Pentagon spokesman John Kirby refused to answer a question at a press conference on Saturday about whether terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda were operating outside the gates at the Kabul airport.
The question came after the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan warned U.S. citizens to stay away from the Kabul airport earlier in the day amid “potential security threats outside the gates.”
“U.S. officials said the most serious current threat was that Afghanistan’s branch of the Islamic State would attempt an attack that would hurt the Americans and damage the Taliban’s sense of control,” The New York Times reported. “It was unclear how capable ISIS is of such an attack, the officials said.”
When asked whether Islamic terrorist groups were operating outside the gate, Kirby responded: “We’re not going to get into specific details about the threat environment or what our intelligence has given us.”
Less than 24 hours after Biden claimed there were no threats at the Kabul airport, the state department warned Americans not to come to the airport because of unidentified threats. Not the Pentagon refuses to share what threats prompted that warning. pic.twitter.com/d08eKKUW0h
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) August 21, 2021
CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang highlighted a report from one of her network’s foreign correspondents: “A former Afghan interpreter who tried to get into the airport today – for the fifth time- said Taliban outside the airport told people that ISIS is planning an attack.”
From @CBSNews colleague @AhMukhtar: A former Afghan interpreter who tried to get into the airport today – for the fifth time- said Taliban outside the airport told people that ISIS is planning an attack.
— Weijia Jiang (@weijia) August 21, 2021
While the official declined to give details, the Pentagon has long assessed that “hundreds” of al-Qaeda fighters remain in Afghanistan.
Friday, President Biden called al-Qaeda “gone” from Afghanistan. — per @LucasFoxNews
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) August 21, 2021
The news comes after Taliban extremists handed over the security of Kabul to senior members of the Haqqani Network, a designated terrorist organization that has close ties with other jihadist groups, including Al-Qaeda.
VOA News reported:
Western intelligence officials say the assignment is alarming and undercuts Taliban promises to tread a more moderate path than the movement did when it ruled the country from 1996 to 2001.
It also raises the prospect of al-Qaida being welcomed back to Afghanistan, they fear, which would break promises made by Taliban leaders during diplomatic talks in Qatar with U.S. officials last year, not to allow the country to again become a safe haven for foreign jihadists.
The Congressional Research Service published a paper last week outlining the different terrorist organizations that operate in Afghanistan, which included the Haqqani Network:
The Haqqani Network is an official, semi-autonomous component of the Afghan Taliban and an ally of [Al-Qaeda]. It was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a leading anti-Soviet Islamist commander who became a prominent Taliban official and eventually a key leader in the post-2001 insurgency. The Taliban confirmed his death from natural causes in September 2018.
The group’s current leader is Jalaluddin’s son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has also served as the deputy leader of the Taliban since 2015. Sirajuddin’s appointment to lead the network likely strengthened cooperation between the Taliban and AQ; U.N. monitors describe the Haqqani Network as the “primary liaison” between the Taliban and AQ. The April 2021 U.N. report indicates disagreement among Member States about whether the Haqqani Network collaborates tactically with ISKP.
The Haqqani Network is blamed for some of the deadliest attacks of the war in Afghanistan, including the death or injury of hundreds of U.S. troops, and has historically been described as close to Pakistan’s intelligence agency.
This report has been updated to include additional information.