US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday the Al-Qaeda extremist group that used Afghanistan as a staging base to attack United States 20 years ago may attempt to regenerate there following an American withdrawal that has left the Taliban in power.
The Taliban had provided Al-Qaeda with sanctuary while it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The US invaded and overthrew the Taliban after it refused to turn over Al-Qaida leaders following the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States. During the course of the 20-year US war, Al-Qaeda was vastly diminished, but questions have arisen about its future prospects with Taliban back in Kabul.
“We put the Taliban on notice that we expect them to not allow that to happen,” Austin said, referring to the possibility of Al-Qaeda using Afghanistan as a staging base in the future.
In a February 2020 agreement with the Trump administration, Taliban leaders pledged not to support al-Qaeda or other extremist groups that would threaten the United States. But U.S. officials believe the Taliban maintain ties to al-Qaeda, and many nations, including Gulf Arab states, are concerned that the Taliban’s return to power could open the door to a resurgence of al-Qaeda influence.