Al Qaeda's leadership 'decimated' but not eliminated: Leon Panetta

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Washington, Nov. 22 (ANI): US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that Al Qaeda's leadership has been decimated, if not the organization itself.

Speaking at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, Panetta qualified United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice's statement, she has used the word "decimate" in September to describe Al Qaeda, which has come under fierce scrutiny from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

"Over the last few years, Al Qaeda's leadership ranks have been decimated. This includes the loss of four of Al Qaeda's five top leaders in the last two and a half years alone - Osama bin Laden, Sheikh Saeed al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi," Panetta said.

According to Politico, Panetta said that the terrorist organization has not been eliminated and the administration knows this.

"We have slowed the primary cancer, but we know that the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the global body," he said.

His remarks come after weeks of harsh GOP criticism of Rice for making a similar, although not exactly the same, claim.

"President Obama said when he was running for president that he would refocus our efforts and attentions on Al Qaeda. We've decimated Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is gone," Rice had said on September 16 on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Since then, Republicans have criticized her specifically for using the word 'decimate', implying it was meant to cover up the group's responsibility for the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the report added. (ANI)

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