US making good progress in Afghanistan: Panetta
“I really believe that the Afghan people for the first time are seeing the real possibility that they can govern and secure that country themselves, and they want to move towards that goal, and so do we,” he added.
Panetta told the CBC Television: “That's the whole point here. This was about being able to ensure that Afghanistan would never again become a safe haven for Al Qaida and for their terrorist allies to be able to plan any kind of attack on the US, or any place else...”
But to realise that goal, the secretary said, Afghanistan should have the ability to secure, control and govern itself. “Now we're making good progress there. We really are,” he insisted.
Panetta said the US-led international community had actually made a turning point in Afghanistan, where militant outfits had been weakened considerably.
“In comparison to what we've seen over the last few weeks there the level of violence is down. We have been able to weaken Al Qaida and the Taliban significantly. As a matter of fact, the Taliban have not been able to conduct one organised attack to regain any territory that they've lost. They've lost that ability to do that,” he maintained.
The Afghan army was much more effective operationally and security transition to the Afghan lead was on track, the secretary said, adding the process was in line with what the government and people of that country wanted.
“Security can't happen overnight. We can't just pick up and get the hell out of there. We've got to be able to do this in a way that guarantees that that country is going to be able to control and secure itself,” Panetta remarked.
Panetta believed the world was much safer than it was a year ago because of the death of Osama bin Laden. “This man was committed to attacking the United States, committed to attacking other countries,” he said.
“He continued to try to assert that and one of the things we found by going through the material at Abbottabad, the compound he had there, is that he was continuing to make efforts, continuing to work with his leadership to be able to conduct further attacks,” the secretary said.
Even as the US had been successful in going after Al Qaida leadership, he acknowledged, the outfit continued to be a threat. “They continue to be a threat not just in the FATA, in Pakistan. They continue to be a threat in Yemen and Somalia and in North Africa, and so for that reason we just can't stop continuing to put pressure on them to make sure that they never again have the opportunity to attack our country.”
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