Leon Panetta says drones to be 'continuing tool' of U.S. defense
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said armed and unmanned drones will be a feature of US counter-terrorism efforts abroad for years to come.
In an interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz on Capitol Hill, just after President Barack Obama was sworn in to a second term, Panetta said that the reality is its going to be a continuing tool of national defense in the future.
In his speech, Obama spoke of an end to America's military campaigns abroad.
Alluding to the completed U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Obama declared that a decade of war was now ending.
According to Politico, American troop levels in Afghanistan are down by about a third from their peak of 100,000 (which came under Obama), but still roughly double what they were when Obama took office.
Asked by Raddatz if the scaled-down U.S. role in Afghanistan meant more reliance on drones, Panetta referred obliquely to the imperative to use 'what operational skills we have to go after those that would attack our country'.
Panetta said that they had done that in Pakistan, and were doing it in Yemen and elsewhere.
He said that he thought the 'reality is its going to be a continuing tool of national defense in the future', the report added.