Waltz Questions DoD Officials on Strategy to Finish the Defeat of ISIS, Al Qaeda

February 6, 2019
Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Michael Waltz (R-FL), who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, today questioned Department of Defense officials at a Committee oversight hearing on the Pentagon’s counter-terrorism operations.
 
“I think I’ve heard you say... that ‘by, with, and through’ is kind of the operative strategy for defeating ISIS— particularly in Syria?,” Waltz asked. “And as I understand the pull-out strategy, we will no longer be with our allies on the ground, is that correct?... [And] we will not be [as] effective remotely, as we will [be] on the ground with a small force presence?”
 
Rep. Waltz previously addressed U.S. engagement in Afghanistan during an interview with Fox News Channel’s Dana Perino following the Administration’s announcement of progress on a peace deal with the Taliban peace deal and Afghan government. During an interview with Fox News Channel’s Harris Faulkner, Waltz also shared his hopes the United States would remain engaged in Syria to ensure the complete defeat of ISIS as a movement following the progress made after the President took the handcuffs off our military to defeat the caliphate.
 
A video of the exchange is available here. A partial transcript of the exchange is below.
 
 
Waltz Questions DoD Officials on The Strategy to Finish the Defeat of ISIS, Al Qaeda
House Armed Services Committee Hearing
February 6, 2019
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “I’m struck by your title here, [on] the handout.  ‘Conditions Favor Expanded ISIS Network Insurgency in 2019’ showing the growth from 2013 to 2018 worldwide. Would you agree that, the statement that ISIS may be defeated as a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, but is not defeated as a movement?”
 
Honorable Owen West: “Yes sir, I do agree with that.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “Ok. Would you­ — and I think I’ve heard you say- now I’m a Green Beret by background, so I certainly buy into this- that ‘by, with, and through’ is kind of the operative strategy for defeating ISIS — particularly in Syria?”
 
Honorable Owen West: “Yes, sir.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “Ok. So ‘with’ is a key term there, and as I understand the pull-out strategy, we will no longer be ‘with’ our allies on the ground, is that correct?”
 
Honorable Owen West: “We will not be co-located, sir.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “Yeah. So I heard you mention ‘remote advise and assist’, and I think referenced that was successful in the past. I don’t know that I would agree that statement, that it was successful under the Obama Administration — hence why we had such a burgeoning caliphate in the first place. So can you explain to me how we plan to conduct remote advise and assist — and if we need to take this in the other setting, that’s fine.”
 
Honorable Owen West: “Sir, I would prefer we take this in the other setting and both General Hecker and I can directly address this question.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “Ok. Would you disagree, then, that it is more effective to be ‘with’ on the ground, from an air strike capability, from understanding who’s who in the human terrain, and just generally being more effective — is it more effective to be ‘with’ than to not be ‘with’?”
 
Honorable Owen West: “Congressman, it is much more effective to be co-located with your partners.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “Ok. So, is the objective now — as you understand the strategy — to withdraw, or to win and stabilize that region so that we no longer suffer attacks in the United States and with our allies? Which is the strategic objective: to get out, or to be successful?”
 
Honorable Owen West: “The strategic objective is to prevent an attack on the homeland, even from this region and from Syria. The order we’ve been given is a deliberate withdrawal, while continuing the fight in the MERV.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “Even though we’re more effective ‘with’ and on the ground? So, we now have a less-effective means to achieve that objective. Do you agree with that statement? I mean, we will not be [as] effective remotely, as we will [be] on the ground with a small force presence?”
 
Honorable Owen West: “Sir, militarily, we will be less effective.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “Ok, great. Separately — related to Syria but separately — the Idlib pocket where Al-Qaeda still has a presence. What is our counterterrorism strategy for effecting Al-Qaeda, and degrading, and continue the destruction of Al-Qaeda in that pocket?”
 
Honorable Owen West: “Congressman, that is a very important question that we need to take to a closed setting.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “Got it. Would you say that Turkey has the same counter terrorism, counter insurgency, and military capability as the United States?”
 
Major General Hecker: “No, Congressman.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “Ok, so we have two questions here: we have Turkey’s will to take on ISIS, which I would submit Turkey is much more concerned with the Kurds than with ISIS. But then we also have the capability. And if you look at the geography down in the MERV, the Euphrates river valley where ISIS remains, all the way in the southern part of Syria and then Turkey in the north. Would you say, in your military opinion, that Turkey has the capability to destroy and to keep ISIS suppressed in that pocket?”
 
Major General Hecker: “Not without help.”
 
Representative Michael Waltz: “With whose help?”
 
Major General Hecker: “Either our help or other allies’ help.”