USMC Gen. John Allen and Army Gen. David Petraeus greet new US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as he lands in Kabul, Afghanistan.—AP

WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said on Saturday that he believed Aymin Al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's new commander, was now living in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

But Mr Panetta also conceded that the most potent threat of future terrorist attacks in the United States came from an Al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen, not Pakistan.

Talking to journalists before leaving for Kabul on his first visit as defence secretary, Mr Panetta said that in one of his last meetings as director of the CIA, he told the ISI chief that the US had a list of targets that it wanted help in pursuing.

Mr Zawahiri was “one of those we would like to see the Pakistanis target along with our help,” he said, adding about Pakistan that “we've got to continue to push them.”

Mr Panetta said the United States was “within reach of strategically defeating Al Qaeda”. “If we can be successful at going after them, I think we can really undermine their ability to do any kind of planning to be able to conduct any kinds of attack on this country,” he said.

“That's why I think” that defeat of Al Qaeda is “within reach”, he added. —Anwar Iqbal