(AFP) – Jul 26, 2012
WASHINGTON — Islamist militants are probably active in Syria but they wield less influence on the ground than the other rebel forces fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The main Islamist element is likely being provided by Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), said Defense Department spokesman George Little.
"I can't rule out the possibility that there are some extremists in Syria but no one should think that AQI has a significant, major or particularly strong footprint in Syria," he told reporters in Washington.
"The people who are getting a true foothold in Syria are those who are opposing the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad. I wouldn't want anyone to overstate the concern over AQI in Syria," Little said.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in early July that AQI militants were crossing from Iraq to Syria to carry out attacks.
Although the 16-month conflict in Syria is worsening, the United States has repeatedly said it is against military intervention.
"The goal at the end of the day is for Syrian people ... for themselves to define a path for the future -- it's really not for us to define that path for them," Little added.
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