tv Officials Testify on Terrorist Threat CSPAN December 7, 2021 4:06pm-5:16pm EST
conversations with historians about their lives and work. many of our television programs are also available as podcasts. find them all on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. >> officials from the state department and pentagon testified on the changing nature of global terrorism threats. the house oversight and reform subcommittee hearing is just
over an hour. >> good morning, everyone. welcome to our hybrid hearing. some members will appear remotely via zoom and some in person. this was not going to be a fly-in day but because votes were eliminated yesterday, members are flying in this morning so we're catching members who would normally participate virtually who are
getting on flights and coming into texas. but members appear regular motely, i know you're all familiar with zoom by now. let me remind everyone of a few points. first the house rules require that we see you so please have your cameras turned on at all times. secondly, members appear regular motely who are not recognized should remain muted to minimize background noise and feedback. thirdly, i will recognize members verbally but members retain the right to seek recognition in three ways. you may use the chat function to send a request. you may send an email to the majority staff. or you may unmute your mic to seek recognition. we will begin the hearing in just a moment when i get the ok from committee staff that they are ready to begin the live stream. again, thank you very much. i realize this is not an ideal situation but we will make the best of it. thank you.
mr. lynch: the meeting will come to order. i recognize myself for an opening statement. good morning, everyone. thank you for attending today's hearing. today's subcommittee hearing will re-examine and reassess the varied and evolving terrorist threats facing our nation and our democratic allies with the goal of better preparing for and effectively responding to those threats. while the current challenges posed by the global covid-19 pandemic has claimed the attention and resources of our government, we cannot afford to ignore the active and emerging threats that continue to develop and in some cases have shifted to ungoverned regions of the globe and have evolved in ways that may become more difficult to defeat. as terrorist threats to the united states continue to
evolve, so too must our counterterrorism approach. terrorist organizations around the world have sought to exploit local conflicts and insurgencies to advance their own violent and twisted objectives. denying safe havens to these organizations and delegit miedzing their ideology requires a whole of government approach. it lessens our reliance on massive long-term military presence and instead looks to over the horizon partnerships and quick strike capabilities. recent history demonstrated that the value of robust intelligence sharing, diplomatic engagement and civilian and humanitarian assistance to address root causes of conflict -- conflict, experience has shown that broad democratic goals are best accomplished in coordination with our allies by, with, and through local partners in the league whenever possibly. we do owe a solemn dut of --
debt of gratitude to the hundreds ofs how to of men and women who have fought to defend our country against terrorism the past 30 years. not withstanding that service and patriotism which has depleted the ranks of alrye kentucky da and isis leadership, the long-term dishoafs effort ere-mains a challenge in. some ways the threats we face today are more complex and diffuse than ever before and once again we are in search of a strategy and policy that will succeed against these new threats going forward. i look forward to the hearing -- i look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about their assessment of the terrorist threats facing the united states. i also look forward to hearing more about how the biden administration is working to protect americans from these threats by building and strengthening our counterterrorism partnership and leveraging all available tools of national power. including military force when necessary. finally, while i believe the decision to end the massive 20-year military presence in
afghanistan was the correct one, the withdrawal does create additional counterterrorism challenges and i look forward to hearing more about how the biden administration will continue to contain those threats. in an effort to gain a more thorough insight of these issues by agreement, we have also arranged for a classified question and answer session following this hearing to provide answers to members' questions which may require disclosure of sensitive and classified information and materials. with that, i will now yield to the ranking member, the gentleman from wisconsin, mr. grothman, for his opening remarks. mr. grothman: thank you. first of all i'd like to thank you for allowing to a degree, i know this wasn't the day we were expecting it, but to allow some of us to attend the hearing in person and it's appreciated and has not gone unnoticed. good morning. i want to thank our witnesses for being here today. we are here to discuss the
worldwide threat of terrorism. interestingly, you were originally invited to this hearing weeks woog a different theme. back then the hearing was going to cover the continuing threat posed by terrorist organizations following the u.s. withdrawal from afghanistan. i wonder why that changed. i wish this hearing was focused on afghanistan. the world watched as the biden administration botched the withdrawal leading to the deaths of 13 various members in an explosion outside the kabul airport. president biden promised we wouldn't see another saigon and he was wrong he promised he'd get all americans and our allies out of harm's way but he abandoned them. he promised that al qaeda was gone but common sense will tell us that's not true he promised his over the horizon capabilities were just as good as counterterror then launched a drone strike that killed 10 civilians including children. any one of these failures warrants a hear bug we have not had them.
i wonder why. since withdrawal, life in afghanistan has not improved. the taliban's new government includes u.s.-recognized terrorists. the taliban threw a military trade with -- parade with american congresswomen. the taliban beat women and children for protesting for their rights. and the taliban are actively hipting our alryes for execution. but this committee remains silent or held hearings on bills not in you are committee's jurisdiction, paychecking for soccer play tharynsd egeep new deal pres. biden: line. i hope we can learn today how the biden administration plans to ensure the safety of afghanistan including our former troops who are former allies and the women and girls, what our current over the horizon ape capabilities are, and how the biden administration plans to stop afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorism. the last time the taliban controlled afghanistan, the result was the worst attack on the homeland in six decades. i hope we are well positioned to
stop that happening again. i'd like to thank our witnesses again for being here today and i yield back. mr. lynch: i thank the gentleman. and i do appreciate his comments about the scope of this hearing. certainly, afghanistan is inbounds for our discussion and in this hearing. as i'm sure you share our priority is the safety of american citizens at home and overseas and the scope of this hearing is broader because we want to make sure that the discussion is jermaine to other countries such as somalia, mali, syria, and other theaters where we're also seeing terrorist activity. that's the reason that we expanded it. but certainly afghanistan is well within bounds to talk about
what is happening there and what is happening with this over the horizon strategy. so i'd like to now introduce our witnesses. today we are joined by ms. harris, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations at the department of defense. she was sworn in in february of 2021. she has extensive experience working on u.s. counterterrorism policy including through prior service as chief of staff of the director of the intelligence of -- director of intelligence at the national counterterrorism center and is director for counterterrorism on the national security council. we're also joined by mr. christopher a.lamberg, acting deputy coordinator for counterterrorism at the department of state. he's a career member of state department senior foreign service and has previously served in several roles of the department including as director
of the international markets and law enforcement program and director of the counterterrorism bureau's office of south and central asia and near east affairs. toicht thank you both for attending and especially attending in person. we appreciate that courtesy. i would look forward to your testimony. pursuant to rules of the committee, will you please both stand and raise your right hand so we can swear you in. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? let the record show that the records have each answered in the affirmative. and without objection, your written statements will be made part of the record with that, ms. harris, please be seated, both of you, thank you. with that, ms. harris, you are now recognized for a five-minute summation of your testimony. ms. harris: good morning, chairman lynch.
ranking member grothman, esteemed members of the subcommittee. thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today, particularly in person, about the department of defense's approach to counterterrorism. i'm grateful to appear with my department of state colleague and look forward to today's discussion. while we have significantly degraded the terrorist threat, with the last 20 years of sustained pressure we still face a potent challenge this terrorist threat to the u.s. homeland from externally directed attacks is at its lowest since 9/11 but we still face a number of terrorist groups committed to targeting u.s. interests and personnel abroad. these groups seek to take advantage of instability and ungoverned spaces and have a new and evolving set of tools readily available. today's terrorist groups are proficient with new technologies, agile in the information environment career ative in circumventing traditional financial systems and remain ideologically influential enough to motivate generations of new people to join them or conduct independent attacks on their behalf. but let me be clear. the united states has met this
challenge at every evolution. our capabilities to counter terrorist threats have grown expo nene cially since 9/11. while it's critical to preserve the option for u.s. counterterrorism operations where necessary, we see that the most effective counterterrorism approach is a mention of kinetic and nonkinetic capabilities and working -- work wowrg partners an allies. for the department this includes collaborating on partnered operation, using our education and capacity building programs to help develop increased krownt terrorism capability in critical regions and ensuring our cooperation efforts integrate with other complementary u.s. government efforts. as we process the lessons from our time in after began tan and set the conditions for a new counterterrorism mission we willseek to leverage intelligence, diplomacy and other kipbilitys to ensure afghanistan never becomes a safe haven for terrorist. our approach will not be static. we will continue to adjust based
on threats and what will keep america safe. we'll rely on a whole of government approach as we seek to deepen relationships in the region, understand the afghanistan government and maintain our it commitment to after began people. our withdrawal from afghanistan does not diminish our vigilance in our kowbt terrorism mission and our full attention remains on protecting our homeland, citizens an interest from from the continued threats terrorism poses not only from afghanistan but around the world. we'll never waiver in that mission. thank you, mr. chairman, ranking member, and distinguished members of the committee. i look forward to your questions today. mr. lynch: thank you. and mr. lambberg, you're now recognized for five minute farce summation of your testimony. welcome. mr. lamberg: good morning. chairman lynch, ranking member grothman and distinguished
members, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today with my defense colleague to discuss the state department and broader u.s. government efforts to counter evolving threats around the world. i've asked my full written statement be entered into the record. mr. landberg: we have a terrorist landscape that's fast moving. terrorists remain a threat despite significant progress bef made in degrading their ability to threaten the united states. globally, isis and al qaeda remain resilient and determined. despite significant losses in leadership and territorial control, both grandpas are leveraging their networks to advance their agendas. counterrering these terrorist threats remains at the forefront of the biden-harris administration priorities. the united states global counterterrorism engagement is a whole of government effort, as you said, mr. chairman.
with the department of defense, the intelligence community, and civilian assistance and law enforcement agencies all playing important roles. today i wish to focus on the state department's efforts to protect the united states, our citizens, our allies and our interests from terrorists. the state department is taking concrete and specific actions to counter complex and evolving terrorist threats worldwide we play a critical role in the efforts to strengthen partnerships and build civilian capacity to counter the full spectrum of terrorist threats confronting the united states and our allies. this includes bolstering the professional. i and capability of partner nations, law enforcement to identify, deter, prevent, disrupt, an rehend, investigate, prosecute and convict terrorists and their supporters including thru support for key regional and multilateral institutions and global initiatives. the state department is leading
the u.s. government's diplomatic engagements with key partners to ensure broad international counterterrorism support and assistance. state engages with foreign partners and leverages multilateral organizations such as the global organization to defeat isis. state in coordinate with interagency and international partners is using foreign assistance to build partner capacity to enable them to address terrorist threats. we are strengthening these partner nations' capabilities to secure their borders, investigate and disrupt terrorist plot, track terrorist financing, prosecute and incarcerate offenders and prevent and counter violent extremism and rehabilitate former terrorists. state is using terrorist designations to disrupt terrorist financing. on november 22, we designated three isis leaders as specially designated global terrorists. state is also working with our
interagency and international partners to prevent terrorist travel we actively encourage partner governments to nominate terrorist actors as appropriate into their own national watch list and international law enforcement platform such as interpol. we continue to negotiate and implement bilateral terrorism screening arrangements with select foreign partners which position them to bet diernt fi and disrupt terrorist travel around the world. amid this diverse and dynamic threat landscape, the path forward to counterterrorism requires continued diplomacy, die logue and diligence. we must remain vigilant and proactive to protect the united states, our citizens and allies and promote u.s. national security interests. the constituent department commits to working to address the evolving threats of terrorism we have welcome the interest of congress in this issue and i look forward to your questions in the discussion. thank you.
mr. lynch: thank you. before we move to question, i do have a couple of quick housekeeping matters. as i understand, several members from outside of the committee wish to participate today. first, without objection, the gentlewoman from massachusetts, my friend and colleague, representative lori trahan is recognized for the purpose of participating in the questioning of witnesses and without objection the gentleman from florida, representative franklin, is also recognized for the purpose of participating in questions the qunses. -- the witnesses. thank you. i'll now recognize myself for five minutes for questions. in september, director of national intelligence admiral haynes stated while the intelligence community will continue to monitor the terrorist threats in afghanistan, that country is not currently at, quote, the top of the list for terrorist threats against the u.s. homeland. instead director haynes said they see the greatest threats from places like yemen and somalia where al qaeda
affiliated groups continue to operate and from syria and iraq where isis maintains the ability to carry out attacks despite the defeat of its so-called caliphate in 2019. ms. harris, president biden has stated that the united states will continue to counter terrorist threats in afghanistan from an over the horizon basis. that term has been used multiple times to describe the new profile of our response. to the extent that you can describe it, can you please help explain for our subcommittee members what that means, what does that mean and how is it working, how does it work, how sit working with that effort? thank you. ms. harris: thank you for the question, mr. chairman. when we think about over the horizon it isn't a static
concept. it's an iterative approach tailored to the individual terrorist threat we're looking at. it's a way to bring the department and the whole of government's full capabilities to bear against a terrorist problem and scale it based on the terrorist threat we see. as we seek to set conditions in afghanistan, for example, we are seeking to deepen our relationships in the region, work withall lies and partners to prevent afghanistan from becoming a terrorist safe haven and continue to understand how isis-k and al qaeda are taking advantage of the new situation. as watch we'll continue to it rate on how best to counter that threat we maintain the full suite of the department's capabilities to bear as we learn more. mr. lynch: we have had the chance on this committee to look at some of the problem areas. i've done -- i've led multiple codels to yemen so malia -- somalia, and the one things that
strikes me in africa, and mali as well, but the one thing that strikes me is the share -- the sheer sthiefs continent of africa and the difficulty that that presents. how does other the horizon work on the continent of africa, places like mali and the sahal and the horn of africa, given the fact that we're talking about huge spaces there and most of the areas are ungoverned so the infrastructure is very thin and it would be difficult to maintain and over the horizon presence, i believe, in a timely fashion to address terrorist threats in those locations. could you talk about the strategy there?
ms. harris: absolutely. i think africa provides a good example of a tailored approach. so it doesn't necessarily mean we don't have u.s. forces stationed in africa. to be operating over the horizon. we can use the full suite of capabilities available in africa based on the terrorist threat we see. some of it is a by, within, through effort, we work with allies and partners, when you think about activities in the sahal and what we're pursuing in south africa. in somalia we've had forces in somalia and stationed nearby but a focus that focuses on episodic engagement, building capacity, working with partners to build capacity, both involve elements that could be described as over the horizon but are tailored to the nature of the threat. mr. lynch: does the state department have a role in this?
mr. landberg: absolutely. we look at this especially in places like the sahale and east africa. that includes state department, u.s. law enforcement and d.o.d. and other interagency allies. that is part of the equation. but the administration actually is looking at it is an approach that includes development assistance and governance and working with other countries so one of the things i wanted to highlight is that we work very closely with our allies and through a number of international organizations. the deicisco lition is something we've been working on -- the de-isis coalition is something that's going to help the 84 members focus efforts, leverage our capabilities on addressing terrorist threats in africa. this is like a whole of
government but an international community approach. mr. lynch: have we resourced this enough? this is a new and additional responsibility, i think, for state department. have we provided the resources necessary to undertake this change? mr. landberg: i can speak for only the counterterrorism bureau, we have robust resources that we are working to implement effectively. that's our mission. we have the capability to do more and so do our partners. we work to leverage d.h.s., d.o.j., f.b.i., to help build law enforcement capabilities wherever we're working. we have more capability, we could do more but mostly we're focused on effective implementation of the fund we have. mr. lynch: my time has expired. i welcome the ranking member, the gentleman from wisconsin, mr. grothman, for five minutes for questions. mr. grothman: thanks. i'll ask mr. landberg the
questions. in february, 2020, the trump administration signed an agreement we the taliban this required the taliban sever all ties with al qaeda before the u.s. withdrew. did the taliban, to the best of your knowledge, meet the requirements of the 2020 agreement before the biden administration withdrew? mr. landberg: thank you, sir. we have been very clear, we're very mission focused right now and we have been clear with the taliban what we expect of them in terms of counterterrorism. they are aware that they need to, if they want to build any legitimacy with the united states and the international community cut ties with al qaeda and ensure afghanistan never again becomes a source of terrorist threat to the united states or any of our allies. they're absolutely focused on
degrading isis-k and also there's been many discussions on our concerns about al qaeda and the persistent presence in part of afghanistan. mr. grothman: since you can't answer, i take it that means there are still some ties there? what's the deal? mr. landberg: the taliban, including in a meeting a few days ago, have assured the united states and also international partners that they will never again allow afghanistan to become a source of terrorist threat to the united states or any other country. mr. grothman: you're still weaseling around the question. could they have ties with al qaeda? mr. landberg: we are going to have a classified session later on today and we'd be happy to talk in a little bit more detail about terrorist activities and threats emanating from afghanistan. i'll say that right now we've
been very clear in our message twheg taliban on numerous occasions. mr. grothman: ok. now we have a leadership vacuum in afghanistan. we have that empty airport there. will russia, china, or iran attempt to make geostrategic gains through afghanistan now that we're not there, including at the airport? mr. landberg: i'm happy by to take back the question regarding the airport, that's outside my pursue. what i can say is as my d.o.d. colleague said we're working in the region to bolster our partners' capabilities. we're not the only pow for the that region we know that russia and china and others have interests in that region. where we can work collaboratively with them, we will. our interests diverse and we'll follow u.s. priorities an interests. and i absolutely know that there have been a number of meet wtion the russian and chinese that the
united states has been part of. there's a lot of concern by -- among all the parties in the region about, specifically terrorist threats and instability emanating from afghanistan. mr. grothman: you mean the russia, china and the u.s. all sit together with the afghanistans? mr. landberg: we had one meeting that i'm aware of with russia and china, there's a press statement on that. we've had interaction with both countries where we highlight and also there's been actually interaction in the united nations as well. so there's a number of fora where we interact with both and highlight our major concerns about afghanistan, what we expect of the taliban and also what we expect of the countries in the region to do. mr. grothman: deunl terror networks will begin to reform in afghanistan? do you think terror networks will reform in afghanistan?
mr. landberg: so, we're very concerned about terrorist threats in afghanistan. and i think there have been a number of public comments on isis-k threats in particular put also potentially over time al qaeda threats emanating from afghanistan. we are monitoring it closely and we are putting in place not just the unilateral over the horizon capability to degrade that threat but also to bolster capabilities in the rescron. mr. grothman: were counterterrorist officials involved in the vetting of afghan refugees? mr. landberg: the vetting of refugees is handled by law enforcement. the counterterrorism bureau is aware of that and involved in a lot of international agreements but we're not involved in the actual vetting. that's d.h.s. and other agencies. mr. grothman: were any suspected terrorists or individuals with
ties to terrorism that you know evacuated from afghanistan? and i'm going to follow up and give you another question here. when people come here from afghanistan, one of the problems we have at the southern boarder is people show up without i.d.'s, do we know who these people are for sure? do they make up a name? what's the deal there before we let them in the country? mr. landberg: this is what i can assure you. we have robust vetting and screening of every single individual that comes in the intiets including biometric and biographic information. we have a lot of information that doesn't rely on documentary evidence, for example. any after began than -- afghan that came out of afghanistan was authoritiry vetted before coming to the united states. if there are issues, deform h.s. has the authority to prevent those individuals from entering the united states. mr. grothman: i suppose i should say that's good. i don't know.
ok, thank you. mr. lynch: the chairman yields back. the chair recognizes the gentlelady from massachusetts, mrs. trahan, for her questions. mrs. trahan: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding this important hearing. so important we get a chance to ask our questions. mr. landberg, in september, 2014, months after the islamic state announced the formation of the islamic caliphate in area and iraq, the united states created a new global coalition with its international allies and partners to conduct counterterrorism operations against isis. over the next five years the global coalition to defeat isis worked by, with, and through local military partners to eliminate the islamic state's territorial hold. the coalition also utilized nonmilitary measures to reduce islamic state's access to funds, undermine itsable to spread its messages online and stabilize areas that had been liberated from isis' grasp.
wild the fight against isis continues, the coalition succeeded in eliminating the physical isis caliphate in 2019. mr. landberg can you explain how chai connected military pressure with diplomatic and other nonmilitary effort to degrade isis' hold in iraq and syria? mr. landberg: thank you. i think you could characterize the de-isis coalition as the most successful counterterroris- international counterterrorism organization in history. it combined the capabilities of many different partners, not just the united states, including some of our -- all of our most capable partner, really. it also took a whole of government approach so it's not just, you know, bringing to bear military use of force but also all of the civilian capabilities
that many of our governments are very capable of. so the complete destruction of the caliphate was a huge success. we continue to be concerned about isis in the core. one of the things we have seen and been able to pivot the coalition to address in recent, especially over the last year, and i'll say actually there was a meeting of political directors on the second of december and there's a meeting in bucharest today and in both meetings they're discussing how this coalition which is now 84 members because burkina faso just joined is going to leverage to combine our capabilities in places where isis affiliates are operating like in subsaharan africa and also bring together our capabilities, not just kinetic capabilities but civilian led capabilities to address isis coming out of the
area mrs. trahan: that's great the coalition is growing. the coalition focused on iraq and sir yasm the isis threat is not contained to those two countries. that became feignfully and devastatingly clear when militants associated with isis-k carried out an attack in kabul that kill 13-d u.s. service members and at least 170 afghan citizens. one of those was one of my constituents, her community will remember her and the 12 other service members killed as heroes. you testified to the house foreign affairs committee that immediately after this attack the state department asked members of the global coalition to defeat isis to quote, consider how it might leverage its experience and expertise to counter isis-k. you further stated the coalition has, quote, responded and identified potential efforts against the isis-k threat.
why does the state department believe he global coalition's counterisis efforts can be expanded to afghanistan and can you elaborate on the potential lines of effort this global coalition members identified to counter isis-k. mr. landberg: thank you, congresswoman. in the announcements that came out of the meeting a few days ago, they highlighted our -- how we can leverage each other's experience and capabilities especially in arias of countermessaging related to isis and also foreign fighter flows which is of deep concern to many people related to isis-k operating in central and south asia. and as well as counterrering isis financing. so these are some of the areas where working groups within the coalition have already started to consider how we can collectivelying many any threat
emanating from afghanistan. mrs. trahan: great. my time is almost up. i will say that the creation of the global coalition to defeat isis heralded a new way to conduct counterterrorism, one that relied not only on military power but also on diplomatic and civilian efforts to degrade capabilities an assist vulnerable populations directly affected by the islamic state's role. if we are to effectively counter the threat of isis-k we need to do so in coordination with our allies and partners using all the tools at our disposal. thank you again, mr. chairman, for letting me participate. i yield back. mr. lynch: the gentlelady yields back, we are grateful for her participation and share in her loss for her local constituent who gave her life so that others would be able to exit afghanistan.
the chair now now recognizes the full committee ranking member, mr. comer, the gentleman from kentucky, for five minutes for his questions. mr. comer: thank you, mr. chairman. on july #, 2021, president biden said a taliban takeover was not inevitable. at that point that was not true. president biden was warned of a taliban takeover well before july 8. he knew the taliban takeover was likely but said otherwise. ms. harris and mr. lambberg, first of all do, you all trust the taliban? yes, no? mr. landberg: this is a verify before trust situation. we've been very clear what we expect from the taliban and the ball is in their court. they have the ability to demonstrate to the world their commitment to what we're asking for. mr. comer: ms. harris?
ms. harris: i agree with my department of state colleague. all we can do is be clear in our aptations and our commitment to not let the threat grow. mr. comer: yes or no, is there an al qaeda prens in afghanistan today? mr. landberg: in talking about the specific presence in afghanistan would probably be better left for the classified session. mr. comer: i'm going to assume yes. did taliban and al qaeda have a mutually beneficial relationship? mr. landberg: going back, there have been -- there has been a relationship. and i think that's well known. mr. comer: are al qaeda operative witness the taliban? mr. landberg: again, sir, i think any discussion on any level of detail about specific terrorist group activities in afghanistan probably should be deferred.
mr. comer: does the taliban actively shield al qaeda? mr. landberg: i think what is clear from conferses so far with the tall -- from conversations so far with the taliban is they are aware of our clear message that they cannot allow al qaeda to use afghanistan as a safe haven. i think they're wary of allowing al qaeda to do that. i think it's a situation in flux. we can talk many more detail later. mr. comer: mr. landberg, can you confirm that after the withdrawal of u.s. troops the taliban were going door-to-door and quietly executing u.s. sympathizers and others? is that true or false? mr. landberg: i don't think i'm in a position to respond to that. counterterrorism bureau was not tracking that. but i would refer you to maybe other -- i can take the question back and maybe other parts of
the government would be able to respond. mr. comer: ok. ms. harris and mr. landberg, let me ask you this question. to conduct counterterrorism, to conduct counterterror operations or collect intelligence, is the u.s. currently operating with the taliban in any shape or form? ms. harris? ms. harris: we are engaged in an active diplomatic conversation with the taliban where we've made clear that we are not going to let any terrorist threats evolve in afghanistan and our expectations for what they will allow within that territory. i would defer to my state colleague for specifics on that discussion. mr. comer: mr. landberg. mr. landberg: so the interactions so far has been dialogue, has been mainly with our special representative for afghanistan. in every single interaction and in the recent press release from the meeting at the end of november, we're clear on what we
expect from them and the counterterrorism expectations are top of the list always. mr. comer: ms. harris, do you need permission from the taliban for the united states to strike terrorists in afghanistan? ms. ms. harris: i'm happy to elaborate further on the use of force policies in the closed session but we've been clear that we will do whatever is necessary to keep americans safe right now as we engage in this dialogue and our commitment to the counterterrorism mission in afghanistan and preventing it from becoming a safe haven have remained unchanged. mr. comer: if we have pretty significant confidence in intelligence that a terrorist is at a certain spot in afghanistan, the united states can go ahead and pursue those terrorists without getting permission from the taliban? ms. harris: i'll refer you to
comments made by others from the department. we will do whatever is necessary. we have said as much to the taliban and left no mystery there that if we have actionable intelligence and understand a credible threat to u.s. personnel and u.s. interest we will seek to counter that threat. mr. comer: mr. chairman, my time is up. mr. lynch: the gentleman yields back. the chair recognizes the scweal from florida, ms. wasserman schultz, for five minutes for her questions. welcome, thank you. ms. wasserman schultz: thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and appreciate you sponsoring this important hearing. since 2001 we have faced a terrorist threat that's rapidly devolving. instead of plot, organizing and carrying out attacks directly, they are increasingly relying on individuals inspired by their idea ol to take up arms on behalf of their cause. in september, the f.b.i.
director testified the homegrown violent extremismists are quote the most significant terrorism danger tour country. sadly the violence perpetrated by homegrown terrorists have had a devastating impact in the united states. for example in december, 2015, two individuals inspired by isid inspired by isis carried out a mass shooting in san bern dea noah, kale, that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. the following year a terrorist who pledged aleedges to isis killed people at the pulse nightclub in orlando, florida. do groups like isis and al qaeda have a deliberate strategy to acquire sympathizers to conduct attacks on their behalf. mr. landberg: thank you, congresswoman. i think all terrorist groups over the last 20 years and this is intensifying, have sought to use modern technology to inspire and radicalize, so absolutely
isis and al qaeda attempt to do that in many parts of the world. that includes the united states i think where we've seen a lot of activity and a lot of movement by isis and al qaeda affiliates to radicalize and take advantage of ungoverned spaces and local grievances has been in places like subsaharan africa. ms. wasserman schultz: thank you. and why is terrorist plotting by homegrown extremists so challenging? i'm asking this question because certainly we seem to focus on terrorism anywhere it might rear its head but we've got a very serious problem right here in our country inspired by terrorists and i got the sense from you of the challenges we face in disrupting. mr. landberg: it is challenging. we're not the only country struggling with it. i think maybe what i could -- a
way to respond is to talk about some of the things we're doing to counter terrorist use of the internet. we're working closely with social media companies to get them to enforce their terms of service. we're working internationally to build capabilities of many of our partners to be able to also counter terrorist messaging and use of the internet. we're working through the united nations with different partners. and we do our own countermessaging so there is a number of lines of effort that we do to counter terrorist use of the internet to radicalize and inspire but absolutely it's a challenging problem. ms. wasserman schultz: to address the threat of homegrown violent exdream. i, we need to be proactive and delegitimizing terrorist ideology and countering their messaging. can you talk about the count medzaging being undertaken by the state department and how it's being tawndzic --
undertaken with the global coalition to defeat isis. mr. landberg: countermessaging is a big part of what we do. we counter negative messaging with positive messaging and build long-term resistance to terrorism messaging instead of trying to control content. the goal, the g.e.c. is certainly the lead for the department in that effort. but since the bureau and the c.t. coordinator is a special envoy, the c.t. beu owe and g.e.c. work closely specifically with our coalition partners to do countermessaging and have expanded those efforts. ms. wasserman schultz: thank you. mr. chairman, if we are to effectively counter the terrorists that exist today we have to work fully with our international allies and partners to ensure foreign terrorists cannot spread their hateful messages and inspire
others to commit violence. thank you, i yield back the balance of my time. mr. lynch: the gentlelady yields back. we are thankful for her participation. the chair recognizes the gentleman from florida, mr. franklin, for five minutes for his questions. mr. franklin: thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate you holding this important hearing today and thank you to our witnesses for being here. it's unfortunate the circumstances and logistics didn't work out to have more people participate but that doesn't in any way diminish the significance of the topic here. mr. landberg, the kani network is a terrorist organization, do they deserve to be on that list? mr. landberg: they are designated and have been for a while and deserve to be on the list. mr. franklin: do you see them continuing their actions?
mr. landberg: i'd be happy to discuss this more in the secure session but they do continue to be designated an f.t.o. and we are continuing to monitor them closely. mr. franklin: thed of the alkani network is currently the taliban's interior minister is that correct? mr. landberg: yes. mr. franklin: in light of that, there are reports that people we work with have been rounded up, repoforts execution, i would think in your line of work that would be important to know and you'd be investigating that. in light of that should the taliban have been removed from the list of designated terrorist organizations? mr. landberg: so we're under no -- we having rereveufs f.t.r. designations. we're not at the five-year mark
yet. we're under no pressure obligation to reconsider that. i think it's a wait and see situation in afghanistan. a lot of it is up to the taliban and see how they behave going forward and whether they're going to fulfill their many commitments made to the united states and the international community, specifically related to counterterrorism. i'll note that as you mentioned the -- some of the concerns about abuses in the recent meeting with the taliban or the dialogue that our special representative had notice this in the subsequent press release, it was highlighted our deep concerns absome of these reports so we're monitoring it. and tracking it very closely. mr. franklin: the taliban hasn't been removed from that list? mr. landberg: they're a specially designated terrorist, not an f.t.o. for immigration p purposes
they're considered an f.t.o. those are strong tools. it's really the taliban have it in their hands to fulfill their commitments and it's not just counterterrorism. edge we've been very clear about freedom of movement. return of -- inclusive government, human rights and other freedoms. there's a number of expectations we have. that's going to determine how we deal with the taliban going forward. mr. franklin: considering their interior minister is on the f.b.i.'s most wanted list i would hope -- i have strong concerns about that. would hope they wouldn't be taken off. ms. harris. we had testimony of al qaeda re-emerging in afghanistan after six months, it's now three months later. i understand you probably can't get into a lot of detail in this environment but without the specifics is that bearing true? are we seeing activity there? ms. harris: as you rightly said
i can't get into a ton of specifics here. what i can say is we are well positioned to monitor terrorist organizations. we continue to try to improve our intelligence picture day over day to make sure we are monitoring those threats. what i can tell you is that we are focused on making sure we have the capability to counter any threats we see crop up. mr. franklin: we unilaterally blinded ourselves in afghanistan. general mckenzie when he spoke before armed services testified that with 2,500 troops he could have held bagram and we could have maintained that i.s.r. capability. given the political caps of 700 people to defend the embassy, the airport, and bagram, it couldn't be done. but he wanted to make clear it could have been done had they been given the thrt to do that. in light of our inability to see what's happening in the country there now do you think that was a mistake?
ms. harris: i think we have to consider what we need to cult mate to understand what is going on in afghanistan. i think it is more complex than just maintaining i.s.r. coverage. i think we need the full suite of intelligence capabilities. we need to work with our allies and partners. we need to ensure we have a robust intelligence picture across all of the intelligence to make sure we really understand what is going on. i think day over day we are trying to it rate and improve on that picture. we have a sense of what is going on in the country. i think it's better than it was three months ago. i think if acome back and see you in three months we'll is a more nuanced understanding then. some of that is from this diplomatic channel. some is from continuing to understand where we are with our picture and seek to improve in different ways. mr. franklin: from outside observation it appears to be diplomacy of wishful thinking and same on the military side.
we've unilaterally handicapped ourselves. mr. chairman, i'm past my time, i yield back. mr. lynch: i thank the gentleman for yielding. the chair recognizes the gentleman from vermont, a longtime member of this committee and one of our hardest workers in this area, the chair recognizes the gentleman from vermont, mr. welch, for five minutes for his questions. mr. welch: thank you very mr. welch: thank you very much. in september the director of the national counterterrorism center told the homeland security committee that the current worldwide terror threat is, quote, less you a cute -- less acute to the homeland, but which continues tbok more ideological lady fuse and gee logically diverse. my question is, even if foreign terrorist threats to the u.s. homeland have diminished, and you can comment on whether to agree with the progress she states they still pose a threat to our national security interests. is that right?
and can you explain why? >> absolutely. although it's evolving, we've also evolved our approach. the biden-harris administration, as my d.o.d. colleague said, is taking a whole of government approach to dealing with these threats. the -- while we have had great success over the last 20 years in securing the homeland and creating a network of alliances that include information sharing and vetting and screening to prevent terrorist travel, we've really increased the security of our country, threats continue to multiply, as we've noted in many places, specifically sub-saharan africa. but that's not the only location. so to deal with this we are evolving from what had maybe been a little military-heavy terrorism approach over the last 20 years to a more balanced approach as we also start to deal with a broader range of
threats that goes way beyond counterterrorism to cyberthreats, to strategic nation-state competition. by dealing with this as a whole of government, our focus is going to be more on building the partner capabilities and also leveraging these international relationships that i've been talking about like for example the de-cisco littles -- de-iciss coalition. >> i do think we see the threat from foreign terrorist organizations abroad at its lowest point since 9/11. what we see is a committed group of terrorist organizations that want to radicalize and inspire. and that is a different kind of threat for us. it prevents a different challenge when you think about trying to counter that. as my department of state colleague said, the tools that you use there are things like
engaging with social media companies on use of the in her get -- internet and working to try to countermessage from the global engagement center and other u.s. government entities. mr. welch: thank you. mr. lambberg, are you able to comment in a public setting to what extent al qaeda and isis, the core, maintain operational control over any of their respective branches and affiliates? >> i think maybe better to discuss details in a follow-on session. but there is connectivity. i think it's publicly acknowledged between the isis affiliates and networks and leadership. mr. welch: let me ask you this. the africa-run extremist groups have disproportionally targeted
regional governments and civilians. is that your view as to the focus of their main attention, not that they don't affiliate with other terrorist groups that may have global aspirations? can you comment on that? >> there are isis and al qaeda affiliates spreading throughout the world and interacting with different elements in many of the spaces that they're moving into. as we mentioned before, they take advantage of local grievances, ungoverned spaces, and often in these spaces there's already a criminal and terrorist activity that these more organized affiliates are able to then take and focus to further their -- really the isis
and al qaeda objectives in those regions. welch thank you very much. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back the balance of his time. the chair now recognizes the full committee chair, mrs. maloney, for five minutes. welcome. mrs. maloney: thank you, thank you very much, chairman lynch, for holding this important hearing. and thank you for calling on me. the united states is a force for good in the world. because we take extraordinary steps to avoid civilian casualties when conducting military operations. we are not perfect, the loss of innocent life is a tragic reality of war. but when we harm innocent civilians, we must take responsibility for our errors and investigate what happens so that the same mistakes do not happen again. ms. harris, i'd like to ask you, do you agree that protecting
innocent life while conducting military operations is a moral and strategic imperative? ms. harris: thank you for the question. ma'am, i agree wholeheartedly. i think at the center of our very ethos, are accountability and transparency. we abhor the loss of innocent life. we take all possible measures to prevent them. when we have incidents, it's our duty to learn from those and seek to be better. mrs. maloney: thank you. i agree. that is why i am so concerned about recent examples under both democratic and republican administrations, their examples of the defense department concealing or down playing civilian casualties. "the new yorktimes" recently reported that under the trump administration, when isis was making its last stand in syria in march of 2019, u.s. forces conducted an err strike -- air
strike that may have resulted in the deaths of dozens of innocent civilians. instead of acknowledging the mistake, the military reportedly concealed the strike, down played the death toll, classified key reports and even destroyed the site of the attack. more recently the august 29 air strike in kabul, which was intended to prevent another isis terrorist attack at the kabul airport, tragically killed 10 civilians, including seven children. yet d.o.d. only admitted this after a "new york times" report challenged the military's claim that the targeted vehicle was carried explosives to be used in a terrorist attack. ms. harris, i appreciate that secretary austin has directed general michael garrett to conduct an independent review of the march, 2019, strike in syria. i also understand that the air force inspector general has
reviewed the august 29 strike in kabul and found that the personnel involved, quote, truly believed at the time that they were targeting an imminent threat to u.s. forces. but nonetheless, as the united states of america, we need to do a better job of protecting civilians and acknowledging our mistakes. so that they may be corrected. so i'd like to ask, what steps is d.o.d. taking following these two incidents to protect innocent life and ensure that civilian casualties are appropriately documented and reported and will you commit to providing our committee with a briefing following the conclusion of general garrett's review of the 2019 strike in syria? ms. harris? ms. harris: ma'am, we are committed to working with congress once the investigations are complete. with regards to how we are processing the lessons learned,
what i can assure you is that at all levels we are focused on understanding the investigation, understanding the mistakes they were made, and instituting processes by which we take accountability internal to the department, but also ways in which we will incorporate those lessons moving forward. mrs. maloney: thank you. even when we make tragic mistakes, we have a moral obligation to acknowledge our shortcomings. i look forward to working with you and the biden administration to uphold america's representation -- reputation as a force for good in the world and i yield back. my time has expired. mr. lynch: the gentlelady yields back the balance of her time. we'll now conclude with myself and the ranking member on closing remarks. i do want to go back to allegations made by one of our members that president biden knew or could confirm that the
collapse of the afghan government and the subsequent takeover the taliban was -- by the taliban was inevitable. i want to push back on that statement with the facts. number one, we have had multiple hearings at this subcommittee, beginning with the special envoy of four afghan negotiations with the taliban under the trump administration. someone came here, sat at that table, representing the trump administration in those negotiations and reaffirmed that a taliban takeover was not inevitable. he came back afterwards, when he became the representative for the biden administration and again on the ground in the meetings, able to make an
on-the-ground assessment himself. at that second hearing that he appeared before this subcommittee, now representing the biden administration, said that a taliban takeover was not inevitable. we had the afghan study group come before us, led by an esteemed republican senator, senator kelly ayotte. also with general dunnford, former head of the joint chiefs. and nancy lindberg from the afghan study group. they did not say that the takeover by the taliban was inevitable. we had the president's defense minister come here to the capitol. i personally, with a group, met with him and he assured us, the defense minister of afghanistan
said, a taliban takeover is not inevitable. we sat down with the president of afghanistan, with speaker pelosi and republican leadership. he assured us that the taliban takeover in afghanistan was not inevitable. i met with a larger group, republican and democrat, at the munich security conference. with the trump negotiating team. the team that was negotiating with the taliban over the u.s. withdrawal. and they assured us that a taliban takeover was not inevitable. so all of those -- all of that evidence from people who were directly involved with the negotiations and had personal experience and information from their own involvement in that process, assured us multiple
times, over and over again, that the taliban takeover was not inevitable. as a result of the trump agreement to withdraw. so those are the facts. and i'm compelled to defend the president's actions here and his position with trying to follow a fact-based response to the situation in afghanistan. with that, i yield to my colleague for any closing remarks he might have. mr. grothman: i'd like to thank our witnesses for coming over here today. obviously we're still very concerned about how things wrapped up in afghanistan. very concerned about the airport there in northern afghanistan and what's going to become of it. and what's going to become of
all the equipment that we left behind. i understand -- i think i understand why a lot of my questions remain unanswered. because you're saying we have to wait for a more secure location to answer them. but i and i think many americans, most americans, should be very concerned not only with what's going on in afghanistan, what's going on with people who are associated with our efforts in afghanistan, and reports that at least i hear of people dying, being kidnapped and dying. very concerned about the huge number of people coming here in this country, whether they've been appropriately vetted. very concerned about our lack of presence in all the countries surrounding afghanistan. which is a recipe for trouble down the road. also very interested and maybe you guys can it be prepared for this if we have a closed-door
meeting, in what our relationship is with pakistan and the degree to which they will help prevent terror from that part of the world. but i'll thank the chairman for having the subcommittee hearing and hopefully we'll have more in the near future. mr. lynch: i want to thank my colleagues for participating today. i want to remind everyone -- [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> we're going to leave the last minute or so of this hearing. you can watch it on c-span.org. as the u.s. house gavels back in. ouse resolution 838 and ask for its immediate consideration. the speaker pro tempore: the clerk will report the resolution. the clerk: house calendar number 55, house resolution 838. resolved, that upon adoption of this resolution it shall be in order to consider in the house the bill h.r. 5314, to protect our democracy by preventing abuses of presidential power, restoring
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