During the 2020 presidential campaign, President Biden told CBS the United States should have troops in Afghanistan only “to make sure that it’s impossible for the Taliban and for ISIS and al-Qaida to re-establish a foothold there.”
But now, with Kabul under Taliban control, some analysts say the U.S. military is in a worse position than before in ensuring that Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, as it was in 2001, the Washington Times reported.
“We had very little intelligence pre-9/11 and we’ll have even less now — other than what you can see with satellites,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, director of the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby argued this week the U.S. will continue to maintain a robust “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism program in the region. But he acknowledged it will be more difficult to ensure Afghanistan won’t again become a terrorist safehaven.
“But it’s not like we haven’t done this before,” he said. “We believe that our intelligence apparatus and the networks we have in the region now are far more mature than they were in 2001.”
On Tuesday, former CIA director Leon Panetta said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that there is “no question” the Taliban will provide safe haven for terrorists.
The U.S.’s mission in Afghanistan to go after al-Qaida and its leadership was successful, he said, But the other mission, to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorism again, has failed.
“There is no question that they will proved a safe haven for al-Qaida, and for ISIS, and for other terrorists,” Panetta says. “This is a national security threat.”
The Washington Post reported top Biden administration officials held a phone briefing on Sunday with lawmakers in which the administration revised its June assessment that the threat to the U.S. homeland from terrorist groups such as al-Qaida operating from Afghanistan was a medium risk and could begin in no less than two years.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the administration clearly was caught “flat-footed,” saying there is “growing concern about this on our foreign policy writ large.”
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