'This Week' Transcript: EXCLUSIVE: Vice President Joe Biden

joe biden

ABC'S "THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS"

STEPHANOPOULOS: Major milestone this week here in Iraq with the American troops pulling out of the cities. And I wonder if you can put the broader American mission in context. Are we in the process of securing victory or cutting our losses to come home?

BIDEN: Securing victory. Look, the president and I laid out a plan in the campaign which was twofold. One, withdraw our troops from Iraq in a rational timetable consistent with what the Iraqis want. And the same time, leave behind a stable and secure country.

And one of the reasons I'm here, George, is to push the last end of that, which is the need for political settlement on some important issues between Arabs and Kurds and among the confessional groups. And I think we're well on our way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, your predecessor doesn't seem convinced.

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHANOPOULOS: John Hannah, Vice President Cheney's national security adviser, wrote this week that under Obama, Bush's commitment to winning in Iraq has all been vanished. The vice president warned against a premature withdrawal.

He said: "I would not want to see the U.S. waste all of the tremendous sacrifice that has gotten us to this point."

BIDEN: You know, it's kind of ironic. It's their timetable we are implementing. Cheney and Bush agreed with the Iraqis before we were elected that we'd have combat troops out of the cities by June 30th.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So he's wrong to be worried?

BIDEN: Well, I mean, it's -- I mean, for this he can't have it both ways. He negotiated that timetable. We have met the commitment the timetable the last administration negotiated with Iraqis. And we're totally confident that is the right thing to do.

So I find it kind of ironic that he's criticizing his own agreement that he negotiated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're also facing a little bit of criticism from the Iraqis. You know yesterday you stood up there with Prime Minister Maliki and talked about your commitment to solve these political problems, yet his spokesman came out after the meeting and said: "This is purely an Iraqi issue, we don't want the Americans to get involved."

What do you say to that?

BIDEN: Well, that's that not what -- that's not what the prime minister said. The prime minister said that we may need you to get involved.

What we offered the prime minister, as well as the speaker, as well as the two vice presidents, was that to the extent -- let me give you an example. The United Nations has started a process to deal with what they called the "disputed internal borders." And that is the debate between the Kurds and the Arabs as to where the line is.

Kirkuk is probably the biggest flashpoint. And we were asked that we would -- would we be helpful to the United Nations in doing this? I was further asked that would I communicate to the Kurdish leadership, who I have a close relationship with, that their passing a constitution through their parliament in Kurdistan was not helpful to the process that was under way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what's going on here? Maliki says one thing and his spokesman says another.

BIDEN: Well, look, I think that it's very important that Prime Minister Maliki and all of the Iraqi leaders are able to in fact communicate, which is true, to the people of Iraq, that they're now a sovereign nation.

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