Marion Bae, FISM News
Though the official withdrawal from Afghanistan ended two months ago, the discussions are far from over as we consider future implications. A Senate hearing on Tuesday raised concerns about potential ISIS-K attacks on the United States in as little as six months.
The United States Senate Committee on Armed Services convened Tuesday morning to hear witness testimony regarding security in Afghanistan, as well as South and Central Asia. The witnesses were Dr. Colin Kahl, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Lt. Gen. James Mingus, Director for Operations, J-3.
During the hearing Secretary Kahl answered questions from committee members about the Afghanistan withdrawal, among other things. A popular topic was the future threat of ISIS-K and al-Qaeda.
In response to a clarifying question from Senator Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kahl confirmed, “The current intelligence community’s assessment is that ISIS-K could potentially develop the capability [to attack the U.S.] within six to twelve months and that al-Qaeda could potentially develop that capability within one to two years, but it’s precisely that threat that we need to remain vigilant against.”
Senator Hirono followed up by asking about how the intent of ISIS-K will be determined. Secretary Kahl responded that the intent of ISIS-K has already been determined, saying, “We actually are fairly certain that they have the intention to do so…we have considerable evidence that they have the intent. The question at the moment is the capability.”
The Secretary could not reveal any further details to the Senator at that time, but assured her that he could follow-up in the closed session. He referenced a classified briefing recently given to the committee that included more details, presumably the same briefing Chairman Reed (D-R.I.) referred to during his opening statements, which he called “a classified update on regional security threats”.
During the hearing the Secretary was also asked about the possibility of the Taliban defeating ISIS-K in Afghanistan. Secretary Kahl asserted that the Taliban and ISIS-K are mortal enemies, meaning the Taliban has the motivation to go after ISIS-K; however, their ability hasn’t been determined.
Some Senators, including Senator Cotton (R-Ark.), were skeptical about the U.S. path moving forward, considering the many issues we saw with the Afghanistan withdrawal. Throughout the hearing Secretary Kahl maintained that the U.S. must now be vigilant against terror threats globally, which include China, Russia, and Korea.
Senator Cotton may have been speaking for many Americans in his closing, when he said, “There are many challenges out there. Let’s hope that we foresee them a little bit better than we have in the past.”