Floor Statements

Washington, D.C. ­– The following statement by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was submitted for the record yesterday at a hearing on the posture of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command:

“The new National Defense Strategy provides a helpful framework for prioritizing the multitude of national security threats we face. As we turn our attention to the central challenge of great power competition, the National Defense Strategy challenges us to think about our efforts in the Middle East in new and different ways. With all of the recent success in the fight against ISIS, we must work to consolidate our gains and move forward with a coherent regional strategy to ensure security and stability.

“The current administration has succeeded in turning the tide in the fight against ISIS. The so-called caliphate that once threatened to engulf the Middle East has been reduced to a fraction of its former territory. But our hard-fought tactical victories cannot alone secure American interests in the region. And a single-minded focus on defeating ISIS falls far short of the strategic clarity needed to do so. We need a coherent strategy to account for all of the complexities of this difficult region and demonstrate American leadership.

“With a civil war raging in Syria and Assad continuing to massacre his own people, two successive U.S. administrations have failed to do anything meaningful to end the slaughter. This administration is more than one month late in delivering a strategy for Syria, which Congress required in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. With the Assad regime poised to retake the last pockets of resistance in Syria, we cannot delay any longer in developing a strategy to change course.

“In the absence of American leadership, others have not hesitated to fill the void. Both Russian and Iranian influence are only expanding in the Middle East—much to the detriment of our interests, our values, and our partners. It is not that the United States is not active in the region, it is that our activities are unmoored from strategy.

“From Iraq to Afghanistan and Yemen to Niger, CENTCOM and AFRICOM face serious questions about the U.S. role in ensuring stability and supporting partner forces. Without broader strategic coherence, we cannot hope to achieve our interests and secure peace and prosperity across these vital regions.

“I hope this hearing can shed light on what policies, authorities, or resources our commanders on the ground need to accomplish that mission—particularly in light of a National Defense Strategy that identifies great power competition, not terrorism, as the primary concern in U.S. national security. In that context, we must be diligent in asking how CENTCOM and AFRICOM can pursue their counterterrorism missions with greater efficiency without compromising efficacy.”

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