A top Pentagon official suggested the US could work with the Taliban to fight ISIS-K

Milley and Austin
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley at a press briefing on September 1, 2021. AP Photo/Susan Walsh
  • Gen. Mark Milley did not rule out working with the Taliban to fight ISIS-K in Afghanistan.

  • "In war, you do what you must in order to reduce risk," Milley said Tuesday.

  • The US was reliant on the Taliban last week to provide security around Kabul's airport.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not rule out the possibility of the US working with the Taliban in the fight against ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan.

At a Wednesday press conference alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Milley addressed the recent unlikely partnership between the Taliban and US in Kabul.

Last week the US was reliant on the Taliban, the militant group with whom the US has been at war for two decades, to provide security around Kabul's airport where the US was evacuating citizens and Afghan allies.

The airport and a nearby hotel was struck by two explosions last Thursday, resulting in the deaths of at least 169 Afghan civilians and 13 US service members. ISIS-K has claimed responsibility. The US also blamed the group for the attack.

On the US working with the Taliban to secure Kabul's airport last week, Milley said Wednesday: "In war, you do what you must in order to reduce risk."

And when pressed on whether the US could work with the Taliban to target ISIS-K, Milley replied: "It's possible."

Austin, however, expressed more skepticism about the prospect of future US collaboration with the Taliban.

"I would not make any leaps of logic to broader issues," he said.

On Thursday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his country was "engaging" with the Taliban, but that it had no plans to formally recognize the militant group.

The US and Taliban face a common enemy in ISIS-K, which is responsible for a series of brutal terror attacks and considers the Taliban to be insufficiently hardline, and apostates for negotiating with former Afghan government and western powers.

In the wake of last week's attack, the US launched a drone strike in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, which the Pentagon said targeted ISIS-K "planners and facilitators."

Then on Saturday, with US officials warning another ISIS-K attack was imminent, the Pentagon launched another drone strike in Kabul that the US says killed two militants and also killed a family and several children.

Critics have said the US' capacity to combat terrorism in the region will be diminished as a result of its troop withdrawal, but Biden administration officials have said the US remains able to monitor terrorist groups and strike them from other military bases in the region.

The US completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday, ending its longest war, having ousted the Taliban in 2001 as part of its campaign against terrorist group al-Qaeda in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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