Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spent the weekend visiting troops in Afghanistan and is now on his inaugural visit with troops in Iraq. Panetta was in Iraq to discuss with the country’s leaders if they want U.S. troops to stay, after President Barack Obama made public his plan to withdraw all 46,000 troops from the war-torn country by the end of this year.
Panetta made comments connecting 9/11 terrorists with al-Qaida in Iraq, when he spoke to 100 soldiers at a U.S. military base. The former CIA director later backtracked his comments, which echoed those of president George W. Bush, saying they really had to do with al-Qaida developing a presence in Iraq.
The defense secretary was asked whether he would encourage Iraqi leaders to request an extension of U.S. troops in the country. “I’ll encourage them to make a decision about what they want,” he replied.
Approximately three rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone during Panetta’s visit. Home to the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and other military units, the Green Zone has been consistently attacked for the past three days.