World's most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan's rugged tribal areas, CIA chief said today, even as he claimed that the al-Qaeda is probably at its weakest point since 9/11 with only 60-100 militants left in Afghanistan.
"I think the estimate on the number of al Qaida (in Afghanistan) is actually relatively small. I think at most, we're looking at maybe 60 to 100, maybe less.It's in that vicinity. There's no question that the main location of al Qaida is in tribal areas of Pakistan," CIA Director Leon Panetta, told ABC News in an interview.
Panetta said the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is in deep hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan, but did not give any further details.
"He is, as is obvious, in very deep hiding. He's in the tribal areas in Pakistan that is very difficult. The terrain is probably the most difficult in the world," he said.
"That's all we know, that he's located in that vicinity. The terrain is very difficult. He obviously has tremendous security around him," Panetta said.
"I think what's happened is that the more we put pressure on the al-Qaida leadership in the tribal areas in Pakistan and I would say that as a result of our operations, that the Taliban (al Qaeda) leadership is probably at its weakest point since 9/11 and their escape from Afghanistan into Pakistan," he said.
But having said that, the more we continue to disrupt al-Qaida's operations, and we are engaged in the most aggressive operations in the history of the CIA in that part of the world, and the result is that we are disrupting their leadership, he added.
We've taken down more than half of their Taliban leadership, of their al-Qaida leadership and we just took down number three in their leadership a few weeks ago, he said.
We continue to disrupt them. We continue to impact on their command-and- control and the NATO forces continue to impact on their ability to plan attacks in this country, Panetta said.
If we keep that pressure on, we think ultimately we can flush out bin Laden and Ayman-al-Zawahiri and get after them, Panetta said. It has been a while that Panetta has intelligence on Osama, he said.
"I think it almost goes back to the early 2000s, that in terms of actually when he was moving from Afghanistan to Pakistan, that we had the last precise information about where he might be located.
Since then, it's been very difficult to get any intelligence on his exact location," he said.