(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta presented a mostly upbeat assessment about the progress of the Afghanistan war while visiting President Hamid Karzai in Kabul Wednesday.
Panetta’s view is that this past year will mark “a very important turning point in the war.”
It was less than two years ago that the Taliban seemed to have gained the upper hand on the Afghans and their coalition allies but Panetta stressed that the momentum has shifted with the U.S., NATO and national forces establishing security in critical areas that had once been enemy strongholds.
Panetta did not want to come off sounding overly optimistic, adding, “We have not won. We have not completed this mission. But I do believe we are in the process of making significant progress here.”
The defense chief noted that while al Qaeda has been marginalized, Afghan forces have become more capable since they “are absolutely essential to the ultimate success of our efforts here.”
Panetta also said that Afghanistan would remain a base to conduct spy operations despite the fact that the CIA recently lost a drone over Iran.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Stephanie Halasz, Jason Hanna and Livia Borghese, CNN
Chris Williams and Jason Hanna, CNN
Emanuella Grinberg, CNN