PANETTA: Winning in Afghanistan is having a country that is stable enough to ensure that there is no safe haven for Al Qaida or for a militant Taliban that welcomes Al Qaida. That's really the measure of success for the United States. Our purpose, our whole mission there is to make sure that Al Qaida never finds another safe haven from which to attack this country. That's the fundamental goal of why the United States is there. And the measure of success for us is do you have an Afghanistan that is stable enough to make sure that never happens.
My reaction to this has always been "WTF? That's the best you've got?" As Atrios says this morning:
The stability of the state of Afghanistan and its willingness to house bad actors are completely unrelated to each other. More than that, potential bad actors can, roughly, find a "safe haven" just about anywhere they want.
It's a big world! And they don't need a lot of space:
PANETTA: I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaida is actually relatively small. I think at most, we're looking at maybe 60 to 100, maybe less. It's in that vicinity. There's no question that the main location of Al Qaida is in tribal areas of Pakistan.
Yes. He really did just say that the US is spending annually something like twice or thrice the GDP of Afghanistan, facilitating the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, on the pretense that it will keep five dozen people from holding meetings.
It is is easy to think of obviously stupid, silly things the US could do for a tenth, or even a hundredth of the cost of this "war" that would be more effective at keeping these meetings from resulting in successful terrorist attacks on the US.