Panetta declared the “campaign against al Qaeda will largely take place outside declared combat zones, using a small-footprint approach that includes precision operations, partnered activities with foreign Special Operations Forces, and capacity building so that partner countries can be more effective in combating terrorism on their own.”
In addition to increasing the number of Predator and Reaper drones, Panetta said the Pentagon will add 8,000 commandos to its Special Operations Forces over the next five years.
The Pentagon boss said “to truly protect America, we must sustain and in some areas deepen our engagement in the world – our military, intelligence, diplomatic and development efforts are key to doing that.”
Targets include Boko Haram Islamic militants in Nigeria, Ansar Dine extremists in Mali, and al-Qaeda affiliates in Libya (the anti-Gaddafi rebels supported by the U.S. in Libya admitted they were members of al-Qaeda). Panetta placed the blame for the murder of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi squarely on al-Qaeda.