ISIS-K terrorists in Afghanistan could have the capability to conduct external attacks on other countries — including the United States — in as little as six to 12 months, a Pentagon official told members of Congress this week.
What are the details?
While testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl warned that the terrorist group has every intention of conducting such attacks but currently lacks the capability. The same is reportedly true of al Qaeda.
But Kahl said that could be changing in relatively short order, according to the Military Times.
"We could see ISIS-K generate that capability somewhere between 6 to 12 months, according to current assessments by the intelligence community. For al Qaida, it would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability," Kahl said during the testimony.
"We have to remain vigilant against that possibility," he added.
CBS News reported that the timeline greatly differs from the one offered by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley in September. At the time, Milley said that ISIS-K or al Qaeda would need six to 36 months to rebuild — and his timeline referred to only reconstitution, not the time it would take to generate capabilities to attack the U.S.
ISIS-K is the terrorist group responsible for killing 13 U.S. service members in a bombing outsid e the Kabul airport in Afghanistan in August.
In October, reports surfaced that the terrorist who carried out the attack was one of thousands of prisoners freed from Bagram Air Base in early August when the Taliban seized control of the facility.
The news only further increased criticism against the Biden administration over its bungled withdrawal process from the country, which resulted in tens of thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals scrambling to exit the country as the Taliban swept through. Many were left stranded.
Testifying alongside Kahl, Lt. Gen. James J. Mingus, joint staff director for operations, was careful to note that the short timeline is only if the U.S. and allies don't intervene.
Kahl, too, seemed to walk back some of the urgency of his report even while warning that "the terrorist threat continues" in the region. He noted that intelligence officials report that the risk to the American homeland "is at its lowest point since Sept. 11, 2001."
Conservative lawmakers reportedly bristled at the comment.
"It doesn't sound like a low risk when you have just told us that the possibility of an attack from ISIS-K on our homeland could come six to 12 months from now," Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) said.