Intelligence officials are now saying that “extremists” are returning to Afghanistan following the Taliban victory in Kabul Sunday and that terror networks could reform inside the country “within six months,” as the Biden administration struggles to adapt to the sudden and complete loss of bases and military support.
“Foreign intelligence officials said they are detecting signs that the Taliban’s victory has energized global jihadists, a threat that may only grow as the Taliban releases al-Qaeda operatives who were imprisoned by the Afghan government,” The Washington Post reported Tuesday, adding that “officials had seen an uptick in jihadist communications about developments in Afghanistan.”
The situation was already problematic as a result of the United States’ planned withdrawal, the outlet noted, but, according to experts, the Taliban’s swift victory — and the debacle that followed — is now viewed as a victory.
“The U.S. appears in all of this now as a weak nation,” an expert told the Post. Another added that the Taliban’s decisive victory ‘is encouraging many jihadists to think about traveling to Afghanistan now instead of Syria or Iraq.”
Previously, the Post notes, U.S. officials believed it “would take up to two years for al-Qaeda to reconstitute in Afghanistan,” but now that “period could be as little as six months.”
“The counterterrorism posture went from problematic with the U.S. withdrawal to extraordinarily bad with the Taliban in full control,” a “veteran intelligence officer” said. “Suddenly one wonders if we will go entirely dark. It’s like a bad dream.”
The United States may now be hindered by what experts fear is an intelligence blackout. While there was always going to be difficulty in obtaining information about terrorist activities on the ground following the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban’s swift takeover, which put even the U.S. Embassy — which might have remained in operation in a more organized departure — out of commission.
As terrorists reportedly move into the newly friendly Afghanistan, the U.S. military, the Post noted, is focused on trying to evacuate the thousands of Americans who remain trapped in the country — and process the tens of thousands of U.S. allies who applied to leave alongside American troops.
The Post does note that appears the Biden administration was aware of the potential for disaster.
“In April, CIA Director William J. Burns told lawmakers it would be harder to track al-Qaeda and other extremist groups without the bases and medical and air support the 20-year military effort in Afghanistan had provided but said the agency would ‘retain a suite of capabilities,'” the Post said. “Now, most if not all of the capabilities the United States had envisioned within Afghanistan are no longer possible. While officials have not yet said what kind of engagement they might seek, if any, with the new Taliban government, the sprawling U.S. Embassy in Kabul is likely to remain shuttered in the near term.”
The United Nations also noted recently that there was still a terrorist presence in Afghanistan in areas controlled by the Taliban in violation of the 2020 peace agreement the Trump administration inked with Taliban leaders.
The Biden administration Department of Defense spokesperson admitted, Tuesday morning, that evacuation measures are not yet in hand, even though the United States is now, again, allowing military flights to leave Kabul’s airport. There may be as many as 10,000 American citizens trapped on the ground in and near Kabul, and as many as 40,000 Afghan allies. On Monday, the U.S. evacuated just 700 people, per reports.