Even as the US claims that it achieved its objective in Afghanistan by eliminating prospective terror threats to the country, senior officials in the US intelligence agencies have said that terror group al-Qaeda may be able to reconstitute itself in Afghanistan and attack the US in one or two years.
“The current assessment probably, conservatively, is one to two years for al-Qaeda to build some capability to at least threaten the homeland,” Bloomberg quoted Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, as saying.
Speaking at an intelligence conference on Tuesday, Lieutenant General Scott Berrier said they were looking for ways to gain access back into Afghanistan with “all kinds of sources and accesses”.
“We are prioritising that effort. We’ll continue to prioritise it. But we have to be careful to balance these very scarce resources,” he said.
Facing much criticism over its hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US has maintained that its purpose to invade Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks was not to indulge in “nation-building exercise”. US President Joe Biden has said that the US’s primary objectives in Afghanistan were to disrupt al-Qaeda and kill Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks who was shielded by the then Taliban government.
CIA Deputy Director David Cohen agreed with the timeline of one to two years, saying intelligence agencies are already seeing activities by al-Qaeda recouping in Afghanistan.
However, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines says that Afghanistan is down on the threat list after the two-decade American troop presence ended.
“We don’t prioritise — at the top of the list — Afghanistan,” Bloomberg quoted Haines as saying at the same conference.
“What we’re looking at is Yemen and Somalia, Syria and Iraq. That’s where we see the greatest threat,” he added.
Earlier in June, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a Senate committee that it would take possibly two years for al-Qaeda to develop the capabilities to stage attacks in the US from Afghanistan.
(With inputs from Bloomberg)