WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2011 — The U.S. government is committed to pursuing al-Qaida and its military allies around the world and works closely with international partners in that effort, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and others have said that al-Qaida is faltering but remains dangerous, Little told reporters, and the terrorist organization “has affiliates in other parts of the world, [including] Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.”
The United States must keep pressure on al-Qaida in Pakistan, he added.
“We have to find ways of thwarting the ability of other al-Qaida groups to plan and execute attacks against the United States and our allies,” Little said.
Many countries around the world are working to pursue the same goal as the United States, which is to find and disrupt al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, the press secretary said.
“We believe that forging close partnerships in the terrorism arena is an essential part of the war against terrorists,” Little added.
In Afghanistan, he said, progress has been made against the Taliban and related groups like al-Qaida and the Haqqani network.
“[The International Security Assistance Force] and the Afghan government over the past several months have evicted the Taliban from most of their important sanctuaries in Helmand and Kandahar,” Little said. The coalition has inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and made it more difficult for the group to mount large-scale offensives, he added.
“Our allies have increased their commitments,” he said, “and we’re working with them to help stabilize parts of the country.”
The Afghan people are fighting and dying for their country, Little noted, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools and trying to turn the page on decades of war.
“The Afghan security forces have grown by more than 100,000 troops, and … we’re beginning to transition responsibility for security in some provinces to the Afghan people,” he said.
The coalition aims for a secure and increasingly self-reliant Afghanistan that’s free of al-Qaida safe havens, Little said, “and the transition process will help get us there.”
Recent attacks in Afghanistan, including the assassination in Kabul yesterday of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, “are not going to deter our resolve to pursue the enemy and work closely with our Afghan partners to help Afghanistan realize a better future,” the press secretary said.
Panetta and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, “made very strong statements yesterday on the Haqqani network and the threats they pose to our forces,” Little said. “Our forces, our coalition partners and the Afghans should have no doubt that we are pursuing relentlessly the Haqqani network and will continue to do so.”
The Haqqanis, he added, “should not feel any degree of safety.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)