tv Counterterrorism Strategy the Trump Administration CSPAN May 29, 2018 12:17pm-1:52pm EDT
>> good afternoon, every one, welcome. welcome. nice to see you on this hopefully non-rainy, sunny day. i'm a senior southeast asia fellow here at new america. i have been a fellow for, let's see, since 2011, since i left the government. i, when i started here right before that i was nsc director for afghanistan and pakistan. so i worked quite a bit on some of these issues we will talk about today, specifically on the case of pakistan. i'm senior advisor at
johns hopkins. it's a great opportunity to have this conversation today with my colleagues. some of whom were previously in government. i can assure you we all look much more rested and youthful now that we did, when we were in at the white house and steven, who just finished a book looks great for having written a tremendous -- you brought the book, right? we need to -- [inaudible] >> accessories sold separately. >> please buy the book. we have a come can nation of academic perspective today and practitioner's perspective. we'll look forward to your questions. the question we want to look at today, are, how have the counterterrorism strikes of the u.s. government changed under the trump administration? so it, the discussion is going to be a combination of what was the policy and framework as defined by the obama administration, what are the lessons we learned from that, and hopefully we can take that,
have a conversation about what is the trump administration actually doing? how do you define what they're doing? because a lot of these topics are very quiet and classified. hopefully that will lead us into a conversation about the future, and looking at the threat of terrorism, and, what kind positives ture and policies need to be in place for the u.s. to feel like it is protecting its people and the international community from terrorist threats, okay? so let me just briefly, introduce our guests today who will discuss the critical questions. josh geltzer, warfel low at new america and director of georgetown university law center institute for constitutional advocacy and protection. she is former senior director, cues me counterterrorism at the national security council for the obama administration. welcome to luke hartig, new
fellow with new america with international security program. former senior director of counterterrorism at obama administration. steven is at junk senior fellow at center for new american security. author of, with us, against us, how america's partners help and hinder the war on terror. i just briefly, i haven't read the book yet. i briefly looked at the table of contents. it covers the both the theoretical and concept -- conceptual, it covers several hot spots of counterterrorism that the u.s. is focusing on over the past decade plus. it's a great tour today force of war we've been. i recommend reading it and looking forward to that my several. if you're online and you're inclined to kind of tweet or post about this you can use the
hashtag, ctunder trump and follow at new america isp. on the format. we'll do a couple rounds of questions. we'll keep this very informal. these guys are all friends. they written articles together. best use of our time to have it be as informnal as possible. after few round of questions we'll open up for your q&a. save the good questions for the end. so we'll start with steven. congratulations on the book. >> thank you. >> in it you outline problems with the current u.s. approach. some longstanding and some that are unique to trump and in other writings you have acknowledged that there has been a change in how the trump administration is pursuing terrorism or countering terrorism but it is not really clear what they're strategy is. we see tactics in the news but we're not actually sure why they're doing them.
they haven't explained themselves. i thought it would be good to start with you, to give us a scene-setter of some of these topics of use of force, direct action, how they have evolved and how they evolved with our partners, how they have shaped our partnerships and what you see happening today. >> absolutely. well, thank you very much, and thank you to new america for hosting this. it's a great pleasure and honor to be up here with three friends who i have worked with in one capacity or another. i should also note that you know, while i wrote the book from an academic perspective it was very much informed for the brief time i spent working at dod as well. i had gone in thinking i would write a book that was more the threat side of the picture. when i was working on afghanistan and pakistan issues in policy, i was struck by the ways in which our partner nations can be a absolutely critical to what we want to accomplish and incredibly
frustrating i think is an understatement, talking about countries like pakistan for example. so that was really formative for me to come out and rethink the type of book i was writing. diving in our your question, shmila, how we see direct action involved under trump and implications for partnerships, when we're talking about direct action, so everybody is on the same page we're talking about counterterrorism strikes. , counterterrorism raids, drone strikes. united states larger military presence, talk more about countries like pakistan, yemen, somalia, libya. going back it even the bush administration of course, there was, there was use of special operations forces for
counterterrorism raids. drone strikes are used relatively sparingly. there is one in yemen in 2002. there were 14 in pakistan from 2004 through the summer of 2008. and it is in june of 2008 when there is a largest canlation after bush is informed and shown evidence of the pakistani intelligence service and militaries supporting the haqqani network, fighting u.s. forces in afghanistan, supporting them directly. there is a large up tick around we get over 30 drone strikes between june 2018 and the end of the year -- 2008. technological advancement in uavs, as well as creation of an independent intelligence network in pakistan, independent of pakistani intelligence helped enable that escalation even if it was not the cause for it.
obama comes into office and inherits those capabilities and it is under obama that we see, i would say a rapid expansion of the use of direct action especially in the form of drone strike and most notably in pakistan where majority of them occur. i think it is important to put that escalation in context. when obama comes in he makes working by, with, and through partner nation as -- nations a cornerstone of his counterterrorism strategy. there is more emphasis and money behind partnership building capacity and trying to promote governance, rule of law, things like that and the intention is to get partners to share the costs and risks of u.s. counterterrorism but it is also beyond burden-sharing to make counterterrorism more sustainable on the ground.
which is to say military gains can be ephemeral. by getting most nations to buy in you get more legitimacy and build cooperation and give them capabilities and capacities to solidify those military gains over the longer term. so this isn't just about burden-sharing although there is a pom point of it. at the same time obama is trying to work for, by, with and through partners, he is prepared to work around them when necessary and pakistan josh and luke also, i'm sure, eminently familiar, example of a partner where they are not willing or able to execute counterterrorism operations on the ground against terrorists threatening the united states directly. drone strikes enable working around pakistan. they're also used in yemen where you have another problematic government can get into more of that during the q&a. but while drone strikes enable
working around government, they raise questions about using lethal force in areas how the side of hostility. in 2013 the united states put in a framework to govern that use of pores, ppg, presidential policy guide. luke, you will dig more into the guts of that. so i will just highlight very quickly a couple points before moving to trump and then finishing up with a little more of a discussion of implication of partners and some changes of direct action. one is that the country where you're using direct action, either needs to consent to use of direct action or be unwilling or unable to address the threat themselves. pakistan certainly qualifies. not only unwilling or unable legally but also gave its consent for most drone strikes. needs to be continuing imminent threat of the united states of the individuals who are being targeted in those drone strikes.
so that framework is that is put in place. by the time obama is leaving office, however, the threat has evolved, right? the ppg is a product of its time. isis has not burst on the scene. you have civil wars come to fruition out of the arab uprisings at the time. and there is an expansion of the way in which direct action is being used by the end of obama's term, not to work around difficult partners but also to support partner forces on the ground. so, for example, libya is declared an area of active hostilities, so that the united states can use drone strikes in support of partner forces on the ground against isis. this is the world that trump inherits. and reportedly as of 2017 the ppg has been replaced with principle standards and procedures and new framework. there, it is not as
transformative as it could have been. my colleagues will talk about that again i will just highlight two quick things. one is that is removes continuing imminent threat standard to u.s. personss right? so previously united states couldn't kill a currier if that courier didn't pose a threat. couldn't kill a finance ear if it doesn't involve a threat. now it can. authority downwards, proposed strikes, terrorism raids, don't undergo same high level of vetting. what is the impact on our partnerships of these changes? first there are some potential benefits. there are tactical advantages to removing imminent threat standard. both from a straightforward u.s. perspective in that the united states can now support partner forces on the ground to a greater extent. if you're asking your partners to go fight these fights and carry the lion's share of the load, being able to support them has benefits.
streamlining the oversight process also enables to us be more nimble and responsive to our partners. but these benefits at same time come with potential costs. the first is although drone strikes enable us to work around partners or to support them, they also create other forms of dependence. you heard me say earlier, right, you need consent or you need a partner to be unwilling or unable to address the threat. that is the legal threshold. the policy threshold is higher. luke and josh can both speak to this with sort of much better detail and clarity than i can but my understanding is, you really don't want to do a drone strike in somebody's territory without their consent unless you absolutely have to. so you're dependent on host nations for access. of course you also need bases for drones. you need logistical support. you need intelligence support. which means you're dependent on other countries to help support drone strikes as well.
the danger of relying more on them, right, or of lowering the threshold for using direct action, one of the dangers is that operational requirements for drone strikes increasingly crowd out the other elements of counterterrorism the united states should be focusing on. second by removing the continuing threat standard there is the risk that some of those other states that support direct action, are necessary to support direct action but don't sort of sign on to the idea of a global campaign against al qaeda and isis are less willing to provide that support. then of course there is always the rick of blowback. that is something that has been longstanding. we're seeing more partnered operations where u.s. special forces are working with counterparts on the ground. we're lowering the standard for drone strikes so we can support our partners more. without the right sort of the vetting, without sober analysis i would argue raises the
potential for an errant strike that hurts the united states directly or harms its relationship with the partner. finally i would say the biggest problem that none of this is happening in a vacuum. trump's strategy to the degree we can decipher it because we haven't seen anything published, they don't talk a lot, he personally appears to lean overwhelmingly on military tools. so this is happening while diplomats are being horribled, while development experts are potentially being shut out. that sense out a message to partner stations that united states thinks more about military and killing terrorism and not other aspects of counterterrorism. it raise as risk any military gains will be ephemeral and they won't be sustainable. i will close with this which is to say direct action is a
important part of any counterterrorism strategy for the united states but it is not the only tool in the cool kit and when it is used on its own or divorced from a political strategy that is not a recipe for success. we've seen that in the past. in early years of the bush administration when they were overly reliant on military tools. we run that risk again. so could some of these changes that trump is putting in place have operational benefits? yes, they could. but only if they're married to a broader political strategy and we haven't seen that as of yet. i will stop there. >> thank you, stephen. you did a really good job kind of looking at some of the outcomes of the policy is and framework in practice. would i like luke to take us back to those conversations inside of the government what was the philosophy towards the framework, and the, whenever i look at policy, i look at three prongs to it. one is intended purpose.
two is the actual stated policy, as it is defined. three is the implementation of it, right? so there is, actually quote complex and very messy process on the inside. once it is, once it exists sometimes you feel like you don't have control over it. that's why i think it is good to go back to what was the intended purpose of this. you spend a lot of times at the nsc working on yemen and in the ct office. i was hoping you could share some of that with us? >> yeah, great question. i think that is really useful framework, those three phases. before i jump into that, i want to commend the audience, stephen's book, i think it is exceptional read. it is written with the rig gore of a first-rate academic which stephen is, but also the prose, penmanship is that of a first rate nonfiction writer. kudos to stephen on that book.
i hope you pick it up. i was impressed how he wanted to understand the reality of policy making, with something awful hard to find in academic books. so that is very useful. back to this three part i laid out really useful thinking about the drone policy as practiced in the obama administration, as best we can discern how it is being implemented in the trump administration i worked on the development part of it at the pentagon. the actual drafting of it, somewhere between the pentagon and the white house and implementation of the white house, to orient my involvement in this. i think if you think back, look at what the obama administration was trying to commish, helpful to think of kind of where the world of counterterrorism was at the time the presidential policy guidance and or ppg, ultimately rolled out. president obama comes in, very clear guidance we need to focus on the right war. the right war is both afghanistan and as well as
broader fight against al qaeda. it is not a global war on terrorism. it is a war against al qaeda and affiliates and adherents. he enters that war with the capabilities from the military intelligence community that have been refined over the past seven years, mostly in the iraq theater but also in the afghanistan theater. we have highly-developed special operations forces. highly developed ways to track and identify terrorists and emerging drone technology which was developed a quite a bit at that point. gives us a capability to go after and conduct targeted strikes against those that would do us harm. so the theater is kind of emerged accordingly, right? we're going all-in on afghanistan. we've got the surge coming in other theaters particularly places like yemen and somalia, where we are providing training and assistance to folks on the ground. we're accompanying that with drone strikes as may be
appropriate. the world ends up in many ways looking far more bipolar than it is today. let me unpack that a little bit because i i want to come back to that as i continue these remarks. you have on one hand afghanistan or iraq-like theater. full-scale combat operations. we u.s. forced engaged in the fight against the enemy. when you're in that context a war-like framework is really what is applied. you have to of course abide by the principles of precision and discrimination and other principles that underlie the law of armed conflict but at the same point, when you have u.s. forces in conflict with the enemy, you're willing to loosen the reins of it in order to make sure that they have everything they need and all of the use of forces that they need in order to success fully accomplish their mission and in order to take back enemies and what they are under siege from the enemies. places like yemen circa 2010 or
2011, you have fragility in the state for sure but mostly stable central government with something approximating an insurgency in the countryside, that framework was very different from actual u.s. full-scale combat operations in iraq or afghanistan. i think president obama realized that, and realized while we might use some of the same capabilities and some of the same tools to go after terrorist threats in yemen and somalia-like environment the rules ought to be different because we're in a paradigm that looks much different than a full-scale major combat war. so the rules that begin to emerge from that, these are things that evolved in places over time, that are ultimately solidified and codified in the presidential policy guidance focus on big principles. first of all, let's define that area, those yemens and somalias as areas of possibilities or outside areas of possibilities. let's say there is a different set of rules that go into place in that location or those types of locations.
second of all the president says if we're in those locations we'll only take action against terrorist threats subject to a few specific conditions. the first of those is that the terrorist threat that we have identified poses a continuing, imminent threat to u.s. persons. it is not a direct thread to u.s. interests. it is about u.s. people being in harm's way and about that threat being imminent is something that needs to be disrupted. secondly, that action can only be taken if it can be assessed that capture is infeasible. we looked at our ability to capture, our partner nations ability to capture, other ways to minimize the threat, we determined there is no other alternatives. thirdly there, is near certainty that civilians will not be harmed in the strike or the operation that takes place. which is a very high standard, what president obama felt was highest standard he could set at that point in time and still be able to effectively go after
targets he needed to go after. the final piece is is not something necessarily contained within the standards of the ppg but it is sort of a function of the entire document. he getting into what milo was talking about, the implementation piece is so important. therefore ppg described a pretty intensive inneragency process for going over targets and making sure when we use direct action we make certain the targets hit those certain imperatives, and we are fully aware, eyes wide open, making good decisions around the foreign policy implication, implications for intelligence collection, full range of other foreign policy equities that might be affected by taking direct action. that is the framework what president obama puts forward in 2013 his best thinking how to bound these type of operations and make sense of them. there are a few things that i think become problematic and
some stephen alluded to and i want to unpack them further. the topic of stephen's book around partnership is directly advocated here. if you're going out and telling your partners they are the answer, right? indeed a year after the speech that president obama gave at national defense university in 2014, he goes to west point and says, okay, the center piece of our terrorism strategy going forward is partnerships. so if you go out and say partnership, we're a partnership, guys, this is exactly what we want to do, we want to invest in our partners, then we tell our partners, but if you're facing threats we're not necessarily going to be willing to use lethal force to protect you because you're not a u.s. person, we immediately run into significant conflict between what you say your strategy is and what your policy on the use of force actually allows you to do. it's a challenge and something we kind of faced coming right out of the gate.
it particularly becomes challenging as we look at ways to be more effective in places like yemen in places like libya, and places like somalia we find that often what we need to do are exactly the kinds of tactics that our military got so good at, so effective working with our iraqi and afghan partners with, that is that we're going to put more u.s. forces, more u.s. advisors out close to the front lines. they're actually going to be advising partner forces. they're going to be providing airlift, intelligence support, a full range of enablers that allow a partner force to actually be effective n some cases that might mean to include the use of force. it might need to use of force because partner forces, we need to protect them. it might come into play because we want to help the partners by taking some offensive action prior to the partners going in there and the ppg framework doesn't really fully allow for
that. so you see these exceptions that stephen was talking about, well, part of libya, particularly the campaign we'll undertake against isis around derna and sert, these will be carved out of ppg the ppg framework doesn't apply. so that worked insofar it allows us to take some actions to be more effective in tied interaction with our partners stated strategy. it is challenging, when you carve out big loopholes in the framework, we start to wonder, well is the framework really appropriate what we're facing. trump administration comes into power and the first thing they do, we'll put it steve on hiatus and backburner. for six is months we say the ppg doesn't apply. we have other types of rules. we don't know the rules are, reading tea leaves from the press. we want military commanders to be more forward leaning and come back to develop a new framework.
the frail work that emergeses, we don't actually know what the framework is. there has been no speeches about it. there is no public rollout stephen talked about. reporting from "new york times," "washington post" and other journalism outlets that have sources on this but it is something that gives a broader applicability and loosening of the reins when it comes to being able to use direct access in support of partners support of other things. for those of us who worked on the obama framework, first reaction, i won't lie, to be defensive. say we had a good framework. why did we throw that framework out? why is the trump framework, especially if you're upset about other things the trump administration is doing, this might not be the right framework? i think it is important to ask, worth asking at this point, any prudent policymaker should ask, does the framework mask the world we find ourselves in terms of the threat and what we want to be able to do against the
threat and i don't know that the answer on that has been fully answered in satisfactory way. that is to say when i talked earlier about the bipolar world of a generally peaceful yemen with a stable government and full-scale major combat operations in iraq and afghanistan the poles on that in some ways have collapsed inward. what was previously full-scale combat operations in afghanistan has turned into kind of ad advise, assist mission on steroids. what we're doing in iraq and syria always depended at least in 2014 putting partners out in the lead, providing airstrikes, other support for them to be effectivetive. o'malia and yemen have taken a seat backwards. they don't look like stable or somewhat fragile place. they look closer and more like iraq and afghanistan and syria than they did before.
i don't know that the old framework makes sense to govern those two places. i think that is something this administration should be working on as any administration should. >> thank you. i will have josh answer a question and then top pick that you brought up, which is, what is the current state of the world today, when it comes to terrorism and security threats and do the policies we have actually work to address that? so, josh, you were also in the, at the tail end of the obama administration. you trade some time for a little bit of time into the trump administration. so i think you probably got some good perspective there on the mind-set and philosophy of the new team. how would you, how would you characterize what they're doing right now, even if it is not strategic and just tactical? i think it is worth explaining not to the washington community but to the american public, given every once in a while you see a news story something that happens in niger, somalia,
yemen. these are piecemeal anecdotes, if you will, you have to work hard to put it together, the narrative. so given your vantage point during that time, piece that together for us and then walk us through how you see the, the war on terror as we knew it post-9/11 into the future? what should we be concerned about? what kind of partnerships need to exist to actually get at those challenges? >> before i answer the question i will abuse the opening minute or so to add my thanks to you, to new america for hosting this and particularly to get to do this with two good friends. stephen and i have been buddies since we were the lowest form of life, graphed students together. since then i very much admired his work. i echo luke's sentiments. it is excellent book. lot of people talk about partnerships in counterterrorism
but to grapple with the tradeoffs between counterterrorism and other foreign policy interests and dig into what partnerships can actually look like across the spectrum, stephen has really done every one who follows these issues a great service with the book. >> thank you. >> and luke has been very generous come lying and friend since we got to work together in government and beyond. it is fun to be up there with all three of you. now to actually answer your questions or at least try, so i think the right place to start in talking about today's terrorist threat is still with isis in syria. i know there is, there is inclination to move on from that. in part because people want to talk about different things and in part because there is a generally good news story of that threat diminishing but i still think it's the place to start. you have far fewer fighters. you have far less territory that isis held a couple years ago or even a number of months ago but you don't have that group eradicated. that means you don't have the
threat that it continues to pose eradicated. if anything you have something what is a slowing down of the progress to squeeze that group. thousands of fighters at least enjoying something of an opportunity to figure out what comes next for them in the euphrates river valley region. i will come back to kind of where the counterterrorism push is on that, what my thoughts are on the continuity versus difference on that piece of it. i also think when you talk about today's threat, you stay in syria but you talk about al qaeda in sir -- syria. this piece of al qaeda, splinter group in al qaeda, whatever you want to call it, rebranded itself, renamed itself a number of tiles. i think it is easiest to think of the piece of al qaeda set up something of a haven in a different piece of syria, more northwest part of syria from where isis has now been cornered
to some extent and al qaeda in syria has been in some ways patient. it has in some ways played both the local and regional as much or probably prioritized that over sort of playing the global field but, i think it is perhaps a problem we will be talking about, a terrorist we will be talking increasingly in times to come. that doesn't to say other pieces of al qaeda are gone, because they're not. there is in yemen. still shabaab in somalia. still al qaeda's original leadership to the extent it remains in the afghan region. in my mind, real veterans of al qaeda have shifted to northwest syria over time. but i think you have these remnants that of both al qaeda and isis. some diminishing. some actually surging a bit or at least trying to, and beyond
that you still have as, you asked what we should worry about? you have the ability to reach here in the united states radicalize people in the united states whatever ideology a group wants to utilize. isis did a way more compelling that al qaeda had been able to do previously. not just here in the u.s. but europe and elsewhere. it had ability to make folks not on the battlefield with them, who might never go the it to the battlefield, somehow feel they were part of the isis project and kill and die in the name of that project. that is remarkable thing. i'm happy to spend time, i know these folks have thoughts on as well what to do about it but that problem hasn't gone away. if anything it is revealed for others to try to utilize on and iterate on and improve from their own vantage point. finally i would think about what a terrorist group like isis losing key pieces of territory tries to do to maintain or regain momentum.
this is idea of novel fire operations, the type of county irterrorism folks worried about a while, haven't come to fruition beyond recrudement and radicalization. you haven't seen working to bring down a power grid or to disrupt a hospital's operations but you might because clearly some technological expertise isis has had, probably continues to have, what they might turn to when they don't have the physical territory to plot and build networks, to terri out sort of operations they have unfortunately been able to carry out over the past few years, i would gyp to think about that. let me say a talk about counterterrorism piece. relate to a few of those. i look forward to more of a discussion. you can tell different stories about the trump administration's approach to some of these issues and whether there is continuity there or not. let me start with the counterisis campaign. you can tell a story of a strategy developed by the previous administration, well
underway by the time he got to january 20 ever last year, and that more or less continues that is to the credit of trump administration and foreign service officers and military personnel and intelligence community members. all those folks are implementing it. a campaign on the ground in iraq and syria that has now retaken something close to 90, 95%, you see somewhat differing estimates of the territory group once held. clearly squeezed the group. pressured the group. that sounds like a lot of continuity. sounds like a very good thing. on the other hand you zoom out a little bit and the pieces that go around counterterrorism don't like quite as tidy, as much defined by continuity. you look at diplomacy critical to that campaign, it starts to look a little bit shakier. part of the reason that progress occurred and occurred quickly as it did, i think both luke and stephen referenced this, because the u.s. had capable
counterterrorism partners on the ground. in syria largely a force led by syrian kurds. those are the same folks one would hope to continue to clear isis from the pocket in the euphrates river valley i mentioned earlier. but, in large part i say this, thanks to eric's reporting on this, i see him sitting in the back, you have the kurds sitting sitting -- turning away going back to defend against turkey. some may be trickling force. if you don't get a ground force to clear out, you can't clear out what remains, thousands of fighters. diplomacy may not be the first thing folks think about when it comes to counterterrorism, but it really matters. those pieces don't seem defined by same continuity you see in the operations themselves, the military operations themselves. you don't see holding together of coalition because of more erratic diplomacy and messaging more generally, from the
white house. there is a story less defined by continuity as you zoom out from the strictly military counterterrorism piece. let me put one other data point on the table for this, which is libya. towards the end of the obama administration, you see the campaign that look mentioned to clear isis from cert, a coastal city where isis level of control was similar what it had in syria and iraq at some points. you can find the images on line. isis flag being marched down main streets in parades in sert of the you eventually have a campaign to clear the group from sert, using largely american power and partners on the ground. it looked at least to my mind like almost a paradigm by with, and through partners, counterterrorism operation where
the u.s. had the comparative advantage and has good partners on the grounds and plans for the day after, to make sure this doesn't need to be repeated, endless cycle of isis retaking the city, the u.s. having to show up again to drop bombs to clear the group. to some extent you see in this administration some operations would you expect to see from any administration in the aftermath of that. strikes against the group as it attempts to regather in the desert. the first of those strikes was on president obama's last full day in office. then you see more under this administration. so the pure military part seems like it has a lot of continuity. then if you zoom out a bit, you see things less consistent. less transparency with respect to the operations, both when they're occurring, where they're occurring, why they are occurring, how they fit into broader strategic approach to libya. you also see less of an interest in the day after executions that i mentioned before. how is sert, a city really
devastated by this group, being rebuilt, so it is more resilient as the group tries to retake it. again you see in the broader diplomatic context the lack of relationship-building and diplomacy that could create for libya writ large, a more stable arrangement that libyans can do counterterrorism to the extent it needs to be done going forward. i will leave on that note. in some way as level of generality you want to talk about counterterrorism and how partnerships fit into counterterrorism. how they fit where they are now and how they looked before and how effective things seem to be right now. >> couple other comments and then we'll do follow up questions to open it up. one thing we definitely learned from the begin of the obama administration until the end is that good counterterrorism policy not just about
counterterrorism which you all alluded to. it is not approach that is restricted to any one government agency. it's a whole of government approach. if you want it to be successful and sustainable. and i think that is something we learned by the end of it. one would hope that is something shared with the next administration, whoever they may be and that gets built upon. there is always some kind of dismantling of policy, that is what every government does to distinguish itself. one would think and hope we maintain the full of government approach. without it i don't think we get at foundational issues why terrorism is allowed to persist in some of these countries. not just about the facts that there are non-state actors doing whatever they want. a lot has to do with economic inequality. a lot has to do with corrupt governments and states, et cetera. all of which is in stephen's fine book. every comment has to go back to the book, by the way. the second point i want to just
say, in ways of talking all around it, the u.s. isn't kind of, we're not innocent here. we often taken a short-term approach at the expense of long-term objectivities that we should have focused on, right? that was very much my experience and education of working in pakistan, it was expedient approach was often the best one for the moment in time for, whatever political objective we had. or if it was a security objective, the shorter approach was often the one that all sides wanted to take. only to learn that a few years later, we should have done something different, right? but the key is, that we learned those lessons and it would be prudent for the trump administration to take note of those. i don't expect that short-term versus long-term theme to end. i think that is just a constant issue thaw struggle with in policy making. so one thing we alluded to josh's transparency. could you talk, talk about what
are expectations of transparency. what should the public expect in terms of transparency and reporting from the u.s. government? . . the second bigger question for all of you, and we talked about this as well, are we continuing to do this indefinitely. what are the parameters for this new security environment we found ourselves in after 911 and how sustainable is using direct action when there's bigger issues like cyber policy and radicalization of folks through the media and
messaging from our own government and the internet. that's a big question. i'd love your thoughts. >> on the transparency point, i agree with you and to some extent i agree with the president that one doesn't want to show the enemy what one is about to do. that's not what anyone would recommend about military or other forms of action but there's a whole lot of space to say more than this administration is saying about counterterrorism. it doesn't have to sacrifice sensitive information or the element of surprise. i think esther at the strategic level which is why are the strikes up in a place like yemen or smalley? it's hard to know whether one wants to criticize that,
except that if one doesn't understand the strategic context for. what are the new types of actions being taken and toward what sustainable and? that's a very high-level discussion and how does this administration think about counterterrorism. you nine oh they have not put out a counterterrorism strategy. they did talk about it in the counterterrorism strategy in some very traditional ways and i don't mean that is a bad thing, if anything a good thing, but it's hard to know when things change, what to make of the change if one doesn't have the strategic context. then there's also a very granular other side of the spectrum type of information sharing that strikes me as responsible. this is something luke feel strongly about as well which is information on what were doing after we've done it and in particular who it's killing
in terms of combatants and noncombatants or civilians. this was something the previous a ministration work toward more slowly than some would like but worked hard and by the end they did so and entrenched the commitment in an executive order and ultimately they had a related obligation on the defense department in statute and when the deadline for both of those rolls around, just under a month ago the deadline was simply ignored. the information wasn't there. to tell the market people that sort of information, how much are we doing and whom are we killing when we do it, that strikes me after the fact is not just not harming things but it's general engine generally helpful to things because this government and those who implement the policies are incredibly careful and it also helps the narrative for the contrary to put out the information as best we have it. maybe i should allow others to chime in now.
>> sure. the question of where does this all go and what does the strategy look like is a really important timeline. there's just a few things that jumped my mind. for the past ten years we've had a counterterrorism strategy across the administration that said we can't kill our way out of this. and yet, if you look at our expenditure of resources in a number of different ways, whether those are policy, actual financial resources were overwhelmingly focusing on the military intelligence. one of the things that, while it was very important to get the drone policy and a broader action policy right and we spent a lot of time in the obama policy with senior-level meetings to do things in the
way the president wanted to, and that was very important, that has an opportunity cost associated with it and the real rubber meets the road, the number twos and that's were talking about the drone strike or drone action and are not talking about building partnership capacity or things like dealing with terrorist use of encryption and other medication methods. some of these really big x factors or things that we said , strategic perspective that we have to get right if we want a fighting chance of getting after the enemy. secondly, when it comes to more direct resources and financial resources, i just participated in a working group that the center put out assessing the total
expenditure, the total cost of effort since 9911. we concluded that over $2.8 trillion have been spent in the name of counterterrorism. that includes the war in iraq and afghanistan and a huge range of activities. if you break those numbers down, the amount of that 2.8 trillion that was spent on foreign aid, any development that includes equipment for the military and counter extremists of them, it's less than 1%. if you count in the total cost of state and aid operations, you kind of get these incredibly expensive deployments for war zones and you're still under 5%. we can say, we can talk better strategy all we want, we can say were trying to not overly militarize it, but as an old
professor of mine used to say, don't listen to my speech, read my budget because that's where have to make real decisions. we have consistently emphasized the military tool. there are a lot of good reasons for the that have to do with restrictions and the color of money issues, on and on and we can certainly get into those, but to say that our strategy is balanced is just not for now by actual analysis of what we've actually done. >> so let me pick up that thread and go back to that question on how long are we in this? let's just say, first well, thank you for the kind words, you all should know in the interest of transparency, if the book is good words better, it's better because josh and luke spent long times talking with me about a lot of the decisions they struggled with. so to the degree that i'm able to capture some of that it's because i've talked to people who were doing policymaking at the highest level. >> rest assure that all heirs.
[inaudible] i think, in terms of your question regarding how long are we in this for and other greater issues that are out there, i think the national defense strategy recognizes this and says counterterrorism will no longer be the guiding principle from a security perspective. as someone who spent over ten years working on terrorism and counterterrorism, i am in agreement with that. at the same time it is naïve to believe we will put this behind us anytime soon. terrorist threats will persist. even if one believes those terrorist threats are overblown, which in some cases they may be, policymakers and especially elected officials will feel the need to respond to them and will sometimes leverage them for their own purposes. and so, we are likely to see an ongoing focus on counterterrorism even if it's
not the top scary purpose for the for siebel future. there are several consequences and assessments that flow from that. the first is that we need to do counterterrorism more efficiently and effectively. the project that luke was part of, the fact that we spent $2.8 trillion is sticker shock. but since then that had a go through an estimate in some cases what was or was not being spent, what was or was not counterterrorism and so, the fact that we don't know and that we can't do effective assessment monitoring and evaluation for where were getting bang for our buck and where were not getting it needs to change because of her going to be in this for the long term and were not going to be able to spend like drunken sailors because were looking at other issues that will be higher level, then we
need to be more effective and efficient. part of that means being harder on ourselves in and in terms of organizationally on how we do strategic strategy and planning and how we do evaluations. the other part which we talk a lot about is how to get more. [inaudible] i think that goes to knowing what we can expect from them. josh, i think your point about the kurds on the ground and where that relationship is heading highlights two important factors. one is that it's not enough to share a threat, it's how you prioritize that threat relative to other threats and now that the isis thread has declined we are seeing that the kurds, there are greater issues for them. were not going to be able to get around that. i'm always very skeptical that you can change partnerships
and that perception, but for that reason, i think the politics and the diplomacy become even more important. can you change the perception? no. but good diplomacy can help mitigate some of the worst-case consequences that can come out of that, and that's part of what is missing right now. then i would close with this, i think there's two sides to the what should go under the ct bucket question. in true academic form brought a nice chart where i say here are all the things that go under ct cooperation. i do believe diplomacy is part of that. if you not mindful of diplomacy as part of counterterrorism then you run into problem. if you're not mindful of
counterterrorism then you run into problems. especially when you're not mindful of the trade-offs that take place. the danger is that everything becomes counterterrorism. i think that's where sort of a very rigorous internal assessment becomes important. you need to be clear about where things fit in terms of the counterterrorism strategy and where they don't. that doesn't mean that everything is ct. it means that you have to understand where ct runs up against other foreign policy issues. and that also gets to that point that you are making about the short-term long-term train. that's something that the obama administration faced in the bush administration -based and the problem that every administration faces.
the obama administration and even the bush administration could agree with those issues and you're absolutely right when you look at the spending on military and everything else, sometimes maybe they didn't wrestle with them to the degree which with some of us would have liked and maybe if they would've had a better sense of what they were going to get out of partnerships they could've driven a harder bargain. i think the danger with the trump administration is not that they're confronting the same challenges in terms of diplomacy and its importance or long-term short-term, it's that i don't see them wrestling with these issues. so even if the obama administration fell short, even if the bush administration fell short, there's a cognizance of these challenges in wrestling with them as opposed to a sort of let's just try to kill our way out of this problem. diplomacy is hard, let's not bother. the short-term often takes
precedent over the long-term, let's just focus on the military piece. that is one of the bigger issues that were not wrestling with them and so you never going to get the perfect answer, but you can optimize your ct or you can't mitigate against the bad stuff if you're not wrestling with these things on a daily basis. >> very well said. another thought to add that is that ct policy can be very transactional if you wanted to be and our own policy has been but we don't want to go down that path because it's not effective and because i think the trump administration is a very transactional administration in everything and that's one of the stated objectives, it's a known approach of it. you can see that happening at commerce and within the military partnerships and they think you can expect it in ct as well and if that's what we are to presume of their policy
i think we are in for a lot of cleaning up in the future. if i were to describe it in any way i would say it would be transactional. in one final point, i'm glad you brought this up, i would just caution that we don't want to dismantle a bureaucratic infrastructure that now exist to deal with ct that we didn't really have a 911 happened. there's a wealth of expertise and knowledge in the bureaucracy that we didn't have before now that the threat has shifted there's a very natural tendency to say we need to clean, let's dismantle this and focus on this part of the world and i would hope that we've learned those lessons, that we don't want to do that. i think we all agree on that point but it's just a note of caution as we watch the administration, looking at where it can cut cost and in some cases, for example the state department, you do need to actually trim some fat but has to be done in a very careful and thoughtful way
because as we've said, diplomacy is very critical to effective policy providing there's a lot of good work to be done so think you to our panelists, let's open up for q&a. please identify yourself and state your affiliation and please ask the question. >> and with the center for global policy. ct policy, has it shifted in the sense that we are now dealing with not your traditional terrorist threat? have they morphed into other groups and their into state actors? if one of you guys can explain how it has that changed policies. is it still bigger is?
are we looking at a bigger enterprise than what we know is classic counterterrorism? >> yes. i think it's absolutely more. one of the issues when people tend to think of counterterrorism they think of the nuts and bolts pieces, the mechanics and law-enforcement peace in the military piece and those are all still there. we were actually talking in the back that a lot of that, we've been doing that for a while and it runs reasonably well, but as i think you've heard from the conversation, you're dealing with war fighting organizations and nonstate actors who can take the whole territory and govern territory for considerable amount of time. they were referencing some of the risk factors in terms of economic deprivation, lack of rule of law, foreign governance, things like that and the importance of
diplomacy when dealing with nonstate actors and because of the nature of the threat, it's bigger and because i think not just the nature of the threat is bigger but there are more factors that we recognize today and the nature of ct has changed. that's not to say that the old pieces of counterterrorism no longer are important and it's not to say that every time you go promote rule of law or do anything else that has have a counterterrorism peace, but it is to say that because the threat is bigger, because there's a threat from state-supported nonstate actors and they increasingly have access to weapons and technologies that states enjoy because they are able to take in whole territories for long periods of time and you're dealing with war fighting organizations that are able to do propaganda on the level that states were able to do
propaganda, of course your toolbox needs get bigger. you need more instruments to deal with that. it doesn't mean that every instrument is going to be a ct interest instrument but i agree you don't dismantle the bureaucracy, you sort of try to get more out of it, but that's one of the reasons why you've seen not. >> ultra said one thing to that which is in a lot of ways the counterterrorism apparatus that we have is put in place and designed to prevent another 911 style attack. al qaeda and the way al qaeda operates, our b bureaucracy is a shadowy membership base were organizations and individuals within the organization have, in many cases known themselves
each other for decades. you have these issues where bin laden says essentially let us think about it before they're actually allowed in as a full-scale entity and you have al qaeda primarily operating in these shadowy web forms and you have aces operating out in the wide open and operating a social media campaign and attempting to build a movement that's not built on these long-term plots that can be devastating on the scale of 911 but that are also susceptible to disruption at multiple points and these homegrown violent extremist type threats. on one issue after another, the u.s. government is not properly equipped to deal with it. dealing with the online threat is really difficult. we have the first amendment we can't go out and say this
contact that we find offensive but doesn't break any laws need to be taken down. that something we can't legally do. even if we could it would be hard to do. you can kind of pick through these things and ask yourself are we properly equipped for this threat or is the bureaucracy or the institutional capabilities we've built, can they be adapted and that is something that i hope this administration and really any administration can deal with. >> just to add on quickly, the cycle you described is the same one they said, every terrorist group wants to become an insurgency and everyone wants to become the state. that's the classic cycle. the question becomes, are we seeing folks succeed in getting further down the cycle and of course, there were groups that were able to hold territory before aces. there was the farc and around that they didn't hold
territory the size of england. there was something distinctive about isis and about the way it afforded to govern, including taxing and doing all sorts of things for its own benefit, but to govern or look like it was governing in a way and on the scale that was different. this sometimes goes to the question about sustainability of counterterrorism because it's incredibly costly to do what we do in yemen or in small you. maintaining the infrastructure to take strikes at the pace that the obama administration was taking them or at the pace that the trump administration is taking them, it costs a lot. , but that's dwarfed by what the counter isis campaign looked like at its peak. it was more often. frequency and equipment and dollars involved. i think you get to that point where it's particularly unsustainable if you do it again and again.
it's really hard and often requires military force eczema the other ways you can intervene when it's more of a network operating but not holding territory which then asked the question how do you make sure you don't go back and do it again and how do you stop the next group from being able to go down that cycle from the aspiring terrorist group to the next state or quasi- state. you hope there's the deliberations that steven was mentioning earlier that i don't think were seeing right now. >> thank you. this gentleman in the front.
was i have to look into that. my understanding is dod has since indicated that it plans to put out that figure by june which is fast approaching but i think it would be great to press on where that is. i think these are requirements that are law so that in itself makes it valuable and it gives people a sense of what the government is doing in these areas. >> the sort of operation that comes to the public attention sometimes in the tragic aftermath or the aftermath of a tragic event, they of course are going on around the world. in fact, there often indicated in the report that these branch provide to congress every six months and where we have troops doing certain things even in the
unclassified portion of that, and when they go as wrong and they become as tragic as a moment as that is where you lose service members lives, you sort of zoom in on it and say will what were those troops doing their. that's almost an impossible formulation of the question to answer. instead you say when we have troops in places like that and what are they doing periodically with the help that you never lose your life and to be in the process of implement and things to try to prevent that recurrence but why are they in places like that in the first place. i think the answer actually goes to my left off in my previous talk about trying to ensure the groups that are ready emergent. they're just not nation threats, there are emergent. don't become the next isis quasi- state. they don't take over the territory that, without our
help, can happen unfortunately. that's agnostic as to whether any particular mission or set of authorities is the right one to accomplish that. i do think if you want to cut them off before they become the insurgent let alone that was i state, have service members who can train partners and do so responsibly and hopefully at some point go home rather be than being stuck there forever. that's why they're there in the first place. i think there is validity to that. >> i would agree. i do think there is a point where when you're going to put u.s. forces in harm's way even in relatively small numbers, it's worth that dialogue. you can say to the american public, we face the following threats. this is what we think they can turn into. you can talk about that nature of that threat and the intelligence underlining it without compromising the methods and then use that to say, and therefore, that's why we have to be willing to take
some risks including sometimes putting our own service members in harm's way to address that threat. i don't think that case has been adequately made by the said ministration. i could argue based on what i know about the nature of the threat when i lost left government to half years ago but i don't know what that looks like right now. i haven't heard that discussion. i think you're starting to see it not in just the case of the service members who lost their lives but also questions around what's happening in somalia and in particular some of the casualties we've seen. i would love to see that happen to have a conversation.
>> on that question, my understanding is that is another area where transparency has declined and it's become harder to determine where it is that the military is putting people. that's just another area where we seen. [inaudible] i'm in agreement with both the rationale for why we may potentially have service members in africa and in the need for a more, better discussion about that. i think it's worth putting out there, congress has a role to play in this and i think i have an important role to play in that debate. there are members that are trying to make that happen, but by and large congress could be taking a much more forward thinking approach. the third is talking about looking at this in geographic
expansion. i think the other question that deserves unpacking is what role are they playing? we are now, at least at what can be gathered from the open source, you may have more fidelity than i do but increasingly moving away from training and equipping to train and advise in the company. the authorities for what they can do our wider and so, i think that raises the question of what's happening in niger a training and advising mission, or was it something that was
closer to a potential combat mission if those authority's are going to be in place to allow them to go after someone for a capture commission and you get the firefight that you got. that's something that i think is sort of being unpacked and it's hard to do in part because of the transparency issues. >> the basic munication outreach strategy. we went into the balkans, i would argue this is a lot harder because these are not clear-cut conflicts. we could do a better job of educating the american public on the use of these kinds of filters in various parts of the world. please wait for the microphone.
>> i'm with the voice of america and my question is if you could put in a nutshell, the policy and the change in the spending and you spoke about accountability and transparency and you see any efforts inwards. >> they mandated that the department of defense has to do assessment monitoring and evaluation for all security and cooperation programs. anytime the united states is providing security assistance to an ally partner that there
needs to be. it is a massive undertaking. there are debates about how too do it. there has been some good work in applying best practices and there is ongoing debate on how much to spend on that. nobody wants to spend 3% of their budget but it's ongoing. i would just mention the senate foreign relations committee, earlier this year i understood to be looking at a similar mandate for the state departmen department, in part because of the acknowledgment that the state needs to be measuring as well and in part out of concern that the
department of defense is already so far out in front in so many ways in terms of driving our policy that to now have them being so far out in front in terms of assessing and evaluating and for states to not have that capacity could further widen that gap. >> in terms of the bush administration, there's a couple trends that emerged. first of all, the amended agenda initial big investments were made in the bush administration. it's helpful to maybe put this into the standing homeland security intel apparatus we need to keep ourselves safe versus the i increasing cost of the war. we have these investments in creating.
[inaudible] i think most people who track this field and those who are prudent investments, that's certainly a case to be made to spend more on homeland security and achieve similar outcomes. the one that was tricky to rein in was the cost of the war. it has been difficult for a number of reasons. early on they don't want to put a price tag on that and they wanted to lowball the cost to the public so we did these emergency supplementals that would, and the obama administration tried to put some discipline around that by creating overseas contingency operation label to compensate for all of that spending. there certain criteria for what you could put in and what you couldn't. things we saw early on what army and marine corps saying
there are these updates to tanks and equipment that we wanted to do for years but we didn't have the budget for it. we bring it back from iraq or afghanistan was just do the upgrade lower at it and we will fund it out of war spending. those sorts of things that really cause the war spending to be bloated among what the real cost are have largely been cut out and put away. some of that is because of the imposition of criteria and some of its because were spending a lot less money in those areas to begin with. i think it's good to have some of that rigor and i think it's also good for us to have some honest conversations about does it make sense to have so much of the special operations command budget in the account, in that supplemental account. we will need it to be at its current and strength for counterterrorism and huge range of threats and we shouldn't be talking about a supplemental budget that could
go away at some point in future. >> i think with the trump administration, it's hard because they've been these irresponsible skinny budgets that are released and it's hard to tell how serious of a policy those are versus just an attempt to make a strong case about this. in many cases involves dramatic clashes to the state department budget and the pentagon budget although it's not always clear it's in the most are teaching way and then congress takes a pretty active role in reshaping it into what ought to look like. haven't seen a really frank and honest budget conversation with this it ministration yet that really weighs ou lays out our resources and how were going to accomplish a range of objectives, including but not limited to counterterrorism. >> thank you. let's take two final questions. these two folks here, please wait for microphone. >> thank you very much and is a very nice presentation. i'm from the russian embassy.
as you said the terrorism is a global threat and as it was mentioned several times by the representatives of that administration, no one country can fight it alone. russia has suggested to establish a global front to fight against terrorism and it's still the goal, but i would just like you to just think out loud about what countries the u.s. must work with two erase these counterterrorism measures. >> thank you so much. >> did you have a question? >> i'm with the american conservative magazine. just a contextual question.
you had mentioned the number of drone strikes had gone up exponentially from obama to bush. i think it's in the 50s for bush and i think obama was 565. weeding get those numbers officially until the end of the obama administration. do we get any sense of whether or not there has been an escalation in direct action war are we still waiting for some official numbers? do we have a sense, are we talking about an increase in direct action or is everything just speculative at this point? >> i'll jump on that one first. so i think that, first welcome the administration hasn't released its comprehensive role of the aggregate statistics of actions across the areas outside the acts of hostility spread that said, in some cases the pentagon has
released specific numbers and there are three really good outside organizations, new america is one of them, the bureau of investigative journalism as is the journal for the foundation. pretty good foundation there. the numbers have definitely gone up. if you just look at the pentagon numbers for yemen, it's 120 this year end i think last year was in the range of 40 or 50. last year being 2016 versus 2017. so finally the obama administration you're in the 40 or 50 range and hundred and 20 in the first year of the trump administration. the numbers reported by those three organizations show increases in somalia and i don't remember exactly how the others shake out, but the aggregate would certainly be higher. they also show somewhat higher civilian casualties. those are hard to assess
without any context around them which is to say that in some of the cases in yemen and small yet it appears that strikes may have been in support of ground forces. if that were the case they might not have been of abiding by the same rules of no casualties so you might expect some higher levels of casualties. that's why that context is so important and i would be hesitant to make any absolute statements about that. i'll just take a brief stab on the partners you should be working with. i think the answer from my perspective is all of them in the sense that i think we too often think about partnerships and how do we help the country that is facing a terrorist threat within its own borders and build the capability it needs but we also need to be thinking about regional partners and multinational organizations and there's case studies where each one of them, whether it's the amazon
mission in somalia or being incredibly effective. [inaudible] >> i think luke nailed it on the numbers but i'm not sure have much to add. in terms of partners, and certainly begin where luke does in canvassing what's out there and we go into counterterrorism endeavors with partners most readily available who are a lot like us. we begin with western european countries that are not geographically proximate to where the threat is emerging from, who has capabilities similar to ours. in a lot of ways hours are often superior or greater number but we go in with similar folks and that's not exactly what you need. it's not to shake a stick at the wonderful partners we have, but it's people who have different capabilities. sometimes that can get harder
because you want to engage in that effort with those who share a certain commitment to the law of armed conflict and policies about ensuring there is an appropriate respect or attempts to avoid. [inaudible] that's where i think partnerships get more difficult both with those who we call the host countries and from others who may be active there. ultimately, if you find a partner who is not meeting those thresholds that we consider either legally or morally appropriate, it then becomes quite difficult to figure out how to navigate that and either.them in a direction that makes them suitable for a partner if they're open to that or figure out how to deal with the situation without that. there is this tricky balance between working with partners who aren't like us because they also have things we don't have including share proximity
, and at the same time, adhering to the value that we both believe in because we believe in, but also because we think they're important for counterterrorism, from what maintaining the high ground. >> i briefly at on the numbers, when you look at the aggregate that we talked a lot, there has been the increase in the yemen and smalley a. what i like that the burial of investigative journalism not long ago, it looks like somalia had at least doubled in 2017 over 2016. there's also questions about whether strikes are being reported, it might be that you have five strikes but it's reported as one strike because within the same location or something like that. i would also point out that unless i'm mistaken, they've come down considerably from the high.and you're going to see more in places like
somalia and fewer in places like pakistan. that will affect the aggregate number as well. it's worth keeping in mind they were partially intended for degrading al qaeda and partially intended for protection for u.s. forces in afghanistan where now in yemen it may be forced protection for partner forces rather than for u.s. forces. it just sort of put some context around that number. on the issue of partners that i work with, i'm in agreement with josh. i think there's an importance of looking both at who are close allies are better sometimes our natural partners are natural allies and also places where we need to work with somebody because that's where the threat is. i would also add on another piece to that which is a think often when we look at partnerships and what we want out of our partners we tend to come at it from what is the
threat and what is it that we think we need. i would argue, and one of the things i do try to argue is that the united states would do well to be more cognizant of what it can actually expect from its partners. so not just what we need from you what we want from you because it's nice to want, but what can we actually expect. i think that's where you get into not just what is that partners capability and capacity, but also what other threats to the face. what else do we have going on with that partner when it comes to foreign policy? are we potentially competing another places and trying to cooperate in counterterrorism or are things benign outside of cte. we have an existing relationship for other reasons. these are all individual policymakers as the
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