Washington: World`s most wanted
terrorist Osama bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan`s rugged
tribal areas, CIA chief said today, even as he claimed that
the al-Qaeda is probably at its weakest point since 9/11 with
only 60-100 militants left in Afghanistan.
"I think the estimate on the number of al Qaida (in
Afghanistan) is actually relatively small. I think at most,
we`re looking at maybe 60 to 100, maybe less.It`s in that
vicinity. There`s no question that the main location of al
Qaida is in tribal areas of Pakistan," CIA Director Leon
Panetta, told ABC News in an interview.
Panetta said the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is
in deep hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan, but did not
give any further details.
"He is, as is obvious, in very deep hiding. He`s in
the tribal areas in Pakistan that is very difficult. The
terrain is probably the most difficult in the world," he said.
"That`s all we know, that he`s located in that
vicinity. The terrain is very difficult. He obviously has
tremendous security around him," Panetta said.
"I think what`s happened is that the more we put
pressure on the al-Qaida leadership in the tribal areas in
Pakistan and I would say that as a result of our operations,
that the Taliban (al Qaeda) leadership is probably at its
weakest point since 9/11 and their escape from Afghanistan
into Pakistan," he said.
But having said that, the more we continue to
disrupt al-Qaida`s operations, and we are engaged in the most
aggressive operations in the history of the CIA in that part
of the world, and the result is that we are disrupting their
leadership, he added.
We`ve taken down more than half of their Taliban
leadership, of their al-Qaida leadership and we just took down
number three in their leadership a few weeks ago, he said.
We continue to disrupt them. We continue to impact on
their command-and- control and the NATO forces continue to
impact on their ability to plan attacks in this country,
If we keep that pressure on, we think ultimately we
can flush out bin Laden and Ayman-al-Zawahiri and get after
them, Panetta said. It has been a while that Panetta has
intelligence on Osama, he said.
"I think it almost goes back to the early 2000s, that
in terms of actually when he was moving from Afghanistan to
Pakistan, that we had the last precise information about where
he might be located.
Since then, it`s been very difficult to get any
intelligence on his exact location," he said.