Iraq Update From Condoleezza Rice

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, September 15, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: The presence of terrorists in Iraq (search) resisting the U.S. forces there have raised two questions. Are more forces needed there because of terrorists and are these terrorists newly created or inspired by the U.S. war in Iraq?

Well, who better to deal with such questions than President Bush's National Security Adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice?

Welcome to you.


HUME: Nice to have you. Thanks for coming.

RICE: Nice to be with you.

HUME: First about troops. Is part of the reason we need more forces in there because these terrorists have kind of cropped up?

RICE: Well, there are multiple missions that have to be carried out, of course: protection of infrastructure, rooting out the old Baathists (search), of course, dealing with the terrorists. Of course, dealing with the terrorists is a counterterrorism operation. It is not done in large numbers. It is done in small numbers of forces.

And so, what the Pentagon is doing is to take a hard look at the composition of our forces. It is really not just a matter of a look at the numbers, Brit, it is also a matter of what forces are needed. And we believe that we have sufficient force on the ground to deal with those missions. But we are going to have to do some work on the composition of the force.

HUME: Yet we keep hearing that we would welcome and indeed the circumstances in Iraq would require that there be more forces in there. We're now saying foreign forces. I don't understand. It seems contradictory for us to say that our force make-up is fine, but we need more troops, just not our troops.

RICE: Well, there are certain things that only the American military can do. Some of the counterterrorism mission would be in that category. Clearly, the routing out of the Baathists, the really still low-intensity conflict military missions, you really want American and British forces doing. But there are a lot of tasks: guarding infrastructure, dealing with civil affairs, protecting some of the sites. Those are the kinds of things that we don't think you really need American forces necessarily to do. And there are parts of the country that are quite stable and where it is really more of a peacekeeping function.

HUME: The question then arises, is if we're not able to get troops in any number, but we need them, won't we have to add more troops?

RICE: Well, the United States is going to do, as the president said, whatever it takes to get this right, because the cost of not doing this well in Iraq would be simply too high. This is now the central front in the war on terrorism. This is the place that we have to win in order to be successful in the war on terrorism. So, we're constantly looking and evaluating what we need to do. The Pentagon at this point believes that American forces are adequate. We are looking for other forces that might help in the composition.

HUME: What about that. What about the kinds of numbers we could expect. Let's suppose that we got a resolution from the U.N., the countries that are willing said this resolution works for us. How many troops could we even expect?

RICE: Well, I think there are going to be representatively small numbers. Tens of thousands, not large tens of thousands. I think the estimates are anywhere from maybe 10 to 20,000 forces that are really available out there...

HUME: And would that be enough?

RICE: ... of combat potential.

Yes. I think we believe that that would be a very sufficient augmentation of the forces that are already there. But the U.N. resolution would bring other things. It would bring the international community into a commitment to Iraq. It would bring perhaps the international financial institutions into commitments to Iraq. So there are other...


RICE: That's right. The World Bank, the IMF and perhaps other kinds of contributions as well. So, it is more than just troops. We also expect that other countries would contribute other kinds of talent. We're getting calls from people about police forces, about civil affairs forces. There are a lot of tasks to be done in Iraq and we think the international community, which will benefit from a secure and prosperous Iraq, should share in bringing that about.

HUME: How are the negotiations going?

RICE: I think things are going fine. Colin Powell was just with his colleagues in Geneva, I think they made some progress. There are still differences, but we're prepared to work on those differences. The one thing we want to be certain is that what we do is best for the future of Iraq. And therefore, it is not logical that at this early stage we would try prematurely to turn over to the Iraqi sovereignty when they're not yet capable of exercising it. But as soon as they are capable of exercising it, of course, the United States will want to see sovereignty in Iraq.

HUME: You're talking about what the French have been talking about.

RICE: Yes. I think that Colin Powell made it very clear that we thought this was not a very good idea.

HUME: How to interpret that idea other than pure mischief on the part of the French?

RICE: I think there are some who are concerned that there needs to be a political horizon in which the Iraqis know that they are going to get sovereignty. We think that the Seven-Point Plan that Ambassador Bremer put out, that talked about a pathway for the Iraqis taking the governing council, working more with the ministers who have been appointed, then moving to writing a constitution, getting elections. There is a good pathway out there. But we need to be able to talk about the pathway to sovereignty.

HUME: On that other question. We have these terrorists there. One argument says, look, they're there, we might as well take them on there, we've got our armed forces there. Rather have them attack our armed forces, fight them in the Middle East so you won't have to fight them in the Midwest. The other argument says no, we're coining terrorists over there, we are inspiring them, we're creating terrorists. What is the answer?

RICE: I think the latter argument, that somehow we've created these terrorists or inspiring them is simply naive. These people came after us on September 11. They have gone after Bali and Riyadh. There is a hardened group of people out there who hate what we stand for and intend to bring down civilization, as we know it. These people were not off drinking tea someplace and minding their own business. If they weren't fighting in Iraq, they would be fighting someplace else.

And so, this is a worldwide effort to destroy the evil force that is terrorism. The president is committed to it. And frankly, the reason they're coming to Iraq is that they understand that a stable and prosperous Iraq in the center of the Middle East will be a serious blow to their efforts to bring down civilization.

HUME: Dr. Rice, thank you very much. Good to have you.

RICE: Good to be with you.

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