Exclusive: Afghanistan withdrawal ‘could drive a surge in radicalization’ and terrorist attacks, says leaked government report

·Investigative Correspondent
·2 min read

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could make terrorist attacks inside the U.S. and abroad more likely, according to an intelligence report distributed yesterday to government and law enforcement agencies.

“We assess domestic and foreign violent extremists probably are attempting to exploit the US withdrawal from and deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan to inspire attacks and recruit like-minded extremists online,” reads the Department of Homeland Security report, dated Aug. 27. A copy of the report, written by DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, was obtained exclusively by Yahoo News.

“The Department of Homeland Security regularly shares information regarding the heightened threat environment with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officials to ensure the safety and security of all communities across the country," a DHS spokesperson wrote in an email to Yahoo News. "DHS encourages the public to stay vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

DHS Afghanistan by Yahoo News

One of the concerns about the U.S. withdrawal is that it could once again create a safe haven for al-Qaida, the terrorist group that carried out the 9/11 attacks almost 20 years ago. Earlier this month, President Biden defended his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan amid the country's escalating chaos, saying al-Qaida was “degraded,” and insisted that even without forces present in the country, the U.S. military could conduct counterterrorism operations there if needed.

But the rapid collapse of the U.S.-backed central government in Kabul to the Taliban, and the suicide bombings carried out by a branch of the Islamic State on Thursday at Kabul International Airport, have left the Biden administration struggling to defend its decision. 

The DHS report, however, points to concerns beyond foreign groups operating abroad, like the Islamic State. The withdrawal, it warns, could also drive domestic extremism.

“We assess that the Taliban’s sustained control of Afghanistan could drive a surge in radicalization of US-based violent extremists and probably contribute to increased support for foreign terrorist organizations in the United States, including facilitation activities and attempted travel to Afghanistan,” the report says.

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