A new report from the U.S. Department of Defense acknowledges that President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan could possibly endanger Americans at home in the United States.
The Lead Inspector General report on Operation Enduring Sentinel, the mission to counter terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan, reported that General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., the outgoing Commander of USCENTCOM, admitted U.S. air assets had limited time to conduct operations because of the long distances to arrive over Afghan airspace.
The report stated, “This limitation, combined with the loss of human intelligence on the ground, has significantly reduced the DoD’s capacity to track terrorist targets in Afghanistan.”
Noting that “ISIS-K remained the top terrorist threat in Afghanistan,” the report continued, “The DoD [Department of Defense] assesses that the group retains a desire to attack the U.S. homeland, and ‘absent effective pressure, that threat will only grow and metastasize over time.’”
That frightening fact was buttressed by this:
USCENTCOM assessed that ISIS-K has increased its recruitment and attack capabilities since U.S. and coalition forces withdrew from Afghanistan and reduced their counterterrorism pressure. If ISIS-K is able to continue to exploit a reduced counterterrorism environment, it will likely be able to establish external operations capabilities targeting the West, including the U.S. homeland, in the next 12 to 18 months, according to USCENTCOM.
“Since the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, the DoD has pivoted to an ‘over-the-horizon’ approach to counterterrorism in that country,” the report declares. “Without access to military bases in neighboring countries, this new approach relies primarily on unmanned aerial vehicles operating from U.S. facilities in Doha, Qatar, to provide strike capabilities. As of the end of the quarter, the DoD had not conducted any strikes on terrorist targets in Afghanistan since its withdrawal last year.”
General McKenzie said that overflight options leave the United States reliant on Pakistan and that there was currently no other way to get into Afghan airspace.
The incoming Commander of USCENTCOM, General Michael E. Kurilla stated that approximately two-thirds of the flying time is spent getting the aircraft there and back, as opposed to time spent over the target. He cited the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which has a range of up to 30 hours flying time, explaining that it would take 10 hours to arrive over the target and another 10 hours for the return flight.
“Therefore, counterterrorism teams would need to dedicate multiple MQ-9 Reapers, taking off at 10-hour intervals, to maintain a single sensor over a suspected terrorist target,” the report stated, adding, “General Kurilla contrasted this with the situation when the U.S. military had a presence on the ground in Afghanistan, when he said he would often have 12 sensors monitoring one individual to develop the potential target.”