News24

Afghan war long and hard

2010-06-27 22:29

Washington - The United States is making progress in Afghanistan but the war has been "harder and slower than anyone anticipated", CIA chief Leon Panetta said on Sunday.

"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.

The nearly nine-year-old war has been "a very tough fight. We are making progress. But it's harder and slower than anyone anticipated", he told the ABC network's This Week programme.

Emboldened perhaps by divisions in the US war effort exposed by the sacking this week of Afghan commander General Stanley McChrystal, Taliban attacks are on the rise - a fact Panetta did not attempt to hide.

"I think the Taliban obviously is engaged in greater violence right now. They're doing more on IED's (improvised explosive devices). They're going after our troops. There's no question about that."

Panetta, installed last year as President Barack Obama's Central Intelligence Agency chief, also stressed that "the fundamental key is whether the Afghans accept responsibility" for taking over the battle against the insurgency once foreign troops pull out of the country.

"I think the fundamental key, the key to success or failure is whether the Afghans accept responsibility, are able to deploy an effective army and police force to maintain stability.

Panetta said the "fundamental goal" of the US mission in Afghanistan was to rid the country of Al-Qaeda.

"Winning in Afghanistan is having a country that is stable enough to ensure that there is no safe haven for Al-Qaeda or for a militant Taliban that welcomes Al-Qaeda," he said.

"That's really the measure of success for the United States. Our purpose, our whole mission there is to make sure that Al-Qaeda never finds another safe haven from which to attack this country."