Tom Copeland, director of research at the conservative think tank Centennial Institute, told Fox News that the withdrawal of U.S. troops could lead to another attack on American soil.
‘Having an entire country as a safe haven, will give [Al Qaeda] more physical space and more breathing space to reconstitute and go back to planning major events, so I think the U.S. withdrawal itself is a large part of that threat,’ Copeland said.
Copeland claimed that an attack could come ‘within the next four to five years’ after Al Qaeda, the militant terrorist group founded by Osama bin Laden in 1988, takes a couple of years to reconstitute itself.
Tom Copeland, director of research at the conservative think tank Centennial Institute, said the withdrawal of U.S. troops could even lead to another attack on American soil
A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty salon with images of women defaced using spray paint in Shar-e-Naw in Kabul on Wednesday
‘But it sounds like from what I’ve read, they’re thinking they could do it in six months,’ he told Fox News.
‘Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll have an attack in six months, it does take time to plan these spectacular events.’
He added: ‘I don’t think it’ll happen then, but I think in the next four or five years we should anticipate at least efforts by Al Qaeda and ISIS and other groups that may form in the aftermath here.’
The concerns come as the United States is set to complete its full withdrawal of troops by the end of the month.
It was set in motion by former President Donald Trump, who signed a peace agreement with the Taliban last year promising that U.S. soldiers would leave by May.
President Joe Biden has pressed that the United States will continue withdrawing troops, after going ahead with Trump’s initial drawdown, despite the escalating situation facing Afghanistan.
Thousands of Americans are feared to remain trapped there, along with tens of thousands of Afghans granted visas for helping US troops stationed in the country.
Al Qaeda is expected to fully resume its operations in Afghanistan now that the Taliban has taken control of the country, Copeland told Fox News.
George W Bush first ordered troops to topple the Taliban after bin Laden used the country to plot the 9/11 terror attacks, whose 20th anniversary is now just three weeks away.
In comments to NPR, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the group would ‘of course’ work to eradicate terror groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
‘Of course, when we say that we do not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan, that means we will not allow them, that if they are intending to use this soil for their activities outside the country, so that we will not allow them to, we will not tolerate that,’ Shaheen said.
Donald Trump signed a peace agreement with the Taliban last year promising that U.S. soldiers would leave by May. President Joe Biden has pressed that the United States will continue withdrawing troops despite the escalating situation facing Afghanistan
Copeland fears that without a U.S. Embassy or military bases on the ground in Afghanistan, the United States will leave ‘a much more limited window into what the terrorists are doing inside Afghanistan.’
John Kirby, the Press Secretary for the Defense Department, was asked by Fox News to provide an estimate on how many members of al Qaeda are currently in Afghanistan.
‘I haven’t seen an estimate on that. OK, I don’t know if we have an exact estimate,’ Kirby said.
He added: ‘We know that Al Qaeda is a presence as well as ISIS in Afghanistan.’
‘And we’ve talked about that for quite some time. We do not believe it is exorbitantly high, but we don’t have an exact figure for you, as I think you might understand.’
Paul D. Miller, a former CIA operative, said he is ‘confident’ that ‘the U.S. is at higher risk of international terrorism
Victor Davis Hanson, a Fox News contributor, told the outlet that the next three and a half years ‘will be our most dangerous since the 1950s of the Cold War.’
‘Jihadists now have a centrally located haven that has a proven record of successfully launching anti-Western terrorist operations,’ Hanson said.
‘The Taliban are far more jubilant now than in the past, given the climatic defeat of the entire NATO coalition, and, finally, they feel there no longer exists U.S. deterrence.’
Hanson added that Iran, China and Russia will become ‘far more adventurous’ in the net year ‘on the expectation that the Biden administration, the woke Pentagon, and the politicized intelligence agencies either cannot or will not deter them.’
‘That encourages the Taliban who feel that the U.S. will be pressed simultaneously by several enemies and won’t dare confront them,’ Hanson said.
Paul D. Miller, a former CIA operative who served as director of the Afghanistan desk for the National Security Council, told Fox News that he is ‘confident’ that ‘the U.S. is at higher risk of international terrorism today than at any point in the last 20 years.’
Miller called the situation in Afghanistan an ‘avoidable catastrophe.’
‘It was a manmade disaster, it was policy engineered chaos,’ Miller said.
‘The president continues to insist that this was unavoidable. It was inevitable. The war had already been lost. There was no other way out, could not have been would have the chaos. All of this is false.’
Miller claimed that Al Qaeda was ‘on the run’ until the withdrawal of American troops and were ‘spending their energy and their time running and hiding’ from U.S. airstrikes and Special Forces.
‘They didn’t have time to plan their attacks. They now have breathing room to reconstitute themselves and focus on creating, recruiting, fundraising and planning. They couldn’t do that for 20 years. Now they can,’ Miller said.
‘That means we are all at heightened risk of a terrorist attack – not just United States, but this could very well be our European partners as well.’