- Associated Press - Sunday, September 19, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Colin Powell, once the nation’s highest-ranking military officer and later a secretary of state, said Sunday he doesn’t know whether the United States is winning in Afghanistan.

Mr. Powell also said that neither the United States nor Israel is likely to launch a military strike on Iran any time soon.

Mr. Powell said that although generals in the Afghan campaign claim progress as they move into new territory, it’s hard to tell if the Taliban really is being defeated or merely is moving from one place to another.

Mr. Powell endorsed President Obama’s strategy to triple the number of U.S. forces, but he called the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai a weak base for the military campaign.

Mr. Powell said that the generals are asking for more time but that it’s not clear whether Mr. Obama will give it to them. Mr. Obama has said he will begin withdrawing U.S. forces next summer.

As for Iran, Mr. Powell said he doesn’t think “the stars are lining up” for an attack on that country’s known or suspected nuclear sites.

The United States accuses Iran of hiding plans to build a bomb; Iran denies that.

Mr. Powell also said international sanctions on Iran may never persuade Iran to back off what it says is a legitimate nuclear energy program. The United States, Mr. Powell said, may have to accept that while trying to deter Iran from building or using a bomb.

He spoke Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”