October 7th, 2014
11:03 AM ET

Former Defense Secretary Lays Out Disagreements With President Obama

A former senior member of President Barack Obama's national security team is panning the administration's decision to rule out the use of ground troops to fight ISIS and questioning Obama's leadership style.

"I take the position that when you're commander in chief that you oughta keep all options on the table...to be able to have the flexibility to what is necessary in order to defeat the enemy," former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta told CNN. "We're conducting air strikes. But to make those air strikes work, to be able to do what you had to do, you don't– you don't just send planes in and drop bombs. You've gotta have targets. You've gotta know what you're goin' after. To do that, you do need people on the ground."

Panetta's comments are a stinging rebuke of Obama at a crucial point in his administration as the president battles multiple national security threats, including ISIS, a resurgent Russia and the spread of Ebola.

His memoir, "Worthy Fights," describes a White House that did not use its "leverage" to try and keep a residual force in Iraq.

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

The White House has argued it could not convince then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to come to terms.

But Panetta told CNN the White House did not use its power to pressure Maliki enough.

"What I'm saying is that Maliki was the kind of leader that you had to constantly put pressure on to direct him in the right direction," he said. "We had, with Iraq– made a commitment with regards to military assistance, F-16 fighter planes, other types of military aid, that I think if we had said, 'Look, you know, if you're not gonna give us– the agreement that we need to maintain our forces there, you know, we may not provide this kind of assistance."

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