The -- the challenge here -- and the president will have to face this late next year, as he said he would -- is, OK, we have had this additional input of 68,000 soldiers, bringing it to over 100,000 soldiers. We have done what we said we were going to do. Have the Afghans done what they must do, build an army that is capable, an army that is connected to the central government, an army that the people believe in? And do we have a police force that is not corrupt? And do we have a government in Kabul that is really reaching out and connecting the people together into some kind of political system that people believe in?
So ultimately we can do just so much, but to win this conflict and to create the kind of Afghanistan that we all want to see, it ultimately is going to be in the hands of the Afghans, just as Iraq is ultimately going to be in the hands of the Iraqis.
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that, because this week for the first time ever there are more U.S. troops in Afghanistan than Iraq. The U.S. is preparing to withdraw all combat forces. There's still a lot of sectarian violence in Iraq. Is Iraq ready for the U.S. withdrawal?
POWELL: Well, ready or not, it's going to happen, and I think it is ready. There -- there are bombings taking place, but it's nothing like it was two or three years ago. It might be 10 or 12 a day compared to hundreds a day that used to be the case.
And it's not clear that it is the outbreak that kind of sectarian war that we saw in 2005 and 2006. And it has -- it has not reached a level where the government starts to look like it's going to collapse.
What we're seeing is an -- is an -- is an interesting democratic process, where they're trying to figure out who the next prime minister is going to be. We've gone through this right here in this country, as you recall, my friend. And so they'll have to go through this and come up with a government that represents all parts of Iraqi society.
And if they do that, and if they build up their army, if they continue to show the effectiveness that their army has shown recently, they should be able to contain this and hold it as we continue our withdrawal.
We're not going to withdraw to zero. We're going to withdraw to a lower number that is there to help them, to train them, to provide military assistance to them, to protect our installations that are still there, but they have to do whatever fighting is required.
And so far, it's moving in the right direction, and I think the president is correct to keep it on track and continue with the drawdown.
Sooner or later, we cannot maintain this level of deployment forever.
POWELL: It not only is a burden on our troops, it is enormously expensive in a time of budget deficits and national debt.
TAPPER: In fact, the national security strategy President Obama revealed this week talked a lot about deficits.
TAPPER: Moving to neighboring Iran, sanctions have so far -- the three previous regimes of sanctions have so far not convinced that country to stop its nuclear program. Here you are in March.
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POWELL: I don't yet see a set of sanctions coming along that would be so detrimental to the Iranians that they're going to stop that program.
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