EXCLUSIVE: Cheney Says British Troop Withdrawal Is Positive Sign

ByABC News via logo
February 21, 2007, 7:02 AM

Feb. 21, 2007 — -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair's announcement that British troops will begin withdrawing from Iraq would appear to be bad news for the Bush administration.

But in an exclusive interview with ABC News, Vice President Dick Cheney said the move was actually good news and a sign of progress in Iraq.

"Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," Cheney told ABC News' Jonathan Karl.

"In fact, I talked to a friend just the other day who had driven to Baghdad down to Basra, seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved from a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view they had made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore reduce their force levels," Cheney said.

ABC News interviewed the vice president in Tokyo, where he told troops aboard the USS Kitty Hawk that the United States would not withdraw until the job was done.

"I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat," Cheney told the soldiers.

Cheney had harsh words for Democratic leaders, including Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha, who says he wants to stop the surge of more U.S. troops into Iraq.

"I think he's dead wrong. I think if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy," Cheney said.

"The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people. In fact, knowing they can't win in a stand-up fight, try to convince us to throw in the towel and come home and then they win because we quit."

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain recently lashed out at Cheney and his friend, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. McCain said that Rumsfeld was probably the worst secretary of defense in U.S. history.

Today, Cheney fired back.

"I just fundamentally disagree with John," he said. "John said some nasty things about me the other day and then next time he saw me ran over to me and apologized. Maybe he'll apologize to Rumsfeld."

From Tokyo, Cheney is going to Australia, where the prime minister there is also under pressure to start withdrawing that nation's 2,000 troops from Iraq.