The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the Islamic State in Afghanistan “could have the capability to attack the United States” in as little as six months, and has the intention to do so, a senior Pentagon official told Congress on Tuesday.
Reuters is reporting that the remarks made by Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, are the latest reminder that Afghanistan still potentially poses serious national security concerns for the United States, even after it ended its two-decade-old war in defeat in August. Kahl also said the United States did not yet have any agreements with countries neighboring Afghanistan to host troops for counterterrorism efforts.
The Taliban, which won the war, are the mortal enemies of Islamic State, also known by its acronym, ISIS-K, and have seen its attempts to impose law and order after the U.S. pullout thwarted by suicide bombings and other attacks claimed by Islamic State. They include bombings targeting the minority Shi’ite sect and even an Islamic State beheading of a member of a Taliban militia force in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
Senior Pentagon official Colin Kahl told Congress that Islamic State in Afghanistan could have the capability to attack the U.S. in as little as six months https://t.co/OQvkZJN54B pic.twitter.com/etH1ZOqL2b
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 27, 2021
In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kahl said it was still “unclear” whether the Taliban has the ability to fight the Islamic State “effectively” following the U.S. withdrawal in August. The United States fought the Taliban as well as striking groups like Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Kahl estimated ISIS-K has a “cadre of a few thousand” fighters. “It is our assessment that the Taliban and ISIS-K are mortal enemies. So the Taliban is highly motivated to go after ISIS-K. Their ability to do so, I think, is to be determined,” Kahl said.
DoD policy chief Colin Kahl says ISIS-K could have the ability to launch terrorist attacks outside Afghanistan in 6-12 months. Al Qaeda has a longer timeline of 1-2 years.
— Jacqueline Feldscher (@jacqklimas) October 26, 2021
President Joe Biden has said the United States will continue to be vigilant against threats emanating from Afghanistan by carrying out intelligence-gathering operations in the country that would identify threats from groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State. But U.S. officials have privately warned that disrupting groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State is extremely difficult without any troops in the country. Drones capable of striking Islamic State and al Qaeda targets are being flown in from the Gulf.
ISIS-K could generate capability to conduct external attacks, including against the U.S., in 6-12 months, Colin Kahl, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. Kahl said it could take al Qaeda 1-2 years to regain that capability. pic.twitter.com/hFXBFvV6Af
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 26, 2021
Kahl suggested al Qaeda in Afghanistan posed a more complex problem, given its ties to the Taliban. It was those ties that triggered the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 following al Qaeda’s Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The Taliban had harbored al Qaeda leaders.
Gen. Mingus: Yes ma'am, the last airplane left the evening of the 30th, the morning of 31st.
Ernst: Thank you for your straight-forward answer. pic.twitter.com/7YaWHGXcMu
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 26, 2021
Kahl said it could take al Qaeda “a year or two” to regenerate the capability to carry out attacks outside of Afghanistan against the United States.