WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at the Full Committee's hearing entitled, "National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activities in Africa." For testimony, other information and to watch the hearing click here.
"While the National Defense Strategy emphasizes strategic competition with Russia and China, it is also makes clear that the Department will have to maintain its focus on defeating terrorist threats to the United States.
Many of the conditions that allow terrorist groups to proliferate, such as vast ungoverned spaces, weak governmental institutions, poor security, and struggling economies, exist on the African continent. A concern is that the terrorist threat in and from Africa will grow as ISIS is pushed out of Iraq and Syria.
At the same time, Africa has the fastest growing population in the world, immense natural resources, and great potential. We are witnessing the strategic competition talked about in the NDS taking place there too. China established its first overseas military base in Africa last year, just a few miles from the U.S. base in Djibouti, for example.
Using a small number of U.S. military forces, AFRICOM largely works 'by, with, and through' our African partners to address threats on the continent. It also uses DOD security cooperation programs to develop African military partners capable of providing their own security. But this approach entails risk, especially given the enormous distances and lack of infrastructure on the continent.
Our witness today, General Waldhauser, commander of AFRICOM, will provide his assessment of threats to U.S. national security and how the recently released National Defense Strategy affects U.S. military priorities and posture on the continent. He will also help us explore the risks versus the benefits of our approach to Africa within the strategic context of our nation's security goals.
I understand that AFRICOM has completed its investigation into the October 2017 ambush in Niger by ISIS-affiliated fighters that killed four U.S. soldiers. I understand the results of that investigation and its recommendations are now being reviewed by both the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, and Secretary of Defense Mattis. In addition, the families of the fallen have not yet been briefed on the results. Accordingly, I understand that General Waldhauser is not able to comment on matters related to that investigation today.
The Ranking Member and I have previously requested a copy of the investigative report on behalf of the Committee, and we expect to receive it right away when it is finished. We further expect that General Waldhauser and his staff will be available to the Committee promptly upon request as we conduct our oversight of these issues."