US Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin mentioned Thursday the al-Qaeda extremist group that used Afghanistan as a staging base to assault United States 20 years in the past could try to regenerate there following an American withdrawal that has left the Taliban in energy.
Austin spoke to a small group of reporters in Kuwait Metropolis on the conclusion of a four-day tour of Persian Gulf states. He mentioned the US is ready to forestall an al-Qaeda comeback in Afghanistan that will threaten the US.
“The entire group is form of watching to see what occurs and whether or not or not al-Qaeda has the flexibility to regenerate in Afghanistan,” he mentioned. “The character of al-Qaeda and (the Islamic State group) is they are going to at all times try to search out house to develop and regenerate, whether or not it’s there, whether or not it’s in Somalia, or whether or not it’s in every other ungoverned house. I believe that’s the character of the group.”
The Taliban had supplied al-Qaeda with sanctuary whereas it dominated Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The US invaded and overthrew the Taliban after it refused to show over al-Qaida leaders following the Sept. 11, 2001 assault on the US. In the course of the course of the 20-year US struggle, al-Qaeda was vastly diminished, however questions have arisen about its future prospects with the Taliban again in Kabul.
“We put the Taliban on discover that we anticipate them to not enable that to occur,” Austin mentioned, referring to the potential for al-Qaeda utilizing Afghanistan as a staging base sooner or later.
In a February 2020 settlement with the Trump administration, Taliban leaders pledged to not assist al-Qaeda or different extremist teams that will threaten the US.
However US officers consider the Taliban preserve ties to al-Qaeda, and many countries, together with Gulf Arab states, are involved that the Taliban’s return to energy might open the door to a resurgence of al-Qaeda affect.
Austin has asserted that the US navy is able to containing al-Qaeda or every other extremist menace to the US emanating from Afghanistan through the use of surveillance and strike plane primarily based elsewhere, together with within the Persian Gulf.
He additionally has acknowledged that will probably be harder with out US troops and intelligence groups primarily based in Afghanistan.
Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared collectively in Qatar on Tuesday in a present of U.S. gratitude for that Gulf state’s assist with the transit of tens of 1000’s of Afghans and others evacuated from Kabul. Blinken additionally visited an evacuee transit web site in Germany, and Austin visited Bahrain and Kuwait.
Collectively, the Austin and Blinken journeys have been meant to reassure Gulf allies that President Joe Biden’s choice to finish the US struggle in Afghanistan with a purpose to focus extra on different safety challenges like China and Russia doesn’t foretell an abandonment of US companions within the Center East.
The US navy has had a presence within the Gulf for many years, together with the Navy’s fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. Biden has not recommended ending that presence, however he — just like the Trump administration earlier than him — has known as China the No. 1 safety precedence, together with strategic challenges from Russia.
Austin, a retired Military basic, has a deep community of contacts within the Gulf area primarily based partly on his years commanding U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and later as head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. navy operations within the Center East. This week’s journey, nevertheless, was his first to the Gulf since taking workplace in January.
Austin had been scheduled to go to Saudi Arabia on Thursday as the ultimate cease on his Gulf tour. However on Wednesday night his spokesman, John Kirby, introduced that the go to had been dropped as a result of “scheduling points.” Kirby provided no additional clarification however mentioned Austin seemed ahead to rescheduling.
Austin indicated that his go to was postponed on the Saudis’ request. “The Saudis have some scheduling points; I can’t communicate to precisely what they have been,” he mentioned.
The Saudi cease notably was to occur two days earlier than the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist assaults on the US that killed practically 3,000 folks. Fifteen of the boys who hijacked industrial airliners and crashed them into the dual towers of the World Commerce Heart, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania subject on Sept. 11, 2001 have been Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaida community plotted the assault from its base in Afghanistan. The assault prompted the U.S. invasion that turned a 20-year struggle in Afghanistan.
U.S. relations with the Saudi authorities have been strained at instances within the intervening years. In 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman oversaw an unprecedented crackdown in opposition to activists, rivals and perceived critics. The yr culminated within the grotesque killing of Washington Publish contributing columnist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers within the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden directed the declassification of sure paperwork associated to the 9/11 assaults, a gesture to victims’ households who’ve lengthy sought the data in hopes of implicating the Saudi authorities. Public paperwork launched within the final twenty years, together with by the 9/11 Fee, have detailed quite a few Saudi entanglements however haven’t proved authorities complicity.
The Saudi authorities denies any culpability. On Wednesday the Saudi Embassy in Washington launched an announcement welcoming the transfer to declassify and launch extra paperwork associated to 9/11, saying, “no proof has ever emerged to point that the Saudi authorities or its officers had earlier data of the terrorist assault or have been in any manner concerned in its planning or execution.”