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Count former President Barack Obama’s onetime Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta as a skeptic of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and his insistence that America will end its “forever war” in the south Asian country.
In fact, Panetta is sure the U.S. is going to have to put troops back on the ground in Afghanistan soon following Thursday’s suicide bombing outside the airport in Kabul.
What did he say?
Panetta was on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” Thursday evening and made it clear that the ongoing chaos in Afghanistan shows that “our work is not done” there and that the military will need to be back in the country soon to fight ISIS.
Burnett pressed Panetta on whether Biden should stick to his Aug. 31 deadline.
Panetta responded, “Bottom line is that our work is not done in Afghanistan.”
“I know we’ll be removing our troops by a certain date, but the bottom line is our work is not done,” he continued. “We’re going to have to go after ISIS. I’m glad the president said that we’re going to hunt them down and make them pay a price for what they did in killing our warriors and we should. We’re going to have to go back in to get ISIS.”
Not only will the U.S. need to take down ISIS for its deadly attack on American troops and Afghans at the airport, he noted, but also to fight al Qaeda when it surely returns under the Taliban.
“We’re probably going to go have to go back in when al Qaeda resurrects itself, as they will with this Taliban,” Panetta said. “They’ve gave safe haven to al Qaeda before. They’ll probably do it again.”
It’s all about the War on Terror, the former top spy said: “I understand that we’re trying to get our troops out of there, but the bottom line is we can leave a battlefield but we can’t leave the war on terrorism, which still is a threat to our security.”
Burnett noted that what Panetta is calling for runs directly counter to what Biden wants.
Too bad, Panetta replied.
“What we’re going to be doing is counterterrorism operations,” he said. “We’re going to have to go after those that are responsible. I think we have pretty good intelligence on the leadership of ISIS. I think there’s a pretty good chance we can identify who is involved with this attack.”