On Sunday Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley informed senators terrorist groups will be "reconstituted" in Afghanistan at a much greater speed than previously thought - and thus threat levels to US interests will likely increase. This after any gains made over 20 years of the US military's 'counterterror' mission in its Afghan 'forever war' and occupation seems to have evaporated overnight.
Milley's phone call to senators which involved top Biden admin officials was reported by Axios, and included Sen. Lindsey Graham grilling both the Joint Chiefs chairman and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on events surrounding the rapid weekend takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also on the call and subject of Congressional questioning over the still ongoing disaster.
The two top defense officials were asked "whether, in light of recent events, they will revise an assessment to Congress in June of a 'medium' risk of terrorist groups reconstituting in Afghanistan within two years," by the senators.
According to Axios the response was bluntly in the affirmative:
Milley responded "yes" — that he would have to assume that that timeline would get moved up, and that he would be happy to brief senators in a classified setting.
Ironically, thinking all the way back to the Bush-era launch of the war in 2001, the driving rationale for the invasion and toppling the Taliban in the first place was to "protect the US homeland from terrorism". Over two decades later the Pentagon now finds itself right back where it started.
More details of the no doubt tense call were reported by Axios as follows:
- Senators from both parties pressed Milley and Austin on efforts to evacuate U.S. personnel and the many thousands of Afghans who helped Americans in the war effort and are desperate to escape to save their lives from Taliban vengeance.
- A source on the call said the sad reality is there is no way they can evacuate by Aug 31. the more than 20,000 Afghans who want to escape the country. Many of them aren't in Kabul, the source said, and "if you're not in Kabul now how do you get to Kabul?"
- Two takeaways for me," the source said.
Further the defense officials lamented that "We're gonna leave tens of thousands of people behind" and that ultimately after over 20 years of war "the timeline in terms of threats has accelerated."
Kabul's 'Saigon moment' all over town as civilians scramble to get out...
Credible report that the US is offering vast sums of cash to the Taliban in order to allow evacuations to proceed. Hope US media is on top of this story— Bruno Maçães (@MacaesBruno) August 15, 2021
Other European countries such as Germany are mulling issuing emergency visas for Afghan translators and other local personnel who assisted NATO troops; however, the efforts are increasingly looking like too little too late.