Senior Pentagon officials warned Tuesday that terrorist groups al-Qaeda and ISIS-K could develop the capability to attack the US within months, echoing similar statements made by American officials and generals last month.
“The intelligence community currently assesses that both ISIS-K and al-Qaeda have the intent to conduct external operations, including against the United States,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said.
However, neither group has the capability to do so yet. “We could see ISIS-K generate that capability in somewhere between six or 12 months … and al-Qaeda [within] a year or two,” Kahl said told the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
Asked about the Taliban’s ability or willingness to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups, Kahl said Washington had not yet made a determination.
Previously, US generals and State Department officials said they would judge the Taliban - which took over Afghanistan within days of the US withdrawal - based on their actions.
Kahl also told lawmakers that the Pentagon’s work related to Afghanistan was far from over. “We are examining and learning from the past, reckoning with the uncomfortable truth that despite decades and billions of dollars of US investment, the Afghan military evaporated in the face of the Taliban assault.”
And as other Biden administration officials have done, Kahl vehemently defended the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.
“We are turning to the future, bolstering our capacity to engage in over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations to ensure that no threat emanating from Afghanistan can harm our homeland or our interests, even as we re-focus the Department on the challenges posed by China, Russia, and other competitors and adversaries,” Kahl said.
For his part, Lt. Gen. James Mingus also defended the withdrawal and evacuation efforts made by US troops and officials.
Mingus, too warned about potential terrorist attacks on the US.
“While we reprioritize following the withdrawal in the short-term, we are actively setting the conditions to ensure we remain situationally aware and are postured to mitigate and neutralize developing terrorist threat streams,” he said.
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