BAGHDAD, July 19: Senior leaders of Al Qaeda might be diverting fighters from the war in Iraq to the Afghan frontier area, the top American commander in Iraq told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Gen David Petraeus also said Al Qaeda might be reconsidering Iraq as its highest priority war front. “There is some intelligence that has picked this up,” he said in the interview in his office at the US Embassy along the Tigris River.
“It’s not solid gold intelligence,” he added, stressing that the reliability of the information had not been confirmed and that it did not mean Al Qaeda had given up on Iraq.
Nonetheless, he cited the signs as part of a broadly positive review of conditions in Iraq, where Al Qaeda fighters over the past year had been driven almost entirely from Baghdad and pummeled in other urban areas.
The other main source of violence over the past year — Shia militants — also has been curbed. Petraeus said that whether leaders of those groups, who fled in many cases to Iran, ended up returning to fight for control of such Baghdad sections as Sadr City would be a critical bellwether.
Petraeus said his information about a possible shift in Al Qaeda resources away from Iraq was based on human intelligence, meaning informants. If confirmed, it could have profound implications not only for Iraq, where violence has been on a steep decline, but also for Afghanistan.
“There are unsubstantiated rumors and reflections that perhaps some foreign fighters originally intended for Iraq may have gone to the Fata,” he said.—AP