- Former national security adviser Susan Rice says "doesn't mean that the fight against ISIS is over": Rice said the U.S. needs to remain "vigilant" and ensure that it dismantles ISIS and al-Qaeda cells in Syria and Iraq to prevent the terrorist groups from regaining strength.
- Rice urges administration not to ease "pressure" on ISIS: "They may come back with a different name and a different leader but the ideology remains and the ambition remains." She added that Mr. Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria could help ISIS militants "reconstitute" and allow Russia, Iran and the government of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to fill the void left by the U.S.
The following is a transcript of an interview with former National Security Adviser Susan Rice that aired Sunday, October 27, 2019, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We are back now with President Obama's former national security adviser and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. She had planned to join us to discuss her new book "Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For." We do hope to get to that as well, but it is just such tremendous news this morning. Madam ambassador, thank you for joining us. You were part of the administration at the moment the U.S. first took military action against ISIS. What is your reaction to the death of al-Baghdadi?
FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER SUSAN RICE: Well obviously it's a major milestone and it's one that we all should be welcoming quite plainly. But it doesn't mean that the fight against ISIS is over. And it doesn't mean that we can declare mission accomplished and- and just walk away. What we've seen time and time again in this part of the world is that when the pressure is relieved on terrorist organizations, whether al-Qaeda or ISIS, they are able to reconstitute. So we need to be vigilant. We need to maintain a- a minimal presence in order to ensure that the pressure stays on ISIS and they don't come back roaring.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It is pouring rain out there. Right behind you just--
SUSAN RICE: I was standing in the pouring rain--
MARGARET BRENNAN: You were- you were--
SUSAN RICE: --just a second ago. Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well I- I appreciate your bravery through that, coming out on the- we're on the roof of a- of a Jones Day here in Washington bringing you "Face the Nation." But back to the issue at hand. Do- do you know was- was President Obama informed of the death of al-Baghdadi by the administration? Did you know--
SUSAN RICE: I- I--
MARGARET BRENNAN: -- before the news today?
SUSAN RICE: No. There's no reason why I should know. There is a tradition of common courtesy of presidents informing their predecessors of things of significance like this. Since the White House seemingly didn't feel it necessary to inform the leadership of the intelligence committees on a bipartisan basis, I'm quite confident that they didn't do the normal protocol with respect to predecessors either.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And- and during the Obama administration when say--
SUSAN RICE: We typically tried to do that--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --Osama bin Laden was--
SUSAN RICE: --we typically tried to do that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --taken off the battlefield--
SUSAN RICE: As a matter of courtesy.
MARGARET BRENNAN: As a matter of courtesy. Well you write in- in your book about the rise of ISIS and that in 2014 when they took the city of Mosul in Iraq that it took the intelligence community by surprise. It took policymakers by surprise. There was underestimation of how weak the Iraqi government was and just that ISIS could use the battlefield the way they did- as effectively as they did. Are you saying you see the risk now with the drawback in Syria, that it appears is still happening, of creating the same kind of vacuum?
SUSAN RICE: We've learned in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and now in Syria repeatedly that you can't take the pressure off and expect these groups not to reconstitute. They may come back with a different name and a different leader but the ideology remains and the ambition remains. And so, yes, I think it's very concerning that President Trump made the decision a couple of weeks ago to withdraw our forces from northern Syria, leave the Kurds exposed, essentially enabled the Turks to come in from the north and wipe them out of their traditional homeland and the Russians to come up from the south and claim territory that had been denied to them by our president's- by our presence and by that of the Kurds. I think this is still very dangerous. We have ISIS that can come back even with new leadership. We have over 100 ISIS prisoners already that have escaped according to the secretary of defense. And this has been a decision that seemingly was taken without consultation by the president with his closest advisors. And it's been hugely beneficial not only to ISIS but also to Russia, Iran, and of course Assad as well as Turkey.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That's why I was pressing the vice president for some details on those number of forces being left in Syria because it doesn't seem we have that kind of granular decision making just yet--
SUSAN RICE: And Margaret, just this notion that somehow we're moving a handful of forces out of Syria to- to be able to send them home- do- do the American people understand that since May, President Trump has deployed 14,000 additional U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf? At a time when he's saying he wants to take the United States out of the Middle East? This is not- this is not on the level.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something you write about in the book. You know, the public may remember in the wake of the attacks in Benghazi, that you were the person put forward by the Obama administration to explain what happened. The information--
SUSAN RICE: On that first Sunday, yes--
MARGARET BRENNAN: On that first Sunday. On shows like this one. And you say obviously that had tremendous political blowback for you, professor- professional, but you reveal for the first time some really personal blowback.
SUSAN RICE: Yeah. I--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Your daughter--
SUSAN RICE: Well I--
MARGARET BRENNAN: -- had to seek medical help because of what happened.
SUSAN RICE: I- I describe in the book how my 9-year-old daughter at the time, after some weeks of this, you know, very public and sustained pilloring of me, started having what can only be described as hallucinations. And of course, her father and I were terrified. She was seeing men coming out of walls at her. We took her to- to be evaluated. The doctors at Children's Hospital here in Washington were looking at, you know, is this psychosis? Is it a brain tumor? Is it schizophrenia? Is it a vision problem? And they thankfully after several weeks were able to rule all of that out--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yea.
SUSAN RICE: -- and determined that it was a stress reaction to hearing through the television what I was enduring.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well a lot of those--
SUSAN RICE: And so I write that, MARGARET, because I want people to understand that these things have--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
SUSAN RICE: --real consequences for those who don't sign up for this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Those personal details in your book that we mentioned- we have to leave it there, and we'll be right back.
SUSAN RICE: Thank you.