Kabul, July 9: The US is ‘within reach’ of strategically defeating the Al Qaeda and is targeting its key leaders who are reponsible for the terrorist network’s survival, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said.
Panetta strongly endorsed the Obama administration’s increasingly aggressive campaign to hunt down Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia on his first trip to Afghanistan since taking charge at the Pentagon July 1.
He hinted of more to come, saying he would redouble efforts by the military and the spy agency to work together on counterterrorism missions outside the traditional war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
Panetta’s remarks were perhaps the most optimistic assessment by the Obama administration regarding the long-running conflict with Al Qaeda, the paper noted.
Al Qaeda formally declared war against the US in 1996 and has outlived many other predictions of its demise.
US officials have said that they recovered a huge amount of computerised data about Al Qaeda’s internal communications when they located and killed its former chief Osama bin Laden at a hideout in Abbottabad town near Islamabad May 2.
Panetta said US intelligence officials believe that Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was named successor to Osama, is hiding in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas near the Afghan border.