Colin Powell Prepares to Exit State Department

Secretary of State Colin Powell. Credit: State Department photo

hide captionSecretary of State Colin Powell delivering a briefing in December.

State Department photo

Secretary of State Colin Powell ends his tenure at the State Department sometime next week. His replacement, Condoleezza Rice, awaits a confirmation process many see as a formality. NPR's Juan Williams spoke with Secretary Powell about U.S. foreign policy, as well as his own legacy from serving President Bush.

Listen: Hear the Full Interview

While a large part of that legacy is the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Powell makes the case that sizeable increases in foreign aid, especially for economic development, have been a hallmark of his tenure. Recent U.S. contributions to help the 12 Indian Ocean nations hit by a tsunami are part of that legacy, he says, as are increases in AIDS money for developing nations.

Judgment of Colin Powell's four years as secretary of state will likely be tied to his role in U.S. policy after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — especially the part he played in the months before war in Iraq. Known as a voice of caution within the administration, Powell argued in the United Nations that despite inspections, Saddam Hussein's Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction. Months later, the country was invaded.

Besides his involvement in Iraq policy, Powell has traveled to several hotspots during his tenure, attempting to negotiate peace in regions from the Middle East to the Korean Peninsula. He has also paid visits to sites of humanitarian crisis, from Haiti to the Darfur region of Sudan.

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