'A Whole New Era'
In an exclusive interview with FP, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta sounds off on the U.S. embassy attacks, al Qaeda, and what Americans need to prepare for.
SEPTEMBER 17, 2012
FP: It's a daunting list isn't it? Well, let's start with the week's events in Libya, Egypt, and around the region. How much of this is a surprise to you and how much did the U.S. know before this? There are questions now, already, about intelligence, and whether the U.S. knew any of this was coming or could have done more to prevent it. What's your assessment of that and the current security situation?
PANETTA: It's something that's under assessment and under investigation, to try to determine just exactly what happened here. There's no question that the video has played a larger part in igniting a lot of demonstrations that have taken place. I think clearly that was the case in Egypt. How much of a role it played in Libya is something that I think is currently under investigation, to determine exactly what happened. And it clearly is impacting in all of the other areas that we're dealing with now -- Tunisia and Khartoum, some 17 or 18 places that we're focusing on.
FP: It was shocking though, wasn't it, to see the black flag of al Qaeda flying at the U.S. embassy in Tunis today?
PANETTA: Yes. They're still -- they will still try to do that. Just like the Taliban in Afghanistan makes use of insider attacks, makes use of IEDs, largely speaks to their inability to regain any of the territory that they've lost. So they resort to those tactics. And the same thing is true for al Qaeda, they're going to resort to these kinds of tactics, because in many ways I think they have lost their voice in the Middle East. And one demonstration of extremists, any more than a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in the United States, is not necessarily reflective of what the rest of the country feels.