By Suzanne Kelly
Just two hours before President Barack Obama landed in Afghanistan on Tuesday, a congressional delegation was departing.
The delegation, made up of the top four intelligence members on the House and Senate intelligence committees, had spent several days flying around the country, under the radar, visiting with U.S. military and intelligence officers and, of course, a healthy dose of Afghan officials, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
It turns out that not everyone assesses the future threat of the Taliban in quite the same way.
Speaking to the nation Tuesday night, the president said the insurgency was on the decline.
"Over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban's momentum," he said.
The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that on the ground, military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan had a different view of the strength of the Taliban and its determination to be patient and wait out the American withdrawal.
"What struck me more coming out was the conclusion from folks on the intelligence side, and these are folks with lots and lots of experience with interrogations and they are dealing with Taliban as they're captured and brought through the programs, that they believe the Taliban is stronger today than it was even a couple of years ago," said U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan.
"They've adjusted, and their adjustment is: We just have to let people know we're there, and we have to wait till they leave," he said of the Taliban.
Rogers says he worries about the large swaths of Afghanistan that have been lost and may provide a haven for a Taliban that runs a strong recruitment campaign and is still aligned with al Qaeda.
He blames part of the Taliban's appeal, especially among youths, to corruption, explaining that the Taliban will come in and provide services that sometimes the government cannot. Long term, Rogers also worries about the effects of the military withdrawal on the U.S. effort to gather intelligence.
"They will have to reposition bases, and it wasn't really clear to me that ... when we're gone, this is where we have to be," said Rogers, who was back in Washington on Friday briefing a small group of reporters. "There will be whole areas of the country where we won't really have a presence. That concerned me a lot."
Rogers will be joined by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, this Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley."