Terrorist groups in Afghanistan could have the capability to attack Western countries and their allies in as little as six months, a top Pentagon official said Tuesday during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, told the committee that the U.S. intelligence community determined ISIS-K could be ready to attack the West in 6 months to a year and that al-Qaeda could be ready for such an attack in one to two years. ISIS-K is an acronym for the Islamic State’s Afghanistan branch.
“We could see ISIS-K generate that capability in somewhere between six or 12 months, according to current assessments [from the intelligence community],” Kahl said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “And for al Qaeda, it would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability. We have to remain vigilant against that possibility.”
Kahl also told lawmakers on Tuesday that the U.S. could not determine whether the Taliban would be able to counter a threat from ISIS-K.
“It is our assessment that the Taliban and ISIS-K are mortal enemies. So, the Taliban is highly motivated to go after ISIS-K. Their ability to do so, I think, is to be determined,” Kahl said.
Kahl is not the first Pentagon official to warn of ISIS-K’s rapidly developing capabilities. On September 28, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also told the committee that terror groups in Afghanistan could have the capability to attack the U.S. within one to three years.
“We now must continue to protect the American people from terrorist attacks emanating from Afghanistan,” Milley said after explaining that the Taliban, which took over Afghanistan in August, remains a terrorist organization. “A reconstituted Al Qaeda or ISIS with aspirations to attack the United States is a very real possibility and those conditions to include activities in ungoverned spaces could present themselves in the next 12 to 36 months. That mission will be much harder now, but not impossible, and we will continue to protect the American people.”
The United Nations estimates that there are around 2,000 ISIS-K members in Afghanistan and around 70,000 Taliban fighters.
Kahl’s statements come less than a week after the U.S. State Department admitted that hundreds of Americans are still left in Afghanistan. As The Daily Wire reported, the State Department admitted to congressional staff that 363 Americans were still left in Afghanistan, with 176 actively communicating with the Biden administration in an attempt to get rescued. This number was much higher than previous claims by the Biden administration as to the number of Americans left behind in Afghanistan during the administration’s chaotic withdrawal at the end of August.
That number was submitted to congress days after a rescue group run by U.S. veterans evacuated 374 from Afghanistan — a number that included American citizens and foreign nationals. The rescue group, Afghan Rescue Crew, has been critical of the U.S. withdrawal and the Biden administration’s claims of how many Americans were left behind in Afghanistan.
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