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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2005 Secretary Rice's Remarks > November 2005: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Interview on Fox News with Jim Angle

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
November 22, 2005

[This interview was conducted in two parts.  Also read Part 2 of the interview]

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thanks for joining us.

SECRETARY RICE: Nice to be with you.

QUESTION: Let me ask you first, all the Iraqi factions have been meeting in Cairo and, like politicians here in the U.S., they're talking about when it might be possible for American troops to leave Iraq. And one Iraqi official predicted it could be as early as the end of next year. For the first time, it seems, Iraqis are contemplating the moment when they will be able to stand on their own.

SECRETARY RICE: It's a very good thing, first of all, Jim, that Iraqis from across the political spectrum are meeting and discussing their future. I think it's worth noting that this is a society that has lived by the gun, by violence, by coercion, and now they're talking about a political way forward and that's very important. And it's not at all surprising that they would be contemplating a future in which American forces or coalition forces are not needed, certainly not needed in the numbers that they are there now, because their own security forces are becoming visible to the Iraqi people.

When we talk about clearing territory of insurgents, we mean clearing a city like Mosul. When talk about holding territory, we mean Iraqi forces being able to go in and provide security for the residents. And then of course it's a matter of building institutions and reconstructing the economy in these places. But Iraqis are seeing their security forces on the streets, they're seeing their security forces in the cities, and of course they're starting to contemplate when they might be capable of completely doing the job.

QUESTION: They're not setting arbitrary dates, talking about the development of their forces and so forth, but some critics will surely see this as the Iraqis going much further than the Administration has in setting a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, this conference was many voices from across the Iraqi political spectrum. The Iraqi Government requested of the United Nations that the multinational forces be extended because they do not believe that they are yet capable of having Iraqi forces carry out the security functions. But we should be very clear. The President has said that as soon as Iraqi forces are ready, we want to see a reduction in our own forces, and I think those days are going to be coming fairly soon when Iraqis are going to be more and more capable of carrying out the functions to secure their own future.

QUESTION: Some Democrats have talked about withdrawal dates. Some very soon. Senator Biden said the other day that there would still be some troops there by 2007. Does that sound like a reasonable window to you?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we wanted to make this effects and results based, not based on a specific timetable. And we have constant discussions. General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad have constant discussions with the Iraqi Government and with the Iraqi Defense Minister and Interior Minister about how this is going. But quite clearly, Jim, we want to get to the place that Iraqis are doing this on their own. They're more and more capable. I do not think that American forces need to be there in the numbers that they are now because -- for very much longer because Iraqis are stepping up. This is not just a matter of training numbers of Iraqi forces, but it's actually seeing them hold territory. It's seeing them be able to go in and defend that highway from the airport that was always considered such a violent highway. It means that they are in control of whole areas in the south and in parts of the north.

So they are actually performing particular functions that give us, and most importantly, I think, General Casey, who the President will listen to, confidence that the Iraqis are stepping up and stepping up quite quickly.

QUESTION: If the Iraqis asked us to leave and we are not quite convinced that they are ready to take our place, will we still go?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, it's a sovereign government. But I would give the Iraqi Government credit for wanting to be able to really make the place secure. They understand that they've got a couple of problems. They do still have insurgents, many of whom they believe now the political waters that have perhaps fueled that are being defused by the now very active Sunni participation in the political process. And so they hope to separate out the hardcore Saddamists from people that might have gotten caught up in supporting the insurgency and now might be able to be a part of the political process.

But of course, there's a foreign terrorist element, too, the Zarqawi network, which would like to use its terrorist activities in Iraq and in other places to help form their caliphate, and that we have to be sure is taken care of. But I'm quite certain that the Iraqis want this place to be secure and that this is going to be a joint decision until we leave.

QUESTION: You know, there was one puzzling reference in some of the communiqués coming out of Cairo and that was a reference, the Iraqis sitting down and talking about this, a reference to the country's opposition having a legitimate right of resistance. Now, are they talking about military resistance or political resistance?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would note, Jim, that that line is followed very quickly by a call to condemn terrorism and a call against violence. Iraqis understand that blowing up innocent school children is not somehow a legitimate form of resistance. They understand that if they want their security forces to be strong, that going in and blowing up a line of policemen is not legitimate resistance. And of course, they understand that the multinational forces are there under a UN mandate.

So what I read into this is this tremendous gathering of Iraqis from a wide, wide part of the political spectrum who wanted to acknowledge that there is a political right to opposition, even resistance, but that --

QUESTION: To give the Sunnis a sense that --

SECRETARY RICE: A sense that they were being --

QUESTION: -- they can speak up --

SECRETARY RICE: And that they were being understood. But the violence and terrorism are really not a part of Iraq's future.

QUESTION: You know, one of the interesting things about this, I know no one wants to predict when American forces can leave because it's hard to predict events, but what are the conditions other than the readiness of Iraqi forces that would enable American forces to leave without leaving Iraq as a haven for al-Qaida and terrorists like Zarqawi?

SECRETARY RICE: Clearly, we want the Iraqi forces to be able to hold territory against the terrorists. We don't want the terrorists to be able to control large parts of Iraq or even important cities in Iraq. That's why the activities in Mosul and Talafar have been encouraging because there you have gotten -- the American forces have helped to clear out the insurgents and the Iraqi forces have been able to hold the territory and now they can move toward building a better future in those places.

So a part of it is you want them to be able to make certain that bad forces can't come back. Obviously, they also need to be able to start to give the Iraqi people a sense of security and a sense that the political system is not under threat. We know of many cases around the world where, unfortunately, cowardly suicide bombers or cowardly terrorists can take on innocent civilians -- they are, unfortunately, an easy target -- but where the political stability of the country is still really not in question. And I think the Iraqis need to move to that place.

2005/1105


Released on November 22, 2005

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