Neocons and Ex-CIA Operatives Warn US Should Brace For 9/11-Style Attacks After Fall of Afghanistan
10:48 GMT 21.08.2021 (Updated: 12:51 GMT 21.08.2021)
© AP Photo / Will MorrisIn this 11 September 2001 file photo, damage to the outer ring of the Pentagon is shown after a hijacked airliner crashed into the building
© AP Photo / Will Morris
The Taliban* marched into Kabul last Sunday, bringing a formal end to the West’s deadly, twenty-year $2.2 trillion experiment in nation-building.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has increased the global terror threat to its highest level since the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, and a new al-Qaeda* attack on America may be in the offing, neocon researchers and a former CIA operative speaking to Fox News have suggested.
Tom Copeland, director of research at the Centennial Institute, a neoconservative think tank at Colorado Christian University, believes that the Biden administration’s decision to pull US forces out of Afghanistan completely will allow al-Qaeda to reconstitute itself.
“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 US withdrawal itself is a large part of that threat,” Copeland suggested.
Copeland expects al-Qaeda to fully resume operations in Afghanistan with the West gone, resulting in the threat of new attacks against the US, which is now ‘blind on the ground’ due to a lack of military bases, a CIA presence and an Embassy.
“Even though we may be better organized to defend the homeland than we were in 2001, this withdrawal is going to leave us with a much more limited window into what the terrorists are doing inside Afghanistan,” he said.
Victor Davis Hanson, a neocon historian who adamantly supported the Bush administration’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s, echoed Copeland’s sentiments, suggesting 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; 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 US deterrence,” Hanson argued.
Paul D. Miller, a former soldier and CIA operative, told the network that he is “confident” in assessing “that the US is at higher risk of international terrorism today than at any point in the last 20 years,” claiming that al-Qaeda was “on the run” until Biden’s withdrawal, but now can calmly begin to plotting new attacks in as little as half a year from now.
“That doesn’t mean we’ll have an attack in six months, it does take time to plan these spectacular events…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,” he said.
In recent weeks, the Taliban has sent delegations of diplomatic emissaries to multiple countries, including Russia, Iran and Qatar, and has assured the international community that it would not allow foreign terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS)* to operate in areas it controls. It remains unclear whether the ultraconservative Sunni militia group will live up to these promises.
Neocon talking heads aren’t the only ones pointing to a possible threat of a resurgent terror threat from Afghanistan. In June, a report to the United Nations Security Council indicated that ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban’s Haqqani Network “remain close, based on ideological alignment, relationships forged through common struggle and intermarriage,” and that “a significant part of the leadership of al-Qaeda resides in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region.”
The UN document pointed out that the Taliban “has begun to tighten its control over al-Qaeda by gathering information on foreign terrorist fighters and registering and restricting them,” but warned that it was “impossible to assess with confidence that the Taliban will live up to its commitment to suppress any future international threat emanating from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.”
Separately, last month, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu indicated that Russian military intelligence was aware that terrorist militants are being shuttled into Afghanistan from Syria, Libya and several other countries. Shoigu did not specify whether a state actor was involved in these operations.
Al-Qaeda ‘Gone’, Biden Claims, as Pentagon Contradicts Him
In the aftermath of Sunday’s unexpected collapse of the Afghan government, Biden has repeatedly defended the withdrawal of US forces by suggesting that Washington succeeded in its original mission of going into the country to “get” suspected 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and to “wipe out” the terrorist group “as best we could.”
Biden reiterated his claims about al-Qaeda being “gone” from Afghanistan on Friday, only to be contradicted by Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who told reporters at a briefing that “we know that al-Qaeda is a presence, as well as ISIS, in Afghanistan,” and that the US no longer has precise data on their numbers.
“It’s not like they carry ID cards. And our intelligence-gathering ability in Afghanistan isn’t what it used to be,” he complained. Kirby noted that as far as the US was aware, there “isn’t a significant presence to merit a threat to our homeland, as there was back on 9/11 twenty years ago.”
The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 on the pretext that it was harbouring Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and presumed mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, which were carried out by 19 men, including fifteen Saudi nationals, two Emiratis, one Lebanese and one Egyptian. The Taliban refused to hand bin Laden over to the US without proof from Washington of his involvement in the acts of terror. The US coalition quickly managed to topple the Taliban, bin Laden fled to Pakistan, and a two-decade long counterinsurgency and nation-building operation began, costing the US over $2 trillion and thousands of lives. Over 100,000 Afghan civilians have also been killed, and millions more have been displaced. In May 2011, a Navy SEAL team swooped into bin Laden’s mansion in a wealthy suburb of Abbottabad and assassinated him, but never released pictures of the dead terrorist leader, fearing it might “offend terrorists” and cause new attacks.
* Terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.