Panetta: Arming Syrian Rebels Sooner Would Have Put Us In A Better Position

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the U.S. would be in a better position to combat al Qaeda and ISIL in Syria if the Obama administration had armed the Free Syrian Army sooner.

Speaking to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, Panetta defended the administration's decision to arm and train Syrian rebels, claiming "it is the right decision today, it was the right decision then."

"If we had made that decision then, would ISIS have been able to grow as it did?" Mitchell asked.

"I think we would at least be in a better position to have, in the rebel operation, a group that we would have worked with, known, helped arm," Panetta said.

In Februrary, Obama shot down a plan to arm Syrian rebels to overthrow the Bashar al Assad regime, while simultaneously dismissing the nascent ISIL as a "JV" team.

"Frankly, what it would have done is it would have given us better eyes on the ground to see what was happening with regards to al Qaeda and ISIS," Panetta said. "We didn't have that."