U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Qatari capital Doha, on September 7, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
UPDATED 3:40 PM PT – Thursday, September 9, 2021
Defense officials fear the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan could allow terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda to rebuild in the country.
“I think you know the nature of Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K is that, you know, they will always attempt to find space to grow and regenerate,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Austin spoke to reporters in Kuwait City, saying the extremist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks could regenerate.
“I think the whole community is kind of watching to see what happens and whether or not Al-Qaeda has the ability to regenerate in Afghanistan. You know, we put the Taliban on notice that we expect them to not allow that to happen,” stated Austin.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, Al-Qaeda used the country as a staging base to attack the U.S. on 9/11. The U.S. eventually overthrew the Taliban after they refused to turn over Al-Qaeda leaders following the terrorist attack. This led to the extremist group diminishing over the course of the 20-year war.
However, warnings of the group’s resurgence has surfaced as the Taliban regains control of Afghanistan. Although, Austin said the U.S. is prepared to prevent Al-Qaeda from rising again.
“We do have the ability to address threats using our over the horizon capability and you’ve also heard me say that our capability has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years,” the Defense Secretary said.
Under the Trump administration Taliban leaders promised not to support terrorist groups which would threaten the U.S. However, U.S. officials believe the Taliban has ties to Al-Qaeda and the international community is monitoring the situation in order to track any attempts by the terrorist group to make a comeback.