Secondly, we have in fact seriously weakened the Taliban. We expected a greater offensive this year than took place. And I think in large measure the reason it didn’t take place is because -- because of our operations, because of the increased security, we have reduced the influence of the Taliban and as a result have given Afghanistan back to the Afghanistans to be able to control their own faith.
ROSE: His brother was assassinated by a member of the security team and the Taliban took credit. I mean, they have begun a campaign of those kinds of assassinations. Do you view that as a sign of strength or weakness?
PANETTA: I think it’s a sign of weakness. It isn’t -- they have not been conducting the large attacks that they have in the past. They’ve been unable to do that. And I think they’re resorting to this kind of pinpoint assassinations as a way to make a point that they’re still around and they still can cause trouble in Afghanistan. But I read it as a sign of weakness, not as a sign of strength.
ROSE: But when you say that, you mean by drone missiles or more?
PANETTA: Well, I’m not going to get into the particulars of the operations, but it’s pretty clear that we have very successful operations going after al Qaeda and after their leadership in the FATA. And I have to tell you that the Pakistanis have given us some cooperation in that effort. They really have. You know, they’ve given us the opportunity to be able to conduct those operations. They’ve given us the opportunity and worked with us to go after targets together. They just as a matter of fact, within the last 24 hours caught an individual called Moritani, who is someone that we’ve been after for a long time.
PANETTA: I -- again, it’s a personal suspicion. I don’t -- I -- he must have -- I mean, the interesting thing, Charlie, was this. That you would assume that bin Laden, who’s in this large compound -- I mean, our suspicions were always, well, they got to have a tunnel for an escape. They’ve got to have a hole in the wall that they can hide in. They’ve got to have a way to get out the backdoor if there’s any kind of raid. Surely they’ve planned for all of that. I mean, we -- I can’t tell you how long we discussed the possibilities of what would happen.
ROSE: You get there and he’d be gone.
PANETTA: Once we raid and how –
PANETTA: -- and he’s gone or how is he gone. And yet, when he was trapped on the third floor of that compound, what it told me is that -- that he was -- he was hoping to get some kind of warning if something like that were to happen.
ROSE: You’re suggesting he thought that there was some source in the Pakistani government would tell him you got time to get out because I know the Americans are coming because they told us.
PANETTA: Well, you know, I can’t -- I can’t tell you that it was a Pakistani individual or ISI or anybody else that would provide that warning, but I am convinced that somebody was targeted to provide that warning in the event that something like that would happen. But I can’t tell you who that was.
ROSE: And it didn’t happen.
PANETTA: And it didn’t happen.
ROSE: Even if it turned out to be a dry hole, you followed every lead.
PANETTA: Even if it was a dry hole, you continued to go after it. And what I required was that they provide me weekly summaries of what was going on, whether it was good or bad, whether they found anything or not, I wanted to get a continuing update as to what was going on. And it was, I think sometime last summer that for the first time we got a real break that they were able to go after these couriers that had worked for bin Laden, had been able to identify them, and had been able to follow them to this compound. And when we obviously looked at that compound and the nature of it, here’s this large compound with 18 foot walls around that compound, and on the third floor, which I -- which was obviously the most interesting for me -- on the third floor, they had an eight foot wall around the third floor. Normally, if you have a third floor, you like the view. (Laughter.)
ROSE: Where is Gadhafi? (Laughter.)
PANETTA: Well, we would all love to know the answer to that one. (Laughter.) We’ll find him.
ROSE: Do you think he’s likely in Libya?
PANETTA: You know, I don’t know. I think he’s been taking a lot of steps to make sure that in the end he could try to get out if he had to. But as to where, when and how that will take place, we just don’t know.
ROSE: I mean, he had to have thought about this.
PANETTA: I have to believe he did.