Operation to kill Osama bin Laden was risky: Leon Panetta
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Panetta said bin Laden remained the inspirational leader for al-Qaeda, and that continued to make him dangerous. "He obviously was not close to the front lines of al-Qaeda, but he continued to stay in touch; he continued to communicate with them. I think for that reason, he continued to remain very dangerous in terms of the leadership that he could provide in developing the kind of 9/11-type attacks that we were the victim of," he said.
"So I think without question he remained a dangerous threat to the United States," Panetta said.
Speaking on Afghanistan, Panetta asserted that America will maintain a long-term commitment to Kabul.
"The United States, NATO and the Afghan government agreed in Lisbon in 2010 and affirmed in Chicago last year that Afghanistan will assume full responsibility for its security by the end of 2014.
"We are well on track for that goal, and we will maintain a long-term commitment to Afghanistan, including through the continued training and equipment of Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida and their affiliates," he said.
"With the continued dedication and sacrifice of our troops, I am fully confident, as I prepare to hand over my responsibilities as secretary of defense, that we will prevail in denying al-Qaeda a safe haven from which to attack our homeland," he said.
"I am fully confident, as I prepare to hand over my responsibilities as secretary of defense, that we will prevail in denying al-Qaeda a safe haven from which to attack our homeland," he added. Panetta said Afghan forces are now leading nearly 90 per cent of security operations across the country. "They are in the lead for security for more than three-quarters of the Afghan population, and they have retained security gains, even as the United States has drawn down the surge forces that we had there, the 33,000," he said.
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