The ISIS group operating in Afghanistan will likely be capable of conducting “external operations” against the U.S. and Western allies within just six months, a U.S. commander testified Thursday.
Gen. Michael Kurilla, leader of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., pressed him on how soon he believed that ISIS-K, the branch of the Islamic State operating in Afghanistan, might be capable of carrying out attacks outside of Afghanistan.
“How long would it take ISIS-K to generate the capability to conduct external operations?” Fischer asked.
“Specifically ISIS-Khorasan Senator, it is my commanders’ estimate that they can do an external operation against U.S. or Western interests abroad in under six months with little-to-no warning,” Kurilla responded. “In a classified [hearing], I will talk about why I make that assessment. It is much harder for them to be able to do that against the homeland.”
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Kurilla added that he was requesting more funding for over-the-horizon capabilities in order to keep ISIS-K in check.
His testimony comes more than a year after President Biden ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, a move many critics blasted as a botched disaster. Biden vowed that it would be safe and orderly, but the operation turned out to be both deadly and chaotic.
Thirteen U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing while protecting the evacuation at the Kabul airport. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Afghans surged to the airport seeking to escape the Taliban, with some even clinging to U.S. transport planes as they took off.
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Republicans in the House of Representatives have begun an investigation into Biden’s handling of the withdrawal. Lawmakers seek to examine what they called a “stunning failure” of leadership in their first hearing on the topic last week.
Biden also vowed at the time that the ISIS-K threat would never grow strong enough to strike against the U.S., even after the withdrawal.
“We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed,” he said in August 2021.
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