Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division board a C-17 transport plane to depart from Iraq at Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, on Saturday Dec. 17, 2011, near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
Mario Tama—AP
By Sam Frizell
September 20, 2014

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the United States should not have completely pulled troops out of Iraq in 2011.

In an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Panetta, who was defense secretary under President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2013 after being director of the CIA from 2009 to 2011, said he disagreed with the U.S. strategy of withdrawing soldiers from Iraq.

“I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq,” Panetta said.

Panetta also said the U.S. should have provided weapons to Syrians who opposed Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, a view opposed to that of President Obama and many high-level security officials.

“I think the President’s concern, and I understand it, was that he had a fear that if we started providing weapons, we wouldn’t know where those weapons would wind up,” Panetta said. “My view was, you have to begin somewhere.”

The episode of 60 Minutes featuring Panetta will be broadcast Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET.

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