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    Core of Al Qaeda on path to defeat: Obama

    WASHINGTON (PAN): US President Barack Obama has said the core of Al Qaeda was on the path to defeat mainly due to the relentless actions being taken by his administration against terrorist groups, including killing the terror outfit leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

    At a farewell ceremony for the outgoing US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, Obama hailed Panetta's role as CIA Director and then as Defence Secretary for what he said 'playing a key part in actions against Al Qaeda and its affiliates.'

    "Your leadership of the CIA will forever be remembered for the blows that we struck against Al Qaeda and perhaps the greatest intelligence success in American history - delivering justice to Osama bin Laden," Obama praised Panetta.

    "Because we ended the war in Iraq, and are winding down the war in Afghanistan, our troops are coming home, and next year our war in Afghanistan will come to an end," he said.

    For his part, Panetta said as the son of immigrants he would never forget the pride and exhilaration after walking out of the White House when the President announced the success of the bin Laden's operation.

    "Being an Italian-American in Congress, at senior levels in the executive branch has been, for me, a very unique experience. I will never forget the pride and exhilaration when I walked out of the White House after the President announced the success of the bin Laden operation," he said.

    "I could hear the chants of those people who were gathered around the White House and in Lafayette Park yelling, “U.S.A!  U.S.A!”,” he recalled.

    He said the memory of that operation and the team that helped put it together -- both the intelligence team and the military team -- would remain with him forever. “In Afghanistan, our campaign is well on track to completing that mission. We're committed to an enduring relationship with the Afghan people so that they, too, can govern and secure themselves in the future,” he said.

    “We've kept pressure on Al Qaeda, and we're going after extremists wherever you may hide.  And we have shown the world that nobody attacks the United States of America and gets away with it,” Panetta said.

    Panetta said the US had developed and begun implementing a new defence strategy for the 21st century that protected the strongest military power in the world and met its responsibility to fiscal discipline.