Leon Panetta criticizes Obama for Iraq withdrawal
In a new book, former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta suggests that President Obama failed to heed his advisers who wanted to leave troops in Iraq past December 2011, which may have contributed to the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“It was clear to me–and many others–that withdrawing all our forces would endanger the fragile stability then barely holding Iraq together,” Panetta writes in the book, an excerpt of which was published on Time.com this week.
Panetta acknowledged the difficulties of putting together the agreement that would have allowed U.S. forces to stay in the country - it had the support of various leaders in Iraq, but none who were willing to back it publicly - but also said the U.S. could have used its leverage, such as reconstruction aid money, to convince then-President Nouri al-Maliki to support a continued U.S. presence.
“My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq’s stability was not only in Iraq’s interest but also in ours,” Panetta writes. “I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.”
Panetta in his upcoming book notes some successes by the Obama administration as well.