Washington: America`s new Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has asked Pakistan to target al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri who is now believed to be living in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of the country.
In his interaction with reporters travelling with him to Afghanistan, his first overseas trip as the Defence Secretary, Panetta said Pakistan has been told in clear terms to act against the top al-Qaeda leaders.
"One of the last things I did as director of the CIA was to sit down with my counterparts in Pakistan and make clear to them that there are a set of targets that we have, and the more that they can help us go after those targets, the
more we will have the ability to achieve our goals in Pakistan in defeating al Qaeda," he said in response to a question.
Zawahiri, the 59-year-old Egyptian surgeon-turned-jihadist ideologue, was last month appointed the new chief of al-Qaeda to succeed the group`s slain leader Osama bin Laden.
"We think that Zawahiri is one of those that still resides in the FATA and he`s one of those that we would like to see the Pakistanis target, along with our capabilities as well," he said.
"We have to continue to emphasize with the Pakistanis that in the end it`s in their interest to be able to go after these targets as well. In the discussions I`ve had with them, I have to say that they`re giving us cooperation in going after some of these targets. We`ve got to continue to push them to do that. That`s key," Panetta emphasized.
When asked if any one inside Pakistan knew about the presence of al-Qaeda, he said: "Everybody has suspicions about the Pakistanis -- how much they knew, what they knew. The reality is that there are investigations now being conducted
by ISI and by the government to try to determine whether or not there were elements of the Pakistani military or ISI that might have known about the compound. So we have to wait to see what the results of that are