U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the al-Qaida extremist group that used Afghanistan as a staging base to attack the United States 20 years ago may attempt to regenerate there following an American withdrawal that has left the Taliban in power.
“The whole community is kind of watching to see what happens and whether or not al-Qaida has the ability to regenerate in Afghanistan,” he said. “The nature of al-Qaida and (the Islamic State group) is they will always attempt to find space to grow and regenerate, whether it’s there, whether it’s in Somalia, or whether it’s in any other ungoverned space. I think that’s the nature of the organization.”
He said the United States is prepared to prevent an al-Qaida comeback that would threaten the United States.
“We put the Taliban on notice that we expect them to not allow that to happen,” Austin said.
The Taliban provided a safe haven for the terrorist organization during their previous stint in power. The U.S. overthrew the Taliban in 2001 after it invaded the country in the wake of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
In a peace agreement signed with the Trump administration, the Taliban promised not to support al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations. But military officials believe that the Taliban continue to maintain ties with al-Qaida in some capacity.