Milley: ‘Real possibility’ terrorist groups could rebuild as soon as early spring in Afghanistan
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday said there is “a real possibility” that al Qaeda or ISIS could reconstitute in Afghanistan as soon as early spring 2022.
Milley said the terrorist threat from Afghanistan is currently less than it was on 9/11, but that “the conditions could be set for a reconstitution of al Qaeda and/or ISIS.”
“It’s a real possibility in the not too distant future, six, 12, 18, 24, 36 months, that kind of time frame, for reconstitution of al Qaeda or ISIS,” he told lawmakers at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who testified alongside Milley, agreed with the comments, saying “there is clearly a possibility” for the groups to build back up with U.S. forces out of the country.
“Al Qaeda has been degraded over time. Now, terrorist organizations seek ungoverned spaces so that they can train and equip and thrive and, and so, there is clearly a possibility that that can happen here, going forward,” he said. “Our goal is to maintain a laser-like focus on this so that it doesn’t happen.”
The Trump administration in February 2020 signed a deal with the Taliban that agreed the United States would withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan in exchange for the promise the Islamic extremist group would not allow terrorist organizations to use the country as a launchpad for attacks.
But Pentagon officials are skeptical the Taliban will stand by this agreement.
Austin, a day prior, told the Senate Armed Service Committee it is “not preordained” the U.S. military will have to return to Afghanistan in the near future, but he recognized that terrorists will “migrate towards ungoverned spaces.”
He repeated this assertion before House lawmakers.
“While I won’t rule anything out, I would just say it’s not preordained that we will go back or have to go back into Afghanistan again. But if we do, the military will provide good, credible options to be able to do that and to be effective.”
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