National Security

CIA head says Afghanistan withdrawal ‘will diminish’ US intelligence efforts

CIA Director nominee William Burns
Roll Call/Pool

Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said Wednesday that the planned withdrawal of U.S. military from Afghanistan would hurt the agency’s ability to gather intelligence in the country.

“Our ability to keep that threat in Afghanistan in check, from either al Qaeda or ISIS in Afghanistan, has benefited greatly from the presence of U.S. and coalition militaries on the ground and in the air fueled by intelligence provided by the CIA and our other intelligence partners. When the time comes for the U.S. military to withdraw, the U.S. government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That’s simply a fact,” Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee during Wednesday’s worldwide threat hearing.

“So all of that, to be honest, means that there is a significant risk once the U.S. military and the coalition militaries withdraw.”

President Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. would withdraw all military personnel, some 2,500 troops, by the coming 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. 

Burns said that while military groups “remain intent on recovering the ability to attack U.S. targets … after years of sustained counterterrorism pressure, the reality is that neither of them have that capacity today.”

Under the deal with the Taliban, the U.S. withdrawal is supposed to be contingent on the insurgents meeting certain commitments, including breaking from al Qaeda and reducing violence in the country. But U.S. military officials have repeatedly said the Taliban has yet to uphold its commitments.

Burns said “whenever that time comes” the CIA would still retain a suite of capabilities in the region to “anticipate and contest any rebuilding effort” from various terrorism groups. 

Tags 9/11 Afghanistan Afghanistan Afghanistan Joe Biden William Burns worldwide threats

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