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Al-Qaida Fighters Could Help in Battle Against ISIL

Agence France-Presse

Former U.S. military commander David Petraeus said fighters from al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate could be used to take on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The decorated four-star general said a controversial move to harness fighters from a group linked to al-Qaida — which was responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks — was “an option that has some prospect for achievement.”

Petraeus, who was feted for changing the course of the Iraq war in 2007, said the focus was not on cooperating with the leaders of al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusrah Front but with its fighters, using similar strategies from the previous conflict.

“There are elements … who for reasons of opportunism or convenience ended up fighting under Jabhat al-Nusrah as they realized that the moderate opposition was not yet sufficiently resourced,” he told the Lowy Institute think tank in Sydney, Australia.

“I don’t know whether it means there will be … the kinds of tens of thousands that we were able to strip away from the Sunni insurgents in al-Qaida in Iraq, which was so instrumental ultimately in not just defeating it, but destroying it by the end of the surge.”

Petraeus’ comments followed a statement he issued to CNN about using al-Qaida-linked jihadists, with the proposed move reflecting the complex military campaign the U.S.-led coalition is waging against ISIL in Syria.

In a speech calling for active U.S. engagement in both the Middle East and Indo-Asia-Pacific regions, Petraeus said there were lessons from the failure to act when Syrian leader Bashar Assad breached the U.S. government’s self-declared “red lines”.

The “ hesitation … caused tremors not only in the Middle East, but also among some of our friends in the Western Pacific, who also have a strong stake in America upholding its ‘red lines,’ ” the former CIA director said.

“There is no clearer, more cautionary tale about the indivisible nature of American credibility in Asia and in the Middle East, no more dramatic illustration that how the way we act — or don’t act — in one theater can have an impact in the other and far beyond.”

Australia is part of the U.S.-led fight against ISIL in Iraq through airstrikes and special forces Soldiers and is considering an American request to extend its air campaign into Syria.

“I think that taking such an action together with other coalition members will do damage to ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria],” Petraeus said of Australia’s possible expansion of its involvement in the conflict.

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