Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta confirmed on Friday that al Qaeda has a “presence in Syria.”
At a briefing at the Pentagon with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Panetta was asked by a reporter, “Secretary Panetta, if I may, on al Qaeda in Syria, you’ve said that we don’t have any indication of al Qaeda in that — those double explosions that took place in Damascus. But what kind of assessment do you have on al Qaeda activity in Syria? Because the Syrian government confirms that al-Qaida is active in Syria. Do you have an indication to say that al Qaeda is actually active, how big it is, and is it a concern for you?”
Panetta responded by confirming the terrorist group’s presence, but provided few details.
Al Qaeda anywhere is a concern for us,” said Panetta. “And we do — we do have intelligence that indicates that there is an al Qaeda presence in Syria. But frankly, we don’t have very good intelligence as to just exactly what their activities are. And that’s the reason we can’t really indicate specifically what they are or are not doing. But they are a concern. And frankly, we need to continue to do everything we can to determine what kind of influence they are trying to exert there.