Afghanistan is terrorist 'safe haven' under Taliban with growing threat to US, experts say
Officials said the threat seems to be contained within the country for now, but an attack could be carried out against the U.S. within six months.
Terror groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS-K are thriving in Afghanistan, which is once again becoming a "safe haven" for terrorists who are increasingly posing a threat against the United States, according to defense and counterterrorism experts.
"The terrorist threat environment in Afghanistan has deteriorated dramatically since August 2021 – and it is getting worse," former State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales said at a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism hearing Tuesday. "Due to a combination of Taliban-provided safe haven, the Taliban’s lack of counterterrorism capability, and the absence of sustained counterterrorism pressure from the United States, Afghanistan has become hospitable terrain for a variety of terrorist groups."
He also said that the threat "seems to be relatively contained" within Afghanistan, but he said that according to CENTCOM commander General Michael 'Erik' Kurilla, the local Islamic State affiliate group could carry out an attack against the U.S. or Western interests in less than six months without warning.
Dr. Jonathan Schroden, a top official at the federally-funded nonprofit research group the Center for Naval Analyses, said at the hearing: "There is no question that [al Qaeda] and the Islamic State retain the intent to attack the US homeland."
Sales also raised concerns about a "significant risk that state-of-the-art American military equipment could fall into terrorists’ hands" after the U.S. left behind nearly $7.2 billion worth of equipment when leaving the country in August 2021. Not only could terrorists access the equipment, but he also said it would not be surprising if the weapons "end up being sold on the black market to drug cartels, mercenaries like Russia’s Wagner group, or hostile foreign governments."
The Biden administration defended its withdrawal from Afghanistan in a report earlier this month by casting significant blame on the Trump administration.