Panetta says Biden hurt his 'credibility' for calling botched Afghanistan withdrawal 'extraordinary success'

Leon Panetta warns ‘governing is in danger today’ amid stark partisan division

The former defense secretary warned the ‘disfunction in our democracy’ is the greatest threat to national security.

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Sunday said President Biden hurt his “credibility” over the summer by calling his chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal an “extraordinary success.”

During a pre-recorded interview that aired Sunday, “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace said that Panetta, who served in the Obama and Clinton administrations, advised Biden to take full responsibility in August for the botched withdrawal in Afghanistan, but noted that he instead called the withdrawal a success.

“I’ve told presidents this at various jobs that I’ve had that the most important thing about the responsibility as president is to be honest with the American people,” Panetta said. “That means not only taking credit for your successes, it means telling the American people when you make a mistake because they know you’ve made a mistake. You know you made a mistake.”

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken look on as as a carry team moves a transfer case with the remain of Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind., during a casualty return at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, for the 13 service members killed in the suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 26. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“Frankly, to play this game of kind of always portraying your worst mistakes as some kind of success hurts your credibility as president of the United States,” Panetta continued.

Panetta went on to reiterate that it is “no secret” that Biden “made a mistake” with the Afghanistan withdrawal and said the “execution was not conducted right.”

Days after the ISIS-K suicide bombing outside the Harmid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan that killed 13 U.S. service members, Biden boasted about their “extraordinary success” with their evacuation mission, saying they “completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety.”

President Joe Biden speaks about the end of the war in Afghanistan from the State Dining Room of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Biden received backlash from Republicans in Congress for the victory lap speech that included mixed messaging and Biden appearing to blame Americans who were still stranded in Afghanistan for ignoring  warnings about leaving from the State Department earlier in the year.

Two weeks ago the Pentagon confirmed that the number of Americans still trapped in Afghanistan was 450, which was higher than the White House and State Department previously reported. 

Taliban fighters stand guard inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. The Taliban have completed their sweep of the country’s south on Friday, as they took four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that is gradually encircling Kabul, just weeks before the U.S. is set to officially end its two-decade war. (AP Photo/Gulabuddin Amiri)
(AP Photo/Gulabuddin Amiri)

The State Department’s inspector general announced in mid-October that there would be a series of investigations into the Biden administration’s diplomatic moves in Afghanistan ahead of the chaotic withdrawal.

The Oct. 15 memo to Secretary of State Blinken said the reviews would focus on State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program, Afghans processed for refugee admission into the U.S., resettlement of refugees and visa recipients, and the emergency evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, according to Politico.

Fox News’ Tyler O’Neil and David Rutz contributed to this report.

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