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Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on ISIS Fight: 'The U.S. Has to Lead'

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the United States has not provided strong enough leadership in the battle to defeat ISIS.

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta thinks the United States has not provided strong enough leadership in the battle to defeat ISIS. “I think the U.S. has to lead in this effort because what we've learned a long time ago is that if the United States does not lead, nobody else will,” Panetta told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

According to Panetta, many parties — Syrian President Bashar al Assad, - Iran, Hezbollah, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — deserve some of the blame for the rise of ISIS, so does the United States “by virtue of not getting involved sooner.”

Specifically, Panetta said that “airstrikes alone are not going to win here” and the United States and coalition partners need to take territory away from the terrorist group.

However the question of who that coalition is and what parties are responsible for has to be solved too. The former defense secretary said the efforts overseas aren’t coordinated:

We need to set a Joint Command Center where all of these countries are together on their objectives. And secondly, we need to increase our effort there, we need to increase the tempo of our air strikes, we need to organize ground forces, particularly, the Sunnis and the Kurds and arm them so that they can take territory back from ISIS. And frankly, we need to increase Special Forces and our intelligence advisors, not only to guide these forces, but to go with them in order to ensure that we are successful in this effort.

Panetta does believe President Barack Obama has correctly articulated what the mission is, namely to "disrupt, defeat and dismantle ISIS."

However, he also said, "I think that the resources applied to that mission, frankly, have not been sufficient to confront that."

The former administration official repeated his call for NATO to get more involved in creating the coalition needed to fight ISIS.

"My focus would be to have NATO countries. I'm a little surprised they haven't invoked Article 5," said Panetta, also an ex-CIA director.

Article Five" of the North Atlantic Treaty states "that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all."

The first time this article was invoked was after the September 11, 2001, attacks.