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September 22nd, 2014
06:34 PM ET

Fmr. CENTCOM commander: Residual U.S. troops in Iraq wouldn't have prevented rise of ISIS

(CNN) – Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta criticized President Barack Obama's handling of Syria and Iraq, saying providing more aggressive aid to Syrian rebels and leaving a residual force in Iraq may have prevented the rapid rise of the terrorist group ISIS.

In an interview on CBS News' "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday evening, Panetta told Scott Pelley that he "really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq."

The United States withdrew its last combat troops from Iraq in 2011 after an agreement could not be reached with Iraqi President Nuri al-Maliki about residual U.S. troops.

But former CENTCOM commander Gen. Anthony Zinni (Ret.), who opposed the Iraq War in 2003, disagrees with Panetta.

"If you're using that as a reason that that would have prevented what ISIS did, I think you're after the wrong rationale," Zinni said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

The Iraqi military's lack of will to fight, Maliki's alienation of Iraq's Sunni population, and the Iraqi government's refusal to provide arms to Kurdish fighters "created a situation that I doubt seriously 8,000 advisers, and trainers, and intel gatherers would have made much of a difference," said Zinni.

For more of our interview with retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, check out the video above.

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