Petraeus: Use Al Qaeda Fighters to Beat ISIS

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The Daily Beast, by Shane Harris and Jason Reed,  Sep. 1, 2015:
To take down the so-called Islamic State in Syria, the influential former head of the CIA wants to co-opt jihadists from America’s arch foe.
Members of al Qaeda’s branch in Syria have a surprising advocate in the corridors of American power: retired Army general and former CIA Director David Petraeus.The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan 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, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

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.

According to those familiar with Petraeus’s thinking, he advocates trying to cleave off less extreme al Nusra fighters, who are battling ISIS in Syria, but who joined with al Nusra because of their shared goal of overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Petraeus was the CIA director in early 2011 when the Syrian civil war erupted. At the time, he along with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly urged the Obama administration to work with moderate opposition forces. The U.S. didn’t, and many of those groups have since steered toward jihadist groups like the Nusra Front, which are better equipped and have had more success on the battlefield.

How precisely the U.S. would separate moderate fighters from core members and leaders of al Nusra is unclear, and Petraeus has yet to fully detail any recommendations he might have.

Petraeus declined a request to comment on his views from The Daily Beast.

“This is an acknowledgment that U.S. stated goal to degrade and destroy ISIS is not working. If it were, we would not be talking to these not quite foreign terrorist groups,” Christopher Harmer, a senior naval analyst with the Middle East Security Project at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Daily Beast. “Strategically, it is desperate.”

Privately, U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that any direct links with al Nusra are off the table. But working with other factions, while difficult, might not be impossible.

Still, the very forces that Petraeus envisions enlisting, and who may have once been deemed potential allies when they were fighting Assad, now may be too far gone. Moreover, there is no sign, thus far, of a group on the ground capable of countering ISIS, at least without U.S. assistance.

“As prospects for Assad dim, opposition groups not already aligned with the U.S. or our partners will face a choice,” one U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “Groups that try to cater to both hardliners and the West could find themselves without any friends, having distanced themselves from groups like al Qaeda but still viewed as extremists by the moderate opposition and their supporters.”

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Holder confirms Petraeus probe still open, amid questions over whether case used as leverage

petrausBy :

Two years after the FBI first began investigating former CIA director David Petraeus, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed to lawmakers that the case remains open — amid allegations it is being used as leverage to keep the former general quiet.

“All I can say is that this is an ongoing investigation,” Holder testified Tuesday, in response to a series of questions from Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who wrote to the Justice Department last month about the matter. “I’m really not in a position to say much more about it than that.”

Fox News was told there may be friction between the FBI — whose investigators are on the Petraeus case — and the Justice Department over how to proceed, though Holder dismissed that claim.

“I’ve been briefed on this matter, and I did not detect any friction in what is an ongoing investigation,” he said.

In March, Chaffetz wrote to Holder, asking why the probe remained open 16 months after Petraeus resigned as CIA director following an affair with his biographer. At the time, Chaffetz suggested it was kept open to keep Petraeus quiet on controversies like the Benghazi terror attack, telling Fox News: “If there is something serious and sinister, then let Congress know. If not, give this man’s reputation back. But I worry that the White House is just holding this over his head to keep him quiet.”

In a series of questions before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Holder could not remember when he first learned about the FBI investigation or when the president was notified. He also could not recall when then-White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan (who is now the CIA director) learned, or when former CIA deputy director Mike Morell, who offered conflicting testimony on the question to the House Intelligence Committee last week, learned.

Read more at Fox News

Petraeus and Allen: Non-Combatant, General Disgraces

Colonel Douglas Macgregor (US Army retired)

By Andrew Bostom

Unlike Generals David Petraeus and John Allen, Colonel Douglas Macgregor (US Army retired), is an actual combat veteran, and innovative, iconoclastic PhD military strategist. After one year at the Virginia Military Institute, and four years at West Point, Macgregor was commissioned in the U.S. Army during 1976

As described by US News reporter Richard J. Newman (July 28,  1997. “Renegades Finish Last. A Colonel’s Innovative Ideas Don’t Sit Well with the Brass”. U.S. News & World Report 123 (4): 35), Macgregor was the “squadron operations officer who essentially directed the Battle of 73 Easting in the 1991 Gulf War. Under Macgregor’s  bold leadership, U.S. troops with 10 tanks and 13 Bradley fighting vehicles destroyed almost 70 Iraqi Republican Guard opponent, armored vehicles without any U.S. casualties during a 23 minute span of the battle. Moreover, positioned towards the front of the battle and involved in firing, Macgregor didn’t “request artillery support or report events to superiors until the battle was virtually over, according to one of his superior officers.”

My colleagues Diana West and AJ Rice, directed me to print and radio interview comments, respectively, that Colonel Macgregor has provided in the aftermath of the salacious allegations against Generals Petraeus and Allen.

Macgregor is singularly unimpressed with the military leadership record of these men—the Army’s Petraeus, Allen of the Marines—noting that both lacked personal combat experience, having, “never pulled a trigger” or “lead soldiers in direct fire battle.” Nonetheless, Macgregor observes, Petraeus and Allen created faux heroic identities and  succeeded in their egotistical quest for military promotion.

Macgregor’s withering critique of Petraeus includes these comments made to Time reporter Mark Thompson:

Petraeus is a remarkable piece of fiction created and promoted by neocons in government, the media and academia. How does an officer with no personal experience of direct fire combat in Panama or Desert Storm become a division CDR in 2003, man who for 35 years shamelessly reinforced whatever dumb idea his superior advanced regardless of its impact on soldiers, let alone the nation, a man who served repeatedly as a sycophantic aide-de-camp, military assistant and executive officer to four stars get so far? How does the same man who balked at closing with and destroying the enemy in 2003 in front of Baghdad agree to sacrifice more than a thousand American lives and destroy thousands of others installing Iranian national power in Baghdad with a surge that many in and out of uniform warned against? Then, how does this same man repeat the self-defeating tactics one more time in Afghanistan? The answer is simple: Petraeus was always a useful fool in the Leninist sense for his political superiors — Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Gates.

Entirely consistent with their apparent moral lapses, but infinitely worse in effect, is the fact that both of these zero combat experience generals have been avatars of the delusive, self-destructive “see No Islam/Jihad” counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine which has fatally sacrificed or maimed thousands of our brave troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, to no avail. Petraeus is gone, Allen should be fired, and let us pray good riddance to their failed, morally depraved ideology follows swiftly, as well.