WASHINGTON (AP) – More than six years after the U.S. invaded to establish a stable central regime in Afghanistan, the Kabul government under President Hamid Karzai controls just 30 percent of the country, the top U.S. intelligence official said Wednesday.
National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the resurgent Taliban controls 10 percent to 11 percent of the country and Karzai's government controls 30 percent to 31 percent. The majority of Afghanistan's population and territory remains under local tribal control, he said.
Underscoring the problems facing the Kabul government, a roadside bomb in Paktika province killed two Polish soldiers who are part of the NATO force in the country and opium worth $400 million was seized in the southern part of Afghanistan. That brought the number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan to 21 this year, according to an Associated Press tally.
In 2007, insurgency-related violence killed more than 6,500 people, including 222 foreign troops. Last year was the deadliest yet since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
Officials estimate that up to 40 percent of proceeds from Afghanistan's drug trade — an amount worth tens of millions of dollars — is used to fund the insurgency.
Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, told the committee at the same hearing that the Pakistan government is trying to crack down on the lawless tribal area along the Afghan border area where Taliban and al-Qaida are believed to be training, and from which they launch attacks in Afghanistan. But neither the Pakistani military nor the tribal Frontier Corps is trained or equipped to fight, he said.
Maples said it would take three to five years to address those deficiencies and see a difference in their ability to fight effectively in the tribal areas.
"Pakistani military operations in the (region) have not fundamentally damaged al-Qaida's position. … The tribal areas remain largely ungovernable and, as such, they will continue to provide vital sanctuary to al-Qaida, the Taliban and regional extremism more broadly," Maples said.
Under questioning from committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., Maples also said he considers the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding to be inhumane. That would put it outside the bounds of U.S. law, which since late 2005 has prohibited cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees.
The Bush administration has refused to rule on whether waterboarding is torture. Waterboarding involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his or her cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. It has been traced back hundreds of years to the Spanish Inquisition, and is condemned by nations around the world.
Waterboarding remains among the interrogation methods potentially available to the CIA but its use must be approved on a case-by-case basis by the attorney general and the president.
The U.S. military specifically prohibited waterboarding in 2006. Maples said the 19 other interrogation techniques allowed under military rules are effective.
"We have recently confirmed that with those who are using those tools on operations," Maples said.
Earlier this month, Congress approved a bill that would limit the CIA to the military's interrogation techniques. The White House has threatened to veto that measure.
CIA Director Michael Hayden said in a statement to the Associated Press on Wednesday that other lawful, Geneva Convention-compliant interrogation techniques not in the Army Field Manual would also be outlawed.
"There will be no conditions of threat or danger that would cause us to make an exception. This is an important national decision and it will have a direct impact on our ability to gather intelligence and to detect and prevent future attacks."
Hayden told the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 7 that he prohibited CIA operatives from using waterboarding in 2006 in the wake of a Supreme Court decision and new laws on the treatment of U.S. detainees. He said the agency has not used waterboarding for five years.
President Bush could authorize waterboarding for future terrorism suspects in certain situations, including "belief that an attack might be imminent," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Feb. 6. The president would consult with the attorney general and intelligence officials before authorizing its use, Fratto said.
On the Net:
State Department's Afghanistan Country Page: http://www.state.gov/p/sca/ci/af
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.