Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol Capitol Police swear in state, local law enforcement ahead of 'Justice for J6' rally MORE on Thursday said the international community is monitoring the situation in Afghanistan to see if al Qaeda attempts to make a comeback in the region now that the U.S. has withdrawn its troop presence.
Austin, speaking at the end of a four-day trip to the Persian Gulf, said the U.S. is ready to prevent the extremist group from resuming activity in Afghanistan that would put America at risk.
“I think the whole community is kind of watching to see what happens and whether or not al Qaeda has the ability to regenerate in Afghanistan,” Austin said, according to The Associated Press.
“The nature of al Qaeda and ISIS-K is they will always attempt to find space to grow and regenerate, whether it’s there, whether it’s in Somalia, or whether it’s in any other ungoverned space,” he added. “I think that’s the nature of the organization.”
The Taliban allowed al Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan when it ruled the country from 1996 until 2001. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. invaded and overthrew the Taliban when the government refused to hand over al Qaeda leaders.
During the 20-year war in Afghanistan, which officially ended last week after the U.S. completed its troop withdrawal, al Qaeda’s capabilities were significantly reduced, but questions have arisen now that the Taliban is back in control of Afghanistan, the AP noted.
Austin told reporters that the U.S. has “put the Taliban on notice that we expect them not to allow that to happen,” referring to al Qaeda rekindling in Afghanistan. He also said the U.S. has the capability to address threats.
The Trump administration signed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020, part of which said the insurgent group would take steps to prevent al Qaeda from using Afghanistan to “threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
U.S. officials, however, are under the impression that the Taliban has continued its ties to al Qaeda, the AP reported, causing concern among other nations, including Gulf Arab states.