'This Week' Transcript: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

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. 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. 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: 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 organize 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.

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.

And, thirdly, I think overall, what we're seeing is the basic training that's going into the Afghan army is one that truly is testing the qualifications and quality of individuals that are going to be fighting on behalf of Afghanistan.

JAKE TAPPER: Mitt Romney's had this to say about the president's Afghan strategy and the date certain.


FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You just scratch your head and say how can you be so misguided? And so naïve? His secretary of defense said that on a date certain, the middle of 2013, we're going to pull out our combat troops from Afghanistan. Why in the world do you go to the people that you're fighting with and tell them the day you're pulling out your troops?


TAPPER: Now, first of all, there's a factual error that Mr. Romney made that I'm sure you want to correct, but the larger point about giving a date certain for the withdrawal or the end of the combat mission, could you address that as well after you correct him?


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