Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Thursday that al-Qaeda terrorists may try to rebuild themselves in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the country and now after the United States withdraws its troops.
“I think the whole community is watching if al-Qaeda has the ability to regenerate in Afghanistan and what will happen,” Austin said in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
Between 1996 and 2001, the Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan before the United States invaded and defeated the Taliban in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In the last two decades, al-Qaeda has declined significantly due to the murder of former leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, but the question remains whether the Taliban takeover will allow the group to return prominently.
“The nature of al-Qaeda and ISIS-K is to always try to find a space to grow and regenerate, whether it is there, in Somalia, or in another ungoverned space. “Austin added in a statement Thursday. “I think that’s the nature of the organization.”
According to Austin, the United States has warned the Taliban, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by several federal agencies, not to contain al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The group “noticed that they expected it not to happen,” he said.
But tentatively, it seems that the ISIS-K terrorist group could pose more threats in the near future. Last month, 13 U.S. military personnel were killed in a suicide bombing attack later alleged by ISIS-K during a hasty and chaotic evacuation of Americans and Afghans at Kabul Airport. A few days later, Pentagon officials confirmed that the number of ISIS-K members released from prisons in Afghanistan could be “thousands.”
Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared in Qatar this week to thank Washington for allowing the Gulf states to pass thousands of Afghanistan and other foreigners evacuated last month.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, President Joe Biden ordered the victims’ families seeking records to release confidential documents related to the September 11 attack. It came after a group representing the family sent a letter to Biden telling him not to come to their monument on September 11th unless he released the information.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters as of Wednesday that about 100 US citizens were still in Afghanistan. However, some members of parliament claim that far more American citizens (perhaps more than 500), including their families, remain.