WASHINGTON – The Afghan government under President Hamid Karzai controls just 30 percent of the country, the top U.S. intelligence official said Wednesday.
Director of National Intelligence 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. But more than six years after the U.S. invasion to oust the Taliban and establish a stable central government, the majority of Afghanistan's population remains under local tribal control, he said.
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 Qaeda 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 Qaeda's position in the region. The tribal areas remain largely ungovernable and, as such, they will continue to provide vital sanctuary to Al Qaeda, the Taliban and regional extremism more broadly," Maples said.
Under questioning from 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.
According to CIA Director Michael Hayden, waterboarding remains among the interrogation methods available to the CIA but 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 it.