Leon Panetta said on Thursday that the US military will have to return to Afghanistan to deal with terror threats from the Taliban and ISIS-K after a suicide bombing that killed 13 US troops and at least 90 Afghans.
Paneta, a Democrat who served as Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration, said in an interview with Erin Burnett for her CNN show OutFront that the withdrawal of US troops has left the United States in a “very dangerous and difficult situation.”
He was asked whether he thought it appropriate for the Biden administration to meet the August 31 deadline for removing US troops from the war-torn country.
“The bottom line is that our work isn’t done yet. We will have to go after ISIS. I’m glad the president said we’re going to hunt them down and pay a price for what they’ve done in killing our warriors. And we should,’ said Paneta.
“We’re going to have to go back inside to catch ISIS. We will probably have to go back in if Al Qaeda brings itself back to life, as they will, with these Taliban. They have given Al Qaeda a safe haven before, they will probably do it again.”
He added: “I understand we are trying to get our troops out of there, but the bottom line is that we can leave a battlefield, but we cannot leave the War on Terrorism, which still poses a threat to our security. .’
Leon Paneta said in an interview with Erin Burnett that the withdrawal of US troops has left the United States in a “very dangerous and difficult situation.”
Paneta, a Democrat, served as Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration
Burnett noted that Paneta’s comments seemed to indicate that America will need to put more troops back in Afghanistan to prevent the threats from Al Qaeda and ISIS — the opposite of what President Joe Biden wants to do.
“Well, what we’re going to do is counter-terrorism operations. We’ll have to go after those responsible,” Paneta replied.
“I think we have pretty good information about the leadership of ISIS. I think there’s a good chance we can identify who is involved in this attack. And once we can find them, we have to go after them. That’s what the president promised today, and I suspect we will.”
He continued: “So counter-terrorism operations will be something that we will have to continue to do against ISIS, against Al Qaeda, against Boko Haram. Those are terrorist groups that are at war with the United States. We have to go after them.’
During the interview, Paneta also said: “There’s no question that losing 13 Marines because of what happened here is probably Joe Biden’s worst nightmare. This must be the worst day in his reign.’
US troops helping evacuate Afghans desperate for Taliban rule are bracing for more attacks on Friday after Islamic State struck the crowded gates of Kabul airport on Thursday, killing dozens of civilians and at least 13 Americans. troops died.
Videos by Afghan journalists show dozens of bodies lying around a canal on the edge of the airport. At least two blasts and gunshots shook the area, witnesses said.
ISIS said one of its suicide bombers was targeted by “US military translators and employees.” US officials also blamed the group and promised retaliation.
An injured Afghan lies on a bed in a hospital after a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday
Smoke rises from deadly explosion outside Kabul airport after two suicide bombers and gunmen were targeted by crowds near Kabul airport
General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said military leaders were on the lookout for more ISIS attacks — possibly including missiles or car bombs aimed at the airport.
“We are doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said.
Biden said Thursday that he had ordered the Pentagon to plan an attack on ISIS-K, the affiliate of the Islamic State that has claimed responsibility.
‘We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will track you down and make you pay,” Biden said on White House television coverage.
Corpses lay in the canal near the airport gate, video of the scene showed, some were fished out and piled up as wailing citizens searched for loved ones.
“I saw bodies and body parts flying in the air like a tornado blowing plastic bags,” said an Afghan who had tried to reach the airport. “That little water flowing down the sewer had turned to blood.”
Zubair, a 24-year-old civil engineer who had been trying to enter the airport for nearly a week, said he was close to a suicide bomber who detonated explosives at the gate.
Afghans struggle to reach foreign forces to show their credentials to flee the country outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan
“Men, women and children screamed. I saw many injured – men, women and children – being loaded into private vehicles and taken to hospitals,” he said.
A Taliban spokesman described the attack as the work of “evil circles” who would be suppressed once foreign troops leave.
Western countries fear that the Taliban, who once protected Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, will turn Afghanistan back into a haven for militants. The Taliban say they will not allow the country to be used by terrorists.
The United States would continue with evacuations despite the threat of further attacks, McKenzie said, noting that there are still about 1,000 American citizens in Afghanistan.
In the past 12 days, western countries have evacuated nearly 100,000 people. But they recognize that thousands will be left behind when the last US troops leave by the end of the month.