Full Transcript: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

And you know, the G-locks, these transit points, are important to us. We would like to be able to use them. But we're going to pay a fair price. We're not going to --

TAPPER: What's that, a few hundred dollars per truck?

PANETTA: We're going to pay a fair price. They're negotiating what that price ought to be. You know, clearly we don't -- (inaudible) we're not about to get gouged in the price. We want a fair price. We are working right now through what's called the northern distribution center, which means we're moving most of our stuff through the north. It's more expensive, but we're getting the job done, and they need to understand that we can continue to get the job done that we have to by using that northern distribution route. It would be convenient for us. We would like to be able to use the Pakistan gates, but it isn't absolutely essential to our completing the mission that we're involved with.

TAPPER: Let's move to Yemen right now. We saw this past week a suicide bombing that killed 100 soldiers. The Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has attempted at least twice to bring down a U.S. plane. You've said Al Qaeda in Yemen poses the greatest threat to the United States. But you've also said you will not send American troops into the country.

We only have, I think, about 20 U.S. advisers right there. First of all, why so few U.S. forces in the country? And second of all, if this is the biggest threat to the U.S., why would we not try to play a bigger role?

PANETTA: Well, our whole effort there is aimed at going after those terrorists who threaten to attack our country. Al Qaeda, elements of Al Qaeda have located in Yemen and the result is that we are focused, just as we were in the Fatah in Pakistan, we are now focused in Yemen to make sure that they never get the opportunity to attack our country.

We've been successful. We've gone after a number of key targets there. We'll continue to do that, counterterrorism is what we're all about in Yemen. And that's the number of forces we need in order to be able to do the job that we feel is necessary in order to protect our country.

TAPPER: But I think, I think the question is whether or not the smaller counterterrorism is -- approach to this is enough. What we're seeing in Yemen seems to be a possible nightmare scenario of a terrorist state. Let me just show you a map.


TAPPER: Our Martha Raddatz was there earlier this week, helped us put together this map. The portion shaded in red are territory in which Al Qaeda has a strong and significant presence. As you can see, that's most of the country, and they're starting to hold those territories. I know I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but can we really fight them without boots on the ground there?

PANETTA: The answer is yes, because very frankly, what we're targeting, the operations we're conducting, require the kind of capabilities that don't necessarily involve boots on the ground, but require the kind of capabilities that target those that we're after who are threats to the United States.

That's what this mission is about. It isn't about getting into, you know, their tribal differences and controversies. It isn't about getting into a civil war. It's about going after those who threaten our country. That's what this mission is about.

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