Leon Panetta gave his first-ever network news interview as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency on Sunday. Panetta, appearing on This Week with Jake Tapper, broke some serious news. Here's the transcript. Below are the five biggest revelations from Panetta's interview and what they mean.
- Only '50 to 100' Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan Asked how many al-Qaeda were in Afghanistan, Panetta responded, "I think at most, we're looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It's in that vicinity. There's no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan." Liberal blogger Marcy Wheeler notes that the U.S. plans to invest up to 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. "Even Afghan war fans admit that it costs $1 million a year-on top of things like salary-to support a US service member in Afghanistan. ... So 1,000 US troops per al Qaeda member, at a cost of $1 million each. That's $1 billion a year we spend for each al Qaeda member to fight our war in Afghanistan."
- No Precise Intel on Bin Laden's Location for Years New York Magazine's Josh Duboff writes, "It's been almost a decade since the CIA had 'precise information' on the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. Appearing on ABC's This Week Sunday, CIA director Leon Panetta revealed the last time the organization has had good intelligence on where Bin Laden was located was in the early 2000s."
- Taliban Uninterested in Peace Deal Middle East expert Juan Cole writes, "Panetta threw cold water all over the idea of talks and reconciliation: 'The bottom line is that we really have not seen any firm intelligence that there's a real interest among the Taliban, the militant allies of Al Qaida, Al Qaida itself, the Haqqanis, TTP, other militant groups.' ... I think Panetta is being too categorical in his skepticism. There are other reasons for tribal factions to dicker with bigger, stronger forces than fear of annihilation (indeed, given Pashtun codes of honor, they could hardly parley when their situation was truly perilous)."
- Iran Two Years From Nuclear Bomb Wired's Noah Shachtman pulls out this quote from Panetta. "I think the [Iran] sanctions will have some impact. ... Will it deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not. ... We think [the Iranians] have enough low-enriched uranium right now for two weapons. They do have to enrich it, fully, in order to get there. And we would estimate that if they made that decision, it would probably take a year to get there, probably another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable."
- CIA Sabotaging Iran Nuclear Program? The Los Angeles Times' Andrew Malcolm writes, "Tapper asked about suspicions that the U.S. was secretly helping Iran stumble in its research. That wouldn't exactly be transparent, would it? But, hey, when it comes to nukes in the hands of the likes of those types, whatever works, right? Panetta, of course, is not really going to answer. 'Why, yes, Jake. We did give his scientists the incorrect recipe for enriching uranium just the other day.' But see if you read into Panetta's non-answer here a hopeful sign that the Obama administration may not be as passive as it looks."
PANETTA: Well, I can't speak to obviously intelligence operations, and I won't. It's enough to say that clearly, they have had problems. There are problems with regards to their ability to develop enrichment, and I think we continue to urge them to engage in peaceful use of nuclear power. If they did that, they wouldn't have these concerns, they wouldn't have these problems. The international community would be working with them rather than having them work on their own.