By Sam Youngman - 06/27/10 02:14 PM EDT
CIA Director Leon Panetta said Sunday that progress in Afghanistan,
where President Barack Obama just replaced his top commander, is going
more "slowly" than expected.
Panetta, appearing on ABC News "This Week" in his first Sunday interview as head of the CIA, said that allied troops are making progress in the region, and he joins Obama in believing that they are pursuing the right strategy for winning there.
White House officials have maintained that Obama's surge strategy in the region is largely on pace even as they have warned that it is just taking shape.
The president's strategy calls for U.S. troop withdrawal to begin in about a year, but Obama and his national security aides have warned that withdrawal will be based on conditions on the ground.
Panetta noted that Obama warned that "this is going to be tough," but he said U.S. and NATO forces have made significant progress.
Panetta's appearance comes just days after Obama replaced Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus after McChrystal and his aides made inflammatory comments to Rolling Stone magazine.
But Obama stressed through the week that his decision to accept
McChrystal's resignation was not indicative of a change in policy.
Panetta backed Obama on Sunday, saying he joins the White House in believing that U.S. and NATO forces are pursuing the right strategy.
“Is the strategy the right strategy? We think so,” Panetta said. “I think the key to success or failure is whether the Afghans accept responsibility, are able to deploy an effective army and police force to maintain stability. If they can do that, then I think we’re going to be able achieve the kind of progress and the kind of stability that the president is after."
Panetta acknowledged that the Taliban have stepped up their attacks on allied forces since Obama took office, but he also said that the president's strategy is showing success against them.
"In some ways they're stronger, but in some ways they're weaker as well," Panetta said.