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Panetta blames US withdrawal from Iraq for rise of ISIL

IRAQI FREEDOM

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta criticizes the Obama administration for failing to maintain US troops in Iraq, saying the policy failure caused the country to become a haven for ISIL terrorists.

In his forthcoming memoir “Worthy Fights” to be published on October 7, Panetta blamed the White House for the collapse of 2011 negotiations with Baghdad on the US military presence in Iraq, according to excerpts of the memoir published by the Time magazine.

Panetta, who also served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under President Barack Obama, claimed that the White House had “leverage” to secure a deal to leave troops in Iraq but it never stepped up.

“To my frustration, the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them,” he charged.

“Those on our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests,” he wrote.

Panetta said that a residual troop presence could have “effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence.”

ISIL militants made swift advances in much of northern and western Iraq over the summer, forcing the United States to deploy troops back to the country.

President Obama, however, is adamant that those troops will not engage in combat missions and that the Iraqi military forces, trained and equipped by the US to the tune of $25 billion, are capable of leading the ground offensive against ISIL.

Obama has authorized airstrikes on ISIL strongholds in Iraq and more recently in Syria, a neighboring country where the terror organization originally came to surface.

The US and some of its Arab allies trained militants fighting the Syrian government out of a secret base in Jordan. Many of those insurgents have subsequently joined forces with the more extreme ISIL group.

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