Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday refused to rule out US troops still being in Iraq in 10 years or the possibility that the United States could use military force against neighboring Syria and Iran.
Rice deferred to the decisions of President George W. Bush and military commanders as Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee pressed her for more specifics on the US strategy in Iraq.
Asked specifically whether the United States would have troops in Iraq in five or 10 years, Rice said: "I think that even to try and speculate on how many years from now there will be a certain number of American forces is not appropriate."
Lawmakers also pressed her on strategy for dealing with Iran and Syria. US officials have accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to flow across its borders into Iraq and Iran of supporting the insurgency.
Rice said the United States was using diplomatic means to urge a change in the behavior of both countries - but she stopped short of ruling out military force. "I'm not going to get into what the president's options might be," Rice said. "I don't think the president ever takes any of his options off the table concerning anything to do with military force."
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