By Maureen Mackey | September 10, 2019

“Let me just start by saying something about John Bolton, because he did work for me,” said Condoleezza Rice on Fox News’ “The Story with Martha MacCallum” on Tuesday night about the sudden exit of Bolton from the Trump administration. “John has tremendous intellect. He cares deeply about this country and the role of the United States abroad. And I’m sure he did his best to give the president his unvarnished advice, which is what you’re supposed to do as national security adviser.”

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She added, “But in the final analysis, if the national security adviser and the president are not on the same page, it’s not the president who’s going to go. And I’m sure that John understands that as a long-serving diplomat, long-serving policy expert.”

MacCallum noted that Rice’s remarks were “gracious,” but added there were times when Rice herself disagreed with those with whom she served — namely, former President George W. Bush.

“Certainly,” said Rice. She said, however, that she was “secretary of state, and when I said with President Bush that we were going to do certain things, we went ahead and did them. But we wanted to hear from people who disagreed. That’s the only way that you can make good policy … if you’re willing to take advice and listen. And then you have to make your own decision.”

“What does this move [today with Bolton] tell you about where the Trump White House is right now on foreign policy?” MacCallum asked.

“It’s not clear to me that personnel is policy, in this case,” noted Rice. “I do think that there’s been a kind of long-simmering disagreement between John, and perhaps the president, perhaps others in the administration. John can be sharp in his views. He can have kind of sharp elbows sometimes. And so maybe there’s been a simmering disagreement. But we’ll wait and see whether there are real policy differences here.”

She added, “For instance, when it came to the decision about [scrapping a meeting with] the Taliban [at Camp David recently], I do believe that the president looked at what happened in Afghanistan and said, ‘How can I sit down and negotiate with those people when they’ve just killed an American soldier, when they’re keeping up the violence?’ And I’m glad he made that decision, because I think the Taliban had come to the conclusion that we wanted an agreement more than they did. They had reason to believe that, and not just because of what the president had said — President Trump — about wanting to get out of Afghanistan. But that rhetoric went back to the Obama administration, that we needed to end the war, we needed to bring the troops home.”

Related: Trump Declares Peace Talks Between U.S. and the Taliban Are ‘Dead’

“So I think the Taliban had become quite emboldened that they could keep up these attacks and they would negotiate. They weren’t going to even acknowledge that there was a legitimately elected Afghan government that we’d supported for a decade-and-a-half. They were not going to acknowledge the Afghan constitution, reportedly. How could we sign an agreement like that?”

“Do you think if we pulled out,” asked the Fox News host, “that they would basically topple that government in short order?”

“Well, I don’t know how strong they really are. Only intelligence could tell you that. Because, so far, it’s been more of a hit-and-run operation, but it’s been very close to the capital. That suggests that, yes, they would — the Afghan government would be in danger. And I’ll say one other thing, Martha. The book that we wrote, ‘To Build a Better World,’ is about America staying the course for 45 years, from the end of the war to 1990 when Germany was able to be unified. America has stayed the course in Korea for six decades to keep the peace on the Korean Peninsula. We’ve stayed in Japan so that Japan didn’t have to rearm. I don’t think any of us would take back the decisions to provide that stabilizing force.”

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“And I understand that people want the war in Afghanistan to end,” added Rice. “But if we can end it in a way so that perhaps the military can tell the president that there’s a sustainable presence for some period of time until the Afghans can defend themselves, we don’t want to turn our backs on the Afghan people. And we certainly don’t want to be in the position that we were 18 years ago tomorrow [meaning Wednesday, the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks] … where that attack came out of the territory of Afghanistan.”

Share your thoughts on this story — and see the full Rice interview here.

This piece originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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