Los Angeles: The stepped up pace of CIA attacks in Pakistan "is taking a serious toll" on al Qaeda's operational capabilities, CIA director Leon E Panetta has said.
"The basis for that increased pace is intelligence, whether and also just the threat streams we're getting on potential attacks in Europe", the CIA chief was quoted as saying by the 'Los Angeles Times'.
The agency has also moved up "more hardware" to the region because of which it has been able to ramp up the pace of these operations, Panetta said apparently hinting that the US may have moved advanced killer drones to bases in Pakistan.
But, the CIA chief said, it was unclear whether operations in Pakistan had thwarted potential threat against Europe.
Panetta did not specifically mentioned missile strikes by unmanned drones in Pakistan because the US government does not officially own up the programme. But it is well known that the drones are main tool that the agency uses to target militants in that country.
For the first time, Panetta said that CIA was going after the Haqqani network, an al Qaeda linked faction of the Taliban, which US media has said has closed ties to the Pakistani military intelligence.
As many as 89 drone strikes have been undertaken in Pakistan this year, sharply up from merely 53 in all of last year killing more than 95 militants.
Most of these strikes have targeted north Waziristan, supposed to be the haven for the Haqqani network as well as al Qaeda and other foreign militants.
Los Angeles Times said the CIA chief came close to acknowledging the drone strikes calling the US efforts as "very effective".
Panetta has said that CIA operations - an apparent reference to drone strikes -, are very precise and very limited in terms of collateral damage.
"Very frankly, it's the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership," Panetta told the Pacific Council on International Policy.
First Published: Thursday, October 21, 2010, 13:43