Full Transcript: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

We are making good progress. I mean, the Taliban, my view is that they have been weakened. We have not seen them able to conduct any kind of organized attack to regain any territory that they've lost. We've seen levels of violence going down. We've seen an Afghan army that is much more capable at providing security. We've seen transitions take place where we're beginning to transition. Now we're at about 50 percent of their population that's been transitioned to their control. We're going to be at 75 percent --

TAPPER: Right, but Secretary--

PANETTA: So, we're on the right track.

TAPPER: But you're not naive. I mean, there are problems with the Afghan forces, and you – (crosstalk) the military is always planning for a worst-case scenario. I'm assuming there is some sort of plan just in case the residual forces left there are not enough.

PANETTA: Listen, we still have a fight on our hands. The American people need to know that. The world needs to know that we still have a fight on our hands. We're still dealing with the Taliban. Although they've been weakened, they are resilient. They'll continue to conduct attacks. We'll continue to see IED attacks taking place. We have the concern about the safe haven in Pakistan, the fact that they can seek refuge in that safe haven, that's a concern. And we have continuing concerns about the level of corruption in Afghan society. All of those things are continuing challenges.

But we're on the right track. General Allen has laid out a plan that moves us in the direction of an Afghanistan that can truly govern and secure itself. And that is going to be our greatest safeguard to the potential of the Taliban ever coming back.

TAPPER: At the NATO summit in Chicago, General Allen who is the commander of the NATO alliance troops there, ISAF troops, provided a briefing. And he was asked about the so-called green on blue attacks--Afghan army, Afghan police forces attacking U.S. forces. And this was his response. I want to get your reaction.


GENERAL ALLEN: There's a good news story here, and that is that the Afghans have arrested more than 160 individuals in the last several months that they believe could have been in the throes of planning for an attack on ISAF forces. So, the process is working.


TAPPER: The process is working. Now, I understand 160 individuals not killing American soldiers -- is good that they haven't killed them or haven't attempted to kill them. But that does not seem like a good news story to me, that there are 160 Afghan security forces that were considered to be threats. That seems like a lot.

PANETTA: Well, as General Allen pointed out, we are making progress on that front. It is a concern. Of course it's a concern. It's the kind of thing that the Taliban would use to come at our forces. And it's an indication again that because they can't organized efforts to come at us, they're going to use this kind of tactic to try to frighten us.

And it's not going to work for several reasons. Number one, the Afghan army has put into place a very thorough effort to review those that are serving--to look at their background, to check them out. And that process is working. That's the reason that we've gotten 160 that concerned us.

Secondly, our forces are going to be very vigilant as well in terms of how they operate to make sure that they watch their backs as we go through this process.

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