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News Link • Afghanistan

CIA Director Panetta: ‘There May Be Less Than 100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan’

• Glynnis MacNicol
Can this be true? This morning on This Week CIA director Leon Panetta told Jake Tapper that there were less than 100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Less than 100.

“I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small,” Panetta said. “At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

If Panetta is disclosing it on national television it must be true, though the number seems shockingly low. Especially considering the rising Afghanistan death toll.

As the NYT’s Brian Stelter points out perhaps this goes back to the quote in the McChrystal Rolling Stone piece that if Americans “started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.” The country is certainly paying attention this week. It’s also the sort of information that begs two questions, which will likely be hashed out on the morning shows this week: Why hasn’t this been reported before and frequently? And if the main location of Al Qaeda is Pakistan why are we in Afghanistan?

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