tv Public Affairs Events CSPAN November 1, 2017 11:18am-12:01pm EDT
are not the responsibility of your office. so i just want to acknowledge that. >> that's correct, sir. mr. welch: you're looking at where the dollars we appropriated are going. are they going to the mission or vanishing in thin air? number three, i have major questions about our policy. and i thought mr. duncan had an excellent quote. this is not about our military. i have been to afghanistan four times. and it's extraordinary, extraordinary to me to see what our soldiers are accomplishing under extraordinary, extraordinary circumstances. it's our job to give them the policy that gives them a shot at success. it's our job. when mr. russell is there as a soldier, he has to carry out the mission but we're the ones that have to give it to him. looking back at all the
sigar reports, our dollars are being wasted in pretty gross ways starting with shrinked wrapped of pallets of cash being flown out of the airbase starting with contracts to deliver water to our soldiers in forward operating bases that ve to go up through pakistan and where their firefights are being used as ploys by warlords that want to extract much more money in order to allow safe passage for that water to get through. buying ecent episode of uniforms that had camouflage designs that are suited for tahiti but not afghanistan. so i really appreciate your recommendations and they all make immense sense to me and i could endorse those and perhaps the committee could as well. but the question is the policy
that will be advocated by the congress of the united states and whether this thing is working at all. in your investigations, can you make some general comments about the reliability of accountability systems within the afghani partners that we have? mr. some could he. -- sopko. mr. sopko: yes, i can. we have questions about most of the internal accountability capabilities and i actually had a conversation with president ghani on my last trip and he acknowledged there are problems in certain agencies or ministries and we actually came to an agreement and he's going to -- he promised the issue of presidential decree, giving us access to the internal books and records and individuals of all the ministries so we can do an in depth analysis of their
internal controls. mr. welch: we had some of our justice department officials there and they were teaching government officials how to detect corruption and they had to stop that program because they were teaching people about how to detect corruption who became the people who then implemented corruption. has that changed? mr. sopko: that is still a serious threat. that's why there was an attempt to set up a vetted anti-corruption unit of the afghan police, their prosecutors and judges. and we are looking into that. the problem is quite a few of those people were supposed to be polygraphed. they were polygraphed, and a good number failed the polygraphs but we have never followed through with removing those people. so those are some of the
questions that we're looking at. if you're setting up a vetted unit, by definition you have to follow through with the vetting. you don't polygraph people and let them stay when they fail a polygraph on corruption. mr. welch: i want to thank you and mr. cunningham for your service. i yield back. mr. desantis: the gentleman yields back. the chair recognizes the gentleman from california, mr. issa, for five minutes. mr. issa: thank you, mr. chairman. good to see you again. i have the greatest respect for our inspector generals but particularly those who operate in combat zone as you have for so many years. and it is interesting that one of the complaints you bring to us today, one of the very valid ones is you are not being given enough access in the combat zone to do your job. and that's something hopefully that the committee can help right. every friday night for most of the year on hbo bill maher, a
very controversial figure, has this show and he always has a section called "new rules," and "new rules" always sort of mocks, if you will, some of the most egregious things but let me go through "new rules" for a moment. should the -- united states government have an absolute policy of not paying bribes or other corrupt things in order to get border crossings, including obviously the delivery of water that was ust mentioned? should that be something we should not do, period? mr. sopko: i agree with that. mr. issa: ok. i agree with it. but we continue to do that in country after country, is that true? mr. sopko: sir, i look at afghanistan. i agree bribes are being paid but we try to look into that and stop it. mr. issa: i know you do. when i talk about new rules
these are new rules for the trump administration. this problem didn't begin with this administration or even the last administration. mr. sopko: absolutely. mr. issa: so one of the new rules should be convoys turn around, they report to us and we deal with either pakistan or afghanistan and tell them that one of the conditions our forces doing what we do for them is in fact that we don't pay bribes, we don't do it under the foreign corruption act, we shouldn't have our vendors doing it in order to get their convoys to our troops, that's a fair statement under what should be a new rule, if you will? mr. sopko: i think the u.s. military is trying to enforce that rule right now. last -- under the current regime and there as well as the prior one, i think they've been trying to do that as much as they can. using conditionality. mr. issa: you transcends two presidential administrations, the end of the last one and now this one. mr. sopko: that's correct. mr. issa: this one is at least
corrupt than the last one, correct? mr. sopko: absolutely correct. mr. issa: second new rule, we should not support a president, whether elected or not, that is putting hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in his and his family's pockets and tolerate the way we did under the last administration, fair? mr. sopko: that's music to my ears, sir. mr. issa: ok. i am going through my lessons learned because the argument of today is only really germane if it's the argument of the last 16 years and we don't seem to have learned. the last one which i think is ne for this committee. we are nation building in dozens of nations, including many of them in africa every day. to be candid, the peace corps, all the way back with john f. kennedy was part of the, if you will, shedding to a people what we know that is part of building a nation from the bottom up.
so if whether each president i can think of going back a long way has said they are not going to nation build, if we're going to nation build, let me ask you the most poignant question. you mentioned the problems of active duty, uniformed military personnel trying to teach things which they are not particularly suited or trained for, correct? mr. sopko: that is correct. mr. issa: so shouldn't the new rule be we develop capability at the state department and/or at the department of defense, presumably in the reserve component, and/or somewhere else that in fact finds the people around the united states or even outside, around the world, that in fact can be a productive part of nation building? mr. sopko: that's absolutely correct and that's what we're talking about in our latest report, sir. mr. issa: so if we're going to take away something after 16 years of, i call it the groundhog day in afghanistan
and iraq, of being back at the same point that we were at previous times before we let things go awry and now we're back fighting to a point at which we're hoping not to make the same mistakes again, one of the most important things is we as a committee and we as a nation must find a way to build those institutions, whether those countries want to fully cooperate or not, find a way to build those institutions and that means we cannot continue to use the same people who as well-meaning and hardworking as they have been are not prepared or qualified to exit the country with the kind of skills, and that includes the united states military, if you will, the war fighter trying to be a training -- trainer of mayors or bureaucrats? mr. sopko: that is correct, sir. again, it's trying to align our capabilities. we're not saying we don't have the capabilities. problem is they're not the ones
we have been sending because the way the system was set up. and that's the low-hanging fruit that we can start doing. that's what we call about -- talk about find out what their needs are and what our capabilities are and make sure the right people go to the right units in afghanistan. mr. issa: thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. desantis: the gentleman's time has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from kentucky, mr. comer, for five minutes. mr. comb: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. -- mr. comb are -- mr. comer: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. sopko, thank you for helping us determine a more successful fout for this mission. i also want to make note that i'm proud to represent the men and women of fort campbell military base in kentucky. they have been deployed to afghanistan countless times over the past 16 years, so this issue is very important to me
and my district. my first question, in your testimony you highlighted the challenge that politically constrained timelines pose to reconstruction efforts, including readiness. i think it's clear we need to move away from the previous administration's strategy of imposing arbitrary timelines and force levels that do not reflect the situation on the ground. that being said, i have serious concerns with the prospect of an open-ended conflict in afghanistan that could drag on for another 16 years. so my question is, can you comment on how to balance the need to respond to conditions on the ground while still maintaining key benchmarks and goals for the transition to more complete afghan security control? mr. sopko: i think that can be done. part of it is being done with overlight like this to congress. don't give -- oversight like this to congress. don't give open-ended funding.
don't give open-ended ack we essence -- acquiescence. that is our biggest complaint, sir, is we look at metrics, inputs, outputs and outcomes. and we find agencies that don't even know how much they're spending. but then they can maybe tell us how much they spent it on. how many shoes they bought. how many guns they bought. they don't know what the ultimate outcome is. your job i think in congress if i can be so bold as to suggest is to hold the u.s. government agencies accountable just like we are trying to hold them accountable in afghanistan. but i agree with you on that point, sir. mr. comer: next question. in your testimony you noted that u.s. channels in afghanistan have been meandering and clogged until recently. do you believe the trump administration new strategy is
helping remedy these issues and what recommendations from your report do you think are most important to help improve our train, advise and assist mission? mr. sopko: can i defer to my colleague. mr. cunningham helped write most of this report. mr. cunningham: so we have seen secretary defense mattis actually embrace some of the lesson learned and key findings from our report. as i said during the failure analysis, we were able to implement a lot of the recommendations in our report into that discussion. the problem is some of those recommendations are not being implemented today. the next unit going out is where we may see some change. one of the biggest problems we have is we don't have a deployable police capability that can operate in a nonpermissive environment to develop an afghan national police force. the department of defense don't have the capability and the civilian agencies cannot operate in high threat
environment so we miss that capability and that's something we need to discuss. at the minute steerial level, a lot of the advisors are uniformed personnel who don't receive the training that the civilian advisors receive. the minister defense advisor run by the department of defense excludes uniformed military personnel even though they are conducting the mission at the top. yes, i do think there can be small steps done to realign the mission. we have not seen necessarily they are being implemented today. mr. comer: my last question. your recent report found that 152 afghans went awol after traveling to the u.s. for training between 2005 and 2017. first, my question -- can you explain why these soldiers are traveling to the united states in the first place? don't we have training programs in afghanistan? mr. sopko: sir, the decision was made they be trained here.
there are some training that can be trained here in the united states. that's just the way it is. i can't really tell you specifically why a certain amount were done here. maybe some can be done more in afghanistan but i think our capabilities were here. mr. comer: has the government done anything to reduce these risks in the future? mr. sopko: well, yes and no. the department of homeland security was very receptive. the state department refused to even consider one of our simple considerations and that is maybe they should personally sper view everyone who gets a vees -- interview everyone who gets a visa under this program and they brushed that aside. es that something you can help us with. i just think it's ridiculous. they interview everybody that gets a visa when they come to the united states. now, we identified -- there's a problem with military -- afghan military coming here. over half of the awols, people
going awol in the united states are afghan. so obviously you got a problem here. the state department just brushed aside and said, we see no reason to interview them. if it's good enough to interview them for other visas why not interview them for this? mr. desantis: the gentleman's time has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from georgia, mr. hice, for five minutes. mr. hice: thank you, mr. chairman. i think this is an extremely important issue that we are talking about with the numbers. high numbers going awol. why are there so many afghans that go awol? what is the deal here? mr. sopko: you know, we weren't able to interview all of them because some have disappeared. we tried to interview as many afghans we could and also talk to people back in afghanistan and talk to other people. the reasons are mixed. some of it is they are afraid to go back. it's a war-torn country, so stay here in the united states. others are, they were upset when they found out that to go
back to their units they would have to pay bribes to get their jobs back. and they refused to do it. others, i think it's just the fact they're here and it's a good chance to stay if they could and they claim asylum. mr. hice: is there any national security threat? because you didn't mention that. mr. sopko: i think there is a national security threat. we have people that totally disappeared and we don't know where they are. the state department has not been helpful to the department of homeland security in tracking them down. mr. hice: why have they not been responsive to help track these individuals down? mr. sopko: you have to ask the state department there. mr. hice: are there specific individuals we need to ask? have you seen obstruction? have there been individuals standing in the way of getting answers? mr. sopko: no. i can't say that. mean, it's the bureaucracy. mr. hice: someone is running the bureaucracy.
i think the potential -- as you mentioned, we don't know who these people are, don't know where they are. there are a certain people gone. we need to get a handle on this. mr. sopko: we would be happy to brief you and give you information where the bottle neck is, sir. mr. hice: i'd like that. how much money is being spent, do you know, training these afghans here in the u.s.? mr. sopko: i don't know offhand. let me ask my staff. we don't have that number, sir. we'd be happy to give it to you. mr. hice: we appreciate that all right. you eluded to a few moments ago it's just kind of the way it is but is there a better way to train these individuals than to bring them back here to the united states? wouldn't it be potentially save a lot of taxpayer money if we were able to train them there in their homeland? mr. sopko: congressman, it probably would save money but sometimes they have to do it
here. i would actually cite one of the places where they do the training and had few people skip town or go awol is right in your hometown. it's at -- in the air force best place here the to train those pilots is in moody and this is one of the success stories we highlight. and it's interesting in that area -- and i think it would be worthwhile to talk to the air force and moody why they are so successful in training those pilots and mechanics and they go back. so that's one of the success stories. and i think there they have to do the training there. mr. hice: right. and i agree. i've been there and i have seen what you are talking about and it's a success story. i guess my thoughts are going beyond moody in some specialized places where it's succeeding and overall potential of national security threat where we are bringing
individuals here that we don't know anything about, they get military training, they go awol. it sounds there is a significant portion of this program that could wisely be done in someplace other than the united states. would you agree with that? mr. sopko: i think it's worth looking into it. we do discuss that but i think the first spot is just requiring in-person interviews for these military trainees by the state department. mr. hice: and you're saying that's not happening? mr. sopko: that's not happening and that's what the state department refused to acknowledge as being helpful. mr. hice: all right. did i hear you correctly moments ago, too, that this does happen with others but not happening with afghans, is that correct? mr. sopko: yes. that's what's so perplexing. for every type of visa they do do in-person interviews but don't do it for these people. mr. hice: is there a specific policy where these people are waived from that particular part of vetting?
mr. sopko: it's a policy of the state department. mr. hice: just for this -- just for afghans? mr. sopko: i can't speak beyond that, sir. mr. hice: who can give me an answer? mr. sopko: i'll have the staff that worked on it get back to you. mr. hice: please do so. i want to thank you for the great work that you do, for your forth right answers here in this hearing and with that, mr. chairman, i yield back. thank you. mr. desantis: the gentleman yields back. the chair recognizes mr. massie from kentucky for five minutes. mr. massie: thank you, mr. sopko, for your work in this capacity and i appreciate your matter of fact answers. can you give us the total tab so far for afghan reconstruction since we started in roughly 2012? -- sopko: mr. massie: if you want to
round it off to the nearest billion? mr. sopko: it's $120.7 billion for reconstruction and that's through september 30, 2017. but that doesn't include the $7.42 billion that's in the pipeline. that means it's been authorized, appropriated but not yet spent. mr. massie: so the last time you were here 18 months ago it was $113 billion roughly and now we're up to $120 billion and you say there's $7.4 billion in the pipeline. the reason i ask that question is, it stands in contrast to something we heard our president say that we were fighting terrorism, we're not nation building in afghanistan. sounds like another $7.4 billion in the pipeline might go to nation building. i noticed in our own budget we're not cutting the money for, quote, nation building. something else that's a little
incongruous i want to get out on the table here. i used to see pictures on the internet of our soldiers standing in poppy fields and i never reposted those because i thought they would be photoshopped because i knew we had a war on drugs going on in afghanistan that on citizensably we were eradicating poppy fields over there. how much have we spent to date eradicating poppy and counternarcotics effort total in afghanistan? mr. sopko: we can't break it down to eradication but altogether in fighting narcotics it's $8.6 billion with a b. mr. massie: $8.6 billion. i know i asked this question 18 months ago but i'll ask it again. has production of narcotics in afghanistan gone up or down since 2002, when we started spending that money? mr. sopko: i don't know have
the exact going back to 2002. i know since 2015 it's gone up 43%. mr. massie: 43% and we are still spending billions of dollars to eradicate poppy. i was at a town hall-type meeting this weekend at a factory in my district and one f the attendees was a gulf veteran and he told me he's been standing in poppy fields and marijuana fields in afghanistan. so now i know the pictures are real that i see. hose crops are there, and he struggled and i struggled to try to explain to the rest of the constituents in the room how that could be possible. how is that possible that we're spending billions of dollars and we can see it everywhere, yet it's not being destroyed? mr. sopko: it's possible for a couple reasons. first of all, it's a very
difficult because of the security situation. but the second reason is we have no strategy. i have complained for last three or four years, where is the counternarcotics strategy? just like we have no strategy for fighting corruption. you need strategy. the good congressman, then you look at inputs, outcomes. you have metrics. we have no metrics. we have no strategy. what concerns me is that when general nicholson or general dunford testified that 60% of the funding going to the taliban terrorists comes from narcotics trafficking, and we have no strategy, now i think we all read in the press how we focused on isis and their relationship to oil production and we bombed the heck out of that oil production to cut off that funding source.
poor general nicholson is trying to fight the taliban and no one's focusing on 60% of the funding going to the taliban. now, that's a serious problem. that is the per verbial elephant in the -- perverbial elephant in the room. we will never win in afghanistan if we don't focus on the whole narcotics problem. mr. massie: in my brief time left, i want to talk about what winning looks like because i think there's also this public perception that stands in stark contrast what i heard from you and also from our secretary of state recently who i think is more of a realist here. there's this public notion we routed the taliban and if we leave they'll come back to power. yet, secretary tillerson says basically we are fighting to have a better negotiating position with the taliban. have we routed the taliban and when we leave will they be
gone? mr. sopko: i am under oath. we haven't routed the taliban. but i am not the best person to answer the questions on how well we've done on the war fighting. i do reconstruction. but you know, i just have to be honest with you, we have not routed the taliban. mr. massie: when it's -- mr. desantis: the gentleman's time has expired. the chair now recognizes ms. foxx for five minutes. ms. foxx: thank you, mr. chairman. thanks to the witnesses who are here today. mr. sopko, are you optimistic that the security situation will improve enough to allow your team out to survey and oversee the reconstruction efforts? mr. sopko: i believe the security situation will improve , and i believe if the m.o.u.
with the department of defense and the state department on security is written and is carried out, we will be able to get out. not as much as we'd like but we would be at least be able to get out. ms. foxx: and what is your view on the president's proposed troop increase impacting your ability to conduct oversight? mr. sopko: i think it can only help, ma'am. although most of the advisors and the troop increase will be on advising and training, we hope there will be an increase of guardian angels not only for them but also for others who need their protection. so we think it's a positive step. ms. foxx: and you may have said this before i came in but how is the d.o.d. performed in the last year in getting facilities built quickly and at a much
fairer price to taxpayers? mr. sopko: i cannot give an assessment on that yet. we're actually looking at that right now and i can't really tell you what the conclusions are. they're trying, let's just say that. i think this military team here under general nicholson have done more than anyone on trying to hold the afghans accountable on corruption and other things. but i can't just give you an estimate on oversaw success. ms. foxx: well, let me ask you a couple specific areas. what's the status of the ministry of defense building? st year experienced some significant, lengthy construction delays. could you give us an update on the status of that building?
mr. sopko: well, we made six inspection visits to that building, identified a number of deficiencies. nd they accepted our recommendations, d.o.d. did, and i think they have implemented, in that case, all of our recommendations. ms. foxx: thank you very much. i yield back, mr. chairman. mr. desantis: the gentlewoman yields back. the chair recognizes the gentleman from north carolina, mr. jones, for five minutes. mr. jones: mr. chairman, thank you very much. i appreciate you holding this hearing. i wrote to president trump on july 18 of this year asking him if he was going to increase the number of troops to please come to congress, first, and let us have a debate on the future of afghanistan. since we all know we've been there 16 years. in that letter i wrote to the president, i note he had made
30 comments before he became a candidate and while he was a candidate about the waste in afghanistan. i'm just going to use one of four that i put in the letter. in 2013 you tweeted, let's get out of afghanistan. our troops are being killed by the afghanis we train and we waste billions there. nonsense. rebuild the united states of america. that's just one of 30 comments he made about the waste, fraud and abuse in afghanistan. the next sentence, i said, mr. president, i agree with those remarks and so does the 31st commandant of the marine corps, my friend and unofficial advisor, general chuck krulack. as he said in a recent email to me, no one has ever conquered afghanistan and many have tried. we will join the list of nations that have tried and
failed. mr. sopko, i met with you many times officially and unofficial with other members of congress. when i listen to what you have shared today and what you shared many times before and the waste, fraud and abuse continues to go on, it is a tribal nation. everyone that's ever been to afghanistan, from the russians to alexander the great and the british, have never changed one thing in the world. i know people who don't appreciate you and your staff and what you do because many of them are in congress, not here in this committee today, that would like to cut your funding. that was a story in the newspaper a year ago. this m.o.u. issue probably because they're dragging their feet. it's neither here nor there. i don't know that's a fact because when the american people see the stories that
come out from your report that every member of congress gets that same report, these stories -- i know there have been -- i got a handout front and back that i have a list of 50 stories about waste, fraud and abuse that i give to my constituents back in the district. and i guess what i want to try to get to is that at some point , time someone like yourself general nicholson if he's overseeing afghanistan, has got to say to the american people, we have spent billions and trillions of dollars to rebuild afghanistan and we can't build your bridges and roads right here in america. at some point in time this congress needs to have a debate after 16 years and let us have a new debate on the future of afghanistan because i will tell
you truthfully, there are at least 90 members of the house, both parties, that were not here in 2001. i was here in 2001. and when i hear this waste, fraud and abuse consistently for 16 years, i'm on the armed services committee, it distresses me as a taxpayer. i have the marine base camp lejeune in my district. i talked to marines active duty and retirees who have been to afghanistan five, six and seven times and they say nothing will ever change. that has nothing to do with the work that you and your staff do. y'all are the truth tellers. the problem is that congress continues to pass bills to waste money over there and we can't even get a debate. so my last point very quickly. if you are here 10 years from now -- and i won't be here 10 years from now -- would you be willing to tell the american --
members of congress, the american people who are now financially broke as a nation have done about all they can do in afghanistan? i yield back. mr. sopko: congressman, as you well know, and we had this discussion, i don't do policy. i do process. but i do promise you, the first day i'm out of this job -- because it's not my job to talk policy -- i am happy to publicly tell you what i really think about our mission in afghanistan. but until then, it's not my job to do that and i support this committee, the chairman, the ranking member for holding the hearings. i'm a history buff and there's a famous quote by president lincoln, give the people the facts and the country will be free. and that is what our job is. we give you the facts and you as the policymakers decide whatever you do. i think congressman welch was very accurate on that. whatever side you are on this
issue, i just state the facts. you know, i'm like the umpire. we have a ballgame that was last night. i'm calling strikes and outs and whatever. some people may not like me but i'm still supporting the game. and that's what my job and your job is to take those facts and handle them appropriately. mr. jones: thank you. mr. desantis: thank you for the gentleman from north carolina. i want to thank the witnesses. i want to thank mr. sopko for your service and i know you've taken trips over there. it's not an easy place to get to or get around. i think you've given us a lot of really good information and we thank you for that and obviously there's some low-hanging fruit we want to get to on both the congressional side but also hopefully with the trump administration. so the hearing record will be open for two weeks for any member to submit an opening statement or questions for the record.
if there's no further business, without objection, the subcommittee stands adjourned. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this hearing. >> thank you. >> thank you.
the code founder, the co-founder of code pink, media benjamin. on capitol hill, the release of the tax plan by republicans was et for today but c.q. writes house committee chair kevin brady is trying to reach agreement on state and local tax deductions. the release pushed back tomorrow. president trump tweeting about tax reform saying, wouldn't it be great to repeal the very unfair and unpopular individual mandate in obamacare? use those savings for further tax cuts. president also saying for the middle class, the house and senate should consider asap as the process of final approval moves along. push biggest tax cuts ever. well, the house is coming in just a bit. they'll take up some nine bills today, including the fema disaster funds to fight wildfires. also allowing more logging on federal land as a way to reduce wildfires. later on today, several bills dealing with the state
department. from the foreign affairs committee, including a measure that would allow the state department to deny or revoke u.s. passports to people connected to foreign terrorist groups. votes later on today. as we mentioned, tomorrow, the release of the republican tax plan. now live to the house floor for today's session. the speaker: the house will be in order. the prayer will be offered by the guest chaplain, the reverend dr. michael w. waters, joy tabernacle a.m.e. church,