During a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, FBI director Christopher Wray expressed the fear that Afghanistan could transform into a terrorist sanctuary now that U.S. military withdrawal has left a power vacuum.
“We are, of course, concerned that there will be an opportunity for a safe haven to be re-created there, which is certainly something we’ve seen in the past,” Wray said during the briefing.
“We are also concerned that the events there could serve as a catalyst or inspiration for terrorists,” he added.
Now that U.S. forces and intelligence operations have been removed from Afghanistan soil, Wray suggested that terrorist groups could potentially use it as a launchpad for mobilization and future attacks.
“Most importantly we [are] concerned that foreign terrorist organizations will be able to reconstitute, plot, inspire in a space that is much harder for us to collect intelligence and operate against than was the case previously,” he affirmed.
The Biden administration has assured that it can still conduct reconnaissance over Afghanistan to monitor growing threats, likely by operating bases in neighboring countries. However, military officials have acknowledged that U.S. surveillance capabilities are restricted without a presence stationed on the ground in Afghanistan. To bridge the intelligence gap created by U.S. departure, some U.S. security personnel have suggested entering into intelligence- or base-sharing deals with nations in proximity to Afghanistan, such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, or Tajikistan, the New York Times reported.
In the past, President Biden has characterized Afghanistan as a territory that incubates less terrorism than other countries, despite last month’s bomb attack perpetrated by ISIS-K that left over a dozen American servicemen and hundreds of Afghan civilians dead.
“We run effective counterterrorism operations around the world where we know terrorism is more of a threat than it is today in Afghanistan, without any permanent military presence on the ground,” Biden said in August at a press briefing.