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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

‘Al-Qaida could strike US from Afghanistan base next year’

Al-Qaida may be able to reconstitute itself in Afghanistan and be capable of orchestrating attacks inside the US in one to two years, two senior US intelligence officials said.
“The current assessment probably, conservatively, is one to two years for al-Qaida to build some capability to at least threaten the homeland,” lieutenant general Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said at an intelligence conference on Tuesday.
“We’re thinking about ways to gain access back into Afghanistan with all kinds of sources and accesses,” Berrier said. “We are prioritizing that effort. We’ll continue to prioritize it. But we have to be careful to balance these very scarce resources.”
US intelligence agencies are already seeing activities by the terrorist group once led by Osama bin Laden to re-establish itself in Afghanistan, said CIA deputy director David Cohen, who agreed with the timeline of one to two years.

Both intelligence leaders spoke at a summit on Tuesday in the suburbs of Washington hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance and the nonprofit group AFCEA.
Top defense officials have insisted since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan that the US will have “over-the-horizon” capabilities to understand what’s going on inside Afghanistan and to take action against terrorists, which likely would include drone attacks.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Monday said the greatest threat to the US from international terrorists comes from nations such as Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Iraq, with Afghanistan further down the priority list after the two-decade American troop presence ended.

“We don’t prioritize — at the top of the list — Afghanistan,” Haines said at the same conference. “What we’re looking at is Yemen and Somalia, Syria and Iraq. That’s where we see the greatest threat.”
Domestic threats
But the general warning of al-Qaida regaining its capabilities to stage attacks in the US from Afghanistan isn’t new. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin told a Senate committee in June that “it would take possibly two years for them to develop that capability.”
One of the more immediate threats comes from domestic terrorists inside the US, intelligence officials have said.
Law enforcement agencies are on high alert ahead of a rally planned for this Saturday at the US Capitol. Organizers say the rally is intended to peacefully demand “justice” for hundreds of “political prisoners” charged in the deadly January 6 riot at the Capitol.
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The FBI isn’t aware of any specific, credible threats of violence ahead of the rally, FBI deputy director Paul Abbate said at the conference on Tuesday.
“We don’t have any specific credible threat information about violence that may occur there,“ Abbate said.
Law enforcement agencies are focused on preparing for the event, he said.
“There’s a lot of planning and preparation that is going into this,“ he said. “I believe everyone is well prepared to keep the city and citizens safe.”

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