Panetta insists that al-Qaida's leadership has been decimated. But he acknowledges the fight is far from over and victory not yet in reach. In fact, he spent much of his last trip dealing with the hostage crisis in Algeria, where Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida attacked a natural gas complex in the middle of the Sahara desert.
Sometime next month, Panetta will leave the Pentagon, finally returning home to his beloved walnut farm in Carmel, Calif. In the farewell ceremony on board his military plane, the son of Italy thanked his staff for working to protect America, saying he believes they made the world safer.
In turn, they presented him with a cake. Across the top was written: Arrivederci.
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