CIA Director Leon Panetta says less than 100 members of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan


The Justice Department is also trying to prosecute a case against five Blackwater guards who had opened fire on a crowded Baghdad street in 2007.


When asked about why the U.S. government is now back to hiring a company that they're suing regarding similar "services rendered", Panetta says sadly, there wasn't much competition for Xe when they bid for the security contract.


Since I've become director, I've asked us to -- asked our agency to review every contract we have had with Blackwater and whatever their new name is, Xe now. And to ensure that first and foremost, that we have no contract in which they are engaged in any CIA operations. We're doing our own operations. That's important, that we not contract that out to anybody. But at the same time, I have to tell you that in the war zone, we continue to have needs for security. You've got a lot of forward bases. We've got a lot of attacks on some of these bases. We've got to have security. Unfortunately, there are a few companies that provide that kind of security. The State Department relies on them, we rely on them to a certain extent.


So we bid out some of those contracts. They provided a bid that was underbid everyone else by about $26 million. And a panel that we had said that they can do the job, that they have shaped up their act. So their really was not much choice but to accept that contract. But having said that, I will tell you that I continue to be very conscious about any of those contracts and we're reviewing all of the bids that we have with that company.


Panetta began the first part of his interview with Tapper discussing Afghanistan.  He defined (again) what "winning" actually means (that the Afghans accept responsibility and are able to deploy an effective army and police force to maintain stability), but said that though al-Qaeda is our arch enemy, there really aren't that many of those terrorists in a place where we have 94,000 troops.


PANETTA: I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaida is actually relatively small. I think at most, we're looking at maybe 60 to 100, maybe less. It's in that vicinity. There's no question that the main location of Al Qaida is in tribal areas of Pakistan.


(Read our post on John McCain's appearance on Meet the Press for more Sunday morning Afghanistan commentary).

Although he's been running the CIA for nearly a year and a half, agency director Leon Panetta has kept his nose to the grindstone and been out of the public eye for the most part, which made his appearance on ABC's This Week program Sunday morning a curiosity.

One of the most declarative comments the 72-year old Panetta (his birthday is today) made was to trash the prospect a New York Times story wrote about on Sunday,  on  Afghan leader Hamid Karzai  working with the Taliban and its sponsors in Pakistan, bringing them into a power sharing agreement with his government.

We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation, where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce Al Qaida, where they would really try to become part of that society. We've seen no evidence of that and very frankly, my view is that with regards to reconciliation, unless they're convinced that the United States is going to win and that they're going to be defeated, I think it's very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation that's going to be meaningful.

Last week the State Department acknowledged that Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater a contract worth more than $120 million for providing security services in Afghanistan.  The awarding of the contract comes just more than four months after the government of Iraq ordered hundreds of Blackwater-linked security guards to leave the country within seven days or face possible arrest.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]