Washington, June 28 (ANI): While admitting that the agency does not have exact knowledge about Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Leon Panetta has said that it is believed that the warlord
"is in an area of the tribal areas of Pakistan."
Panetta, who appeared on ABC's "This Week" programme, said that intelligence agencies had last information regarding bin Laden's location in the early days of the nine year old Afghan war but there has been no information about him in the recent past.
"It's been a while. I think it goes back almost to the early 2000s, you know in terms of actually when (bin Laden) was leaving from Afghanistan to Pakistan that we had the last precise information about where he might be located. Since then it has been very difficult to get any intelligence on his exact location," Panetta said.
Panetta, however, claimed that most of Al-Qaeda's top commanders have been taken out, and expressed the hope that the CIA would soon be able to get bin Laden and second in command Ayman Zawahiri.
"If we keep that pressure on, we think ultimately we can flush out bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri and get after them," he said.
The number of Al Qaeda members remaining in Afghanistan is "relatively small", said Panetta.
"At most, we're looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It's in that vicinity. There's no question that the main location of al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan," the CIA chief said.
Panetta stressed that US President Barack Obama has made going after Al-Qaeda the "fundamental purpose" of the Afghan military mission.
"We've got to disrupt and dismantle Al-Qaeda and their militant allies so they never attack this country again," he said. (ANI)