Afghanistan mess: Biden’s national security agencies cite growing problems 15 months after withdrawal

The leaders of President Biden’s top national security agencies testified that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan after U.S. troop withdrawal last August has contributed to violence and poor humanitarian conditions, and poses a possible national security threat to the United States.

Leaders from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) gave that assessment to the House Homeland Security Committee Tuesday, close to 15 months after the U.S. haphazardly left Afghanistan after 20 years and allowed the Taliban to take over.

Christine Abizaid, director of ODNI’s National Counterterrorism Center, told the committee that violent extremism continues to pose a threat to the West and is contributing to “worsening humanitarian conditions in regions like Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.”

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Taliban soldiers stand guard in the days after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
(AP Photo/Mohammad Asif Khan)

ISIS-Khorasan, which the State Department designated as a foreign terrorist organization, was responsible for the suicide bombing that killed 13 American service members in the days before the U.S. left the country. Some experts fear the group could be gathering its strength once more without any U.S. presence in the country, including by targeting Afghans who helped the U.S. military.

Abizaid told the House committee that ISIS-K now appears to be conducting operations outside Afghanistan.

“This year, ISIS-Khorasan expanded its ambitions outside Afghanistan with a handful of cross-border rocket attacks against Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and a foiled plot in India,” she said in her written testimony. “Its ambitions for attacking the West — possibly including the Homeland — remains a top intelligence priority, notwithstanding the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan last August.”

She added that an al Qaeda affiliate in Afghanistan is one of that group’s weaker outposts but said that group “remains intent on striking U.S. interests” even though it “currently lacks a capability to direct attacks against the United States from Afghanistan.”

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DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the withdrawal is being used to stoke violence in the region.
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the leaders of both al Qaeda and ISIS are known to be citing the 9/11 attacks on America in 2001 and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to “encourage the use of violence.”

Additionally, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the committee that his agency “remains concerned about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan,” and noted that the intent of foreign terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and ISIS and their affiliates around the world is to “carry out or inspire large-scale attacks in the United States.”

Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership this week said it would enforce Islamic Sharia law in that country, a legal system that among other things calls for public floggings and executions and reduced rights for women.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agency is worried about the ability of terrorist organizations to strike the U.S.
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The Biden administration left hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan when it withdrew at the end of August 2021, and House Republicans are expected to hold oversight hearings on the withdrawal next year.

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“The Taliban was put in charge of the perimeter, the suicide bomber came in and killed 13 servicemen and women. And then American citizens left behind and a hundred thousand Afghan partners that we promised we would protect them [are] at the mercy of the Taliban. Now China is in there,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told Fox News Digital last week. McCaul is expected to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Afghanistan will be a major area of focus,” he said.

Fox News’ Kelly Laco contributed to this report.