Panetta Believes U.S. Close to Defeating al-Qaida

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 9, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said he believes the Unit­ed States “is with­in reach of strate­gi­cal­ly defeat­ing al-Qai­da.”

Panet­ta, who arrived in Afghanistan this after­noon, said the Unit­ed States has iden­ti­fied some of the key al-Qai­da lead­er­ship in Pak­istan, Yemen and oth­er areas.

“If we can be suc­cess­ful in going after them, I think we can real­ly under­mine their abil­i­ty to do any kind of plan­ning, to be able to con­duct any kind of attack on this coun­try,” the sec­re­tary said to press trav­el­ing with him. “It’s with­in reach. Is it going to take more work? You bet it is.”

He explained his rea­son­ing say­ing there are between 10 to 20 key al-Qai­da lead­ers in areas like Pak­istan, Yemen, Soma­lia and North Africa and track­ing them down would mean the defeat of the ter­ror orga­ni­za­tion.

“We have under­mined their abil­i­ty to con­duct 9–11-type attacks,” he said. “We have them on the run. Now is the moment, fol­low­ing what hap­pened to [Osama] bin Laden to put max­i­mum pres­sure on them, because I do believe if we con­tin­ue this effort we can crip­ple al-Qai­da as a threat.

Panet­ta said al-Qai­da leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is most like­ly in hid­ing in Pakistan’s Fed­er­al­ly Admin­is­tered Trib­al Area.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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