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Primary enemy is Al Qaeda not Taliban, says Panetta

February 16, 2012 11:54 IST

United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said that Al Qaeda is the primary enemy of United States in the Af-Pak region and those parts of the Taliban who support Al Qaeda is also American target.

"The Taliban is a very broad group. Our primary enemy in that part of the world is al-Qaeda. The Taliban elements, the terrorist elements that support al-Qaeda are also our enemy," Panetta said at a Congressional hearing.

"And there are some elements, obviously, of the Taliban that support Al Qaeda. And those are the ones that we've been targeting," Panetta said in response to a question at hearing on budget of the House Committee on armed services.

"Our goal is to make sure that they never again can establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to conduct attacks on this country, and that remains our primary goal," he said.

Panetta was responding to a question from Congressman Mac Thornberry.

"Vice President Biden has said that the Taliban is not our enemy. And I have a quote here says -- that supports that.

Do you agree or what -- do you believe that the Taliban is our enemy in Afghanistan? And if they are our enemy, can we leave a secure and stable Afghanistan without addressing the Taliban and their safe havens in Pakistan?" he asked.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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