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U.S. defense chief vows to keep pressure on al-Qaida

(Xinhua)

14:09, August 06, 2011

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Friday that the death of Osama bin Laden does not mean al-Qaida is gone, and it is important for the U.S. to keep pressure on the terrorist group to ensure national security.

"(The death of bin Laden) doesn't mean that they're gone," Panetta said during a visit to U.S. Strategic Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. "They're still around, and there are elements of al-Qaida that are still out there whose main purpose is to attack our homeland."

The defense secretary emphasized keeping pressure on the terrorist network no matter where they hide.

"We've got to continue to put pressure on them in Pakistan. ... The biggest concerns we have now are the nodes where they're located in places like Yemen, Somalia, North Africa," he said.

Panetta also discussed budget issues, saying that the Pentagon is going to face "some very difficult choices."

The secretary was referring to the defense budget cuts under the framework of the new debt agreement, which has already been signed into law. The agreement ordered 350 billion dollars of baseline defense cuts in 10 years, which Panetta called a tough challenge but in line with the Pentagon's anticipation.

What the secretary is really concerned about is the second phase of deficit reduction, when defense spending could be cut by another 500 billion dollars if an enforcement mechanism is triggered.

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