Taliban takeover prompts fears of a resurgent al-Qaeda

President Joe Biden has spoken repeatedly of what he calls an “over-the-horizon functionality” that he says will allow the US to maintain monitor of terrorism threats from afar. His nationwide safety adviser, Jake Sullivan, instructed reporters on Monday that counter-terrorism capabilities had advanced to the purpose the place the menace might be suppressed with no sturdy boots-on-the-ground presence.

US President Joe Biden. Credit score:Bloomberg

The US can also be presumably anticipating that strengthened airport screening and extra refined surveillance might be simpler than 20 years in the past in thwarting an assault.

However consultants additionally fear that intelligence-gathering capabilities wanted as an early warning system towards an assault can be negatively affected by the troop withdrawal.

An added complication is the sheer quantity of urgent nationwide safety threats that dwarf what the US authorities was confronting earlier than the 2011 assaults. These embody refined cyber operations from China and Russia that may cripple essential infrastructure or pilfer delicate secrets and techniques, nuclear ambitions in Iran and an ascendant home terrorism menace laid naked by the January 6 revolt on the US Capitol.

FBI Director Chris Wray has described that home-grown menace as “metastasising,” with the variety of arrests of white supremacists and racially motivated extremists almost tripling since his first yr on the job in 2017.

“My concern is which you can’t evaluate 2001 to as we speak,” mentioned Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism professional at Georgetown College. There’s a “a lot vaster and higher organised forms,” he mentioned, however it’s burdened with calls for not particularly tied to terrorism.

Terrorists crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center New York city in a closely timed series of blows on 11 September 2001 that brought down the twin 110-storey towers.

Terrorists crashed two airliners into the World Commerce Middle NY city in a intently timed sequence of blows on 11 September 2001 that introduced down the dual 110-storey towers. Credit score:Allsport

Hoffman mentioned that though he didn’t suppose al-Qaeda would be capable to rapidly use Afghanistan as a launchpad for assaults towards the US, it might re-establish “its coordinating operate” within the area to work with and encourage strikes by its associates — a affected person technique that will but be vindicated.

“Terrorist teams don’t conform to coach timetables or flight schedules,” Hoffman mentioned. “They do issues when it fits them and, as al-Qaeda was doing, they quietly lay the inspiration in hopes that that basis will finally have an effect on or decide their success.”

The priority is resonant sufficient that Biden administration officers instructed Congress final week that, primarily based on the evolving scenario, they now consider terror teams like al-Qaeda could possibly develop a lot quicker than anticipated. In June, the Defence Division’s high leaders mentioned an extremist group like al-Qaeda could possibly regenerate in Afghanistan and pose a menace to the US homeland inside two years of the American army’s withdrawal.


The September 11 assaults made al-Qaeda probably the most internationally recognisable terror group, however up to now decade at the very least, probably the most potent menace contained in the US has come from people impressed by the Islamic State, leading to lethal massacres like those in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando.

However al-Qaeda hardly disappeared. US authorities alleged final yr {that a} Saudi gunman who killed three US sailors at a army base in Florida in 2019 had communicated with al-Qaeda operatives about planning and ways. Final December, the Justice Division charged a Kenyan man with attempting to stage a 9/11-style assault on the US on behalf of the terrorist organisation al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda.

Now it’s potential that different extremists will discover themselves impressed by al-Qaeda, even when not directed by it.


“Till lately, I’d have mentioned that the menace from al-Qaeda core is fairly modest. They didn’t have protected haven in Afghanistan, their senior management was scattered,” mentioned Nathan Gross sales, former coordinator for counterterrorism on the State Division.

However, now with the Taliban again in management, “all of that would change and will change very quickly”.


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