The heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees said Sunday the Taliban was gaining ground, just days after President Barack Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan and touted the progress made in the war on terror.
“I think we'd both say that what we found is that the Taliban is stronger,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on CNN’s “State of the Union,” while sitting with Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan.
As first reported on Security Clearance on Friday, Rogers said his recent trip demonstrated that the military and intelligence officials he met with were in disagreement with intelligence officials believing the Taliban were significantly stronger than just a few years ago.
Here's what the two intelligence committee chairs said on State of the Union:
CROWLEY: So can I just - do you think that comparing it to when the surge came in Afghanistan, when the president sent more troops in, is the Taliban now weaker or stronger?
FEINSTEIN: I think we'd both say that what we found is that the Taliban is stronger.
CROWLEY: So how...
ROGERS: Yes, I do agree with you.
CROWLEY: ... are we going to ever leave - you both agree with this. I'm assuming you both have information that I don't have, and I'm wondering, A, why the president has said they're weaker now, and, B, what that means for U.S. withdrawal?
ROGERS: Well, we have to decide, and we're going to have to have a hard conversation inAmerica. Are we willing to leave and have a safe haven re-form in Afghanistan? We have to remember, this is tied back...
CROWLEY: By re-form you mean re-dash-form.
ROGERS: Yes, exactly. This is a huge problem. And what we have found is maybe the policies, the announced date of withdrawal, the negotiations with the Taliban, have worked against what our endgame is here. And we ought to have a hard discussion about saying, listen, war is when one side wins and one side loses.
Feinstein and Rogers' read on the relative strength of the Taliban is markedly different than the president's who, in an address to the nation on Tuesday during his unannounced visit to Afghanistan, said the insurgency was on the decline.
"Over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban's momentum," he said.
A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, told CNN's Nick Paton Walsh on Sunday that Rogers' assessment that intelligence and military were in disagreement about the state of the Taliban was "false." But Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, the ISAF spokesman, then went on to say that the disparity in opinion was a good thing:
“Any perceived disconnect between the intelligence community and operational commanders is false. Commanders rely on intelligence data from multiple sources and each one of these organizations may collect and assess data slightly differently. This process allows for robust dialogue among leaders in order to best capture a complete picture of the campaign. It is a positive indication that there may be a difference in assessment of Taliban capability because this allows for a more comprehensive look at our operations. In the end, however, the battlefield commander will make adjustments to his campaign based on the best available information and will continue to evaluate this and make the necessary adjustments as more intelligence is received and evaluated.
We have said many times that an insurgency cannot be defeated through foreign intervention alone. It takes indigenous forces and ultimately a political solution to end an insurgency. Operationally, the coalition forces along with our Afghan partners are having much success in taking Taliban leadership off the battlefield. They may be able to replace them in terms of numbers but they are not able to replace the experience and capability that our forces and the ANSF are taking off the battlefield.”
Read more about the State of the Union interview on CNN's Political Ticker.