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Top Pentagon official confirms ISIS-K could have capability to attack US in '6 to 12 months'

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U.S. intelligence shows that ISIS-K, the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, could potentially have the ability to strike American targets in as little as six months, while al Qaeda can also increase its capabilities, a top Pentagon official said.

Colin Kahl, undersecretary of Defense for policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that neither terror group poses an imminent threat, but that they still must be taken seriously as that could change in a fairly short amount of time.

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“I think the intelligence community currently assesses that both ISIS-K and al Qaeda have the intent to conduct external operations, including against the United States. But neither currently has the capability to do so,” Kahl said. “We could see ISIS-K generate that capability in somewhere between six or 12 months. I think the current assessments by the intelligence community is that al Qaeda would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability.”

Taliban fighters stand guard during women's protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. 

Taliban fighters stand guard during women’s protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Ahmad Halabisaz)

Kahl warned the U.S. must “remain vigilant against that possibility.

Lt. Gen. James Mingus, who also testified at the hearing, agreed with Kahl. The two men faced questions related to security in Afghanistan.

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This was a confirmation of what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the committee about a possible uptick in international terror despite al Qaeda and other groups being weakened in the 20 years since the U.S. first went into Afghanistan.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, later asked Kahl how the U.S. would know if ISIS-K or al Qaeda intend to strike, should they develop the capability to do so. Kahl did not mince words with his response.

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“Well, I think we are actually fairly certain that they have the intention to do so,” he said, citing “considerable evidence.” Kahl said he could go into this further after the hearing shifts to a closed session.

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