ISIS in Afghanistan could attack US in 6 months, Pentagon official says
WASHINGTON, Oct.26 (Reuters) – The U.S. intelligence community has estimated that Islamic State in Afghanistan could have the capacity to attack the United States in as little as six months, and intends to do so, has a senior Pentagon official told Congress. Tuesday.
The remarks by Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, are the latest reminder that Afghanistan could still pose serious national security challenges to the United States even after ending its two-decade-old war by the defeat in August.
The Taliban, who won the war, are enemies of the Islamic State and have seen their attempts to impose law and order after the US withdrawal thwarted by suicide bombings and other attacks claimed by the state Islamic.
They include bombings targeting the minority Shiite sect and even an Islamic State beheading a member of a Taliban militia in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kahl said it was still not clear whether the Taliban had the capacity to effectively fight ISIS after the US withdrawal in August. The United States fought the Taliban as well as striking groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
“We believe that the Taliban and ISIS-K are deadly enemies. So the Taliban are very motivated to prosecute ISIS-K. Their ability to do so, I think, has to be determined,” Kahl said, using an acronym. for the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
Kahl estimated that the Islamic State had a “cadre of a few thousand” fighters.
Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi of the new Taliban government said the threat from ISIS militants would be taken into account. He also said Afghanistan would not become a base for attacks against other countries.
Kahl suggested that al-Qaeda in Afghanistan posed a more complex problem, given its ties to the Taliban. It was these links that triggered the US military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 following Al Qaeda’s attacks on September 11 on New York and Washington. The Taliban had sheltered the leaders of Al Qaeda.
Kahl said it could take al Qaeda “a year or two” to regenerate the ability to carry out attacks outside of Afghanistan against the United States.
Democratic President Joe Biden, whose oversight of the chaotic end of the war last summer hurt his approval rating, said the United States will continue to be vigilant against threats emanating from Afghanistan by leading intelligence-gathering operations in the country that would identify threats from groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Kahl said the goal is to disrupt these groups so that Islamic State and al Qaeda do not become able to strike the United States.
“We have to be vigilant to disrupt this,” he said.
Yet US officials are privately warning that it is extremely difficult to identify and disrupt groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State without any troops in the country. Drones capable of hitting Islamic State and Al Qaeda targets are flown in from the Gulf.
Kahl said the United States does not yet have an agreement with Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to host troops for counterterrorism efforts.
Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; edited by Jonathan Oatis
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