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General Says Centcom Area Facing 'Volatile Security Situation'

Just a year ago the U.S. Central Command area was on the verge of "improbable, unprecedented and transformative progress," said Army Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, commander of Centcom. 

"Today, the central region faces its most volatile security situation in the past half century. This is not the same central region as last year," he said, testifying today before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization request and the future years defense program.

A sailor mans a military weapon while aboard a ship.
Hormuz Transit
Navy Seaman Jeremiah Bridges mans a M-240 machine gun on the USS Paul Hamilton while transiting the Strait of Hormuz, Feb. 25, 2023.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Elliot Schaudt
VIRIN: 230225-N-NH257-1017C

"The convergence of crisis and competition make [the Centcom area of responsibility] the most likely region to produce threats against the U.S. homeland, trigger a regional conflict and derail the national defense strategy," he said. 

The situation in Gaza has created the conditions for malign actors to sow instability throughout the region and beyond, he said. 

Iran exploited what they saw as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the Middle East to its advantage, using its proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and Yemen, he said. 

"Iran knows that its decade-long vision cannot be realized if countries in the region continue to expand integration with each other and deepen their partnership with the United States," he said. 

Iran's expansive network of proxies is equipped with advanced, sophisticated weaponry and threatens some of the most vital terrain in the world with global and U.S. implications, said Kurilla, noting some of the many flashpoints, including Houthi attacks on international shipping and attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

Iran has also developed a full-scale production pipeline for supplying weapons to Russia, fueling its war on Ukraine.

The risk of attack emanating from Afghanistan is increasing, he said.

"I assess ISIS-Khorasan retains the capability and will to attack U.S. and Western interests abroad in as little as six months and with little to no warning," Kurilla said.

A missile launches from a ship.
USS Gravely
The crew aboard the USS Gravely launches Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles in response to increased Iranian-backed Houthi malign behavior in the Red Sea, Jan. 12, 2024.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Word
VIRIN: 240111-N-BT677-1083Y

ISIS-Khorasan's area of operation includes parts of Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Strategic competition has also continued to evolve across the region, he said. 

"China and Russia are quick to capitalize on destabilizing influences. They have shown meager interest or capability to reduce regional tensions, but rather, they have increased their efforts to pressurize regional partners across all elements of national power … and foster a chaotic landscape favorable for their exploitation," he said.  

The Centcom region remains critical to the world's energy supply and remains essential for the flow of global commerce, he said. 

Centcom provides strategic depth to the defense of the U.S. homeland, he said. "American security and prosperity are at risk if we cede this space to Iran, terrorism and China." 

Kurilla said the U.S. should remain continuously engaged throughout the region with its partners. 

"Our strategic advantage remains our strong military-to-military partnerships, while our adversaries and competitors rely on parasitic, transactional relationships. We also innovate with our partners," he said. 

Marine Corps Gen. Michael E. Langley, commander of U.S. Africa Command, also testified.

Military personnel hold weapons and stand around in a small room.
Training Time
U.S. Army Special Forces train with Royal Moroccan special operators in close-quarters drills at Tifnit Morocco, Africa, last month. The drill is part of African Lion 2022, U.S. Africa Command's largest, premier, joint, combined annual exercise hosted by Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia.
Photo By: Army Spc. Christopher Hall
VIRIN: 220623-Z-PI638-0901

Langley also emphasized the value of partnerships, not just military-to-military, but also interagency, such as the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. 

Africa faces multiple crises, including terrorism, poverty, food insecurity, climate change and mass migration, he said. These factors sow the seeds of violent extremism and exploitation by Russia across the continent.

"In Africa, modest investments [in] resources go a long way toward achieving our national security interests. Africa faces many challenges, while also offering even more opportunities. With our African partners at the forefront, reinforced by our efforts and the efforts of our allies, we will continue to gain ground towards achieving lasting stability, security and prosperity on this crucial continent," he said. 

Lastly, both generals advocated for passing the budget and supplemental funding request, as important to both regional security in their respective areas, as well as national security.

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