Former Acting and Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell predicted Sunday that Afghanistan is likely to devolve into a new haven of global jihadist terrorism, now that the Taliban have firmly retaken control in the wake of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal.
“The Taliban winning the war in Afghanistan and then the way our exit happened has absolutely inspired jihadists all over the world,” said Mr. Morell, a career intelligence analyst who rose to the highest ranks of the CIA during the Obama years in Washington.
His comments coincided with growing unease in U.S. national security circles over the extent to which the Taliban — itself a hardline Islamist militant group — is working with jihadist terrorists, despite promises by Taliban leaders to deny safe haven to groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State, or ISIS-K, as the latter’s Afghanistan branch is known.
“The Taliban is saying: ‘We just didn’t defeat the United States. We defeated NATO. We defeated the world’s greatest military power ever.’ So there’s a celebration going on,” Mr. Morell said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He went on to refer to the former Soviet Union’s failed Afghanistan occupation, which preceded the U.S. and NATO campaigns of the past two decades. With the Soviet Union having collapsed following its 1989 withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, Mr. Morell said the Taliban now may be saying to themselves, “We defeated the Soviet Union. Then it fell. Now we’ve defeated NATO, right? Maybe they can fall, too.”
“I think not only will jihadists be inspired, but a lot of them are going to come to Afghanistan to be part of the celebration, to be part of jihadist central,” Mr. Morell said, adding that while jihadists “scattered from Afghanistan” after 9/11, they’re likely to now return to the war-torn Central Asian nation.
“I think we’re going to see a flow back in, and that’s one of the things that makes Afghanistan more dangerous than other spots on the planet,” he said.