Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley admitted Saturday that Afghanistan, in the hands of the Taliban, is "very likely" to become a safe haven for terrorist groups, like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
What did Milley say?
While speaking with Fox News, Milley said the resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan could happen "within 12, 24, 36 months."
"My military estimate is that the conditions are likely to develop [into] a civil war," Milley said. "I don't know if the Taliban is going to able to consolidate power and establish governance."
"But I think there's at least a very good probability of a broader civil war and that will then in turn lead to conditions that could, in fact, lead to a reconstitution of Al-Qaeda or a growth of ISIS or other myriad of terrorist groups," he added.
Milley explained the current "challenge" for the U.S. is conducting counter-terrorism operations without a military presence in Afghanistan. However, Milley said such operations would continue in an effort to protect the U.S. and its allies.
The top military commander later said "it is too early" to say whether American forces would return to Afghanistan, but he did not discount the possibility.
Milley's comments mirror what he told lawmakers last month immediately following the collapse of Kabul. Milley told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the Taliban's swift victory would accelerate the threat of terrorist groups reconstituting in Afghanistan.
The Taliban, in fact, freed top Al Qaeda terrorists and "thousands" of ISIS-K fighters from Afghanistan prisons.
What is the significance of Milley's admission?
If Milley is correct about the future of Afghanistan, then it would essentially nullify the American military campaign there that spanned nearly two decades, cost trillions of dollars, and resulted in the deaths of thousands of U.S. service members and more than 100,000 Afghans.
In fact, the stated reason for invading Afghanistan in Oct. 2001 following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was to uproot the Taliban-controlled government, which had provided terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, with a safe haven to plot terrorist activity.
What, then, was the point of the war if Afghanistan once again becomes a base of operation for international terrorists? That is a question President Joe Biden will be forced to answer.