At a hearing today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned General Michael Kurilla, Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), about U.S. military capabilities in the Middle East — especially America’s ability to conduct over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

During the hearing, Senator Fischer emphasized the importance of utilizing a mix of kinetic and directed energy weapons to defend against Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. Senator Fischer also questioned General Kurilla about U.S. efforts to support the Israeli military as it seeks to root out Hamas.

Click the image above to watch video of Sen. Fischer’s questioning

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On Over-the-Horizon Counterterrorism Operations in Afghanistan:

Senator Fischer: 
I remain deeply concerned about our ability to conduct over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. We've conducted only one strike against a target in Afghanistan since that withdrawal. We don't have reliable partners on the ground or basing agreements with neighboring countries, and we rely on Pakistan for access to Afghan airspace. Despite these challenges, your mission of preventing ISIS-K or other terrorist groups from successfully conducting another large-scale attack on the United States or our partners remains an integral part of our national defense strategy.

On Efforts to Utilize Developmental Systems to Defend against Houthis Attacks:

Senator Fischer: 
Can you tell us if a mix of kinetic and directed energy weapons in CENTCOM would provide you with better options to defend against the Houthis’ attacks that Senator Reed was talking about and asked you about that we're seeing in the Red Sea?

General Kurilla: … It's a layered defense, whether that's on a ship or it's on a base. We do have directed energy: the Army's "transformation in contact." They've sent us some directed energy, mobile, short-range air defense that we are experimenting with right now over in the Middle East. I would love to have the Navy produce more directed energy that can shoot down a drone, so I don't have to use an expensive missile to shoot it down. But what's worse than not having that expensive missile shoot it down is hitting that $2 billion ship with 300 sailors on it.

Senator Fischer: Agreed. I hope that we can see some further usage of those developmental systems that are out there. But as you said, your first and most important priority is to protect the men and women that are serving this country.

On Support for Israel:

Senator Fischer: 
How is CENTCOM supporting the Israeli military as it seeks to root out Hamas? In conjunction with that, working with Israelis, are you also working to continue to develop partnerships with our Arab allies, friends, neighbors, as well?

General Kurilla: So that is one of the biggest things that we work. And I'll tell, you up until October 7, we were on a trajectory that we had not seen any time in the past. And that was in developing these relationships with our Arab partners and also with our Israeli partners there.

On Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Assets:

Senator Fischer: 
General, in your written testimony, you also stated that, "the reprioritization of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance targeting expertise and linguists creates gaps and seams in our ability to detect and disrupt plots — increasing freedom of movement for VEOs to plan a strike against the homeland" and that "this could be partially mitigated by additional and alternative ISR assets and cooperation with our Central and South Asian partners.” Have you requested any additional or alternative ISR assets from your chain of command that have not been provided?

General Kurilla: Senator, I've made the assessment of what I require to accomplish all of these missions, and I've passed it up to the chain of command.

Senator Fischer: Have you been provided those assets?

General Kurilla: I don't think any combatant commander has all of the assets that they have, as you look at — the Secretary has to balance this globally across all the combatant commands. We received some, and there's some that I've asked for that I have not received.

Senator Fischer: Have you been able to do an analysis when you do not receive those assets on negative impacts that has had on any of your forces or strategic plans?

General Kurilla: So, Senator, what I do is I turn the — if I don't get these resources, we measure that in terms of risk. We look at the consequence of an action happening, should we not get that resource and the probability of that action happening based on that. And we look at that across all the different resourcing and missions that we have.

Senator Fischer: I would hope that you would make use of your unfunded priorities list in the future so that Congress has a better idea of what you need and what we need to do in order to provide you with the resources that you and your men and women need.

General Kurilla: I look forward to doing that, Senator.

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