The Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate could be able to launch attacks against the United States within as few as six months, the Pentagon’s policy chief told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl on Tuesday told the Senate armed services committee that the Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K, could be able to strike abroad within six months to 12 months.
“We’re fairly certain that they have the intention to do so,” he said. “We have considerable evidence that they have the intent. The question at the moment is the capability.”
ISIS-K has launched multiple attacks in Afghanistan, including the blast that killed 13 U.S. service members near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul amid the U.S. withdrawal from the country.
Kahl added that al-Qaida, the terrorist organization behind the 9/11 attacks, could also gain the capability to attack the United States within one year or two years with Afghanistan under control of its allies, the Taliban.
He also noted that the Taliban say they have carried out raids against ISIS-K, seizing weapons and documents related to the group’s activities.
“We have seen signs … that the Taliban is wary about Afghanistan being a springboard for al-Qaida external attacks, not because the Taliban are good guys, but because they fear international retribution if that were to occur,” Kahl said.
Lt. Gen. James Mingus, director of operations for the military’s Joint Staff, told the hearing that the intelligence estimates were based on there being no intervention from the United States and its allies.
“The goal would be to keep those time horizons where they are at now, if not even further,” he said.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., cited the faster than expected fall of Afghanistan to question why Congress should take U.S. intelligence at their word about their assessment of the terror group’s capabilities.
“I think this disconnect between the reality on the ground and what the Biden administration assessed would happen with respect to the collapse of the Afghan security forces is deeply troubling,” Fischer said. “How can you possibly assure us that such a disconnect isn’t happening between the reality on the ground and the Biden administration’s analysis of how long it’s going to take al-Qaida or ISIS-K to gain the ability to attack the United States?”
Kahl responded by saying that people in the administration “should all be humbled that we’ve known less about Afghanistan than we thought we did.”
He also noted that the United States is “in conversations with Pakistan” to keep the air line of communication to fly drones over Afghanistan.
The United States has also been exploring other options to maintain a military presence closer to Afghanistan.
“We continue to have conversations with neighboring nations and partners in the region to continue to explore opportunities for over the horizon capabilities and support,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a press briefing Monday.
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