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January 30, 2012

Seriously, What's The Matter with Leon Panetta?
Posted by Michael Cohen

U8_Leon-Panetta-2On several occasions here at DA I've raised the issue of Leon Panetta's performance as Secretary of Defense - and it seems that the man is intent on giving me even more ammunition to question his very effectiveness as Pentagon chief.

Consider his latest head-scratcher: an interview with CBS News in which he suggested a) that the Pakistani government might have known about Osama bin Laden's presence in Abbotabad and b) he confirmed that Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor, worked with the United States in its efforts to kill bin Laden.Considering that Afridi is at risk of being tried in Pakistan for "high treason" this strikes me as a decidedly unhelpful statement not only for Mr. Afridi but also for any hopes the US might have in getting foreign citizens to work with US intelligence agencies in the future.

Now I'm willing to entertain the possibility that Panetta made this reveal as a way to heighten Afridi's profile and lessen the chance that Pakistan prosecutes him. Not sure how that would work but I have to consider the possibility that there is a method behind Panetta's madness - because if there isn't he just publicly sold out a person who bravely put themselves harm's way to help the United States.

As for publicly alleging that unnamed individuals in Pakistan were aware of Bin Laden's location . . . I've given up trying to figure out what Panetta is thinking. Seriously, how does this in anyway help the United States and in particular its relationship with Pakistan? Why even go there? Shouldn't the main thrust of US policy in the region to strengthen the US relationship with Islamabad not re-open old wounds. Indeed, the worst part about Panetta's statement is that he offers no evidence of Pakistani support for OBL just idle speculation.

Here's what he said: "I don’t have any hard evidence, so I can’t say it for a fact. There’s nothing that proves the case. But as I said, my personal view is that somebody, somewhere probably had that knowledge." 

If you don't have any hard evidence Leon why would you say this? 

The Pentagon's defense of Panetta's latest gaffe is that this interview came several months ago. Guess what: that's not a defense! It was a stupid comment in January 2012; it's also a stupid comment in October, November and December 2011. Of course this isn't the first time that Panetta has made a comment that forced the Pentagon to "clarify" his remarks. Indeed, it has become a regular occurrence.

You would think that someone who has been in Washington as long as Panetta would know enough not to make these sorts of public "comments." Of course, as long as he continues to stick his foot in his mouth I'll have plenty of fodder for DA posts . . . but the impact on US foreign policy is perhaps a bit less of a good thing.

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