US Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin stated Thursday the al-Qaida 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 stated the USA is ready to stop an al-Qaida comeback in Afghanistan that may threaten the USA.
“The entire neighborhood is type of watching to see what occurs and whether or not or not al-Qaida has the power to regenerate in Afghanistan,” he stated. “The character of al-Qaida and (the Islamic State group) is they may all the time try to seek 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 some other ungoverned house. I feel that’s the character of the group.”
The Taliban had offered al-Qaida with sanctuary whereas it dominated Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The U.S. invaded and overthrew the Taliban after it refused to show over al-Qaida leaders following the Sept. 11, 2001 assault on the USA. Through the course of the 20-year U.S. conflict, al-Qaida 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 count on them to not permit that to occur,” Austin stated, referring to the potential of al-Qaida utilizing Afghanistan as a staging base sooner or later.
In a February 2020 settlement with the Trump administration, Taliban leaders pledged to not help al-Qaida or different extremist teams that may threaten the USA. However U.S. officers imagine the Taliban preserve ties to al-Qaida, and many countries, together with Gulf Arab states, are involved that the Taliban’s return to energy may open the door to a resurgence of al-Qaida affect.
Austin has asserted that the U.S. army is able to containing al-Qaida or some other extremist menace to the USA 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 it will likely be tougher with out U.S. 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 hundreds 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 had been meant to reassure Gulf allies that President Joe Biden’s choice to finish the U.S. conflict in Afghanistan in an effort to focus extra on different safety challenges like China and Russia doesn’t foretell an abandonment of U.S. companions within the Center East.
The US army has had a presence within the Gulf for many years, together with the Navy’s fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. Biden has not instructed 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 common, has a deep community of contacts within the Gulf area primarily based partially on his years commanding U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and later as head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees US army operations within the Center East. This week’s journey, nonetheless, 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 stated 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 had been,” he stated.
The Saudi cease notably was to occur two days earlier than the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist assaults on the USA that killed almost 3,000 folks. Fifteen of the lads who hijacked business airliners and crashed them into the dual towers of the World Commerce Middle, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania area on Sept. 11, 2001 had 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 conflict in Afghanistan.
U.S. relations with the Saudi authorities have been strained at occasions within the intervening years. In 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman oversaw an unprecedented crackdown in opposition to activists, rivals and perceived critics. The 12 months culminated within the ugly 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 information 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 a press release 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 information of the terrorist assault or had been in any means concerned in its planning or execution.”