Leon Panetta, who took over the Pentagon on July 1, told reporters shortly before his arrival in Kabul that the time had come for the United States to intensify their efforts against the Al Qaeda and its fumes Local after the death of Osama bin Laden.
The leader of the Islamist network was killed May 2 by U.S. special forces into Pakistan.
“We have at hand the opportunity to inflict a strategic defeat for al Qaeda and I hope to be able to focus on this goal, together, of course, with my former agency,” said Leon Panetta, director of CIA until late June.
“The time has come, after what happened to bin Laden, to exert maximum pressure on them. For I am convinced that if we continue this effort, we can really destroy Al Qaeda as a threat against (the United States), “he added.
Leon Panetta refused to appoint the leaders of al Qaeda wanted by the United States. However, he delivered the names of two men: Anwar Aoulaki, American imam became one of the main leaders of the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda and Ayman al-Zawahri, to the head of the network after the death of Osama bin Laden.
According to the new boss of the Pentagon, Zawahri lives in the tribal areas of Pakistan. “He is one of those we would like to see Pakistan to target,” he said.
“THE KEY” IS IN PAKISTAN
“I’d say about 10 or 20 great leaders (Al Qaeda) are between Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and within AQIM (Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb) in North Africa. If we can have, I think we can really overcome strategically Al Qaeda, “said Leon Panetta.
He added, without elaborating, that the U.S. military and the CIA were involved in a number of operations against Islamic extremists in Yemen.
Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained after the U.S. intervention have killed Osama bin Laden. Pakistan has denounced the violation of its sovereignty while the United States, many officials expressed doubts about the sincerity of Pakistan’s commitment in the fight against Islamic extremists.
“We must continue to encourage (the Pakistanis) to act. This is the key,” said Leon Panetta.
Barack Obama announced the withdrawal by the end of the summer of 2012 a third of U.S. forces in Afghanistan since late 2001. The U.S. president also made a series of appointments to positions directly related to the management of the Afghan issue, as the transfer of Leon Panetta of the CIA to the Pentagon.
It hoped that these revisions would improve relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, often seen in Washington too soft on corruption.
“Hopefully this will mark the beginning of a much better (with Hamid Karzai) that have had that in recent years,” he said.
The objective of the United States is to leave by the end of 2014 the Afghan responsibility for the security of their country. For Leon Panetta, the main challenge in the months and years ahead is training Afghan forces.
“We have made good progress in this area but I think there is still much to be done to devolve responsibility,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense.