FULL EPISODE: 7/11/21 Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discusses the US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 10:11 PM EDT
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed Leon Panetta, former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense under President Barack Obama, for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, July 11, 2021. The episode will also include a discussion with WTVM-TV (Columbus, Georgia) anchor Jason Dennis on the reaction from Fort Benning, home of the 75th Ranger Regiment, to the Biden administration’s Afghanistan exit strategy. Hundreds of Army Rangers were reportedly deployed to Afghanistan this spring to protect withdrawing U.S. forces.

On the administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Mr. Panetta told Van Susteren: “I think that the president would have been better served to have really laid out a very comprehensive strategy as he was going to move forward … to have planned it out in a way that would have involved coordination with the Afghan military, I think, would have made better sense.”

When asked how he would deal with members of the military who do not want to get the COVID vaccine, the former Secretary of Defense suggested President Biden make the vaccine mandatory. “The last damn thing you need is to have those in the military that are our warriors unable to respond to a mission because they’ve gotten COVID-19,” said Panetta. “There’s no excuse for that.”

Panetta interview excerpts are below.

On the current situation in Afghanistan

Leon Panetta, Former Secretary of Defense

Well, there’s no question that it’s a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Our military commander there said that we might be headed towards a civil war. The intelligence assessment is that the government could fall in six to 12 months, and we’re seeing obviously the Taliban beginning to capture more and more of the rural areas in Afghanistan.

Leon Panetta, Former Secretary of Defense

The real challenge here now is for the United States to really step forward with its strategy in trying to protect against this terrorism threat that I talked about. So that means several important steps have to be implemented. Number one, we have to fund and train, continue to train the Afghan security forces. We’ve got 300,000, but we’ve got to be able to continue to make sure they have US support.

On the U.S. abandoning Bagram Air Force Base

Leon Panetta, Former Secretary of Defense

I think that the president would have been better served to have really laid out a very comprehensive strategy as he was going to move forward. As I said, there are two elements to that strategy. One is obviously to withdraw our forces, and the Pentagon is very good at the logistics of how to withdraw forces. They do a good job. They have to provide security. It’s not easy. It’s a huge logistical challenge, but I think to have planned it out in a way that would have involved coordination with the Afghan military, I think, would have made better sense.

On the Biden administration’s Afghanistan strategy

Greta Van Susteren

Are you confident we have that strategy, the president has that and the Pentagon has that and we’re ready for this?

Leon Panetta, Former Secretary of Defense

Well, it’s taken them a while. I mean, frankly, my son is a member of Congress and on the Armed Services Committee. And I kept asking him, “Has it been made clear what the strategy is here?” And he said, “We just have not gotten a clear briefing on what the steps are going to be.” But yesterday for the first time, the president did make clear what those steps are, that we do have to continue to fund and train the military, that we do have to have over the horizon counter-terrorism operations. We need the bases. We do have the surveillance capability. I mean, hell, the United States has a lot of resources that we can apply in terms of being able to continue to go after those targets. And thirdly, that we will have our intelligence networks in place to back all of that up. I think the elements of that strategy are there. It now has to be made clear that we are moving forward and fulfilling the steps that the president talked about yesterday.

Greta Van Susteren

President Biden said it’s not mission accomplished. What is this?

Leon Panetta, Former Secretary of Defense

In many ways, this is really a change of strategy for the United States. For 20 years, Afghanistan has been a very difficult, complex, and oftentimes frustrating question as to what to do with Afghanistan, and it’s never had a very simple answer.

On vaccinating members of the military

Leon Panetta, Former Secretary of Defense

I frankly think the president ought to issue an order requiring everybody in the military to get a COVID-19 shot, period. That’s an issue involving our national security. The last damn thing you need is to have those in the military that are our warriors unable to respond to a mission because they’ve gotten COVID-19. There’s no excuse for that. When I was in the Army, I got every shot required by the military, shots in both arms, as well as everywhere else. There is no reason we should not require a COVID-19 shot for everyone in the military, period.

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

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