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Petraeus: Al-Qaeda fighters can fight ISIS

The former CIA chief said Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front individuals could be used if they are ‘align with the moderates’

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Former CIA chief and retired general David Petraeus wants the U.S. to consider working with some members of an Al-Qaeda-affiliated organization to tackle the ISIS in Syria, he said on Tuesday.

In a statement to CNN, Petraeus said some members of the Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front might be persuaded to join the coalition battling the ISIS group.

“We should under no circumstances try to use or co-opt Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, as an organization against ISIL,” Petraeus told CNN, using another acronym for the ISIS group.

“But some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra today have undoubtedly joined for opportunistic rather than ideological reasons: they saw Nusra as a strong horse, and they haven’t seen a credible alternative, as the moderate opposition has yet to be adequately resourced.”

So, Petraeus argued, it may eventually be possible to “peel off so-called ‘reconcilables’ who would be willing to renounce Nusra and align with the moderate opposition to fight against Nusra, ISIL, and (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.)”

Petraeus became a household name in the U.S. when he oversaw the troop “surge” in Iraq in 2007, and U.S. leaders credited him for salvaging the troubled war effort.

Part of that operation saw the decorated general convince Sunni fighters to stop fighting with Qaeda and to work with the US military.

Politically toxic

His statement on Tuesday followed the publication of a story in the Daily Beast that pointed out the irony of the U.S. working with anyone connected to Qaeda, which carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks and triggered America’s so-called war on terror.

The Daily Beast said several officials it had spoken to found Petraeus’s idea to be politically toxic and almost impossible to carry out and strategically risky.

In his statement to CNN, Petraeus said using any Nusra fighters would require “both the rise of much stronger, moderate opposition groups - backed, again, by the US and the coalition seeking to defeat ISIL - and at the same time, intensified military pressure on all extremist groups.”

Petraeus, 62, had a spectacular fall from grace this year when he pleaded guilty to providing classified secrets to his mistress. He was given two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine.