Al-Qaeda threatens to re-emerge in Afghanistan, US Secretary of Defense warns

Top United States (US) defense officials have warned their government that leading terrorist groups in Afghanistan could pose a threat to the US in the next few months after the withdrawal of forces.

According to the details, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told members of Congress that groups such as al Qaeda would likely regain their capabilities within two years and will be able to plan attacks against the US and its Western allies.

Joint Chief of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, further warned that the period could be less than two years, depending on the future of Afghanistan’s current government. “If the Afghan government fails or the local security forces disintegrate, the threat will obviously increase,” said General Milley.

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US President Joe Biden announced in April that all remaining US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan before September 11. He argued that the main purpose of holding al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden inside Afghanistan had been achieved. However, concerns are being raised that groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Khorasan could re-emerge if the US military presence in Afghanistan ceases.

Al-Qaeda threatens to re-emerge in Afghanistan, US Secretary of Defense warns

US military and intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that emerging threats could destabilize Afghanistan and its neighbors and allow terrorist groups to strengthen themselves and expand their operations.

Christine Abizaid, who has been named head of the National Counterterrorism Center in the US, told members of Congress last week that wherever there is a clear presence of terrorism, there is a possibility that the location could be a dangerous platform for our planet. She stressed the need for the US to maintain strong pressure on groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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A recent survey by the United Nations (UN) member states also raised concerns that the Taliban in Afghanistan appear eager to thwart the Afghan government if negotiations do not yield the desired results. The report also warned that, contrary to the Taliban’s promise to sever ties with al-Qaeda, their relationship has deepened due to intermarriage and partnership in resistance.

Officials at the White House and the Pentagon have repeatedly assured that if al-Qaeda and ISIS resurface, they could be dealt with on a large scale, either from bases or by fighter jets stationed on navies in the Middle East or air strikes can be used.

The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander General Kenneth McKenzie told VOA last week that the United States would still have the capability to pursue and target al Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan.

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President Biden’s September 11 withdrawal from Afghanistan is approaching. According to officials, the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is 50 percent complete. US General Mark Millie says nothing can be guaranteed. “There could be a number of consequences in Afghanistan,” he added.

President Biden told reporters after meeting with his Russian counterpart in Geneva that Vladimir Putin had also asked him about Afghanistan. He asked about it (Afghanistan) and said that we hope that we (Russia) have been able to play some role for peace and security there. I said there is a lot for you to do about it. In response, he said he was ready to help, to play his part.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank in Washington, also organized an online seminar entitled “Preventing Catastrophe in Afghanistan”. Experts expressed concern about a 30 percent increase in violence in Afghanistan in the first months of this year compared to last year, but Adela Raz, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UN, disagreed on the title of the webinar.

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She said that there are difficulties but they are exaggerated outside Afghanistan. “I know we’re all getting ready for the worst. Thinking about it. But I want to say that this disaster is not as big inside Afghanistan as it is outside.”

“If this is a catastrophe, then what we have invested in Afghanistan. The question arises about it and its effectiveness. So I don’t think there’s any disaster. Yes, it is a very difficult time for us,” she added.

The Afghan ambassador to the UN said United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) investment had been fruitful and that Afghanistan’s security forces were now well-equipped to fight terrorism.

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