ABC News' Jonathan Karl sat down for an exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney on the USS Kitty Hawk at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.
Cheney said Britain's announcement that it would begin reducing the number of troops in Iraq was actually good news and a sign of progress in Iraq.
He also had harsh words for Democratic leaders, saying opposition to President Bush's plan for Iraq was "exactly the wrong course to go on."
The following is a transcript of the complete interview:
Karl: So, Mr. Vice President, Tony Blair is announcing that the British are beginning their withdrawal from Iraq. Are you concerned about that?
Cheney: No, they've indicated for some time now that they were going to make adjustments based on conditions on the ground. I think they believe that in southern Iraq, that Basra region where they've been most active, we have made significant progress. And I think that's one of the reasons they feel that they can draw down their forces there. I believe they're at the same time continuing to be very active in Afghanistan. And they'll continue with some forces in Iraq, but it won't be the same level it was at before.
Karl: But how does it look to the American people to see our most important ally begin to pull their troops out as we're actually sending more troops in?
Cheney: I look at it, and what I see is an affirmation of the fact that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well. The focus that we've had, obviously, is Baghdad and the decision the president made to surge troops into Baghdad. The Baghdad Security Plan is based on conditions in Baghdad.
But in fact, I talked to a friend just the other day, a guy who knows the region very well, has spent a lot of years in that part of the world who had driven from Baghdad down to Basra in seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved compared to where it was a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view that they have made progress in southern Iraq, and that they can therefore afford to reduce their force posture.
Karl: Now regarding the U.S. surge, the Congress is now on record opposing the president's policy --
Cheney: Well, the House is on record with a Sense of the Congress resolution.
Karl: Does it matter?
Cheney: Well, it's an important debate. I think it's important to remember that this is a Sense of the Congress resolution, that it doesn't have any binding impact or effect. It's still hung up in the Senate because the Democrats haven't agreed to allow our guys to vote on a resolution they'd like to have a vote on which would be a commitment not to reduce funding for the troops when they're in the field. So there's a certain amount of politics involved, I suppose.
The important thing is that we go forward with a successful strategy to prevail in Iraq. Ultimately, this ought to be about winning in Iraq, not about posturing on Capitol Hill. And I think the important debate will come up down the road when we get time to vote, for example, on the supplemental, or if there are votes in the meantime that do have a significant impact, have a binding impact, if you will, especially with respect to appropriations.
Karl: Because Congressman [Jack] Murtha and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi have made it clear that what they would like to do is they would like to stop the surge. Can they do it? Do they have the power to stop the surge?