Pakistan lodged the protest soon after a drone attack killed al-Qaeda's second-in-command Abu Yahya al-Libi along with 15 other militants in its northwestern tribal region on Tuesday. Admitting that the US's relationship with Pakistan were "complicated", he said, it was "often times frustrating, often times desperate, often times difficult." But, at the same time, he said, "It is a necessary relationship."
Panetta noted that more than 3,000 American nationals were killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York and the leadership of these attackers was holed up in Pakistan's tribal regions. Panetta said Pakistan faced the same kinds of threat as the US from the al-Qaeda leaders holed up in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA). The strikes were not just about protecting the US but were protecting Pakistan as well since people in that country were also targets of the insurgents, he said.