By Larry Shaughnessy
One of Washington's foremost analysts of military issues has some harsh words about Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's take on the insider attack problem in Afghanistan, calling it "absurd."
During a recent trip to Japan, Panetta was asked about U.S. and other International Security Assistance Force troops being killed by members of the Afghan security forces, or insurgents dressed like them.
He said, "And we think, frankly, it is kind of a last gasp effort to be able to not only target our forces, but to try to create chaos, because they've been unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost." On Thursday, Panetta reiterated his point during a briefing with reporters, saying, "It's near the end of their effort to really fully fight back."
"Quite frankly i think that most intelligent people and military people would privately think that Secretary Panetta's comments are absurd, perhaps harmful. Because they just can't be taken seriously," said Anthony Cordesman a senior analyst at CSIS, a major Washington think tank, and a recipient of Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award for his work at the Pentagon before joining CSIS. "They are not at the last gasp, all they really have to do is at this point outwait us, constantly put pressure on areas that give them political visibility. They don't have to defeat ISAF, it's leaving."
While Cordesman does not agree with Panetta's remarks, he says that doesn't mean the Taliban is on the road to victory.
"The fact that statement clearly is untrue doesn't mean that necessarily the Taliban can win," Cordesman said. "Whether this will give them control of the country or not is something nobody can determine. It's a long way from talking about last gasp."
Even Panetta conceded Thursday that insider attacks may not be the Taliban's final arrow in their insurgent quiver. "Whether or not, you know, it's the end of their bag of tactics to come at us I think is still an open question."