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Al-Qaeda weakened, but still poses threat, Panetta says
The terrorist attacks of a decade
ago have in some ways strengthened the United States, and operations
against al-Qaida have left it much less capable, Defense Secretary
Leon E. Panetta said today.
“As tragic as 9/11 was, we have drawn tremendous inspiration
[from it],” the secretary told reporters after touring
the National September 11 Memorial and Museum site here.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, brought the nation
together in a commitment that such horror “will never happen
again,” Panetta said.
“Since 9/11, we have achieved significant success going
after al-Qaida and … [its] leadership,” he said.
Of the top four al-Qaida leaders, three are dead, he said, and
many lower-level leaders have been killed or captured.
“I think that has significantly undermined the command
and control of al-Qaida, and their ability to plan the kind of
9/11 attacks that occurred here,” he said.
The nation’s domestic security is also stronger than it
was 10 years ago, he said, crediting cooperation among intelligence
organizations, the Department of Homeland Security and “a
number of other agencies” with that improvement.
“Having said that, it’s very important for us to
also pledge, not only to the families of those that died but
to all Americans, that we will forever remain vigilant,” the
The main threats emerging from al-Qaida now emanate from nodes
such as those in Yemen and Somalia, he said.
“They continue to plan attacks, and I don’t think
we can take anything for granted,” he said.
Yemen “has risen to the top of the list” of al-Qaida
threats, and remains an important counter-terrorism focus for
the United States, the secretary said.
The leader of al-Qaida in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, “has
continued to urge individuals to attack this country, and continues,
himself, to represent a threat to this country,” Panetta
On another front, Pakistani forces yesterday announced the capture
of Younis al-Mauritani and two other senior al-Qaida operatives
“This is … particularly encouraging, because we
thought [Mauritani] was someone who was a real threat,” the
Panetta said he is also encouraged by Pakistan’s role
in the capture.
“We have had that kind of cooperation [from Pakistan]
in the past,” he said. “We’ve had kind of a
rocky relationship of late, but we have continued to urge the
Pakistanis to work with us … [against] terrorist targets,
and this is an indication that they are cooperating with us in
Depsite gains made over the past decade, jihadist ideology remains
an attraction to potential terrorists, and al-Qaida is still
a threat to U.S. security, Panetta said.
“We have to continue the pressure on al-Qaida, but there
is no question … [on] the tenth anniversary of 9/11, that
we have made significant progress,” he said.
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