Chairman, General, thank you for your leadership and service to our country. My questions are similar to Representative Scott and Representative Halloran (ph) about China. I have read that they are spending about $60 billion in Africa and most of this isn’t direct aid. It is predatory lending, where they’re still charging interest rates. They are fully aware that many of these countries aren’t going to be able to repay those loans. They’re engaged in extraction of countries without a respect for the sovereignty.
Our aid is less, but our aid does not come with strings attached and we don’t engage in those kind of predatory behaviors. And then as you know, the African Union building was bugged by the Chinese. And when you look at history and you look at the East India Company, they went with commercial interest that led to imperialism and colonialism and my concern is would you be — do you believe that China is engaged in a new form of colonialism on the African continent?
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, I believe that China is engaged on the African continent for their self-interest. I think the minerals in the markets, the potential there, I think it’s all about being able to have access to those resources and it’s all about their — their interest. The one built one row strategy which takes in consideration 60 some odd countries, 40% of the GDP arrangement. It’s all designed to enhance their global posture down the road.
And look, the way they — one of the reasons I think why some of these countries, go ahead and sign on for some of these loans that are going to have to come back at some point in time is, I mean they’re hedging their bets in terms of they don’t want to put their eggs in one basket of one particular country, the United States for example. I mean they want to — it’s in their interest to have flexibility and so forth. So when they’re offered situations where building a living structure, or perhaps loans that can help aid the country, I mean they have a tendency to — to go in that regard, especially if they’re a fragile state.
KHANNA: What would your recommendation be, in general recommendation and how we counter that strategy from China because I do believe our country — we’ve never had an imperialist for colonial aspiration. We, you know, we may not have a perfect policy but we don’t seek to make these state, just decline states for self interest when it seems like China’s doing. And so we have a very different moral and philosophical outlook on the world than China and what would you recommend our strategy be to counter that?
WALDHAUSER: Well I think, know first of all from a holistic point of view, you’ve got to look at what the vital strategic interests are on the continent and what that means to us in terms of our engagement and in terms of our resources and how much we put into that.
Africa over, for some time has been I referred it as as economy — economy of force, but I think I go back to my, one of my questions early on about why is it important and I think this issue of a failed — failed countries in a failed continent and the impact that could have, whether it was a humanitarian issue, whether it was a medical type issue, whether it was a security issue, in the — today and in the future the scope and scale can be so great that it could over — it could overwhelm not only our resources but the resources of the rest of the people — the rest of the countries on the planet. So we have to stay engaged but we have to do that, I think, with an open eye of what our vital interests are and what our other priorities are.
KHANNA: Well, I would just echo the comments of my colleagues that I hope we can continue to have strategy in Arica that looks not just at our interest but also makes sure that we stand up for the sovereignty of these countries and not have improper influence by China in the — in the region. Thank you.
WALDHAUSER: Thank you.
THORNBERRY: Ms. McSally.
MCSALLY: Thank you Mr. Chairman. General Waldhauser, my last assignment in the Air Force was standing up AFRICOM in those early days and then I was the J33 until I retired. So I feel personally vested in your mission succeeding. I’ve got a lot of memories good and bad about those — those experiences but my questions are kind of formed and shaped from my experiences there, many of which were very frustrating.
Part of my responsibility was overseeing our counterterrorism operations; time sensitive targeting on the continent. And what we saw was in Somalia, for example, at the time, we would watch hundreds, probably thousands of Al-Shabaab trainer — you know, trainees being trained and graduated.
We had a number of approved terrorists that we could have shwacked that we went through the whole process, that you’re very familiar with, of PID and collateral damage, and we had all the authorities, and we would ramp up time and time and time again, on days and nights and weekends and holidays, only to have to do a VTC with political appointees who then would tell us that we had no permission to execute.
That’s a perfect example of how not to do time-sensitive targeting, when you’ve got to put PowerPoint slides together and brief, you know, Washington D.C. on it every single time, as you know, because all that is fleeting.
I think of one in particular who was involved in the embassy bombings in Africa in 1998, and we were asked the question, “Well what have they done bad lately?” as if they were now a Sunday school teacher or a Boy Scout Leader. So it was extremely frustrating. We were only ultimately allowed to shwack one terrorist while I was there, while we worked up for dozens, and we watched hundreds and maybe thousands be trained by Al-Shabaab.
Similarly, AQIM just continued to grow and metastasize to the west, and we just were unwilling — or, unwilling or unable as a government to do anything about it while they continued to build their war chests and — as you know, you know, get ransom money and all that types of things.
I saw last year there were 30 strikes in Somalia, and as you know, we’re not going to kill our way out of this. But you can certainly help create the space for opportunities for there to be stability there, and to make sure these terrorist organizations don’t export their terror to Europe and to America.
So, it seems like things are — are ramping up, and that you’ve been given some greater decision-making authority. I just was wondering if you could share if something has shifted as far as decentralizing the decision-making so that you can actually go after some of these terrorists when they do pop up so we can take them out.
WALDHAUSER: Well thank you very much, Congresswoman, I appreciate it. And just by the way, we’ve commissioned a study on the 10 years of AFRICOM to see if in fact what the — was envisioned 10 years ago, how we’re making progress today. And so hopefully we’ll get something on that to see if we’re — we’re carrying out the vision that you were part of 10 years ago.
In this session, what I can tell you is things have changed significantly from what you just described. Today, as a result of all the principles, standards, and procedures, and operating principles that we have, we have — we have authority. And we do not have to go through the process that you described.
I will tell you that one of the things that’s very, very interesting to watch is our — those who have delegated the authority to actually conduct these strikes, the efforts they go through to make sure that the levels of certainty of civilian casualties…
WALDHAUSER: …non-combatants, are taken care of. And moreover, the NGOs…
MCSALLY: Extraordinary, as you know. Right.
WALDHAUSER: It’s extraordinary.
WALDHAUSER: As well as the NGOs, because in places like Somalia, when you have the food insecurity and you have NGO organizations working around the battlefield, it’s important that we know where they are.
But the bottom line is, we have the authorities that we need. The scenario you just described is not the way it is today. And I’m very comfortable with how this is being done.
MCSALLY: And has that been — and I want you to, you know, to get — you know, have to make political statements here, but has some of that shifted with the new administration, that you’ve had additional authorities and decentralization over the last year?
WALDHAUSER: Well, to be — to be — to be honest, we had some authorities under the previous administration, but they were for a specific period of time. What we have now, we have authorities that aren’t bound by time. There are some bounding of geography and that type of thing, but we have the ability — and it was — and again, to support, not just on our own, but to support a strategy for a federal government and a president that we’re trying to assist.
MCSALLY: Great, thank you. I appreciate — I think it’s important for the American people to know the extraordinary measures that our war-fighters go through in order to make sure we hit exactly the bad guy and nobody else around it, but you cannot — unless you’re given the decision-making authority, you just — that intelligence is fleeting, and the situation changes quickly. So it’s good to hear that you now have the decision-making authority that you need.
Similarly, there’s a challenge, as you know, with the geography, and the lack of resources and sharing resources. Some of that’s already been brought up today. But from airlift, ISR, QRF, other issues, have you met — have you had any issues with the sharing of resources where you just did not have it when you needed it, based on the arrangements that we have?
WALDHAUSER: One of the things that we’ve done — we do very, very well is share with CENTCOM, share with EUCOM. It’s just how we — how we all conduct operations these days. Very good, closely working relationships, and if their — but our commanders are –with the philosophy in AFRICOM in terms of by, with, and through, they know that if they don’t have what they need, we’re going to have to come back another day.
But that’s usually not the — not the case. We — and we plan so that we can share assets with our fellow combatant commanders, and we plan our operations that way.
MCSALLY: Great. Thanks. I’m out of time.
WALDHAUSER: Thank you.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Gallego.
GALLEGO: Thank you, Mr. Chair. General, it’s been 5 months since we’ve had a briefing on what happened in Niger, and I appreciate what you’re saying in regards to needing to inform and brief the family. So when is that going to happen? When are we going to get our briefing so we can do our due diligence and jobs as oversight?
Because 5 months is a long time. And it is insulting that I am hearing things getting leaked through the press before we get briefings, again, as HASC, which has oversight over DOD. So when is it going to happen, and when are you going to come back and brief us? And I’d like to make sure also that OSD is there, also, when you come back and brief us about what occurred.
And I’m not asking for anything that is classified, I just want to know a general timeline, and then we could take anything classified in our next meeting.
WALDHAUSER: So thank you. Let me just kind of give you an overview of what the game plan is, and kind of how — you know, you mentioned that — the timeline. I want to give you some appreciation for that.
The investigation was exhaustive. It took really, almost 3 months for the investigating officer to complete his work. He — he went after — he went into the chain of command that’s in Germany, the chain of command that starts in Niger, the chain of command that’s in — that was in Chad, all part of the component who runs special operations.
Moreover, he went to Burkina Faso to talk with the French, and obviously spoke with the senior officials inside Niger. The investigation is exhaustive and very, very detailed.
The investigation now is with this — I have reviewed the investigation, and I have signed off on the investigation and provided it to the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense will go through it, and when he’s done at that point in time, the intention is to brief the families. And that’s been kind of DOD’s position from the get-go.
Once the families are briefed, we intend — we fully intend to bring myself, the two star investigating officer, and a senior representative from OSD to provide you a detailed briefing and answer all of your questions. We’ve made an animated video that we’ll be able to show you, which kind of gives — which is a good way to illustrate what happened. We’ll answer all the questions that you have, and if you have some that we can’t, we’ll go back and try to find those.
Now. I — you know, so, timeline-wise, just to be very honest, the timeline-wise depends on the secretary’s becoming comfortable with it, and him go ahead and giving the red light. At that point in time, we’ll brief the families — the families, there’s four families. That briefing schedule will take a couple of weeks, because we need to get them at certain places, and make sure they’re there.
There’s a recess on the calendar for a couple weeks that are in there, but we are prepared, once the families are been briefed, to come here the next day, literally, and brief you all as I just described, in a — in a closed session. That is the plan. The various committees get that brief, and that is our plan.
GALLEGO: General, and part of this briefing will also include a mortuary affairs report. I requested that in the last hearing, and I assume that will also be the — be included when you come and brief us, whenever, months from now.
WALDHAUSER: Well, Congressman, what I can say on that is I know that the briefing — the investigating team worked with those individuals, talk with those individuals, that’s part of the investigation. Whether or not that’s in the — our overall investigation, I’m not sure. I will look into that. But…
GALLEGO: OK. I’m requesting, as part of my job as oversight, that there is included in mortuary affairs report.
WALDHAUSER: We, we…
GALLEGO: It will be a failure if you come back without that.
WALDHAUSER: Right. I think that what, I think we’ll be able to clear all that up for you with our brief and the investigation.
GALLEGO: Thank you General. I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Russell.
RUSSELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and, General Waldhauser, I want to extend my personal thanks to you for the great support that you extended and also the Special Operations leaders and commanders when I went to Niger and some of the other regional countries a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Chairman, I guess you know there was an earlier thing brought up about the point on State Department experience.
You know I’d like to point out that Ambassador Whitaker in Niger, was the former Deputy Chief of Mission to Niger and that he’s also served in 10 African countries. He’s home grown; he’s not a political appointee. I can’t think of anybody perhaps more qualified than he is. And in the Lake Chad Basin, we see a similar story, for example, Ambassador Barlerin in Cameroon.
He also served in Chad and Mali which are areas there and it just speaks to the great cooperation, I think, at least my own observations that the military and Department of State have and perhaps if our colleagues in the Senate would confirm appointments faster, we might be able to alleviate that. But I realize that’s probably out of the scope of this committee.
Gerald Waldhauser, can you speak to the impacts that shutdowns have and CRs have on the 127 Echo program and how they affect partner forces?
WALDHAUSER: I was — it is not clear on the shutdowns of..
RUSSELL: When we shut down the government or when we do very late funding has we’re want to do, can — can you speak to the impacts that that has on the 127 Echo programs and how that affects our partner forces.
WALDHAUSER: On the 127 Echo programs, really I’d have to say there’s really a negative, there’s not impact on the shutdown. The shut downs have been relatively few days, hours, et cetera, so I can’t say that there’s been an impact on that.
With regards to equipment though, I mean our ability to source equipment in these 2282 programs or 333 programs as they’re called…
WALDHAUSER: is certainly something that we would like to see go faster. Many times the equipment lags behind and so forth, and this is something that’s frustrating to those who are training and equipping, it’s frustrating to those gaining partner nations. That would be helpful if that was — if that process was expedited.
RUSSELL: And you’d made mention earlier about working with the G5. Could you speak to why the G5 is a better approach to partnership and stability than say a U.N. mission or a U.N.-sponsored Africa partnership?
WALDHAUSER: So, Congressman, I’d probably answer that two ways. First of all, it is an African solution which is — which is what we want. And, by the way, we have bilateral engagements with those individual countries, the five countries who are part of the G5’s Sahal. So the fact that it’s a — it’s a African solution is good. But it is important to understand, again, we’re talking about 5,000 people that will operate in an area; someone told me twice the size the state of Minnesota.
So this is extremely -this is an extremely large area, but nonetheless, it is an effort by Africans to try to solve an African problem. And then, I’m sorry, the second part of that?
RUSSELL: Just why that would be better and say a U.N. mission?
WALDHAUSER: These — this organization has the ability to conduct offensive operations. The arrangements they have made is they can go across border within those countries, and so there’ve been I think three operations thus far primarily in the Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger area. So they have the authorities to cross into, I think it’s — there are some limitations — but they have the ability to cross into various countries to pursue the enemy and the fact that they can conduct offensive operations is a big plus.
RUSSELL: And I — I have to totally agree with regard to the statements on vital strategic interest. These are fragile economies. If they were to fail if the firewall in sub-Saharan Africa were to break, it would have implication that we really cannot fathom. And every time we have seen an abandonment or have cared to abandon places and especially places like sub-Saharan Africa were we have actually worked for decades, then we will see disease. We will see famine. We will see human suffering on a massive scale and it will be much more costly to try to repair that coming back.
So I really appreciate all that the AFRICOM does and FSOC and everything else that goes on there on a day-to-day basis and hopefully we can dissuade some of the, I guess desired people to want to abandon some of the efforts there and thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Bacon.
BACON: Thank you Mr. Chairman, and General thank you for being here. I just want to echo something you were talking about with the timeline for investigations. I was a Flag Officer in the Air Force, I had to two of them myself and it took us about five months from the time of the incident to briefing the families and putting out the report. So I just wanted to reinforce kind of what you were making there.
I wanted to ask you about ebola in Africa. We had an outbreak in 2014. It was very tragic. The University Nebraska is now the world center of excellence for ebola treatment, the movement of ebola victims and containment. Do we have any indications of any ebola breakout right now in Africa and do you feel prepared where you have the resources available to respond. Thank you.
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, thank you very much and thank you for your thoughts on the timeline investigation. Again, our job was to try to be a through as possible and we wanted to get it right.
With regards to ebola, I am not aware of the moment of any significant issues there. I mean we keep a close eye on things like malaria, the PEPFAR program we’re engaged with, the Walter Reed project that works in these various countries. Places like Nigeria, for example, where the military medicine has tenants into the civilian community. We work closely with them.
But — but again I think just to get back to Congressman Russell’s question is that what we’re trying to do there is prevent something from happening before it does.
WALDHAUSER: And sometimes that is a hard sell. But again, I go back to if you look at the scale and scope that could happen as a result of some of these epidemics, then we would have some significant issues. So that’s why continued engagement, small amounts of resources that can try to keep these problems where they are, are very, very beneficial and a big part of development piece on the continent.
BACON: And you talked a little bit about Chinese presence in Djibouti. What are some of the other one or two other countries that China is very active in right now?
WALDHAUSER: Well, I think, Angola is one of them. They get a lot of their oil from Angola. They’ve had some peacekeepers in various locations. But I — I — I would just say that as a — as a rule or in — in — in the main, that I watch closely what they’re doing in the eastern part of the African continent, those various countries there; the Tanzanias, the Kenyas, the Ethopias. Because this is tied, I’m just tied to the One Belt One Road strategy.
WALDHAUSER: And so that’s what kind of watch keeps my attention. They’re all over in various countries minerals and markets. But for — for what I don on a daily basis, I’m interested in that part about their development of future ports and infrastructure in the eastern part of Africa.
BACON: I’d like to ask you briefly about the air support you’re receiving. When I was the commander at Ramstein, we had the 17th Air Force that was dedicated towards AFRICOM, the 3rd Air Force dedicated towards USAF and EUCOM. We merged those two organizations together and that one organization providing support to both now. Are you getting, fell like you’re receiving adequate and responsive air support from the Air Force?
WALDHAUSER: Well Congressman, I am. You know our components, several of our components are dual-headed. So we have a four-star U.S. Air Force Arica component who’s dual head with UCOM. Very good relationship, close personal friend, and we find ways to share the assets. As you well know, there’s been opportunities over the last year and a half.
We’ve used B-2 bombers, we’ve used other aircraft from the Air Force that have been provided for and every once in a while my – my component commander who wears two hats, I have to remind him that AFRICOM has priority over UCOM and once he gets that information, it’s usually no problem. But the bottom line is we’re getting very good support from the Air Force.
BACON: Good to hear. In your time I’ll let you talk about the increasing
appetite for democracy and free enterprise in Africa. Can you give us one or two countries that are showing this promise, and maybe one or two that are showing the most lack of promise.
WALDHAUSER: Well there’s probably many examples, but I will go back to Tunisia. You know Tunisia, interestingly enough if you are in the military in Tunisia, it is my understanding that they are not allowed to vote. That is just the way it is there. It’s not a judgment, it’s just how it works.
But this, and this week or in the very near future, there are going to be municipal elections inside Tunisia. And in this is the first time the military will be able to vote in municipal elections. So they’re going to see how that works but the bottom line is Tunisia is a I — I just think it is a — it is a wonderful story of how they are trying to make progress in inside the democracy piece. Look, at the easy example in terms of the other side of that coin is South Sudan.
South Sudan was a promise, five, six years ago, but today it is not.
WALDHAUSER: And our engagement there, from the military’s perspective is none. We keep a close eye on it from the standpoint of protection of U.S. citizens and property and in terms of whether we have to evacuate out of there. But that’s an example where it’s just not working at all.
BACON: I appreciate your insight there. One last question, we have a lot of temporary facilities there to give us access. Are you comfortable with the level of access you have now in Africa. Do we need more permanent basing? I’d just like to get your sense. Do you have what you need to do the operations that are required?
WALDHAUSER: The short answer is yes. We’re trying to develop what is called the West African logistics network which works in those countries and allows us to make more efficient use. But access is important, because that’s how you mitigate the time and space issues, especially if you have warnings that an embassy, for example, may be potentially under siege. We’ve got to move to locations close to that embassy in order to cut down on the time as basically we would have to do something.
BACON: Thank you General and thank you Mr. Chairman.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Langevin.
LANGEVIN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. General, good to see you again and thank you both for your testimony here today and your service to the nation.
So with respect to Somalia, it would appear that that we have significantly ramped up our are targeting efforts in Somalia in partner assisted operations and other actions seem to be dismantling the terrorist networks leadership networks. But, you know, we’ve seen this before and in Iraq and in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere, and can you tell us what else you’re doing in Somalia and throughout the — the AFRICOM AOR to insure that we’re not just playing whack-a-mole and instead creating lasting stability in the region.
And I — I know you talked about the coordination with USAID, but also what other State Department assets are you working with that the — that directly interacting with the — the local tribes or entities in the region.
WALDHAUSER: Thank you, congressman. I think just by chance, but I think it is important to note that Secretary State Tillerson is going to be on the continent this week. And I think that sends a very, very strong signal and it backs up this issue of our — our support for diplomacy.
I think you mentioned about what we’re doing inside the Semai (ph) with regard to kinetic activities which we have turned up the heat in the last few months. That’s not to say that Al-Shabaab is on the ropes, but it supports the Federal Government’s strategy.
President Farmajo has been in power now for year. If you look at where he came from, there was no federal government for 25 years. If you were 25 years old in Somalia, you do not know what a federal government is supposed to do. The ability to just to — to create a state along federal lines is a significant challenge. So the ability to — to have influence, the ability to work with the federal member states who they needed to – you know they need to see why a federal government is helpful to them.
Moreover, you have to – you have to generate revenue for tax bases and so forth. So it’s important that as long as Somalia continues to make progress and our kinetic activity is allowing that to happen, it’s going to be slow, there is no doubt about it. I mean I’ve said on several occasions you measure progress in Somalia by eighths of an inch, not by yardsticks or rulers. That’s just – that’s just how it goes, but as long as they are making progress they’re going to maintain the support of the international community and then — then the endgame of these type — of these type of insurgencies, if you will, if you want to call Al-Shabaab insurgency.
The endgame will be is a Somalis are going to need to decide for themselves what the arrangement will be at the end of the day. Will it be a political arrangement, will it be some kind of power-sharing arrangement? The majority of these type of — of these type of affects — events, meaning Al-Shabaab in this particular case, usually ends in some type a negotiated settlement. And this is Farmajo’s strategy is to try to continue to beat Al-Shabaab back to the point where defections of, especially of leadership, become the order of the day and some type a negotiated settlement with the national government is probably takes place.
LANGEVIN: So United Nations says it cited climate change related conflict to cropping up in various parts of Africa, largely related to decreasing access to the water resources. So can you discuss what you see across the AOR regarding our resource scarcity as a result of changing climate and how it’s affecting social, economic, and security stability across the continent.
WALDHAUSER: Well I think one of the ways to answer that question is we talked about the Sahal this morning. And the Sahal, with the grassland side on the Southern part, but on the Savannah side, the Sahal has been receding by X amount of inches a year over the last decade or so. This has a significant impact on those groups like the fly called the fuel of the Tuaregs who have made it, who their history is of a pastoralists, their herders. They move to where the water and the – the grasslands are for their livestock and cattle.
This is having an issue on them. This causes to have problems in terms of security. This causes disagreements in terms of who owns or who can use these the water rights for the livestock. So from a climate change perspective, all of these things, you know when it comes down to it, all of these things that impact the livelihood of these particular tribes or groups has a significant impact on security.
LANGEVIN: And you may have to answer this one for the record, but since Operation Odyssey Lightening, the operation which enabled the Libyan Government of National Accord force to recapture Sirte. It seems as if ISIL has moved more inland. Has the move away from larger cities coupled with changes and priorities post operation hindered your ability to pursue this threat and can you speak to how Libya — Libya and Tunisia and other partnerships in the region support your efforts against ISIL in Libya.
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, as you well know, Sirte was an effort of several months, starting in August of 2016. We conducted over 500 strikes in support of the Government of National Accord that liberated that city where the militias that were loyal to the GNA really did the bulk of the fighting.
Shortly after in January of 2017, we’ve continued to watch ISIS as they evolved in the southern part of the country, and we had a significant strike that put them in a situation where they were in a survival mode.
So if you look at the number of strikes — Somalia’s, like, 40 today, Libya is, like, eight — we continue to monitor that, though. They still are there, they’re still active. They have, to a certain degree, moved to other locations, but ISIS remains one of our major efforts because CT is still one of our major efforts inside Libya.
LANGEVIN: Thank you, General.
WALDHAUSER: Thank you, Jim.
THORNBERRY: Mr. Hice?
HICE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And General, thank you very much for being here. You mention in your written testimony, as well as in discussion here today, that poor governance, instability, a lack of economic opportunity, and so forth provide a hotbed for recruits — fighter recruits — that end up attacking us and our allies.
And you mentioned earlier regarding the terror groups, how they are trafficking drugs, people, weapons, whatever, and there’s economic benefit for them to be involved in that, and as well for recruiting purposes.
So I guess you would agree that economic development would be a significant factor in reducing potential — a potential pool of recruits for the VEOs, is that correct?
WALDHAUSER: I do, Congressman, absolutely.
HICE: OK, so how do we — how do we as the U.S. help increase the capacity of the partner countries to help address that issue?
WALDHAUSER: So one of the issues that is tied to this is governance. And in many cases, these individuals who are recruited buy some of the leadership of these ISIS-GS or JNIM organizations.
Yes, it’s livelihood issues, yes it’s about a better life, yes it’s about being able to make money, but also there’s a piece in there about grievances with either local governments or federal governments. Or perhaps grievances with the military forces that have perhaps been working in that area.
So it’s important, then, that from a training perspective, as we — as we work to build partnership capacity, that law of order (ph) — law of war, battlefield ethics, and all those type of things are important with that training. Because you don’t want the military to drive youth to the VEOs.
I mean, we kind of say this tongue-in-cheek, but if you wanted to have a measuring stick of a partner force that is operating in an appropriate manner, if they’re walking through a village, if the women and children go running inside and shut their doors, that says something. If the women and children come and want to shake hands with the military force, that says something as well.
So, the bottom line is, yes. Many of these factors are absolutely true. Livelihood, money, status, and the like, but again, quality and accountable governance in an accountable military is part of it, too.
HICE: Seems to me that that’s a critical issue, and when you have the corrupt governments and so forth that you have there, it’s a — it’s a difficult hurdle to overcome. And yet it seems to me that it’s best if it comes from those partnering countries, rather than us somehow trying to enhance the economic opportunity. And I don’t know how you do that.
But in addition to the economic outcomes, if we were able to find solutions in that regard, what else can we do? Be it through AFRICOM’s effort, or using whole of government approach. How do we reduce — apart from the economic side of things — the likelihood of violent extremists continuing to be recruited?
WALDHAUSER: Well, Congressman, one of my favorite items there is just simply education. I mean, education and literacy in some of these fragile states is very, very important, and that’s for the — that’s for the women as well.
I mean, Niger’s a classic example; 7.5 children per female is the birth rate inside that country. And so we know that education — we — will — would allow females, for example, to have a better livelihood. We know that the — we know that the — their childbearing will go down as a part of their education. But I mean, it just sounds simple, but simple education, literacy rates, that can give opportunities for some of these youth are very, very important.
HICE: Long-term solutions, I agree with you, but those things don’t happen overnight…
WALDHAUSER: They don’t.
HICE: …and yet the problem is increasing, it seems, overnight. And so I would love to be able to explore further solutions, not only for the long term, but for more immediate solutions that can help slow down, reign in the recruiting process.
But thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
THORNBERRY: Dr. Wenstrup?
WENSTRUP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, General, for being here today, I appreciate it.
You — let’s use, again, Djibouti for an example, where China has showered gifts upon the country, if you will, when you talk about shopping malls, et cetera. And shopping’s nice, but it isn’t nice if you don’t feel that you’re secure. And you talked about doing the little things.
I guess my question there — and maybe other countries around Africa — do they feel that their relationship with the U.S. is a valuable and important part of their security, and as you just mentioned opportunity? Is that where we’re going? Are those the things– the small things you were talking about that we do that really leave an impression on them towards the U.S. favorably?
WALDHAUSER: Congressman, thank you. In my travels and in my discussions with senior leaders, to include the presidents of these countries, they all want U.S. involvement. They all want U.S. leadership. And it doesn’t have to be large. It doesn’t have to be grand. But they want to know that they have our support. They want to have our leadership. And they want to have a relationship with us. They really do.
Now, that’s not to say that that means that they shouldn’t find other avenues. I mean, they — they certainly will do what’s in their best interest. But there — there are very few, if any, countries on the continent who would not welcome U.S. engagement and U.S. leadership.
WENSTRUP: I guess part of my question would be do they look at these advances from China — do they look at them cautiously? Do they look at them suspiciously, or is it just a great relationship that…
WALDHAUSER: Well, I would — in this — in this forum, what I would say, Congressman, is that they appreciate our frankness. They appreciate our openness. They appreciate our ability to go back and forth with them in a transparent way. And if we do what we say we’re going to do, if we abide by certain constraints or rules, they appreciate that. I’m not sure they can say that about their Chinese counterparts.
WENSTRUP: I visited Chad a couple of years ago, and this was a place where we had embedded U.S. troops training them, and I can tell you to a person they were thrilled that we were there. Those types of actions — I mean, is that still the same in Chad, for one? And are we trying to build those types of relationships to make them more independent in their defenses?
WALDHAUSER: Well, obviously we’re trying to make them more independent. That means — on their own capabilities. That’s why we’re doing this. We still have a relationship with Chad. There are some issues there that perhaps we could talk about in a — in another session.
But Chad is a member of the G5 Sahel. We have engagements with Chad. We work with their troops. But they’re part of an overall effort that’s tied to the ISIS AQIM nexus in that region. I will say that Chad is very concerned about their border with Libya, in terms of AQIM, ISIS, and others coming through there. It’s a big concern of theirs.
But countries in that — in that particular area, Chad, Niger, Mali, extremely poor. But Niger, for example, it’s a country that is — is — is got threats on all sides. It’s a democratic government. They have asked us to come to support them. We have been there in — in some ways since the 1990s, and again were trying to prevent a problem from happening.
They have — they have the opportunity in Niger, for example, President Issoufou, if when his second term is up, they have the opportunity, I believe to be the first country in Africa to have a demo – democratic transition in governments. And so again we’re trying to – to support a country and make sure that they’re not taken over by violent extremist organizations who would take over those ungoverned spaces and turn them, and make plans to do things outside the region in Europe or perhaps in the United States.
WENSTRUP: Listen, I appreciate all your efforts. It is a large continent, a lot of different nations and strategies a little bit different everywhere you turn and I appreciate you taking on the challenge. Thank you.
WALDHAUSER: Thank you.
WENSTRUP: I yield back.
THORNBERRY: We will give General Waldhauser 5 to 10 minutes to stretch his legs, and then we will reconvene upstairs in a classified session. For now, this public hearing is adjourned.
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