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“The small quantity of illicit manpads that still exist outside of state control in Yemen are in the hands of tribal leaders or [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], neither of which is likely to part with them at any price,” the cable says, noting that al Qaeda is thought to have six manpads, possibly SA-7s.

PANETTA‘S PREDATORS

Much was made in the news media about Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s public reference last week to Predator strikes in Pakistan, as if a state secret were disclosed for the first time.

But actually, as CIA director, Mr. Panetta talked openly about the value of flying Predators over various tribal areas to kill al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, says reporter Rowan Scarborough.

A few months after taking the CIA’s helm at Langley in February 2009, he traveled to California to speak to the Pacific Council on International Policy.

To a questioner who suggested the drone strikes in Pakistan were creating more enemies and not making much of a dent in al Qaeda, Mr. Panetta answered:

“Obviously, because these are covert and secret operations, I can’t go into particulars. I think it does suffice to say that these operations have been very effective, because they have been very precise in terms of the targeting, and it involved a minimum of collateral damage. I can assure you that in terms of that particular area, it is very precise, and it is very limited in terms of collateral damage and, very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership.”

Last week, while speaking to sailors and Marines in Naples, Italy, Mr. Panetta quipped: “Having moved from the CIA to the Pentagon, obviously, I have a hell of a lot more weapons available to me in this job than I had at the CIA, although the Predators aren’t bad.”