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Leaving Iraq, U.S. fears new surge of Qaeda terror

Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times:

As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from Iraq by year’s end, senior American and Iraqi officials are expressing growing concern that Al Qaeda’s offshoot here, which just a few years ago waged a debilitating insurgency that plunged the country into a civil war, is poised for a deadly resurgence.

Qaeda allies in North Africa, Somalia and Yemen are seeking to assert more influence after the death of Osama bin Laden and the diminished role of Al Qaeda’s remaining top leadership in Pakistan. For its part, Al Qaeda in Iraq is striving to rebound from major defeats inflicted by Iraqi tribal groups and American troops in 2007, as well as the deaths of its two leaders in 2010.

Although the organization is certainly weaker than it was at its peak five years ago and is unlikely to regain its prior strength, American and Iraqi analysts said the Qaeda franchise is shifting its tactics and strategies — like attacking Iraqi security forces in small squads — to exploit gaps left by the departing American troops and to try to reignite sectarian violence in the country.

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