Intensified CIA operations in Pak 'taking serious toll' on Al-Qaeda: Panetta

Washington, Oct 21 (ANI): The stepped-up pace of CIA operations in Pakistan "is taking a serious toll" on terrorist group Al-Qaeda's operational abilities, the spy agency's director, Leon Panetta, has stated.

"The basis for that increased pace is intelligence, weather and also just the threat streams we're getting on potential attacks in Europe," the Los Angeles Times quoted Panetta, as saying.

The CIA is also going after the Haqqani network, a group of Pakistani militants that attacks US forces in Afghanistan, he added.

Although Panetta did not specifically mention 'drone strikes' in Pakistan because the US government does not officially acknowledge the program, there have been 89 strikes in the country so far this year, up from 53 in all of 2009, according to the New America Foundation, which counts them using Pakistani media and other reports.

But the CIA missile strikes are an open secret, and US officials privately describe the program as a vital tool in the fight against Al-Qaeda and allied militants based in northwest Pakistan.

The CIA has been able to increase the pace because of "additional capabilities," Panetta said, meaning "more hardware."

"The president's been very supportive, obviously, of this operation," he stated, adding that the Pakistani intelligence service also "has been very cooperative."

But it was unclear whether operations in Pakistan had thwarted a potential plot against Europe, said the CIA chief. (ANI)

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