Congressional intelligence leaders say Taliban is stronger

By Alexandra Jaffe

May 7, 2012

Despite a years-long war and concerted efforts to bring down the Taliban, congressional intelligence leaders agree that the organization is stronger now.

“President Karzai believes that the Taliban will not come back. I am not so sure,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on CNN’s State of the Union.

Feinstein’s words come in stark contrast to those of President Obama last week. Speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, the president lauded U.S. accomplishments in Afghanistan and said that “we broke the Taliban’s momentum.” Feinstein said she and her counterpart in the House, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chair of the House Intelligence Committee, felt differently.

“I think we'd both say that what we've found is the Taliban is stronger,” she said.

Feinstein and Rogers recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, where they met with senior military officials and Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss the U.S. mission there in the face of increasing incidents of misconduct by U.S. troops and backlash by Afghanis. Feinstein said that recent incidents – including, most recently, the killing of a NATO soldier by a man in an Afghan uniform – had hurt the U.S. mission.

“I think there is damage, there’s no question about that. There's damage to our integrity, there's damage to the military, and there's damage to our mission,” she said.

She also said, however, that the Afghan leadership made it clear that they want continued U.S. involvement.

Rogers, however, said that while U.S. policies in the past may have hurt the effort there, he saw no option other than defeating the Taliban, adding that perhaps the U.S. should work more closely with Pakistan to root out safe havens for terrorist groups in that state.

“Maybe the policies or the announced date of withdrawal, the negotiations with the Taliban, have worked against what our end game is here,” he said. “If we don’t get to that calculation, for a strategic defeat of the Taliban, you're not going to get to the place where you can rest assured you can come home and a safe haven does not reestablish itself.”

By Alexandra Jaffe

May 7, 2012