WASHINGTON  - The US will continue to launch drone strikes against militant sanctuaries in Pakistan even if that nation’s government keeps opposing them, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said.

While Panetta declined to be more specific when asked about the unmanned vehicles because they “remain covert operations,” he said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s ‘‘Conversations with Judy Woodruff’’ airing later this week, “The United States was attacked on 9/11, and we know who attacked us.” ‘‘We know that Al-Qaeda was behind it,” Panetta said. “And we are going to do everything we can, use whatever operations we have to, in order to make sure that we protect this country and make sure that that kind of attack never happens again.’’

Told that sounded as if he meant drone attacks will continue, Panetta said simply, “The United States is going to defend itself under any circumstances.”

Drone attacks against sanctuaries of the Taliban and other groups in Pakistan are carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency, which Panetta previously headed. Pakistan has opposed the strikes, saying they violate nation’s sovereignty.