Washington, D.C., September 18, 2009 – Afghan President Hamid Karzai appears to have won re-election despite "some degree of corruption and fraud" in last month's presidential contest, CIA Director Leon Panetta told the Voice of America (VOA) in an exclusive interview aired today.
"I think that what appears to be the case is that even after they eliminate some of the votes that resulted because of fraud, that Karzai … still looks like the individual who is going to win that election," Panetta told VOA (www.VOANews.com) in an interview in Dearborn, Mich., before he spoke at an Arab-American community dinner.
'It's clear that there was some degree of corruption and fraud involved in the election," Panetta said. "It's being viewed now by commissions involved in counting those votes."
A U.N. electoral oversight group has ordered a partial recount in the election which has preliminary final results giving Karzai enough of a lead to avoid a runoff with former Foreign Minister Abdullah Adbullah.
Panetta also told VOA that the Taliban NATO troops are fighting in Afghanistan today are much different from the Taliban that existed prior to 2001. "You don’t just have one brand of Taliban. The ones that we're most concerned with, however, are those that are obviously engaging in military action, are taking American lives…."
The Taliban, Panetta said, also continue to "receive encouragement from the terrorists who are located in Pakistan."
On other issues, Panetta said:
• He's urged CIA officials to "do our job. Let's stick together" in the face of the Justice Department's probe of the CIA's past interrogation tactics. "I think that if we get trapped by the politics of the past, it'll take away our future and impact on our ability to do our jobs," he said.
• There is a debate within Iran as to whether the country should become a nuclear weapons power. "Our intelligence is that they (Iran) are proceeding to develop a nuclear capability in terms of power and low-grade uranium," he said, adding that internal debate "provides an opening, hopefully, to try to influence the future direction of Iran."
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