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Pentagon's top lawyer says military fight against al-Qaida not en open-ended conflict

The Pentagon's top lawyer says the war on terror is not an endless conflict and the U.S. is approaching a "tipping point" after which the military fight against al-Qaida will be replaced by a law enforcement operation.

Jeh Johnson told an audience at Oxford University that the core of al-Qaida is "degraded, disorganized and on the run," according to a transcript of Friday's speech.

Johnson, general counsel to the U.S. Defense Department, says that once most al-Qaida members are captured or killed, armed conflict will be replaced by "a counterterrorism effort against individuals" led by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

His speech marked rare public comments by a senior U.S. official about the end of the armed conflict launched after the Sept. 11 attacks.