Top US General Says 'Likely' Civil War in Afghanistan Could Prompt 'Reconstitution of Al-Qaeda'
The US completed its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, just a day before the official deadline. While the closure marked the end of the US' near 20-year mission in the Afghanistan, it has also raised concerns about the future of the Central Asian nation.
A top US military general admitted on Saturday that Afghanistan could soon see a civil war break out with warring factions in the nation, warning that such a development could pave the way for the resurgence of al-Qaeda.
The prediction was voiced by top US Gen. Mark Milley, who serves as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during an interview in Ramstein, Germany, with Fox News' Jennifer Griffin. At the time, Milley had been at the American base to offer his well wishes to troops involved in the process of evacuating Afghans.
Asked whether the US was safer now that the troop withdrawal had officially wrapped up, Milley conceded that it remained unclear, as he believes that the war-torn nation was not yet on the path of peace and calm.
© AP Photo / Caroline BrehmanChairman of the Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2022 for the Department of Defense in Washington on Thursday, June 17, 2021.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2022 for the Department of Defense in Washington on Thursday, June 17, 2021.
© AP Photo / Caroline Brehman
"My military estimate is…that the conditions are likely to develop [into] a civil war," Milley remarked during the exclusive weekend interview. "I don't know if the Taliban is going to [be] able to consolidate power and establish governance."
"I think there's at least a very good probability of a broader civil war and that will then, in turn, lead to conditions that could, in fact, lead to a reconstitution of al-Qaeda or a growth of ISIS or other myriad of terrorist groups," he added.
Milley further noted that while officials are keeping a close watch on the developments in Afghanistan, it has been clear to US military leadership that hurdles were on the horizon. "You could see a resurgence of terrorism coming out of that general region within 12, 24, 36 months," he acknowledged.
With US soldiers no longer on the ground in Afghanistan, Milley reiterated that the US would be tapping its security and intelligence-gathering sources. Additionally, potential airstrikes remain an option, as previously stated by US President Joe Biden.
Biden revealed in his August 16 televised address that the US would be continuing its military operations past the August 31 withdrawal date in Afghanistan through the use of "counterterrorism over-the-horizon capabilities" the US has demonstrated in Somalia with its drone wars.
Milley told Griffin that military strikes are "possible," but that "we're going to have to maintain very, very intense levels of indicators and warnings and observation and ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] over that entire region."
The exclusive interview also saw Milley detail the ongoing efforts to process thousands of Afghan evacuees who are headed to the US, explaining that interagency measures taken by officials include a variety of biometrics.
Milley went on to also emphasize that the US had in fact been blindsided by how quickly the Taliban managed to sweep to power, noting that the group's swift takeover was largely enabled by citizens' lack of faith in the Afghan government.
"One of the fundamental issues I think clearly is the corruption in the government…the government itself not having the legitimacy in the eyes of the people," Milley said. "You saw what happened at the end. The senior government elites, they all just literally bugged out."
The Taliban managed to officially take control of the Afghan capital of Kabul on August 15. The rapid takeover unfolded over a matter of months, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani eventually fleeing the city as the Taliban entered the capital.