Members of al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the same al Qaeda that was headed by Osama bin Laden and still identified as a terrorist organization, have a surprising advocate in the corridors of American power — David Petraeus, retired U.S. Army general and former CIA Director and former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Petraeus has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria, according to information from four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly.
Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef report for The Daily Beast, Aug. 31, 2015:
The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s experience in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broader strategy to defeat an Islamist insurgency the U.S. persuaded Sunni militias to stop fighting with al Qaeda and to work with the American military.
The tactic worked, at least temporarily. But al Qaeda in Iraq was later reborn as ISIS, and has become the sworn enemy of its parent organization. Now, Petraeus is returning to his old play, advocating a strategy of co-opting rank-and-file members of al Nusra, particularly those who don’t necessarily share all of core al Qaeda’s Islamist philosophy.
However, Petraeus’s play, if executed, could be enormously controversial. The American war on terror began with an al Qaeda attack on 9/11, of course. The idea that the U.S. would, 14 years later, work with elements of al Qaeda’s Syrian branch was an irony too tough to stomach for most U.S. officials interviewed by The Daily Beast. They found Petraeus’s notion politically toxic, near-impossible to execute, and strategically risky.
It would also face enormous legal and security obstacles. In 2012, the Obama administration designated al Nusra a foreign terrorist organization. And last year, the president ordered airstrikes on al Nusra positions housing members of the Khorasan Group, an al Qaeda cadre that was trying to recruit jihadists with Western passports to smuggle bombs onto civilian airliners.
Yet Petraeus and his plan cannot be written off. He still wields considerable influence with current officials, U.S. lawmakers, and foreign leaders. The fact that he feels comfortable recruiting defectors from an organization that has declared war on the United States underscores the tenuous nature of the Obama administration’s strategy to fight ISIS, which numerous observers have said is floundering in search of a viable ground force.
Read the rest of the Daily Beast article here.
George Washington of ZeroHedge observes that Petraeus is not alone:
As we’ve previously shown, other mainstream American figures support arming Al Qaeda … and ISIS.
And we actually ARE supporting ISIS to some extent.
A highly-decorated four-star general who had served over 37 years in the U.S. Army, David Petraeus had been Commander of the International Security Assistance Force; Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan; 10th Commander, U.S. Central Command; and Commanding General of Multi-National Force – Iraq who oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq.
On September 6, 2011, Obama recruited Petraeus to be CIA Director. A week before, in anticipation of that appointment, Petraeus had retired from the U.S. Army.
Petraeus lasted a little over a year as CIA director. On November 9, 2012, he resigned from the CIA, citing his extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, a married woman who is the principal author of Petraeus’ biography, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. Petraeus claimed that the affair had begun in late 2011 when he was no longer an active duty military officer, and ended in the summer of 2012. The affair reportedly was discovered in the course of an FBI investigation into harassing emails that Broadwell had been sending to Jill Kelley, a Tampa socialite and a longstanding family friend of the Petraeuses whom Broadwell perceived to be a romantic rival.