Former secretary of defense Leon Panetta warned that the fight against the Islamic State will need to be more of a “sustained effort” than President Obama and others expect.
“I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war,” he told USA Today’s Susan Page. “It’s going to take a long time to be able to go after these elements.”
“It can’t be we’re going to go in one day, and pull back the next day,” Panetta added.
He commended the president for his decision to fight the Islamic State, but said he shouldn’t take using boots on the ground off of the table. He also emphasized the “significant threat” posed by the group and the importance of defeating it.
“If we don’t, at least in my view, if they establish a base of operations in that part of the world, it’s only a matter of time before they will then use it as a basis on which to attack this country,” Panetta said.
But the president’s failure to follow up on his “red line” threat regarding Syrian president Bashar Assad has hurt the credibility of the United States overseas, he said.
“There is a little question mark as to is the United States going to stick this out, is the United States going to be there when we need them,” he said.
Panetta is currently promoting his new book Worthy Fights, in which he criticized President Obama’s handling of Iraq in a chapter released last week. Vice President Joe Biden took issue with the book’s content, telling a Harvard audience that Panetta should “at least give [the president] a chance to get out of office” before critiquing him.