Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), the top Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security, is warning that the collapse of the Afghan government into Taliban control has led to an increased threat of an attack on U.S. soil.
The New York Republican said that the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal of troops — which led to the rapid Taliban takeover in the region — has put the U.S. in a more vulnerable position, restricting its access to intel and providing a “safe haven” for terrorists.
“I guess the best way to describe it is that the United States is in a much more difficult posture today than it was even two days ago,” he told The Post in an interview. “And because we are going back to our pre-9/11 footing, Afghanistan is going to provide a breeding ground once again for terrorists, and that has profound implications for the homeland.”
Katko noted the fall of the allied Afghan government in conjunction with the release of thousands of prisoners, including senior al Qaeda operatives, after the Taliban captured Bagram Air Base on Sunday heightens the risk for a 9/11-style attack. He cautioned that vulnerabilities at the southern border could become increasingly problematic, and called on the administration to implement stronger policies to reduce the possibility of terrorists entering the country.
“Let’s not forget that is where the 9/11 attacks emanated from, in Afghanistan, and the terror training camps they had there. So you have that and you have 5,000 prisoners, many of whom are the worst of the worst among the terror community, that were released into the population the last couple of days, and they have the ability to set up camp and start their operations once again in Afghanistan,” he continued.
“You couple that with the open borders that we have in the southern border that we have on the southern border of the United States, and the fact that we’ve already seen a significant uptick in the number of known or suspected terrorists coming across the border this year, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Katko added that the Taliban’s increasing power also creates the capacity for terrorists ability to recruit homegrown radicals.
“The final piece of the puzzle is that they will also have a base from which they can really, in a more sophisticated manner, foment the homegrown violent extremism in the United States like ISIS was pretty adept at doing when they were in their prime and have a territory,” he said
Katko said that by leaving the region the U.S. has surrendered part of its ability to collect critical intel from adversaries that could help prevent a terrorist attack in the homeland.
It’s gonna be very difficult to prevent it now, not impossible but much more difficult, because we don’t have boots on the ground there, and we don’t have intel gathering opportunities there. So that’s a real real concern, and we are going to be kind of flying blind trying to anticipate what’s going on with terror networks who can operate in the dark web and everything else so it’s gonna be very difficult,” he said. “I don’t think, not America has a stomach to try and go back in now and put the genie back in the bottle because to do so they have to spend a tremendous amount of bloodshed again and treasure and I don’t think the American people are willing to do that nor do I think we should do that.”
The New York Republican said that the administration will need to “redouble our intel community efforts” moving forward.
“There’s no question that our presence over there was, it was at a great tremendous cost to American soldiers and to the American people. But there’s also no question that their presence made us safer and kept our country safer back home,” he said.
“There’s no question that if we even kept at 2500 at Bagram Airbase, and just had basically a security posture, or a defensive posture, and continued to interact with the Afghan army and have our drones, which are terrifying to the bad guys, have them there in a meaningful operate with efficiency, we would be in a much better position there.”
In addition to the increased threat from terrorist groups including Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS, Katkop said that China’s decision to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s official government could prove to be detrimental for the nation’s security.
“It’s a tremendous threat because China now has a proxy, that being the Taliban ,and again the terrorists are sure to flourish there, they have a proxy to do their dirty work for them. And China would love nothing more, and so would Russian, would love nothing more to see mayhem and discord in the United State,” he said.
“There’s no better way to do that and to have Afghanistan the way it is and to n folks from Afghanistan, creating mayhem in the United States, and you know China doesn’t have to have fingerprints on it.”