"Because of the outstanding dedication of our intelligence and military professionals, America is safer and more secure than it was four years ago and we have reached a turning point after more than a decade of war," Panetta said in his remarks at the White House. US President Barack Obama on Monday nominated Chuck Hagel, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska, as his next Defence Secretary to replace Panetta and John Brennan as his next CIA Director.
"And on that, as we've reached that turning point, we've developed a new defence strategy for the 21st century. We have, with John's leadership, decimated al-Qaeda's leadership and weakened their effort to attack this country," Panetta said in his statement.
"We have brought wars in Iraq and we will bring the war in Afghanistan to an honorable conclusion. We've opened up opportunities for all Americans to serve in our military. And we continue to strongly support our forces, their families and our wounded warriors. These are some of the achievements that I am proud of," he said. Panetta said after being in public life for five decades, he would return to private life and to his home in California.
"As for me, after close to 50 years of serving the American people -- began in 1964, when I served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army and then in both the legislative and executive branch positions in Washington -- the time has come for me to return to my wife, Sylvia, our three sons, their families, our six grandchildren and my walnut farm dealing with a different set of nuts," he said amidst laughter.
"I will leave Washington with a very deep sense of pride in what we have accomplished during these last four years being on the president's national security team," Panetta said. Commending Obama on his decision to nominate Hagel as the next Secretary of Defence, he said, he has known him for a long period of time.