WASHINGTON - Nearly one year ago, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta predicted the strategic defeat of al-Qaida was within reach if the United States could kill or capture up to 20 leaders of the core group and its affiliates.
In an interview on Thursday with Reuters, Panetta disclosed that only a "small handful" of the individuals on that original list remained on the battlefield and that Saudi Arabia - the birthplace of late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden - was reporting a drop-off in recruitment.
"We've not only impacted on their leadership, we've impacted on their capability to provide any kind of command and control in terms of operations," Panetta said.
The US defense chief visited Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and after paying US condolences over the death of the late crown prince, spoke about al-Qaida with one of his sons, Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who has run the kingdom's operations against al-Qaida as a deputy interior minister.
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