Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said on Wednesday that "It's a real possibility" that al-Qaida or ISIS could re-form within the next few months following the collapse of Afghanistan’s government.
Milley told the House Armed Services Committee that although the threat of terrorism from Afghanistan currently remains less than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, "the conditions could be set for a reconstitution of al-Qaida and/or ISIS," according to The Hill.
He said, "It's a real possibility in the not too distant future, six, 12, 18, 24, 36 months, that kind of timeframe, for reconstitution of al-Qaida or ISIS."
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who also testified before the panel, also noted that "there is clearly a possibility" for those terrorist groups to reform in Afghanistan.
"Al-Qaida has been degraded over time. Now, terrorist organizations seek ungoverned spaces so that they can train and equip and thrive and, and so, there is clearly a possibility that that can happen here, going forward," he said. "Our goal is to maintain a laser-like focus on this so that it doesn't happen."
He also said that he couldn’t rule out whether the U.S. could return to Afghanistan at some point in the near future.
"While I won't rule anything out, I would just say it's not preordained that we will go back or have to go back into Afghanistan again," Austin said. "But if we do, the military will provide good credible options to be able to do that and to be effective."
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