Panetta: Boots on ground inevitable to fight ISIL

Former U.S. defense secretary said U.S. is engaged in a war against ISIL rather than a temporary police action.

Panetta: Boots on ground inevitable to fight ISIL

World Bulletin/News Desk

The White House should keep open the boots on ground option in Iraq and Syria as it has engages in a war against the ISIL, according to a former U.S. defense chief on Tuesday.

Leon Panetta, former defense secretary and CIA director, spoke at a George Washington University forum held jointly with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

President Barack Obama's strategy against the militants should include all possible options, Panetta said. 

"In the event that you are confronting an enemy you may very well have to use different options that are recommended to you by the military."

In his new book published last week, Panetta criticized Obama for remaining passive during unfolding world crises, and during Tuesday’s discussion he also criticized Congress for blocking the administration’s military engagements with a budget control law that lead to budget sequestration, which saw automatic cuts to the federal budget.

Panetta said the president was reluctant to support the war on terror because he wanted to avoid confronting Congress. 

"The president really did support the operation," he said, adding that Obama was hesitant to take action at times because his measures were constantly blocked by Congress.

ISIL, Panetta said, emerged in the Middle East because of the U.S.' failure to take action from the beginning. "When facing a tough decision, the best thing you can do is to make the right decision, the next best thing is to make the wrong decision and the worst thing you can do is doing nothing. In this situation they did nothing and the country paid price for it." 

He said that the rise of the militants was not the result of one step but rather several steps, including the withdrawal of U.S. troops.  

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was principally responsible, Panetta said, as he followed a discriminative path within the Iraqi society and insisted that he would be able to keep up with the threat unfolding in the country. Add to that the fact that Arab nations did not support Maliki against the rising threat of ISIL within the country, he said. 

Citing a meeting convened by the U.S. that brought together some 20 foreign defense chiefs Tuesday to discuss ISIL, Panetta said that it is vital to keep the coalition together and push other nations to be committed to assist in efforts in the war against ISIL. 

The militants are now advancing toward the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Panetta said if they capture the city it will be a disaster for the coalition in Iraq. 

He also discussed Russia and its policies in Eastern Europe and the caucuses. 

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to reassert the authority of the old Soviet Union, noting that he wants to bring the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union under Russia's influence. 

"We are seeing a new chapter of the old Cold War," he said. "We are seeing a renewed step toward the things that diplomatically we saw during the Cold War." 

Responding to a question about what Obama should do concerning Russia's assertion, Panetta said that taking the steps on sanctions is vital, along with strengthening NATO, arming Ukraine and bringing the missile defense system back to the table.

He also added that providing additional energy resources to those countries dependent on Russian energy would also play a crucial role against Russia as it uses its energy as leverage for political influence. 

Panetta's talk was protested by a group from Codepink, an anti-war group.

Protesters held banners that read, "Panetta, a war criminal," and "Panetta's drones killed kids," accusing the former defense head of drone operations that killed civilians. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Ekim 2014, 11:28

Muhammed Öylek