The war in Afghanistan will be tougher and longer than expected, the CIA chief has warned
After a week in which US President Barack Obama sacked his top Afghan war commander and troop deaths soared to a new high since the 2001 invasion, spy chief Leon Panetta conceded there were "serious problems."
"We're dealing with a tribal society. We're dealing with a country that has problems with governance, problems with corruption, problems with narcotics trafficking, problems with a Taliban insurgency," Panetta told ABC's "This Week."
Emboldened perhaps by divisions in the US war effort exposed by the sacking of Afghan commander General Stanley McChrystal, Taliban attacks are on the rise -- a fact Panetta did not attempt to hide.
Despite some measure of progress toward fulfilling Obama's pledge to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" Al-Qaeda, "it's harder, it's slower than I think anyone anticipated," he said, pointing toward "greater violence" on the part of the Taliban.
But Panetta, installed by Obama last year to head the Central Intelligence Agency, was eager to note that Al-Qaeda's leadership was now apparently in a weaker state than ever before, with as few as 50 members of the terror group left in Afghanistan while US forces worked hard to "flush out" bin Laden.
"I think at most, we're looking at maybe 50 to 100 (Al-Qaeda members), maybe less" in Afghanistan, Panetta said, while admitting most were in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas that lie along the border with Afghanistan.