According to a senior Pentagon official, terrorist groups currently operating in Afghanistan might be able to – and intend to – attack the U.S. in as little as six months under specific circumstances.
Colin Kahl, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Tuesday about the mismanaged withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of August. Kahl said that “current assessments by the intelligence committee” indicate both ISIS-K and Al-Qaida intend to conduct international operations.
“We’re actually fairly certain that they have the intention to do so,” Kahl said.
“We could see ISIS-K generate that capability in somewhere between six or 12 months, according to current assessments by the intelligence committee,” Kahl said, adding “And for al-Qaida, it would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability. We have to remain vigilant against that possibility.”
Lawmakers seem concerned by the news, with Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst pointing out that the revelation “doesn’t sound like a low risk.” Kahl said that despite the assessment from the intelligence community, the risk to America “is at its lowest point since Sept. 11, 2001.”
Director for Operations for the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. James Mingus said the intelligence community estimates come with a caveat – it’s “based on no U.S. or coalition intervention,” he said.
“The goal would be to keep those time horizons where they’re at now or push them even further,” Mingus told lawmakers, adding that the expectation is that the Taliban will help because the group is at odds with ISIS-K.
President Joe Biden’s administration has promised to “maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan” even without a ground presence, as he noted during remarks on Aug. 31.
“We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground — or very few if needed,” Biden said.