By Julian Pecquet - 09/15/12 04:50 PM EDT
The U.S. military is positioning troops to be ready to respond to unrest in as many as 18 locations, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.
Panetta said there were certain hotspots the Pentagon was “paying particular attention to,” in an interview with Foreign Policy on Friday.
Separately, a U.S. defense official told the publication that the Pentagon is considering sending 50 Marines to guard the embassy in Sudan, where protesters objecting to a U.S.-made anti-Islam film breached the American and German embassies on Friday. The Department of Defense has already announced it is sending 100 Marines to Libya and Yemen.
Violent protests have broken out across the Arab World, from Tunisia to Indonesia, over a movie trailer critical of Islam, produced by a Coptic Christian based in California, and posted to the internet.
Clashes with Arab security forces since Tuesday have left at least six protesters dead – two each in Tunisia and Sudan and one in Egypt and Lebanon.
In the interview, Panetta said he stood by his earlier remarks that al-Qaeda is near “strategic defeat” despite the possibility that radical Islamists were involved in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans Tuesday night.
“Clearly al-Qaeda, the al-Qaeda that attacked the United States of America on 9/11, we have gone after in a big way,” said Panetta. “We always knew that we would have to continue to confront elements of extremism elsewhere as well.”