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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  March 25, 2014 8:00am-10:01am EDT

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all the problems. and he said when i went over to afghanistan in the first time, he's been there two or three times, he said, i figured it was all fixed. the problem is we write great lessons learned reports. we don't write how to apply them. so you've got to incentivize them. i don't want to filibuster the question, but one of the things that unique about us, and to think which my little agency is we are special inspector general's office, and i took this job, i could've been fast, dumb and happy and many of my staff could, in fact, dumb and happy at the other jobs. .. jobs. i recruited people in most of the senior staff and even some of the less seen jor, took a pay cut to come with me. we all have the view that we finally want to change this.
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and i'm picking on the way the government works. so this is my last hoorah probably in the government. especially after my reports who would hire me. but we have to turn it around. i said one of the reasons we publicize the reports is to try to turn the ship around. yes, women be rk yes, we embarrass some people. but when you get embarrassed, many times you change what you do. and let's pot kid ourselves. most people in the united states today think the government doesn't work. the vast majority -- not vast majority, but a majority of americans don't support afghanistan. i think the fact that we have a very active inspector general, and i think no one will criticize us for not being active, appointed by the
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president of the united states, reporting to the people and congress, that is the most important thing out there that may save support for international engagements in the future. so i don't know if i answered your question exactly. i don't know what is in the american psyche. we tend to go back -- we go in full barrels blasting away and put our money in, and sometimes we put it in faster than we can think. and maybe that's just the american spirit. but we're going to try to change that by trying to about pose the particular particular problems that cause that waste. >> yes, but you didn't fully answer my question. >> no, i'm an attorney, so --ro. >> yes, but you didn't fully answer my question. >> no, i'm an attorney, so --ar that cause that waste. >> yes, but you didn't fully answer my question. >> no, i'm an attorney, so -- >> the u.s. spirit is also one of problem solving. so why hasn't there been an institutional response? sigar and iraq inspector
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general's office all have sunset clauses so they fade away into the distant memory. if the issue is one of creating institutional memory and knowledge, why not have a permanent body which has plans in place and lessons learned and a certain regularity about the staff so it's not a question of when, but whatever the next crisis occurs, that the u.s. if it goes in goes in with its eyes wide open. and that was my question, who is going to take the lead on something like that. >> the institutional bodies are already there. you have the dodig, state ig, usaidig, who are there who normally will carry on. '78 inspector general act created inspector generals.
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sigar was created because they were pouring so much money in and you needed something to look across the spectrum. our group was created to do the same thing. but as the money goes down, the regular igs and general accounting office can do this, i caution the -- and the other thing is congress has and you would of all of our records. we report to them all the time. a lot of these changes that really need to be made are not at the level of the secretary of defense or secretary of state. we have to change the culture of procurement officers and people who manage contracts. a lot of these changes are not that difficult. and i always throw this out. and i realized this when i was working for senator nunn. we always kept running into the same problem of lack of cooperation between law
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enforcement agencies. that was always the finding in every one of our reports. there wasn't coordination and cooperation between law enforcement agencies. did anybody ever change the personnel rules? did anybody ever change the performance standards, the am performance standards for the employees to make certain that cooperation was something they got graded on? i never really thought of that until i worked for the commerce departme department. and secretary of commerce made affirmative, a priority. so every senior executive got rated on what he did about affirmative action. and i tell you, you want to grab the attention of a bureaucrat? hold up his pay rise, hold up his performance review. and all of a sudden you see change. but when i talk about that on the hill and i talk about that to bureaucrats, they all say, that won't make a difference.
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but we've never tried. so this isn't rocket science. we just need somebody to start tinkering around. and i think you'll get people to spend more time on how money is spent than on just spending the money. my message to all of you you is oversight is mission critical in afghanistan. and oversight should be mission critical in every government program. >> thank you. moving to a different topic which we raised in a report with a presidential candidate in afghanistan, wrote for us five years ago when we launched the south asia center. he raised the question of how many cents of every dollar that was spent in afghanistan was actually staying in afghanistan.
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have you made a rough estimate of the $102 billion that has gone for reconstruction if you know roughly how much was actually spent inside of afghanistan and how much left the country either you because of afghans or because of the way we have the contracting organized for such work? >> we have not done that study. and that would be a difficult study. we're just trying to find out how much money we spent and where we spent it in afghanistan. i'd love to do that. i think that's worthwhile. but we just don't have that percentage. i've heard that criticism. it's a criticism i hear all the time. we're concerned about that, but i just heard criticism from provincial government about the
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kandahar food zone. and again, we haven't verified it, but that was his complaint. all the money is being spent on the kandahar food zone, but it's being spent in kabul or spent in northern virginia. it's not being spent where it needs to be done. but again, we haven't verified those concerns. >> well yor, i don't want to democrat nature t dominate the questions. we have a great audience here. i'll try to identify the people in the order i see them. if my vision isn't strong, please excuse me. what i would suggest is wait until the microphone reaches you and identified yourself and then please ask your question and we'll try to get as many in before 11:00. so we start here. >> trudy rubin, "philadelphia inquirer". listening to you and having
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listened to stewart bohen, it's morel to have to reinvent the wheel so i just want to ask two questions that are reinventing the wheel because they apply to afghanistan and iraq. firstly on the side of laying conditions and stopping money flow if the afghan officials don't live up to them, afghan officials notably hamid karzai have used this as blackmail betting on the fact that the u.s. would be afraid to stop the money relest the government collapse. how is that going to change with a new government. and on the u.s. side, it has become clear despite hillary clinton's efforts some years ago to have civilian control of aid in combat zones that combat zones defeat u.s. civilians. officials don't get out of the embassy compounds. usaid doesn't get out of the compounds.
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they rely on contractors who don't get out of virginia. and so -- or don't get out of compounds. and it's the very rare case where u.s. officials are actually out there looking. so how in the world is it o anible under those conditions >> well, let me address with the ie of just saying no, which i think was coined by somebody in the white house dealing with drugs, i think. you know, you said president karzai or whomever essentially blackmailed us because he doesn't think we will say no. well, you know, that's -- the new government maybe has that, will have that attitude. but, you know, it takes two to tango here. we need to be able to take that risk. and i'm not saying do it helter-skelter. it's got to be a planned strategic approach to this.
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it's got to be we're giving you the money, and our congress or our parliaments or whatever will not allow us to give the money to you unless you meet these conditions. conditions maybe that you agreed. and we just have to have the political will, the will to say it. i mean, there is a tendency to think that it's really to their benefit to take our money, and we're just so lucky that they are taking our money. and that's sort of a bizarre approach to this. we're giving the money for a reason. and if -- i know we don't want to get into a position where we're imposing our values, but we can't leave our values at the
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shore. and if we're giving money and we know it's going to be wasted or it's going to violate our own internal law and regulations, i think we have a problem with that. now, we talked about that in a recent audit on the, looking at how usaid handled some assessments they made on the various ministries. and it's got some press not too long ago. and, basically, aid did a wonderful job. they brought in some wonderful accounting firms that looked at the capacity of the ministries to use and protect that money. and in each instance they found that the ministries could not safely and effectively handle that money. and under usaid regulations, they should not have given the money to them. now, they waived their own
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internal controls, because they made the statement the decision had been made to give direct assistance to the afghans. so we had to waive them. now, we found no evidence that said you had to waive it, so we raised that concern. so i think the reporter's question, i think, is very valid. sometimes we have to have the political will not to be blackmailed. the question about civilian control of aid and who's going to give aid and the ability to do oversight is an area where we're very concerned about that. we were one of the first agencies to publicly say we've got a problem here. and i heard that first time i took the job. general allen told he that. my first meeting with general allen, and my first meeting with the regional security officer in the state department. in the kabul 'em bassty. -- embassy. people here don't realize the
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world is changing, we're not going to be able to get out, and i didn't know what it meant, i didn't know anything about this hour of safety where you have to go 30 minutes out, 30 minutes back to a schedule ii hospital. but they were concerned that lot of the u.s. government agencies in the embassy compound were not taking that seriously. so we highlighted that. now, i think aid officials would love to get out. state department officials would love to get out. the u.s. corps of engineers officials would love to get out. but all of them are faced with a security problem. does that mean we stop all aid? no. but we have to design a system that at least where i come from -- because, remember, i don't do policy, i do process -- if this is your policy to give u.s. assistance and you can't get an american out there to take a look at the project or to find out if we're subsidizing the salaries of all the police,
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are there police at the other end getting the money? you've got to design a system that's effective. it's my job, basically, i'm like the canary in the coal mine, okay? when i fall over and die with my feet up in the air saying, that's saying we've got a problem. and what i've been banging the drum and my staff has been banging the drum is we have got a problem, guys. are you planning for it? what are you doing, going to do to protect the u.s. taxpayers' dollars? we're not saying stop it, we're just saying design an effective plan. now, this goes back to your first question. this isn't new. we've worked in kinetic environments before. and when i showed up, i asked aid and dod and state, i said, well, what did you do in some other countries? let's bring in the best practices from there. and i was going around talking to the german relief programs, and i was talking to the canadians and talking to
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norwegians, and i said they all have best practices. so we just held a symposium which is very rare. it's unique for an ig to hold a symposium off the record bringing in everybody from the world bank, the u.n., the state department, aid, dod, you name it. let's share best practices, because what i've been finding -- and it's not only now, it's been for, again, 30 years i've been looking at this. you all, you all talk to her, and she doesn't talk to him, and nobody shares the information. so we're going to be preparing a report on best practices. you can do it. it's not the gold standard. the gold standard is having an american auditor or investigator go out there and kick the tires. but we're not going to be able to do that. so do we stop all aid? i don't think so. but we have to do it smartly. >> thank you. next question over there. >> yes, sir. >> roger -- [inaudible] atlantic council. it strikes me that it's going to be harder for us to do this as
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we pull down either now or two years from now, and the american public will get, you know, thinking about other things. these are ambitious programs that need to be done, but aren't the chances going to decrease that they are done as time goes on? >> well, there's two parking lots to that question. -- parts to that question. yes, it's going to be harder to do it in the future because of the security situation. how are we going to design programs, how are we going to get out that certain money is spent the way it was intended to be spent. and it's going to be more costly, because you're going to have to put in a whole new monitoring system, you know? we're pretty cheap, you know? it's easy for us to get out. we're cheap. but you're going to have to design third party monitorrings and using satellites and a whole bunch of nifty systems, and not one of them is a silver bullet. so aid is going to be more expensive, so, yes, you're absolutely correct in that.
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the we could is part of your -- second part of your question is will americans get bored or tired or not interested in this? i don't know how to answer that. you know, americans have supported countries for many years. we're still in korea. years after that war. so there is a commitment from the u.s. government and the allies for another decade to assist afghanistan. i see no change in that commitment. but, again, i'll defer to the policymakers. i don't do policy. i don't do military policy, i don't do foreign policy. i just see how it's carried out and how effectively it's carried out. so that question is probably a better question to secretary of state or somebody in the military on that. but that is a concern. but we've stayed a long time. in some countries. >> question over here. >> [inaudible] i was associated press correspondent in afghanistan during the days of the early
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'70s when it was a far different atmosphere. looking at the list of candidates for the election, can you tell me what reason there is to believe that there will actually be change? and also can you tell us what you really think about the future of afghanistan? [laughter] >> no and no. [laughter] and i don't mean to be, you know, facile in my answer. again, i'll go back to, look, i don't do policy. look at my brief, you know? i'm a lawyer, you know? look at what my client has told me. my client is the u.s. president, my client is the u.s. congress. and you look at the statute, the '78 act. i walk around with all of these. i mean, people walk around with constitution, i walk around with the '78 act. i have the constitution memorized. and i walk around with our enabling legislation. this is my world. i can't stray from it.
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my world says nothing about designing policy, supporting policy and all that. so it'd be unfair for me to pontificate about that. and, actually, my personal opinions on anything probably is not that relevant. but when you talk about this act and you talk about this enabling legislation, i'm happy to talk about that. and let me just throw one thing out along the this line. no one's asked the question yet, maybe you will. somebody i think the last speech i gave -- and i hear this criticism all the time from ambassadors and generals -- why are you so negative? and i'm actually a pretty positive guy. i mean, you know, it may not sound that. i always, i'm the ultimate optimist. i mean, i'm very optimistic that the mission will succeed in afghanistan.
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but, see, i am saying something personal. it's not my job to be a cheerleader. read the '78 act, read my enabling legislation. my job is to ferret out, identify and report on problems. and i know somebody in some other conference i went to said, well, but what if everybody reads your version of the facts? well, i got two people at my press shop. they're great people, but i only have two people. the embassy has over 60 people, i think, last time i looked in kabul. i don't know how many aid has. i don't know how many isaf have. you probably read about that, they have their own press strategy to try to get ahead of us. and god only knows how many people in the pentagon there are -- i mean, you could probably balance the budget by
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just cutting that shop. but i've got two people. if i'm, my two guys -- and i know they're good, and they like this because they all figure they can get a pay raise because of this. if they're able to change the entire american opinion on afghanistan by our audits, well, gee, then we're probably the best agency in the world. but i don't think so. i don't think the american people are changing their views on afghanistan based upon an audit on the water system in afghanistan. or on the, you know, public school number six. the american people are making their decision because they want facts. we're speaking the truth, and we're speaking facts. the american people want an honest assessment of what's going on over there, and i think that's what we do. i don't know if that answers your question, i think i went around it. yeah. >> i'm taking down names and, hopefully, we'll get to everyone in the right order. so when i see you, please,
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remember that i am taking your name down. i'm going to identify the next two questioners so that you know the order in which you'll go. so we go to the gentleman standing at the back, and then we're coming to the second row over here next time to the lady there. and then i'll come to the others. >> suleman -- [inaudible] from the middle east institute. john, welcome. you and i have talked previously about the metrics of success and holding the agencies accountable by extension. just a recommendation the make your task slightly less difficult, ask tease agencies what are -- these agencies what are they trying to achieve. you know, inspection begins with self-evaluation just as a precedent. robert mcnamara some 45 years ago established the evaluation
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at the world bank, and his first question was tell me your failures. i don't want to hear your successes. be and the entire bureaucratic culture changed. thanks very much. >> okay. i think that's a good question. i know we chatted about this. i am telling them tear fail -- their failures, so that's why i'm always interested in successes. and if some of you maybe don't know about, i actually sent a letter to the sec-def, sec-state and aid administrator asking them to give me your top ten successes. in afghanistan. and explain why, why that you viewed them as successful. so i'm doing the reverse of what you did. because that'll help me. pause i do have to do -- because i do have to do some lessons learned reports, i do have to do best practices. now, i can write those lessons learned reports and best
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practices and white papers based upon failure, or i can do it upon a mix of failures and successes. i would prefer to do the mix of failures and successes. i suppose you all know the answer i got from state, dod and aid. they couldn't give me their top ten. so one of my staff said the doesn't pick sense. they can't rack and stack? so we sent a letter again saying maybe that was too complicated. [laughter] maybe that was too difficult, ten. why don't you just give me some successes and how you rate success. the basic answer we got back was, well, health care has improved. and education has improved. and women's issues have improved. now, that's true. if you compare it to what it was when the taliban failed when there were no schools open, no clinics, women were scurrying and hiding in cellars, of course
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it's improved. if you spend over $100 billion in a country the size of texas with a population smaller than texas, you'd figure there's got to be some improvement. my god, i mean, you know, throw it up against the wall, something's going to stick. but what specific program led to the doubling of the life expectancy in afghanistan? and this is so critical now as the amount of money is decreasing. we have the know, we have to rack and stack. see, if you don't rate your programs, then you get sequester. we're going to cut everything across the board. the good programs as well as the bad programs. so they can do it. and that would really help me. so, i mean, we sent the letter also to the ngo and said, look, since the government can't tell me what works, you tell we what works. and we got some responses. actually, we got some pretty valid responses, and some of the
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people from the ngo community are in the room. but we said we wouldn't identify who they were. and now we've turned to the contractors. i'm trying to find out what works in afghanistan. and not just in this broad thing that, oh, health has improved. well, what led to health being improved? what led to women's issues being improved? is it building schools? is it building clinics? is it doing this, is it doing that? so we really need that help, and we're open to any input from anybody on what works and what doesn't work and why. and we'll give you anonymity if you want it. we're trying to make a record so we understand, and we try not to do this again. so -- >> thank you. >> my name's sabina -- [inaudible] i'm a reporter for german national radio, and i've reported from afghanistan since 2007. i very much appreciate your openness regarding the failings and failures of the u.s. in
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afghanistan and wish i would ever encounter such open toness from german officials there. but i've got two questions. have you met any of the remaining ten presidential candidates, and have they presented a viable, credible concept for the fight against corruption? the other, you said there should be a concerted effort among donors, international donors so they can't be played off against each other. can you be more concrete than, well, tell us more about your ideas? >> okay. on the presidential candidates, i have met some of the presidential candidates before they were presidential candidates. i have just as a policy, i have not met with any of them again or any of their staff. i've told my staff not to meet with any of their staff because this is an afghan election, and i don't want anybody to think
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we're showing favorites, not showing favorites or doing anything. so we're staying clear from any of that. so i can't answer that question, i won't answer any question about my view on the election other than it looks good. my last meeting with the regional security people, some of the provincial leaders as well as our embassy officials out in the field, it looks like it's going to be a good election. it's optimistic. there is a threat of violence, but it looks like everybody's got their act together, and it's going well. so i'm hoping for the best. so i'm sorry, i can't answer your question about that. on the concerted effort, again, i don't want to attack any of our allies because we are equally at fault, i think. but some of the allyies, the e.u. itself, has talked about
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conditionality. and some of the allies have been more -- and i don't want to, you know, burn any of them -- have actually said we're not going to give you money if you don't do something. now, an interesting issue which i can talk about because i did talk to the e.u. deals with latfa which is the law enforcement trust fund afghanistan, and that's how we -- by we, i mean the coalition including the united states, europe, etc. -- pay for the salaries and expenses for the police. and the e. u., based upon internal audits and inspections that they did, became very concerned about not so much the afghans, but how the u.n -- the u.n. runs the latfa -- they're very concerned about those workers, those issues, and they actually conditioned and withheld funding. .. conditioned
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and withheld funding. now, that's good. the problem was i don't think anybody shared that information with all the other allies. and my last trip to afghanistan, pot this last on not this last one, but the one before, i talked to our officials in the isaf entity -- i don't even know what the acronym stands for. combined security -- i'm looking at high stamy staff. but anyway, they didn't know the eu had withheld funds, they didn't know the eu had concerns about how the trust fund -- and this is a big trust if you said. billions of dollars. was being used. so that raised some concerns. we're not talking enough so that said, i met and i go out of my way to meet with as many
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of the allies as again on trips here. .com to brussels and been briefed and briefed with u.n. officials and eu officials. not u.n. nato officials. we talk to you and all the time but we're trying to get people again to talk to each other, share information. and where we can be used by any country, especially our own, the united states government, to get information from the allies, i tell them use me. use my reports if they can help you. the germans specifically because you report for german news source, we did some good things about the german approach to foreign assistance. i don't know enough to comment, other than i met with the deputy ambassador to germany and he was opened the door for us to come in and get for the briefing on how the germans approach. we don't have a monopoly on
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what's right. i think we can learn a lot from our allies and we should learn a lot from our allies, and learned a lot from the neighbors around afghanistan. i don't know if that answers your question. >> sounds like the united states aid agency in pakistan within the last few years, highly publicized the stopping of the contract for an entity that was well known to be associated with aid work, and because of the publicity it had a demonstration effect on all the other civilian aid. that maybe one approach. >> that's one of the reasons why you want to advertise this and you want to get the message out. that helps. >> just so i'm not accused of being left-leaning i'm going to the right for the next question, and then i will, to the others. >> thank you for much. my name is david katz. i'm with the u.s. department of state.
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a couple of questions. stuart bowen on his exit from his position with the sigar was proposing was called the u.s. office of overseas contingency operations, and he had a grain of optimism that perhaps could be established. i don't see too much movement in that direction, but is something like that, whether in terms of a specific office or the capabilities that he was proposing, would that be something that would be helpful in terms of look at the future? and a related question is, you had mentioned the sigar were established because of of the tremendous amount of resources that were being put into these two countries. is the role of the special inspector general's simply a kind of a surge capability? or do you bring something -- does a special inspector general bring something greater to this effort than the igs of the particular agencies of the gao?
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>> let me quickly on the proposal that stuart bowen had and then i'll answer that next question. the answer is yes to your last part of your question, and i'll go into more detail. stewart did make that recommendation. again, i defer that he don't do policy. i due process. so i don't really think it's my position to recommend, and i haven't been asked, it's not my stature to recommend creating or not creating an entity such as stewart recommended. i will say this. this helps to answer your second question. i got enough authority, enough power, enough resources to do the job. i like temporary agencies, you know.
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there is a problem with creating another agency that will exist i didn't an item that never goes. i'm still waiting, i think, i remember when i was first work with sam nunn. if i'm abolished the tea tasting board which had been established right after the revolution. okay? when you create an agency, it never goes away. i don't know if you need it. special inspector general's are great. i got the 78 act. i got my name in the legislation, and by enabling legislation gives me more authority than the average ig has. i am given unlimited h.r. authority. i can hire and fire at will. that's tremendous. you need it for a temporary agency. my day, i can get bonuses, i can do a lot of things. it's not outrageous what we can do but i can at least give
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hiring bonuses which most of the government can't. i can pay retention bonuses. but the hiring and firing means that if i need somebody quickly, and i need somebody who has the fire in the belly, which is the way i approach my staff, i ensure they have the fire in the belly. when i took over the job, we had a 60% attrition rate, 60%. let me just back up. sigar was not always this aggressive. it was publicly attacked in a bipartisan fashion for its lack of aggressiveness, and its inability to do its job there and we went through some hard times. and when i took over, 60% attrition rate. you can't operate at that. when i took over we were only
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producing for products per quarter your we have cut the attrition rate for a temporary agency, it's difficult but it's down below half. we are producing 30 products a quarter. and part of the reason is because i can hire people, men and women, in afghanistan and here who are dedicated, who have that same fire in the belly. i remember my former chief of staff who is now my head of audits wrote an e-mail once saying, it's the 50 time. i didn't even know what the 50 was but i thought maybe some kind of sandwich, but it's the fire in the belly time. i come out of my staff would i give the fire in the belly speech. i basically tell people we have a limited amount of time, we've got a mission, the white house said two things to me. fix it and fix it fast. so i don't have time for a 10 year engagement.
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we have to do something really quickly. that's what congress and the white house asked us to do. so i'm able to get people who have that fire in the belly. so i don't need a permanent home. everybody coming knows it's temporary. i like people who have the. i like agencies that go out of existence. we will go out of existence when the amount of reconstruction funds fall below $250 million a year. that's money that's authorized, appropriate and not yet spent. we go out of existence six months after that. i'll tell you, there's $20 billion still in the pipeline, not yet spent, so we may be around for a while, but i don't think -- i do have unique powers. and if you look, particular my unique power is not on the hiring and firing capability, but we can look at all
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reconstruction by any u.s. government agency, even stuart bowen didn't have to give certain pots of money to look at. so if you spend a dime on reconstruction, whether you are the state -- usaid, state, dod, or the department of commerce, i own it. and that's one source but the other thing if you look at my statute, it uses the term independent, like in every other paragraph. so they really say independence. specifically said no government agency cannot cooperate with us. no government agency can stop any of our audits and investigations, inspections. we have tremendous authority here. so i think i answered the question. we are unique. we have unique authority. we are also not housed in any one government agency. at state ig is in state.
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we sort of sit above everything just looking at reconstruction. and if we can't help the taxpayer then, you know, i don't know what else but i'll take a permanent entity is really necessary at this time. we got the authority. >> inspector general, we are running short of time. am going to ask two persons to ask their questions together, if you don't mind. >> she's waiting. spent the lady at the back, and then a gentleman here. and then if you could take these two together, we would appreciate that. >> mind is more comment rather than question. >> identify yourself. >> i've been a senior advisor to nato and the u.s. military combat of also got a background as an aid worker both in iraq and afghanistan, which is probably why i was chosen. one of the biggest problems, sir, from my vantage point, and please are member i just
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returned after 12 nonstop years in iraq and afghanistan, has been the inaccessibility of offices for both sigar in iraq as one of sigar in afghanistan. what as the theory behind these entities is fantastic, your house right in the lions den, with lots of security within the state department offices. how then is anyone who wishes to put any complaint against contractors, against government officials, against what have you, how are they supposed to come to you. i remember in my own case i had to wait for the short times i come back to america to washington to actually deal with sigir offices and i give them the names of people who wish to talk to them and i remember the sigir and sigar authorities were extremely afraid that communism people's lives could be compromised if it was him coming in and out of their offices in kabul and baghdad and kandahar
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as well. first of all the offices need to be made more accessible. secondly, where we have had successes to manage at least a portion of your 10 questions, it is when we have dealt with community professionals, lawyers, doctors, engineers, business entities, establishment business entities, not those who we've reported for whatever favor, et cetera, et cetera. i think that would just is a brief comment on what you were talking about. thank you. >> can we move to the front to the gentleman here? get his question and maybe you can respond to both. >> i promise to be short. >> i promise to update short question. i do have four best practices from within afghanistan. i would love to share with you that's been on our tv program. but looking at the future and working with the ngos within country, what is your prognosis as far as how easy or difficult that may be to work with local
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entities to expand green job training? and also gives the assets that are being left behind the u.s. military and others as we move forward as 2014. and thank you for being here and your excellent report. >> thank you very much. let me answer the question about access. you can always access us on the internet. we get a lot of complaints, and a lot of contacts to our staff because we have a hotline. i don't have it to advertise but you can find it on a website and we advertise it a lot. the other thing on getting access to us is, we are also located, unlike most of the other agencies, we have the largest law enforcement presence in afghanistan. we're at 5% locations there. i have people outside the wire at the basis, but the point you raise is a serious one.
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it's hard to get outside the wire. it's hard to get afghans inside the wire to talk to. u.s. contractors, it hasn't been a problem. problem. and then, of course, a lot of u.s. contractors and government employees come back to the states and we meet them there. so we've never had a problem where people can't find us. they always do and are always nice and interesting places. i've met people under trees and at night, behind buildings women in the embassy. there are places where you can meet. so that's not a problem. and my staff has an interesting and devious ways of meeting people. so if you need to talk to us, we'll get a way to protect you. we are very series about protecting people, whether you're afghan, u.s. or international coalition. the question about, and they don't really fully understand, but the question about how with ngos and work with them, we
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try to work with him all the time. i actually meet with a group of ngos every time i go there. my staff meet with them on a regular basis. because they do get outside the wire. they are outside in the province's. they give me a better feel, and actually give a better feel than the embassy gets of what's going on out there. so we try to work with them whether our government will be able to continue working with them, i don't know. it's going to be a difficulty of getting out there. that is a serious problem. that's why i so much encourage, you know, helping the ngos in afghanistan. whether it's an oversight or green issues, health issues. because they are the ones have the eyes and ears. there out there. they are community base. i'm a strong supporter of generate operations. that's what we have to rely on. we are toying with an idea right now to use some of the ngos to be our eyes and ears to monitor programs. it's more difficult.
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it's not the gold standard. who was watching the watchdogs? who's going to watch the people? so that the whole process we have to do, but i think you are on point. we've got to do with the ngos. we can't forget them. we cannot forget an independent press. let me just be clear here. the reason, i'm a student of organized crime. that's what he did for a living. the reason chicago organized crime and the al capone's and the mafias did not take over the country was at all because brave law enforcement, brave press. it was the press. so if you want to expose problems in afghanistan, we have to support the independent local press. those are the eyes and ears. if we had more independent press in some countries, maybe we would have better rule of law in some countries. i throw that out. >> thank you. i know that we are running over,
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and i appreciate you taking to more questions -- >> happy to do it. i apologize, i talk too much. >> made in the front and then in the third row. if you could please ask your questions one after the other, and keep them short. identify yourselves. >> my name is fair stockman, i work with the possible. i've been to afghanistan several times. i'm just went it's a few words about the certain funds, the commander emergency response, and military has been pushing so much to be able to spend money quickly. is a good idea? >> thank you. and we go to the lady in the third row and then maybe you can answer these few. >> thank you so much. i recently did research on governance. i'm afghan and they work on governance and leadership. the major finding of that research was that corruption may not just be a political crisis but also a cultural crisis.
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and by that i mean it may not just be a technical challenge that could be addressed by experts and policies and strategies, but may have adapted elements to it in which people would have a greater role to play. and the fact that afghan state at $1.25 billion in bribes indicates there's a clear role that people have in maintaining the flow of corruption. so i was wondering if your findings to point out towards clues that would suggest corruption would have serious cultural roots to it? and if it did, what recommendations could you share on that? thank you. >> let me deal with -- all, is there another questioner? on the transfer program we haven't done a full blown audit. we have concerns. we touched on it, many of the programs we've identified that a very poorly done were funded i think congress itself had some
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problems with cert. i think the amount has been decreasing. the bottom line is control and oversight. and for those you don't know, special funding set up for the commanders in the field to help them as part of the coin doctrine, another acronym, counterinsurgency doctrine, to try to win the hearts and minds. we've done some audits were we found out rather than winning the hearts and minds you've actually lost the hearts and minds because of the cerp funding was so poorly done. i think w we've got a situation like your we'll be sending a letter very shortly about the breaching solution, the power of bridging solution in kandahar which was part of a cerp funding, diesel power, greater did win the hearts and minds but the power may go off. if the power goes off, you just lost all their hearts and minds. so we actually just got briefed. there's now a new bridging
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solution to the bridging solution which is really a solution to the fact that we still haven't finished and put a third turbine in. just so you know, a beautiful damn. i got a chance to get out there, surrounded by 200 well armed marines because of the sector the situation. but we still haven't finished it. it's taken longer to do that than it did for the pharaohs to do the -- the pyramids. for heavens sakes. we been doing it since 1952. still isn't done. we don't know if it will ever be done. we just issued a report saying, you know, we got some problems about funding this thing. so all i'm saying is you've got to be very careful with cerp. you've got to make sure to done correctly and overseen. the problem is the true promoting change out every six months or nine months, maybe a year if they're lucky and nobody
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knows what the heck we did. so very tricky area. that's cerp. going back to the cultural roots. we haven't really focus on the cultural roots. i had, and i won't mention the person by name because he's a presidential candidate, but i had a conversation with him sometime ago, this gentleman, and he said, look, you know, this idea about culture. we are culturally more attuned to corruption. he said, you know, i grew up, spent time in america and i saw a man reading the story of a brink's truck overturning in manhattan, and the backdoors opened up in hundred dollar bills floated all over the place. and everybody grabbed some, you know? does that mean the americans are corrupt? it there so much money floating around, it's natural, especially if you're very poor and you can make more money in one day than
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you could in an entire year, it's going to change the whole culture but it's going to change the economy, it's going to change the value system. and that's something we've got to look at. we haven't done an audit on that, but a number of people have told me that. that's the thing we really have to know. that's what i talked about, too much money, too little oversight and too short a time. what you think is going to happen in any country? a good example, i use my daughter every once in a while and i know she hates this, but you get for a 10-dollar of pounds every year, every week. every year. i'm really a cheapskate. i'm an auditor. one week you say hey, here's $1000. here's your allowance. i'm going to give you a thousand dollars. what you think is going to happen? why not give you a -- i don't care if your kid is 13 or 20 or seven. bad things are going to happen. so let's say instead of a $10
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outside, give them a $10,000 allowance this week. real bad things we know as parents are going to happen. what did we get in afghanistan? we just opened the spigot and we didn't have much oversight. general dunford's report, our report, everybody who is looked at it said, bad things happened. we've got to make certain that doesn't happen again. >> i thought you said you're an optimist? >> i am spent i thought you would've said she invested in a savings account. >> i have to talk to your daughter. >> he would have told you that a pessimist as an optimist with experience. so i'm so sorry that we were able to take all the other questions. i'm sure with this audience we could've spent another hour, but there's a limit on your time and on the time of our friends from c-span, and the audience at home. so on behalf of my colleagues,
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inspector general john sopko, i want to thank you for taking this time in being so candid and open with us. and it's good to know that you have that $250 million limit before the sun sets on this operation. and we hope that you will come back and report on progress. particularly after the elections as we see see things emerging. >> happy to do so. >> thank you very much. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> coming up on c-span2, the former u.s. ambassador to syria talks about the country's civil war. and the senate is in at 10 eastern and will continue debate on a ukraine aid package which includes sanctions against russia. >> have you ever heard of fracking? >> never heard of it. >> hydraulic fracturing? >> no. >> fracking. >> of what? >> you, congress, order the environmental protection agency to look into danger is posed to water sources, use of hydraulic fracturing. the report was expected to be complete in 2014.
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the epa announces tilling studies until 2016. can we really wait that long, congress? >> we've announced the winners of this year's c-span studentcam video competition on what's the most important issue congress should address this year. watch the top 21 winning videos starting next tuesday and every weekday throughout the month at 6:50 a.m. eastern on c-span and see all the winning documentaries online at studentcam.org. >> former u.s. ambassador to syria robert ford spoke about the country's ongoing civil war. the state department recalled ambassador ford from syria in 2011 because of security threats. the wilson center posted this one-hour event. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon and welcome to the wilson center. i'm jane harman, the president and ceo and a recovering
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politician. we have at least two ambassadors in our audience, ambassador of the arab league ambassador at the jordanian ambassador. perhaps with others. we have many supporters, senior staff from the wilson center, especially the fearless leader of the middle is. our scholars track the ever shifting tectonic plates of the middle east on a daily basis. nearly half of our ground troops featuring expert in hotspots around the globe commenting on breaking news as it unfolds is focused on egypt, iran, the peace process, and serious. are middle east program has held 63 events in his last year alone, about half of them this week i think, and it follows events on the ground in syria very closely. recent speakers included israeli minister of intelligence, usaid minister raj shah, foreign affairs as an action, let's
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agree secretary jeh johnson who made headlines at the wilson center when he said quote, syria has now become a matter of homeland security. but with more than one the 30,000 dead, syria is much more. it is a moral catastrophe. and as "the new york times" reported, 42% of all syrians, 42% of all syrians, more than the population of new york city, have fled their homes. in the u.s. this is equivalent to 131 million americans on the move. as a former nine term member of congress who served on most of the security committees, i personally would like to see a more forceful administration policy. ..
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there is extremist threat in the north caucasus and the a lease on a naval base in tartis. who better to help us understand what lies ahead then the brave former u.s. ambassador to syria, robert ford, who just stepped down from his post last month.
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we are honored that this is his first major policy address since leaving office. as a career foreign service officer for nearly 30 years, robert ford has seen it all. he served as ambassador to algeria in the bush administration. was the obama's administration point man on geneva ii. ambassador ford will first give remarks i think. >> no, i don't think so. >> ambassador ford will not give remarks. he will engage in a conversation with the legendary aaron david miller who served six secretaries of state and now serves the wilson center as our vice president for new initiatives. the show begins right now. >> jane, thank you very much i want to welcome, everyone for coming. robert let me reaffirm something jane said and begin on a personal note. i had the honor and privilege of working almost over 25 years with enormous number of talented and selfless foreign service
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officers but i have to say this, your work on syria under extraordinarily difficult conditions really reflect as courage of conviction and commitment that really is in the best tradition of the foreign service and it as's an honor for us to have you here an and honor to know you. >> thank you but i was always very lucky to work with great teams both at our embassy in damascus and a terrific team in washington working on syria. it has been very frustrating. >> i think we would all agree syria is a moral, humanitarian and strategic disaster certainly for the syrian people, for the region and for the united states. what to do about it however is another matter. and toward that end in an effort to see if we can't use your wisdom and experience to elicit at least some on the ground intelligence about the way the political landscape now looks
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before we turn to the final issue of what to do about it, i'd like to ask you four questions, each relates to a specific piece of the syrian puzzle. the first concerns the opposition. you have probably spent more time than any other american working with various opposition groups. can you tell us what drives the dysfunction? how would you identify the factors that prevent the emergence of a choate effective opposition and what if anything can be done to alter the divisions and confusions that, confusion that seems to prevail? >> a couple of things i would say about the opposition and i spent a lot of time, especially with people that are outside of syria. those are the ones that make the most press. has been sometime with the people on the inside of syria when they would come out to jordan, come out to turkey.
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and so to me when i think about the opposition i actually divide between an external opposition and an internal opposition. they are divided, it is true although they're not maybe as divided as you might think. i think they all agree on a few basic things. they all agree that assad must go. they have a vision of syria that for the most part i'm leaving aside the al qaeda elements, but even some of the harder line islamists are not trying to impose an islamic state although they're certainly going to advocate for one. there is a difference between advocating and imposing but they are divided in a couple of ways and it is a constant problem. first, there is a huge amount of personal ambition and competition between them and that has been true from the beginning. just something as simple as
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leadership. just yesterday the internal opposition centered around the northwestern province rejected the external opposition's attempt to impose a sort of an electoral system to do new elections in that northwestern province and i don't think they're really arguing about the forms of elections. they're really arguing over who controls the process and this gets back to what i said about personal competition and competition for leadership. it's aggravated by regional powers that have their own clients within the syrian opposition. the saudis have certain people that they like better than others. qataris are much closer to some of the hard-line islamists than the saudis are for example. the turks, the jordanians. and so there is no purely syrian decision. this remind me a lot, aaron, you probably know more about lebanon
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than i do, but this reminds me a lot what i saw in lebanon say in the 1980s when i was a young diplomat just starting out. there is no purely syrian decision and that is a real problem. the syrians themselves and the opposition itself needs to reassemble around a syrian agenda, first and foremost. >> and that syrian agenda, what would drive it? >> i think, as i said there are some things they all agree on. i don't think anyone who has any weight on the ground with activists still keeping municipalities, functioning in liberated parts of syria, so-called liberated parts of syria or armed fighters, none of them would accept that assad stays. certainly not in the long term. i have heard some of them start to say maybe, you know, we could keep him there for a few months but then he has to go but assad
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has no long-term future i think they all agree on that. second, people should be able to go home. food supplies should move. you can imagine a whole series of sort of steps that they would agree in terms of going forward to rebuild the country and in terms of moving ahead, to set up a transition government. but then they always get snagged up in things, mainly circling around, who will lead the process. the syrian oppositionists don't trust each other and that is the product of living under, in a brutal intelligence apparatus driven state for 30 years. by the way that's not unique to syria. when i went to iraq and worked there after our troops went in and got rid of saddam hussein, iraqi oppositionists were very similar that way.
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they had very little trust amongst each other. so that is a product of political culture. that is not something you fix overnight. >> let's turn to the regime. i'm not sure anyone in this room, i put myself at the top of the list would ever belief three years into this that bashar al-assad would not only still be in power but perhaps turn ad proverbial corner in terms of consolidating his gains. syria is not tunisia and not yemen and it's not egypt and there are reasons why assad managed to survive the initial phase of the arab spring when the others didn't. but in the end, tell us why, what is the key to assad's longevity so far? why has he been able to sustain himself? >> there are three things really. first and foremost the opposition that we were just
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talking about has been very unsuccessful at explaining an agenda that would not threaten the communities that are the pillars of support for the regime. first and foremost the alawite community. the alawite community i met many of them last two years, i met many of them even in this calendar year. they are genuinely convinced a substantial portion of alawite community is not enthusiastic about assad. they are taking terrible casualties and they see no end in sight to those casuals. syrian observatory for human rights, which is not perfect but a good reporting source we get on in terms of numbers of casualties, they estimate over half of casualties of region game supporters killed, you may assume out of 50,000 the majority are alawites. so that is a heavy loss of
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population of 2 1/2, three million max. i live in baltimore. population of baltimore metropolitan area is 2 1/2 million, maybe not three. if baltimore suffered 25,000 casualties in a year, people of baltimore would be stunned. alawite community feels they're under attack. they look al qaeda elements so strong within the opposition and they say they're going to kill us all and they're not wrong about that and therefore they keep fight forge assad. the other segments of the syrian political opposition until november would not denounce al qaeda, even most extreme al qaeda elements. they simply would not do it. they bitterly criticize american decisions of december 2012 to name the nusra front, the other al qaeda group fighting inside iraq, they bitterly criticized
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us for naming them as terrorists and to this day they won't call them ha. the alawites look at that and not unreasonably say how can we trust the opposition, even so-called moderates? that is one problem there. the opposition has not distinguished itself clearly from the most extreme elements and it really scares, not only alawites by christians, a lot of sunni business class. that's the first reason. the second reason is the huge assistance from outside states and i'm talking here particularly about iran and russia but i would add that there are a lot of, and growing numbers of iraqi shia fighters now going into syria. martin had a very good article i think yesterday in the "guardian." the very people we used to be fighting in southern iraq and some parts of baghdad are
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mobilizing and sending fighters to go fight for assad in syria. and that helped not only manpower on the ground which is vital because the alawite community is taking casualties and there is a war of attrition and they aren't able to mobilize enough, so there is manpower coming in from hezbollah, from iraqis, iranian and russian financing and huge amounts of arms coming from both russia and iran. so that's the second factor. and the third factor is, that the regime itself has a certain, in its center has a certain unity and coherence which is being laking on the opposition side. so, you have not seen efforts to remove assad from within his inner circle. they have remained very united. there are problems with the state and i hope we get to talk about that a bit. the state is, the syrian state under assad is decaying, it is degrading in the war of
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attrition but so far the regime has a certain unity lacking on the opposition side. >> i mean there are many people who thought this in the end would become an addition and subtraction problem. the longer this went on the regime's assets would be diminished. its financial and economic resources, its morale and the time, and that, that is the subtraction part of it. the addition part the opposition would increasingly gain strength and momentum. there might be some external support and at some point these two arcs would cross in the proverbial tippingpoint when in fact there would be some fundamental change in the situation which would start trajectory of assad's decline. now that clearly hasn't happened for the three reasons that you suggest and while it's probably not accurate to believe that assad will ever rule syria in the way his father or he had ruled it, is it possible to
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imagine as an analytical proposition, not asking you to do endorse this as an active policy, is it possible, conceivable to imagine a situation in which the regime for elements of it do in fact remain in place and the situation essentially is frozen? no comprehensive cease-fire or unity but you end up with a, sort of stalemate with a level of violence actually declining and diminishing and you're left with this grinding, dysfunctional and highly-decentralized syria? as an analyst is that, is that a possible -- >> i think that's exactly where we're going. i think that's exactly where we're going. it's hard to imagine that assad is going in the short term and even in the medium term, to lose control of the area between
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aleppo south to damascus and over to the coast which is where most, not all, but most of the big cities are located. some of the cities have been heavily depopulated. suburbs of damascus for example, but it will, el creel that area. geographically maybe it is a fourth of the country but the other 3/4 will be under control of different armed elements or contested among different armed elements. we already see that places such as azor out east not far from the iraq border, we see that even in aleppo where different factions control different neighborhoods of aleppo. the regime controls the western part of aleppo city and eastern part neighborhood by neighborhood is controlled by different armed factions. sometimes they get along, sometimes they fight.
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>> my third question concerns assad's allies. you touched on it briefly. he is basically has four. if you don't count the unwillingness of the international community to tip the balance through external intervention which is inherently also obviously helping him you've got malaki, you've goat putin, you've got iranians and you've got hezbollah. i'm assuming ukraine has, well, ukraine will make it almost impossible for the russians to do much with respect to cooperation with us. hezbollah is locked into a struggle of its own in lebanon and in syria. iran strike me and i'm not sure where i come out on this, but is there the potential, you've been around, i mean you were there at the second geneva, you've been around the iranian peace and ainge bell on this, is there
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really potential cooperation, do you think, between the united states and iran when it comes to syria? and would it be decisive or would it be significant? >> we have not a serious discussion with iranians ever about syria, to my knowledge. i'm not aware of we ever had a serious discussion with the iranians to identify what are their core interests. what's top priority set of interests, what is the second ring of interests, what's the third ring building out. i don't think we ever had that conversation. i can not imagine that the iranians are anxious to see al qaeda sink deeper roots in the eastern 3/4 of syria, geographic eastern 3/4 of syria.
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i can't imagine that's in iranian interests. and we've certainly seen al qaeda target in a very ruthless manner shia communities, not only in syria but also in lebanon. so but is that enough, aaron, to build agreement on a sort of an outcome? that's less evident to me. i've seen iranian statements this week in the media saying, well, if assad decides to run for re-election then the opposition should participate and, if he runs and he wins, that is democratic and fall into line and it's sort of conveniently ignores there is this ruthless security apparatus that has never allowed a free and fair election during the bath and assad baath and assad regimes and unlikely they will allow it in 2014. i don't know if we're going to
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be able ever to, with the iranians to agree on a sort of a way forward. i think we do share, at a minimum, a counterterrorism interest with iran. will that suffice? i don't know. >> one final question which is obviously the toughest, the trickiest and the most complex and that involves the american role. i've described u.s. policy towards syria as not immoral but amoral. that is to say, the president has made a decision that other factors other than moral, ethical or humanitarian ones shape our syria policy. i mean that i describe i had as a moral, humanitarian strategic disaster for the united states. it probably is all of that. the question is, and i'll put it to you direct h directly, i know it may not be an easy one, is ending syria's civil war and
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reconstitution of a unified, coherent syrian polity, a vital and, i choose my words very carefully here, a vital national interest for the united states? and vital means, we put our time, we put our money, we put our resources, and, vital to me, to always conveys the sense that we are prepared to to put americans in harm's way? a vital national interest, is it syria and consequences of this unseemingly, unending civil war, a vital national interest for the united states? and if so, if indeed it is vital, what should we do about
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it? >> we have really smart people just in the group that worked most closely with at the state department, starting with the secretary of state himself, john kerry, spending enormous amounts of time on syria. i don't think anyone in the administration questions that we have huge interests in syria. the interests are also evolving. we didn't have terrorism and counterterrorism concerns in syria when the syrian uprising started in 2011. in fact, going into, midway in 2012 we didn't see syria's posing or groups operating in syria, posing a direct threat to the united states, aside from the american embassy. and we did receive threats from al qaeda in syria. that is one of the reasons we closed the embassy in
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february 2012. but, to expand on this a little bit, we are spending amounts, huge amounts of resources. if you had told me when i went out as ambassador to syria in january 2011, that we would soon have almost two billion dollars, $2 billion, committed to syria, i would have been shocked. i mean just, so it's when you think about the time and the resources, absolutely. however, aaron, the interests are addressing the humanitarian crisis, dealing with a growing terrorism security problem and ultimately in order to find a sustainable solution to the humanitarian crisis, and the terrorism problem, find a political solution to the contest for power, and therefore
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channel resources from a syrian capital, against, the terrorism problem. and, to help resolve the humanitarian issue, that i think we have been frustrated in finding. we had hoped that the geneva ii process would start, i would say the regime did not agree at all to discuss a transition government. the opposition, with ad lot proving and us from others did put forward a transition plan of the by the way they didn't share it with us but they tabled it and i read it i thought for first draft it certainly wasn't bad and basis for negotiation. the regime is not serious negotiating serious power sharing or certainly knot willing to discuss assad's departure. i think, if i can kit to the chase here and what you're really asking should we apbe applying military force.
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>> that's what i'm asking. >> one of the great things about retiring i can cut to the chase. so i think on that we should remember that ultimately the solution is not going to be airstrikes against an assad airfield satisfying as that might be. a solution will not be drone strikes against regime convoys trundling up to aleppo. it is going to be a political settlement between elements of the regime and the opposition. the military can't operate in a vacuum. it has to be part of a bigger effort to solve the problem. and on a that, we're still stuck. i spent a fair amount of time on purpose talking about the concerns of the elements that support the regime, in particular the alawite community but not particularly the alawhite community. the airstrikes will not change
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the calculus will the opposition crazies kill us if we put down our arms? you must address that problem too. that is not a u.s. military strike issue. that's a political issue among syrians. >> right. you've identify though, i never talked to president obama this but you've identified i think the core problem. that is the relationship between means and ends. military power is an instrument. that's all it is. it's a tool and an instrument to achieve realizable, political goals and a stable end state. you have a president emerging from the two longest wars in american history in which the means and the end were not well-coordinated. and the ends were beyond our capacity to achieve. nobody believes we're going to put boots on the ground. the president's concern i think, is what is the relationship between the application of military power and the end state that you think is logically and
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rationally so critically important. that's the key. and i'm not sure anybody has answered that problem. >> again, i look at the bombs dropping on aleppo and today there are bombs dropped on dadta and sun of the -- one of the suburbs of damascus. the destruction and wanton killing of civilians is completely abhorrent and reprehensible. but that said i think we should be cautious analytically about what you can expect from a american military action if in fact the president would do that. the president has never completely taken that off the table. we should remember the example of iraq where we sent in 150,000, at one point 170,000 soldiers. here to tell you all i was in iraq. michael was there and others.
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michael wrote the great book on it. ultimately the solution in iraq was not 170,000 soldiers. the deal was between a substantial portion of the sunni-arab community in iraq with most of the shia community in iraq and the kurds. they worked out a deal. the 170,000 forces helped in some aspect of that but the core elements that solved iraq enough to get us out was the political deal among the iraqis. in libya, where we had, again, western military intervention, we still don't have that agreement among libyans that resolves the problem. the military action is a tool in a tool kit but it is no the solution by and of itself. i think that's really important and i'm speaking very frankly with the group here. we don't do our syrian friend a favor if we encourage them to
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think that, oh, if we could just convince the administration to do a military strike, then the problem is solved because it absolves them of doing the hard work of reaching out and undermining assad's support politically within his own regime. last week, out of frustration with what the region game has been doing to civilians, the armed opposition and in particularly some hard-line islamist factions and others, kidnapped 95 alawite civilians. did any of you hear one person in the opposition condemn that? that's the problem. and so how do you convince those alawites to stop fighting? the opposition has got to advance its own mentality from, we need the americans to do more, by the way, others in the region say the same thing, to how do we work with the americans to you know mine the regime? and that's going to take some hard, hard, hard thinking inside
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the ranks of the syrian opposition. >> last question, the future. it's a civil war. it is of a peculiar sort. >> and a regional war and -- >> civil wars usually end in one of two or three ways. one party bests the other. external intervention tips the balance in favor of one side that then bests the other. or, a kind of exhaustion sets in and it is frozen, sort of frozen conflict we described. a year from now, if you were back here, march 2015, where do you think we'll be? >> i wish i could say, as an analyst, i wish i could say, oh, think we'll have a solution by then but i, i don't see anything quick on the horizon.
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i think there is an element of exhaustion setting in. you can see that, aaron, in some of these local cease-fires that have been negotiated on the ground between regime fighting units and armed opposition units, especially in the suburbs of today most discuss but not exclusively in the suburbs of damascus. the regime's tactic, reprehensible it is of starving communities, literally starving them, surrounding them, and starving them? why do they do that? because they don't have enough men to take them and they surround them in this kind of medieval siege fashion. i can imagine we'll see more of that. i imagine we'll see more local cease fires. i don't think it will put the conflict to a close. it will be a patchwork. the country will be a patchwork and i think that is the direction it's going. i see no sign that the regional backers of the regime or the
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regional backers of the opposition are prepared to to stand down. so there will be plenty of oil put on the fire in the next year. >> yeah. robert, thank you so much. >> sorry i don't have -- >> very patient to your questions. jane harman. >> robert, thank you again for sure service, your noble and brave service. number one i mentioned the blow back from ukraine to in opening asking about outside influence, russia might be too busy at this point to play a bigger role in syria you about my question is, whether or not they actually do it, everybody has seen the intimidation that russia was able to effect on crimea and then the election result, and the insertion, oh, by the way, very brilliantly of a covert force. at least they wore masks, we all know who they were, into crimea.
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so does that picture influence and increase the resolve of bashir, that's one? number two, if we were cape ab, if we are capable and i hope we are, of, reaching an agreement with the iranians on their nuclear bomb efforts within six months is there a possibility that iran could change its behavior and then on march 20, 2015, you would have a better report? >> it is very noticeable to me, jane, that the government in damascus praised putin for his efforts on crimea and welcomed the actions of the russians took and i think, ba shar looks with the russians along with iranians as his two big protectors
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internationally. i'm sure he takes great satisfaction from the recent events in the crimea. that's why they issued that statement. i do hope as we talk about the regime and the russians, the russians are plussing up weapons supplies going into damascus and their political support at the u.n. remains strong although the agreement of the russians to a u.n. security council resolution in february about human hahm access was first small chink in the russian position which heretofore had been three vetoes and warning assad repeatedly. i don't think bashir should assume that the russians will remain constant throughout. i think the russian primary interest in syria is not the survival of assad per se but rather it is they don't see an alternative to bashir in terms of controlling the islamist
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extremist element and they haven't, they don't have something else they can study in front of them to decide if they would like that better. that's again a problem of the syrian opposition. we have always encouraged the syrian opposition therefore to talk constantly to the russians because they're going to have to convince them that they too would carry out the fight and they would do it in a better way, more successfully than bashir could. so. with respect to the iranians, i don't pretend to be an iran expert at all and so i don't know what the impact of a deal if we came to a final deal with iran on the nuclear question, i don't know how that would exactly affect their thinking about syria but unlike the russians, i think the iranians view the assad regime in a more personal way. someone with whom they worked
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closely to help hezbollah over the years, to help other rejectionist elements, iran is still a big believer of the resistance front against israel much along the lines of the rhetoric that comes out of damascus. i think therefore the iranians in the end may be a harder nut to crack. i'm not saying impossible but i would expect harder. >> yes. please identify yourself. >> okay. thank you. ambassador ford, you mentioned three factors that gave assad power of sustained him for a long time but i thought you would consider also the army as intact, homogenous, overall the majority are alawites and loyaltity also and of course it has all the weapons available, sophisticated. this is one of the the other one regarding that appointment of
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the new ambassador, the new envoy to syria, they said he is supposed to deal, to get in touch syrians. didn't say which syrians, the regime, moderate, the militants, moderate syrians, opposition, militants, what is it? thank you. >> with respect to the army being intact, my understanding is, for example, in the really heavy fighting that took place recently along the lebanese-syrian border, hezbollah was in the vanguard of the fighters there, not the syrians forces. i mean there were syrian forces involved but hezbollah was in the vanguard. hezbollah is now fighting as far away as aleppo. they are using iraqi militias as well. i think the regime's even units, syrian units, are either in the barracks because they're not trusted. they're largely sunni conscripts
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and their loyalty is questioned, or they're alawite mainly, although not exclusively militias. they're taking heavy casualties as i mentioned. regime actually over time becoming more and more dependent not on its own army but more on foreign forces. that i can't imagine is comfort to assad because he is losing independence of decision making for dependence on foreigners especially for military survival the less freedom of action you will have over time. with respect to my successor, danny rubenstein, a terrific fellow and a brilliant fellow and served with distinction in places like damascus and amman, jordan, i think he just left the united states and is headed to turkey and to jordan and to paris and i think will be meeting with syrians, mainly from the opposition in all of
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those places. i don't know what his schedule is. i didn't set it up, so, but i think you will, you should expect that danny will be in close contact with both the formal opposition but then a lot of independent syrians and that he will also be in close contact with other countries in the region who have big interests there, starting with turkey, the gulf states, jordan, and our european friend. >> let's see. how about in the middle? >> jared firries with heritage foundation. what do you make proves specs for southern offensive we hear about in the news, if that will make any difference? >> let's take one more. yes over here on the end. >> my name is steven short.
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what outcome to the israelis wish happens in syria? >> on the southern offensive first, i've seen the press stories about it. open the way towards damascus. i, it's a little hard to imagine they're going to be able to do a victory parade down the streets of damascus right now. what i understand it to be really, jared, it is just one part of a multifront war of attrition. and so they're going to be a lot of casualties on both side. frankly as an analyst, are one of the things i'm going to look for is, do we see signs of foreign fighters for the regime going down there? i have been told by people in the free syrian army that already there are some hezbollah
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elements down there but i can't prove that. i don't know if that's true. but i don't think it will be decisive in and of itself. it's a pretty narrow front. and the border with turkey, which is much longer has, had stuff flowing in for a long time, and that has not proved decisive either. so i wouldn't put a lost hope in the southern front, proving decisive rather, rather it says to me, well the regime may make advances along the lobe need border but if new problems pop up in the south or in the east, it just never end. both sides sort of fight on and on. with respect to the question of the israelis i think they have two interests. number one i think they remain very concerned about the hezbollah presence in syria and the arms that hezbollah gets,
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whether those be advance rocketry, missiles or god forbid, weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons. and second, think they have a genuine concern as well about islamic extremists and terrorist groups like al qaeda, whether al nusra or islamic state setting up in any way along their border, along the golan. or taking power in damascus itself. but in either case it is not clear to me that the israelis see their national interests as coinciding with the survival of bashar al-assad. that is less clear to me and i recall a letter from the israeli ambassador to "the new york times," i think that was about a year-and-a-half ago now, where he said point bank, israel's interests will be served by the
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replacement of bashar al-assad regime with something more moderate in damascus. when i was getting my briefings before i went out to damascus as ambassador at the start of 2011 i was flabbergasted by the extent of support from bashar al-assad to hezbollah in terms of the kind of missiles he was providing an the kind of cooperation they were providing out of syria. so i don't think the israelis have any fondness whatsoever for bashar al-assad. >> i think that is that trudy i see back there? >> hi, trudy. >> hi, ambassador ford. i hope you're getting a vacation at least. >> i get to sleep later in the morning. >> oh, well, thank goodness for that. i'd like to ask you, given the failure of the peace talks in geneva and the clear russian
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disinterest in facilitating them, has this led to, or do you think it will lead to any change in u.s. strategy on syria? and to be more specific, is there anymore willingness now or is there likely to be to give a green light to the opposition getting from whomever, anti-aircraft weapons, if for no other reason than to thwart the obvious military strategy of the regime which is to empty out population centers and let the neighbors deal with the consequences of permanent refugee flows? >> should we take one more? yes. >> thanks, aaron. >> there's a glare.
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hi barbara. >> ambassador ford, just out of curiosity, had the united states done something more dramatic in the summer of 2012 when there was that interesting bombing in damascus that killed, that killed the defense minister and the regime appeared to be on its heels before al qaeda got entrenched would that have made a difference? did you advocate for something stronger at the time, whether it was airstrikes or no-fly zone? and, you know, was that a moment that we just missed and we're never going to get that back? thanks. >> with respect to trudy's question about a change in strategy and particularly, trudy, i think there are two --, manpads are -- in syria not just anywhere in the world. i don't think we want to see
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these kind of weapons proliferate because of the concerns about the threat to civil i have a veryization. so it is not clear to me that that concern, which is global, and it is not specific to syria, it is not clear to me that is going to change. with respect to other elements of our support to the opposition, it's easy for me to imagine that in the policy deliberations going forward they're going to refocus on how to change the balance on the ground. airstrikes are a big thing that the regime uses but in the end i'm not aware of any guerrilla campaign that has been thwarted solely by airstrikes. so part of what's also going to be important for the opposition to understand is that they're going to have to adapt their own tactics in the civil war. this is difficult for them, trudy, because the free syrian
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army was established back in 2011 to protect civilians. that is where it came from. it started out as informal groups who would scatter around what were then peaceful demonstrations and fire at the police or the militias coming in to hold them up so that the demonstrators could disperse and get away before they were arrested. that's where it came from. they have always had a niche in free syrian army to protect civilians. now the regime tactics changed. if you hold ground to protect civilians what the regime does is bomb and kill a lost civilians and there is nothing the free syrian army can do about it because they don't have the right weapons or the regime surrounds and starves and there is very little the free syrian army can do about that either. so they are going to have to adapt their tactics and less keen on holding ground and instead, focusing more on things
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like supply lines. with respect to barbara's question, it goes back to what i said before, barbara. , about syrians coming to a political agreement. when the bombs took out a couple of senior leaders including assad's brother-in-law and the defense minister at the time, the syrian opposition at that time was the syrian national council which had no transition plan whatsoever and frankly wasn't even thinking of a transition plan. was thinking there would be a victory parade down the main streets of damascus. i don't think even if we had done something then, it's not clear to me that in the, even if the regime had toppled which i'm not at all sure it would have because of internal unity aspect
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i was talking about before. but even if it had, i could just as easily imagine a power vacuum. and the syrian national council at the time of that bomb was even less organized than the libya transition council was. so you would have had this sort of vacuum. that's why even if, frankly, 2011, after the syrian national council was formed we told them the top order of business for you must be to set up a transition plan and to market it inside the country. it was just never a priority for them frankly. >> we have an overflow loom with an -- room with an additional 50 people. here is one question. wants to make sure that i don't overlook that. >> i would like to know how it is she got her question forward and others did not but maybe i worked in the middle east too long. >> you have, robert. this question comes from the overflow room and concerns chemical weapons. what can you tell us about the
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status of the chemical weapons effort and what is your speculation on how the regime is playing this? particularly now in in the wake of putin's move into crimea and the deterioration and in the u.s.-russian cooperation? >> i think the director of the opwc -- opcw in the hague just issued a statement, either this morning or yesterday, saying that the regime has now removed approximately, just under half of its chemical weapons stocks. but, that only about 1/5 or maybe a quarter of the really potent stuff has actually been removed out of syria. and that they're moving less of
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the priority one materials, the more potent things and moving more of the less poet 10 things. and so there's a real need for vigilance. not a surprise with the history of this regime. and then there is a second issue which is, the future of the various syrian regime production facilities. and our understanding of the agreement with the russians is that those facility will be destroyed, destroyed. i'm now seeing that the syrians are proposing that they simply be sealed shut, which is same thing as destroying them. so i think these are things we're going to have to talk to the russians about. it's, from our discussions with the russians, last autumn, it was clear to us that they saw their own interest best served by seeing the a, the elimination
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of that program, and b, the destruction of the materials. so i think we have, we will, you know, it will be an issue to discuss with the russians, both, the speed at which materials are being removed and especially the priority one materials. and then second, the future of the production facilityies. >> nice to see you. >> thank you. nice to see you. >> at the beginning of your talk you said that the job was very frustrating. you're talking about your job or about the policy towards syria, american policy? can you assess that over the last three years. and, and miss harman said she would like to see a more forceful policy. do you agree with her that there should be a more forceful policy on syria? thank you. >> i think all of us from both in the administration as well as with the congress and the
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american public in general look at the stories coming out of syria and feel both anger, huge frustration. that it continues every day. in a sense we all want to do something, there is no questioning that. you want to do something that will help and will fix the problem. and so which feel a huge frustration that we have not been able to stop the killing. that we have not been able to find a way to return syria towards some kind of sustained stability with dignity and freedom for its people who are incredibly brave. i can't underline that enough how brave so many of these syrians are, these consider doctors working despite
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hospitals being bombed. the people who stayed to keep basic infrastructure working. despite barrel bombing of districts all around them in districts like aleppo. or who brave al qaeda in places where we're working with a group in danazor to get schools up and running. how it feels about teaching young girls. just the bravery of the syrians touches all of us, touches all of us. it certainly touched me. so i, what i can say to you, i don't think anyone is happy in the administration or in washington in general about the situation there. and so, i think you will see us constantly evaluating and reevaluating what is the best way forward. >> we have time i think for one more question. maybe two if they're quick. yes?
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>> do you expect syria to emerge as one country after the second war or will it be a hot spot for terrorism and sectarianism in the middle east? thank you. >> and we'll take the final question. yes. >> thank you. i'm ally on curish affairs. mr. ambassador, in your speech i never heard you mention the kurds whether they control a large portion of syria and fighting al qaeda related nusra and what do you think about kurds. "christian science monitor" there was report that the pyd, that pyd is respecting integrity and unity of syria. what is your comment on this? thanks a lot. >> there are many communities in syria which i didn't mention
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specifically. there are a lot of different communities in syria. so with respect to the kurds a couple of key things i want to say. number one, they are heavily threatened, seriously threatened by al qaeda elements who have been fighting them in places like telabid and in some cases they have inflicted real casualties on the islamic state elements that are circulating up there. that said, the main group, and it's the militia which is controlling a lot of those kurdish communities up there which is the pyd, has a variety of sensitivities surrounding it. number one, it has an affiliation with the pkk which
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we and our turkish friend view as a terrorist organization, the pkk. and so what is the pyd's position about terrorism? it is the first question. second, the pyd itself seizing opposition people and holds them without trial. they are not operating as a democratic force in that northeastern quadrant of syria. third, the pyd without reference to any other community in syria declared an autonomous zone. the americans haven't taken a position before or against that. that really is a syrian decision. not something for the foreigners to make a decision about. however we do think it's a
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constitutional question. and needs to be addressed within the context of broader discussions about the ruling system in syria because just as the kurds may want an autonomous region, maybe other parts of syria will want that too. that has to be decided among syrians and needs to be settled politically so it doesn't become a new source of fighting even after the assad regime departs. so the way in which the pyd did that actually aggravates political tensions and plays in fact, in favor of the regime in damascus. so there are a lot of questions still about the way that the pyd operates and the way it acts. which gets then into the question of can syria be, can its territorial integrity and its unity be maintained? what i would say in this is, it certainly what we want. it is certainly what we want.
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and it is, i think, very much what its neighbors, turkey, jordan, iraq, lebanon, and other countries in the region, the saudis and other states in the gulf, the egyptians and europeans and the united states. we all agree that that territorial unity needs to be maintained. but there are a lot of forces centrifugal forces pulling at it. the pyd is not the only one. and so the sooner this conflict is resolved politically, the easier it is going to be to maintain that territorial unity, in the end, we had to have a political view and i'm not saying that is the way to solve the syrian crisis but again the focus on politics as the way to resolve the issue. >> robert. thank you. please join me in thanking ambassador ford for a terrific conversation. [applause] thank you so much.
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>> thank you. >> and thank you all for coming. >> the senate is about to gavel in for the day for continued work on a bill to provide $150 million in economic assistance to ukraine. it would also impose sanctions on russia and guaranty that the imf has resources to assist
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ukraine. senators voted on monday to limit debate on the motion to proceed to the bill. if all time is used a vote on that motion would happen on wednesday. cq writes that majority leader harry reid urged quick passage of the measure this week, threatening weekend sessions as he plans to move measures on unemployment and other issues. lk will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, as the snow falls gently to the earth, we are reminded of the shifting seasons of our lives. as we continue to look to you for guidance. guide our lives and inspire our hearts.

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