A report presented at Tuesday’s National Security Summit suggests that al-Qaeda could rebuild in Afghanistan within “one to two years,” and the members of the international terrorist organization are already returning to the country, now fully under the control of the historically terror-friendly Taliban.
Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Scott D. Berrier, told the summit Tuesday that al-Qaeda is still active and ready to rebuild, and it is likely that their target remains the United States.
“The current assessment probably conservatively is one to two years for al-Qaeda to build some capability to at least threaten the homeland,” Berrier said.
“Officials say that members of the terrorist group have already started to return to the country amid the Taliban takeover, speeding the timeline for which the group could begin to pose a renewed threat,” Fox News noted.
“The new timeline is not a drastic shift, but reflects the reality that the Taliban have a limited ability to control the borders of Afghanistan,” The New York Times added. “While the Taliban have long fought the Islamic State affiliate, they are established allies of Al Qaeda. Though the Taliban pledged in the February 2020 peace agreement with the United States not to let Afghanistan be used by terrorist groups, analysts have said such promises ring hollow.”
Officials were quick to note that the threat assessment could be revised which officials say may be revised, but indications are that al-Qaeda began making moves to rebuild almost as soon as U.S. troops departed. At the same conference, David Cohen, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said that intelligence is already beginning to notice al-Qaeda moving back into Afghanistan after having been “dispersed” by the American presence there for two decades.
“We are already beginning to see some of the indications of some potential movement of al Qaeda to Afghanistan,” Cohen said, per The Wall Street Journal. “But it’s early days and we will obviously keep a very close eye on that.”
Cohen later added that, because of the “over the horizon” nature of the intelligence gathering in Afghanistan, “the difficult part of the timeline question was to know when Al Qaeda or the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan would ‘have the capability to go to strike the homeland’ before they could be detected,” The New York Times noted.
“We will also look for ways to work from within the horizon, to the extent that is possible,” Cohen said.
“Mr. Cohen did not identify specific Qaeda members who have traveled back to Afghanistan since the fall of the American-backed government. But Osama bin Laden’s former security chief, Amin al Haq, who served with bin Laden during the battle of Tora Bora, was seen on video returning to the Afghan province of Nangarhar last month,” The New York Times said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted to Congress, in his testimony before the Senate Tuesday, that “al Qaeda, in terms of its capacity to conduct attacks on the homeland from Afghanistan, is vastly degraded, to the point where it is currently assessed that it does not have that capacity,” parroting the Biden administration’s long-held position on the subject.
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