Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admits Al Qaeda could stage a comeback in Afghanistan as Congress confirms he will testify with Mark Milley on botched withdrawal later this month
- ‘The nature of al-Qaida and (the Islamic State group) is they will always attempt to find space to grow and regenerate,’ Austin said Thursday
- The nation’s top defense officials are scheduled to testify at a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 28
- Gen. Austin Miller, the last commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, will provide a closed-door briefing on ‘recent developments’ next week
- On Sept. 30, the Senate Armed Services committee will also hold a review of US military operations in Afghanistan with external experts
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and head of US Central Command Gen. Frank Mackenzie will testify before Congress next week, after the Pentagon warned of a potential resurgence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
The nation’s top defense officials are scheduled to testify at a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 28, the Senate Armed Services Committee announced Thursday.
‘The whole community is kind of watching to see what happens and whether or not al-Qaida has the ability to regenerate in Afghanistan,’ Austin told a group of reporters in Kuwait City on Thursday.
‘The nature of al-Qaida and (the Islamic State group) is they will always attempt to find space to grow and regenerate, whether it’s there, whether it’s in Somalia, or whether it’s in any other ungoverned space. I think that’s the nature of the organization.’
The Taliban provided al-Qaeda with sanctuary when it controlled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, in the run-up to 9/11. The US invaded the nation after the Taliban refused to turn over the leaders of al-Qaeda.
‘We put the Taliban on notice that we expect them to not allow that to happen’ Austin said of al-Qaeda using Afghanistan as a home base to stage attacks. A February 2020 peace agreement promised the US would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan if the Taliban promised not to harbor terrorists.
Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, left, meets Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, right, in Kuwait City, Kuwait on September 09
Austin, left, and Gen. Mark Milley, right, will testify before Congress this month
The Taliban recaptured Afghanistan in August. The last time the Taliban ruled, 1996-2001, they harbored members of al-Qaeda as they staged 9/11
Austin and other members of the Biden administration have asserted the US has over-the-horizon capabilities to contain al-Qaeda and other terrorist threats.
On Sept. 15 Gen. Austin Scott Miller, the last commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, will provide a closed-door briefing on ‘recent developments’ in Afghanistan.
On Sept. 30, the committee will also hold a review of US military operations in Afghanistan with external experts.
The Armed Services Committee announcement comes after the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees announced Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to testify at hearings next week.
Committee chairman Jack Reed has faced pressure from all sides to hold hearings to investigate what went wrong in President Biden’s exit from Afghanistan.
‘I’m grateful to Chairman Reed for prioritizing these critical oversight hearings on Afghanistan — the first of what I will expect to be many hearings and briefings to review and determine what happened, who should be held accountable, and how we move forward,’ Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the committee’s ranking member, said in a statement. ‘The American people, our service members past and present, our allies and partners around the world and the Afghans who bravely helped us deserve this transparency and accountability.’
The Biden administration has in weeks past said there would be time to evaluate what went wrong, but it was focused on evacuations.
Ten Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Ala., sent a letter to Reed on Wednesday demanding hearings on Biden’s withdrawal and a request for the Defense Department to preserve all records relating to the drawdown.
‘It is necessary and appropriate for Congress to examine the manner in which our military mission ended in Afghanistan. We should do so with transparency, candor, and a dedication to ascertaining the facts without regard to politics,’ Tuberville wrote.