Full Interview: Gen. John Allen on ISIS, Refugee Crisis

Gen. John Allen is interviewed on "This Week."
19:07 | 09/13/15

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Transcript for Full Interview: Gen. John Allen on ISIS, Refugee Crisis
I actually won and start with you because. It is 9/11 today Cameron and today just. Your memories of that day and here we are fourteen. Years later. On as a deputy commandant of midshipmen have they. Was in a meeting. So walked in the room and said we've just learned an aircraft lose crashed into one of the towers. In the World Trade Center in New York. Few minutes later the second crash occurred and we knew that our life and the river. Really going to be change. So we watched the towers collapse. We took the reports of the impact of the Pentagon. We began to mobilize our medical capacity at Annapolis and Cendant here sent to Washington to help. And I knew at that point that. In the years to come I would not just be trying to educate midshipmen will ultimately be meeting them in the world that would follow. And then ten years to the day after that I would find myself addressing my troops. As the commander in Afghanistan. And today when. We look at the world you see this terrible. Terrible refugee crisis. When you look at those streams of refugees when you look at the powerful photo that has gone around the world of the young boy. And you having him access. What do you think and what responsibility. Do we. But when. Heart goes out to all of them immediately my prayers are with all of that they'll find security and safe haven wherever their travels will take them. That we as a community of nations will have the compassion to take the men to care for them and help them to solve this emergency. But I also by virtue of the job that I have today. Recognize that we have a responsibility that we have shoulder to deal with the root causes of much of this humanitarian crisis. Which is the crisis in the Middle East whether it's a Syrian civil war or the emergence of this organization that we call like solar bash. And that's what goes through my mind. And yet here we are. And you've been doing this with this a long time I know he would say it's not going to be easy it's not going to be fast but are we today at a place where you thought would be. As I said. When I took this job this was going to be a long term endeavor it's going to be a multiyear effort. And where we were a year ago today. Was sure was mindful sequence with. Facing some. Some real. Uphill battles some real difficult moments Mosul and fall and we were witness to atrocities like of which we had never seen before. Iraqi Security Forces were being defeated. Dash had turned on the Kurds they had scattered densely and large segments of the using the population. Much of the border of Syria and Turkey have had now disappeared into their control. It was not clear to me even that Iraq would survive this a year ago today. In the intervening months. We've seen remarkable progress and respects. We seen the emergence of a capable leader and a partner in Baghdad in the form of hydraulic body he just finished its first year office. Between his national program is outreach to the Sunnis. His plan for un bar his outreach to the region. Is close relationship with his eminence of the grand Ayatollah Sistani. We find in him. Hope for a political future in Iraq that we could have seen under other leadership and we haven't seen before. Without a political platform without a political resolution of this conflict no matter what we do military. Will not solve this crisis now. We seen a coalition. Come into existence in the intervening months between those days and today. Coalition that has worked very hard to stem the flow for fighters to. Impedes. Finances of directions they attempted to supports their operations in Iraq and Syria. That have sought to compete with the message of hate toxic ideology that arch its head and also to deal with the humanitarian crisis. And and we seen the military. Aspects of what's been undertaken. We've been working very hard to recover to retrain and to commit the Iraqi Security Forces about 121000 have been trained. 3500 Maurer or in the hopper about 2000 more in the field. The Kurds have recovered program that was lost in the north. And they're continuing to attack and there continue to have effect and yet Mosul. Is still controlled by accident eleven Fallujah and you're injured you're exactly correct and we're not done there's much work to be done this goes to the long term nature of this conflict in the fact that we're working very Hart. To empower the Iraqi Security Forces to do this in the tribal elements as well not just the army not just that. The counter terrorism service put the tribes in the police as well but we've had some real successes. The two creek was taken back for by Iraqi Security Forces to create these are returning home you were there you actually saw flight mindful. And in Syria. That please call combine where we thought we would see another horrendous massacre occur. Brave defenders supported by the coalition ultimately help the city and branched out later to take not just the the district. But most of the Iraqi most of the Syrian and Turkish border is now in the hands of folks that we're supporting. That pushed docs well off that border and closed the principal crossing point from Turkey in the. Let's talk about supposed to Barney remains desolate but dangerous 70% of the city destroyed. For the US are strict and many of those refugees including. That three year old born his brother and mother. Were from combining. He can't go back and fleeing. The intent of course is to create a humanitarian conditions where they can go back to rebuild the city. And a process is underway and and sadly of course many of the young. Individuals who had intended to go back to improve the life and go Bonnie were killed in that terrorist attack and so roach. That prevented them from doing that. But it is the intent both in terms of the Turks and providing the capacity for that to occur and of the coalition and our international partners to do all that we can. To support the population to return to co Bonnie and other places that have been devastated by axles activities. I wanna go wrecked the refugees again and went touch throughout Syria from. You look at Iraq and you talk about Iraq and talk about the progress and you talk about upon me. According to the institute the study of war crisis controls more territory now than this time last year in Syria. Reports it just took a key airbase in the east they seize decides last playoff feel. 330000. Dead four million refugees for half years of war. Syria looks worse to most people especially when they see those lines of refugees. Syria courses one of the reasons that we haven't humanitarian capacity. Humanitarian catastrophe in the region. And it lack of capacity to deal with those numbers. The United States. Prominent among the international community is has donated to for four billion dollars. To the relief of refugees in that region in particular into Syria and other members of the coalition and other international partners have donated to curriculum. Give me your assessment of Syrian. They're honest assessment you was such allowed forests to get in to do something about crisis in Iraq hasn't actually. But Syrian steal such huge crop. And we know that and and did. Efforts that we're undertaking answer it two would deal with Dutch. I think of paid off in many respects and it's too costly wars an outstanding organization and in fact. We get lot of help from them sometimes in. The work that we. That we do. But there has been enormous. Progress in pushing Dutch off the border Syria and Turkey. Ultimately to close that border to prevent the flow of foreign fighters to support we've got people that we support routes in 45 club of Iraq we could never mentioned that. Just six months ago threatening listener or gravity but there but let me but this is important point but Syria. Is never going to be solved militarily Syria has got to be solved at a political level Syria has got to have a political transition away from. But sure all aside he can't be part of the solution. And so we have to be in constant conversation while our international partners and ultimately with the opposition elements sensor. To effect that transition because. Expanding or supporting the fight on the ground just increases the violence in and increases the conflict and then it increases. The refugee and humanitarian catastrophe that we face. A lot of the refugees are saying it's not a crisis it's it's the silent it is just it is airplanes it is so would you like or would you recommend that we start focusing. Imus scores. What I recommend is that we focus on a political transition that removes aside. And removes the leadership and the manner in which he has. Led this conflict back in 2011. When Arab Spring had such promise and many countries have great promise and Syria. But he chose rather than to listen to the dissidents he chose to attack and that created the sequence of events and has delivered us to where we are today. 2011 is when President Obama said he had to go he has not he has not gone there has not been a political solution. And it's getting worse for the people who live there it's getting worse at the refugee. And we'll work very hard to try to have a political solution will continue to work Wheeler external partners. In the meantime wheels will support those elements within the Iraqi within this Syrian population witch and ultimately win back the ground on which they. Can create some modicum of controls and hopefully. By empowering them enough either militarily or politically have them be a voice to table when the time comes ultimately from the political transition to begin. We've had about 6700. I think coalition airstrikes unit in Iraq and Syria about 2200. I think in Syria. Is that enough were clearly not using the full force of our air power capabilities. Why not. Politely debt to the grocery ultimately make that your. And very capable commanders and management Chan chairman of the trees and have them come. Well we are supporting those elements. That are accomplishing significant. The progress in the battle space and Syria. And were providing significant support to the Syrian of Iraqi Security Forces on the field. In both Al Anbar Province and saw Levine but I I but I would leave the numbers and and the of the the quantities of airstrikes would leave that judgment ultimately told her he. This week there were reports that. Crisis is he using crude chemical weapons have had you seen reports that we've seen. Fortunately but were obviously looking for the analysis on so you can understand both the sources. If in fact it's true with the sources of of the chemicals. How they're produced how they're moved hell they could be employed it's very important for that and look but I've not seen the reports. The conclusions. And I know you can't. Discuss and IG report that's going on right now but the senate also wants to take up. The question of whether the intelligence coming out of particularly Central Command. He is good intelligence if there. Over inflating. The progress. Do you feel you're getting the best intelligence. I get my information from a lot of sources. From across intelligence community from. The diplomatic community from contacts in the region from great organizations that are studying this you mentioned one a few minutes ago students that he wore. I get my information from a lot of different. Products and subjects. But I'm not gonna comment on the need for an investigation of the progress and. And the Russians. Reading a buildup there are several aircraft there can you just get this the latest on what the Russians are up to and what that won't mean. We'll watch the developments. Will watch what they're doing. I don't want to speculate right now because we haven't seen the full deployment go in. And we said all along that we welcome. The constructive contributions of many partners around the world that we would welcome the constructive contribution. From the Russians as well what we. Would oppose though is any addition or any support to the Assad regime that expand yours accelerates the conflict. Does it appear at this point there are trying to build an air hub. It's too early for us but definitely aircraft there. Not seen that. You haven't seen any Russian aircraft Nazi answer. I wanna go back to the training and the training of the moderate Syrian rebels. He and I think the first fifty something. We're devastated we're killed and again to training clearly did not go the way you wanted it to go. What are your lessons learned what you do different. Well department defenses embracing. What has learned from this and I'll leave it for them to comment on the specifics assumption that. But we remain. Wedded to the principle that by empowering. Moderates here and work. Those reliable serious elements that answer elements that we can partner with. That we can accomplish. Are objectives on the ground which is ultimately to degrade and to bash. So we did learn from that will apply those lessons in the future but it's important recognize that we've also. Worked closely with other opposition elements on the ground I think or to describe some of that but. Preponderance of the Syrian Turkish border has been taken back from direction duchess would push well off of that war. We've closed the principal crossing point at Columbia. And we have elements of those forces within 45 kilometers of rock so weak we have seen. Good example of one weekend. Enable and empower. Those elements that are ready to fight will support fighting. Owning you'd go back to refugees just one more time and we have heard from people on the hill and do you know my sis you know dashing other capabilities. We have heard from some on the hill who say. There is the potential to Heidi pipeline if we bring these refugees and quickly if we bring these people who were fleeing Syria and quickly and they caught in national security threat to create. I think we should watch it. Should be conscious of the potential that Dutch may attempt to embed. Agents within that putt that population. But also the tea have tremendous confidence. In the work that has been and is being done. Director calling. With the FBI and with. Secretary Johnson. For Euro with directors whose. Secretary of Homeland Security. The attorney general and department just as they've done tremendous work and protecting us domestically. And as I have watched their efforts unfold and as we would see the potential for infiltrators to Vietnamese. Refugee columns. I have confidence that they'll work very very hard to prevent them from getting in the country is it a potential national security threat. I think it's a threat that we we need to understand. The totality of I think before we could brand of the national security threat but it's clearly something we should be thinking about. And I have great confidence frankly the director the FB. Secretary Johnson to be thinking in those terms. And in just final question again. Richer this week on the anniversary of 9/11. You have been looking at prices and the threat they pose. Does ice is posed a threat to the homeland as we sit here. I think we should take a threat for curious and and just to explain that. Certainly the director of the FBI ticks that threat very seriously. Secretary. Department Homeland Security takes a threat very seriously the attorney general access to reversers. So we shouldn't and we should take those measures necessary in every possible way that we can to prevent that threat. Being fulfilled. And and we look at the trend in different ways there's thing there's the lone wolf there's someone who's been inspired by house's. Do you think I uses as an organization. Has the capability. To carry out a catastrophic. Attack on the UN's. I think it may be either respiration. To attack the State's either as you said by. Inspired. Attacks were directed attacks. But I have again confidence that where work very hard to try to understand. That planning from a distance as you probably are well aware we just. Attacked and eliminated chained Hussein. Who was one of the principal hubs within Dutch. That has been attempting to facilitate those kinds of attacks on the homelands of the coalition. And by eliminating him we have been able to disrupt the front of the pipeline. On how that attack might be planned and carried out. Will continue to rely on the FBI and department Homeland Security to be the that element within the United States to protect us domestically from the fulfillment of that threat. So we're going to attack that that potential challenge across its entire pipeline from where it originates. All the way to conceivably work might be fulfilled and I think that's getting a lot of attention. And lot of resources to protect the American people where do you think we'll be here today. In Iran and Syria I think we'll see. Continued evolution of political stability. Again. In the government. Federal money. I think we'll see continued. Tactical developments. That will increase stability in those areas where Dutch. Had held sway were already beginning to see with the return of somewhere around a 100000. Families or people back to to Crete were beginning to see. The outcome. Liberated areas so we'll see more of Iraq back in the hands. Of Iraqi authorities will see population's going home. And I'd I think we'll see the continuation fulfillment of the strategy. Thank you very mention. Tennessee mark.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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