CIA Director Leon Panetta says aggressive attacks against al-Qaida in Pakistan have forced Osama bin Laden and his top associates deeper into hiding, and weakened the terrorist group's ability to plan sophisticated operations.
Panetta told The Washington Post newspaper that in a recently intercepted message an al-Qaida lieutenant urged bin Laden to come to the group's rescue and provide leadership.
Panetta also said cooperation between the CIA and its Pakistani counterparts has improved over the past year.
Meanwhile, another U.S. counterterrorism official said Wednesday that evidence suggests a drone attack last week in northern Pakistan killed a top al-Qaida leader.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hussein al-Yemeni may have helped plan the December 30 suicide bombing of a CIA post in Afghanistan.
That attack killed seven American and one Jordanian intelligence officer. U.S. counterterrorism analysts said the attack's extensive preparation indicates that al-Qaida and its allies, despite being under pressure from drone strikes, still have the capacity for complex operations.
The CIA does not officially acknowledge the U.S. role in strikes in Pakistan, but Panetta said attacks on al-Qaida are, in his words, "the most aggressive operation" in the CIA's history.