Yet this view stands in contrast to the assessment that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, provided in their Senate testimony last week. Burgess, for his part, noted that while the Taliban is under more pressure than ever before, the insurgent group is resilient and tenacious, and that its influence remains pervasive throughout much of the country.
Although the Taliban have taken “tactical losses, they continue to maintain influence over much of the local population, particularly outside urban areas,” he told the committee.
While US troops have had some tactical victories in the east and removed “several key leaders from the battlefield … this does not appear to have affected their operational capacity, which included conducting several high-profile attacks against [NATO] bases in 2010,” Burgess stressed.
Sen. John McCain, the Senate Armed Service Committee’s top Republican, pointed out these contrasts in testimony Tuesday. Petraeus responded: “With respect, I have tried to avoid what might be labeled optimism or pessimism,” he said, “and have tried to provide realism.”