Pentagon official warns that Islamic State in Afghanistan has the ‘intent’ to attack the U.S. and could have the capability to strike America in as little as six months from now
- Pentagon figure says ISIS-K could have capability to attack US in 6 months
- Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl gave his warning to senators on Tuesday
- It came during a hearing on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan
- Kahl also said Al Qaeda could have have the capability after a year
- And he said both groups had the ‘intent’ to conduct operations against the US
U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Islamic State in Afghanistan could develop the capability to attack the United States in as little as six months, a senior Pentagon official told senators on Tuesday.
The stark warning is the latest reminder of the danger that remains after U.S. troops left the country at the end of August and the Taliban retook control.
Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl said the U.S. had to remain vigilant against the threat from Al Qaeda and from the Islamic State’s Afghanistan offshoot known as ISIS-K.
‘I think the intelligence community currently assesses that both ISIS-K and Al Qaeda have the intent to conduct external operations, including against the United States, but neither currently has the capability to do so,’ he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
‘We could see ISIS-K generate that capability in somewhere between six or 12 months.
‘I think the current assessments by the intelligence community as Al Qaeda would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability.’
Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl said the U.S. had to remain vigilant against the threat from Al Qaeda and from the Islamic State’s Afghanistan offshoot known as ISIS-K
An Afghan security personnel holds the Islamic State group’s flag after an attack in the city of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. An Islamic State group attack on the prison in eastern Afghanistan holding hundreds of its members raged on Monday after killing people in fighting overnight, a local official said
His words will will trigger fresh criticism of the rapid end of America’s 20-year war, an end that triggered chaotic scenes at Kabul airport and the deaths of 13 U.S. personnel in an ISIS-K suicide attack.
President Biden has seen his standing at home take a battering, with plunging opinion polls, and his reputation overseas weakened among allies who said they were blindsided.
Kahl’s comments echo those of Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who offered a similar six-month time frame recently.
Biden has promised an ‘over-the-horizon’ counterterrorism capability, using drone strikes to limit terrorist threats to the U.S.
But officials have also said they expect the Taliban to make good on promises they have made to prevent Afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorists – much to the skepticism of many Afghan observers.
In his assessment, Kahl it was unclear whether the Taliban has the ability to keep ISIS-K from developing into a bigger threat.
‘It is our assessment that the Taliban and ISIS-K are mortal enemies,’ he said.
‘So the Taliban is highly motivated to go after ISIS-K.
Their ability to do so, I think, is to be determined.’
But he also had reassuring words for the committee, saying that the threat to the American homeland was at its lowest level since Sept. 11, 2001.
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst scoffed at that assessment.
‘It doesn’t sound like a low risk when you have just told us that the possibility of an attack from ISIS-K on our homeland could come six to 12 months from now,’ she said.
However, Kahl and Lt. Gen. James Mingus, director for operations for the Joint Staff, who was also giving evidence said the timelines did not take account of operations to degrade ISIS-K and Al Qaeda capabilities.
Opening proceedings, committee chairman Sen. Jack Reed outlined the need for vigilance.
‘While the United States has ended its military mission in Afghanistan, we must continue to ensure that al Qaeda, ISIS-K, and other terrorist groups cannot use Afghanistan to attack the United States and our allies,’ he said.
‘We must remain vigilant about these threats and ensure that we establish an effective and robust counterterrorism architecture moving forward.’