Speaking at the University of Oklahoma, CIA Director Leon Panetta said that though intense military operations have put top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders under extreme pressure and “many of them are on the run”, he said that the US spy agency has a “fundamental duty to provide warning,” which also refers to “emerging threats”, to nations like Brazil and India, indicating the need for growing cooperation between the US and India on intelligence sharing.
Citing American efforts both in Afghanistan and Pakistan aimed at hitting command and control centres of the al-Qaeda, Panetta said that with the help from Pakistani forces, the CIA have captured some top Taliban commanders, including the outfits No. 2 Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar. Saying that US was at war with the al-Qaeda and its affiliated terrorist organisations, America’s top spy claimed that counterterrorism operations in tribal areas of Pakistan have killed more than half of al-Qaeda’s top 20 commanders, while US drone attacks have killed nearly 600 al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in less than three years.
Warning that it was a war, the spy chief said al-Qaeda would keep on coming at the Americans and said new intelligence indicated that Osama bin Laden-led outfit was changing its tactics and trying to launch attacks on the US through people with no history of terrorist activities.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Panetta said America’s goal is to “degrade the Taliban” in order to allow the Afghan people to govern themselves freely.
The question that most concerned him was whether the US would be able to ultimately transfer power to the Afghan people.
The answer, he said, lies in whether the Karzai administration will succeed in building an effective government, which he defined as the capacity to protect the people “at the provincial level.”
Panetta said fighting the spread of deadly weapons is a core issue of the CIA’s duties, especially in light of Osama Bin Laden describing the acquisition of nuclear weapons a “religious duty.”