Panetta effect: How CIA became more aggressive, relentless

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Washington, Mar. 21 (ANI): The appointment of former congressman Leon Panetta as the CIA Director may have surprised many 13 months ago, but the killing of 666 terrorism suspects, including 20 senior Taliban figures in drone strikes on the restive Pak-Afghan region, has left no room for doubt over his aggressive approach.

Apart from a brief stint as a military intelligence officer in the 1960s, little in Panetta's résumé appeared to merit his nomination to become the 19th director of the CIA, but his willingness to use force seems to have delivered on Obama's promise to target Al Qaeda and the Taliban more aggressively than his predecessor, The Washington Post reports.

According to sources, On August 5 last year, CIA was using a Predator drone to monitor a residential compound where Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was about to arrive.

Mehsud was supposed to be in the open, minimizing the risk that civilians would be injured or killed. However, some hours later, officials at CIA headquarters told Panetta that Mehsud's wife was also on the rooftop, giving her husband a massage.

Panetta told his officers to take the shot. Mehsud and his wife were killed.

The strikes have begun to draw greater criticism, with watchdog groups demanding to know more about how they are carried out and the legal reasoning behind the killings.

In an interview on Wednesday at CIA headquarters, Panetta said: "Any time you make decisions on life and death, I don't take that lightly. That's a serious decision. And yet, I also feel very comfortable with making those decisions because I know I'm dealing with people who threaten the safety of this country and are prepared to attack us at any moment."

Mehsud's followers and their al-Qaeda allies vowed to avenge his death, and within months they put into motion a plan that culminated in a suicide bombing on December 30 last year that killed seven CIA officers and contractors at a base in eastern Afghanistan.

After the bombing, Panetta addressed a meeting of senior CIA members, which basically summarises his aggressive approach.

"We're in a war. We cannot afford to be hesitant. The fact is we're doing the right thing. My approach is going to be to work that much harder that we beat these sons of bitches," Panetta said, according to one participant. (ANI)

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