Colin Kahl, the US Defense Department’s undersecretary for policy, made the comment on Tuesday and said it was still “to be determined” whether the Taliban-controlled government forces had the capability to effectively fight the Daesh-K terrorist group after the US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in August.
“The intelligence community currently assesses that both ISIS-K and al-Qaeda have the intent to conduct external operations, including against the United States, but neither currently has the capability to do so,” Kahl said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the security situation in Afghanistan following the US pullout, using another abbreviation to refer to Daesh.
“We could see ISIS-K generate that capability in somewhere between six or 12 months, according to current assessments by the intelligence committee. And for al-Qaeda, it would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability,” he added.
He said the goal was to disrupt the two terrorist groups so they would not be capable of striking the United States, and stressed, “We have to remain vigilant against that possibility.”
Kahl also estimated that Daesh had a “cadre of a few thousand” terrorists in Afghanistan.
The United States and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the pretext that the Taliban militants were harboring al-Qaeda. The invasion removed the Taliban from power but it worsened the security situation in the country.
The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 in the face of the lightning advances of the Taliban that followed US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw American troops. The Taliban announced the formation of a caretaker government on September 7.
In his first congressional testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee members on September 28, Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the war in Afghanistan a “strategic failure.”