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September 28, 2021

DOD Officials Confirm Al-Qaeda Still 'At War' With U.S., Withdrawal Makes Counterterrorism More Difficult

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today questioned Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Kenneth McKenzie, Commander of U.S. Central Command, about whether Al-Qaeda is still a threat. The witnesses confirmed Al-Qaeda is still a threat to the homeland, that Al-Qaeda is still at war with the United States and that withdrawing from Afghanistan makes the United States less safe.

Inhofe: One good way to judge any President’s decision is whether it’s made the American people safer. Generals – I’ll ask all three of you – you have both noted that the Taliban has not severed its relationship with Al-Qaeda.

President Biden stated on July 8 that Al-Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan.

I’d ask you, is Al-Qaeda gone from Afghanistan?

Austin: Senator, I think there are remnants of Al-Qaeda still in Afghanistan.

Inhofe: Does anyone believe Al-Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan?

[Silence]

Inhofe: President Biden stated at the U.N. recently that this nation is no longer at war. Is it your personal view that Al-Qaeda is no longer at war with us?

Milley: I believe Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan, I believe they have aspirations to reconstitute, and if they develop the capability I believe they have aspirations to strike. It’s too early in the process, Senator, to determine the capability, but I do believe –

Inhofe: Do you believe the personal view that was stated that Al-Qaeda is at war with us?

Milley: I think Al-Qaeda is still at war with the United Sates still and never has not been.

Inhofe: Thank you. Does the withdrawal from Afghanistan increase or decrease the likelihood of an Al-Qaeda or ISIS attack on the U.S. homeland?

Milley: Are you asking me, Senator?

Inhofe: Sure.

Milley: My view is that it makes it much more difficult for us to conduct intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, find-fix functions. Then we can strike almost from anywhere in the world, but the find-fix function is more difficult. We can still do it, it’s not impossible, but it will make it more difficult.

Inhofe: General Milley and McKenzie, we entrusted security to the Taliban, but they failed to prevent the ISIS-K suicide bomber on August 26th. We don’t really even know if they wanted to prevent it. Now we’re in the same situation of trusting the Taliban to prevent attacks. The Senator from Missouri brought up and talked again about the fact that, what is the situation right now? And I think we don’t really – after this several hours – have an answer to that.

I do want bring something in the record that I don’t think has been put in the record already and this is the conditions under which the previous administration after making the statement about the Taliban. Not only did the previous president have conditions, and the conditions included having a presence, a military presence, but they also had four other things that were stated that were those conditions: one, to prevent Al-Qaeda and the terrorists from threatening United States from Afghanistan; secondly, to make statements and commandants to its members against threatening the United States; thirdly, deny residence and visas and passports to those threatening the United States allies; and fourthly, begin negotiations with the Afghan Government. Those were the conditions that were made at that time, and this has been stated several times. It’s my opinion and the opinion of many who have testified at this hearing that there were no conditions [in President Biden’s withdrawal]. I believe that is the case.

Click here to watch Inhofe’s first round of Q&A. 

 Click here to watch Inhofe’s opening remarks.


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