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Rice Cites "Great Progress in One Year" in Iraq

Washington -- Marking the one-year anniversary of "Operation Iraqi Freedom," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice pointed to progress achieved in Iraq against insurgents and praised the bravery exhibited by Pakistan's military in securing its border area with Afghanistan against terrorist infiltrators.

Rice appeared on four television interviews March 19, marking one year since U.S. and coalition military moved against the regime of Saddam Hussein.

In her interview on CBS's "Early Show," Rice said, "I think we've made great progress in one year. ... [W]e've freed 25 million Iraqis. There are no more rape ... and torture rooms in Iraq. This brutal and dangerous dictator ... is gone. And the Middle East is going to be a very much safer place."

Asked if the Bush administration had exaggerated the threat Iraq posed, Rice replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about, because I can tell you that [Saddam Hussein] ... was a threat to peace and security, and the world is far better off without him." She pointed to the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, the four-day military action against Iraq by the Clinton administration in 1998, the passage by Congress that same year of the Iraq Liberation Act -- which specifically called for regime change in Iraq -- as evidence that the former leader had been considered a threat for many years by multiple administrations.

As for the price America's military has paid to free Iraq, Rice said, "[W]e really do mourn every life, as well as those who are injured and have to go through -- now -- [a] painful recovery. ... But nothing good is ever won without sacrifice."

On NBC's "Today" show, she answered the charge that the administration had underestimated the difficulty of securing the peace in Iraq by saying, "We knew that this was going to be challenging. ...[but]they are making progress."

"Yes, it's tough," she said. "There are a lot of people who would like to unravel that progress, because they're fighting as if Iraq was the central front of the war on terrorism. It is."

On ABC's "Good Morning America" Rice said, "[T]here are people who are trying to throw Iraq back into the Dark Ages. There are former regime elements who oppressed their fellow Iraqis for decades and are still trying to kill them. And there are foreign terrorists. ..." And on CNN's "American Morning," she explained, "[T]hese are hardened terrorists [in Iraq]....

An additional difficulty is that no one realized how much Iraq's infrastructure had deteriorated over time, Rice said.

Concerning the fighting now going on in Pakistan at the time of the interviews, and the rumors that a major al-Qaeda figure -- perhaps Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri -- is trapped by Pakistani forces, Rice said, "[T]here clearly is a fierce battle going on there on the Pakistani-Afghan border. But I think we don't know whether there's a ‘high-value' target there, and we certainly don't know whether it's al-Zawahiri. We'll just have to wait and see."

During the NBC interview, Rice praised Pakistani military efforts to secure "a part of Pakistan that has basically been uncontrolled for centuries." She also cited the brave and courageous efforts of the Pakistanis fighting in the frontier territories. On CNN, Rice said that the Pakistanis "have been terrific. Many of the al-Qaeda leaders that we have rounded up have been thanks to the Pakistanis. ... They've been one of our best allies in the war on terrorism."

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:


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