Afghan war tougher than we thought: CIA chief

Leon Panetta insists Afghan progress despite an increase in Taliban attacks.

Washington: The Afghan war is tougher than anticipated, the head of the CIA admitted on Sunday, insisting progress was being made despite rising Taliban attacks and the sacking of the top US commander.

"There are some serious problems here," Leon Panetta, installed last year as President Barack Obama`s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief, told the ABC network`s "This Week" program.

"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.”

"We are making progress. It`s harder, it`s slower than I think anyone anticipated."

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 IEDs (improvised explosive devices). They`re going after our troops. There`s no question about that."

Obama says his strategy will be unaffected by the shock departure of McChrystal, whose remarks to a magazine about top Obama administration figures betrayed the toxic ties between the commander and his civilian counterparts.

Panetta insisted Obama`s surge strategy -- to put 150,000 pairs of boots on the ground by the end of August -- is the right one.


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