The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan may be hailed as the end of a 20-year war, but with American forces no longer on the ground there, experts and lawmakers warn that countering terrorists who may seek to attack the U.S. will be more difficult.
That concern was summed up by Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., a combat veteran who served as a Green Beret. After 13 American service members were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport days before the withdrawal was complete, Waltz predicted that the violence will not end there.
“The War in Afghanistan has not ended. It’s been extended,” Waltz tweeted Monday evening. “Terrorism in Afghanistan won’t stay in Afghanistan. It will spread like a cancer and follow us home.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “he has “never been more worried about an attack on our homeland” than at the present, and that the chance of another 9/11-style attack has now gone “through the roof.”
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of research at the Brookings Institution, doubted that the chances of another 9/11 attack coming out of Afghanistan are high considering the improvements in counterterrorism tools over the past two decades, but he did note that withdrawing from the country will make prevention all the more difficult.
“I think the counterterrorism effort will now become harder, less efficient, more demanding on the time of busy policymakers, possibly more expensive, and perhaps somewhat less successful,” O’Hanlon told Fox News.
Dan Byman, also a senior fellow at Brookings, said that it is “unclear” to what degree, if any, the Taliban will allow Al Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan now. He also noted that Al Qaeda is weaker than they were 20 years ago. Still, he viewed the American withdrawal as encouraging to Islamic terrorists.
“The Taliban victory in Afghanistan is being celebrated by jihadists and is seen as proof that, if they endure, they can eventually triumph,” Byman told Fox News.
Byman, like O’Hanlon, pointed to the U.S. maintaining the ability to strike at terror groups, while recognizing that it would be been easier to do so if there was still an American military presence on the ground.
“The U.S. still has means of attacking Al Qaeda and other jihadists in Afghanistan, although these are less effective than if the U.S. had troops there,” he said.