Washington: Following a failed attempt by al Qaeda to attack a US-bound plane, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the United States would go after the terror group "wherever they are and wherever they try to hide in this world."
"As I`ve said time and time again, that we will go after al Qaeda wherever they are and wherever they try to hide. And one of the places that they clearly are located is Yemen," Panetta told reporters at a Pentagon news conference yesterday.
"The United States` both military and intelligence communities have gone after al Qaeda, and we continue to go after Qaeda," he said in response to a question when asked about recent threats that emanated from Yemen.
On May 8, an attempt by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to blow up a US-bound passenger plane was foiled. An explosive device bearing the hallmarks of the 2009 underwear bomb was seized.
"The recent threat that concerned all Americans about the possibility of another effort to take down an American airliner has come out of Yemen. It`s for that reason that we will continue to take all of the steps necessary to try to go after those who would threaten our country and threaten the safety of American people," Panetta said.
"We have operations there. The Yemenese have actually been very cooperative in the operations that we have conducted there. We will continue to work with them to go after the enemies that threaten the United States," he told reporters.
Panetta however ruled out using US ground forces in Yemen. "There`s no consideration of that. Our operations now are directed with the Yemenese going after al Qaeda," he said.
The Defence Secretary said America`s efforts in Yemen have been directed at the leadership of al Qaeda and those that have been involved in trying to plan attacks on the United States.
"With regards to our efforts and our operations, we have been very successful at going after the leadership and those that are directly involved with regards to trying to make those kinds of plans. And I think the fact that we continue to be successful with regards to these kinds of threats is an indication of the effectiveness of the operations that we have there," he said.
The al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), he said, does represent a threat in Yemen, and the Yemenis are the ones who are trying to make efforts to reduce their influence as well.
"But they are a threat. No one in any way underestimates the fact that all of them represent a concern for the United States in terms of our national security. But I do believe that we are making effective progress at going after those specific targets that represent real threats to the United States," Panetta said.