Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan exit strategy could lead to future terror attacks against the U.S. as the Taliban now again rules the country after two decades of U.S. occupation.
Military forces first entered Afghanistan in late 2001, following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Panetta, who previously served as the CIA director, was heading the Defense Department from 2011 to 2013 under the Obama administration.
But with last month’s shocking withdrawal, Afghanistan will now again become a haven for terrorists with the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate — and Panetta is breaking with Democrats.
“I think that the Taliban taking over Afghanistan is pretty much the same Taliban that controlled Afghanistan on 9/11,” Panetta told Van Susteren. “And that was pretty much confirmed recently, when they appointed hardliners to their government, people who were in power on 9/11, and in addition, appointed Haqqani as interior minister, a global terrorist, really, to be interior secretary and in charge of internal security.”
He certainly does not buy statements from the militant group that it will clamp down on extremism within its own ranks and from other groups.
“I am reading, and those actions and the other actions that are being taken to shut down protests and really inhibit women’s rights there, that this is a Taliban that will indeed continue to provide a safe haven for terrorists, and that spells trouble for the United States,” he said in the yet-to-be aired interview.
While members of the Pentagon have praised the Taliban in recent weeks, Panetta warned “it would be wise for the United States and the rest of the world not to trust the Taliban in terms of their work.”
Do you fear the country could face another large-scale terror attack?
Panetta, citing a resurgence of al-Qaida, thinks Afghanistan will be the epicenter for another large-scale attack against America.
“I don’t think there’s any question. There was a recent interview by one of the spokesman for the Taliban, where he was asked about bin Laden’s role in 9/11, and he had the gall to say that he has not seen any evidence that bin Laden was involved in the 9/11 attack,” he said.
“And if that is the case, then it’s clear to me that they’re going to continue to support al-Qaida, and allow al-Qaida to basically continue to develop and expand.”
“And I think they will plan additional attacks on our country, as well as elsewhere,” he cautioned.
Panetta, a lifelong Democrat, has been critical of President Joe Biden’s handling of the end of military operations in Afghanistan.
Last month, in a CNN interview, he predicted the U.S. would have to put boots on the ground again in Afghanistan.
“There’s no question that it’s probably Joe Biden’s worst nightmare to lose 13 Marines as a result of what’s happened here,” says former CIA director Leon Panetta of the deadly attacks in Afghanistan.
“This has to be the worst day in his administration.” pic.twitter.com/ykI8bt53De
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) August 26, 2021
“We’re going to have to go back in to get ISIS,” he said. “We’re probably going to go have to go back in when al-Qaida resurrects itself as they will with this Taliban.”
“They’ve [given] safe haven to al-Qaida before. They’ll probably do it again,” he added.