CIA Director Leon Panetta: Serious Problems With Afghanistan War but Progress Being Made

Panetta discloses that '50 to 100,' maybe lees al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan.

ByABC News
June 27, 2010, 12:33 PM

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2010— -- CIA Director Leon Panetta says that Osama bin Laden "is in an area of the tribal areas of Pakistan." But Panetta conceded the agency has not had good intelligence on bin Laden's whereabouts since the early months of the war in Afghanistan, which began nine years ago.

In an exclusive interview on ABC's This Week, Panetta told anchor Jake Tapper, "It's been a while. I think it goes back almost to the early 2000s, you know in terms of actually when [bin Laden] was leaving from Afghanistan to Pakistan that we had the last precise information about where he might be located. Since then it has been very difficult to get any intelligence on his exact location."

Panetta called efforts to disrupt al Qaeda operations "the most aggressive operations in the history of the CIA in that part of the world." More than half of al Qaeda's leadership has been taken down, he said.

Panetta pointed to a recent success in taking out al Qaeda's No. 3 leader Mustafa Ahmed Muhammad Uthman Abu al-Yazid, known as Shaikh Sa'id al-Masri. "If we keep that pressure on, we think ultimately we can flush out bin Laden and [Ayman al] Zawahiri and get after them."

The number of al Qaeda remaining in Afghanistan, Panetta said, is "relatively small."

"At most, we're looking at 50 to 100, maybe less," he said. "It's in that vicinity. There's no question that the main location of al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan."

The CIA director said "there are some serious problems" with the war in Afghanistan but maintained that progress is being made.

"It's harder, it's slower than I think anyone anticipated. But at the same time we are seeing an increase in violence," he told Tapper. June has been the deadliest month in the war for NATO forces in Afghanistan and the second deadliest for U.S. forces with 52 killed.