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Terrorist threats emanating from Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Iraq – especially ISIS – pose a greater danger than those that could emerge from Afghanistan, said National Intelligence Director Avril Haines at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit.

“Regarding the homeland, the threat right now from terrorist groups, we are not prioritizing Afghanistan at the top of the list,” she said, speaking by video conference. “What we are looking at is Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Iraq for ISIS. This is where we see the greatest threat.”

Officials have publicly stated that ISIS’s branch in Afghanistan, ISIS-K, poses a potential threat to the United States. The group staged a suicide bombing on August 26, amid the US evacuation of Kabul, which killed 13 US servicemen and dozens of Afghans.

Haines said a primary objective for the intelligence community now is to monitor “any possible reconstitution of terrorist organizations” in Afghanistan.

ISIS still operates in Syria and Iraq, although the group has been held back by the US military presence in both countries. In Yemen, a branch of Al Qaeda based there attempted to attack the United States. And in Somalia, the United States has carried out regular counterterrorism strikes against Al-Shabaab, which in early 2020 launched an attack on a US installation in Kenya that killed a US soldier and two US contractors.

But 20 years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Haines also argued that the threat to the United States homeland by international terrorist groups has largely “abated over time,” attributing the “tremendous effort” to the entire US government to the degradation of the ability of groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS to carry out attacks inside the United States.

CNN previously reported that it has become immeasurably more difficult for the US intelligence community and the US military to gather the information necessary to carry out counterterrorism strikes against ISIS and other targets in Afghanistan without US troops on the ground. ground.

The Biden administration and military commanders have insisted they have what the military calls “on the horizon” capabilities – the ability to monitor and conduct counterterrorism strikes from a distance – that they need to. uncover and prevent terrorist planning in Afghanistan. But former officials, lawmakers and others have cast doubts on the administration’s plan, saying they saw few details to back it up.

Haines said Monday that the intelligence community is developing “indicators so that we can understand what things we are likely to see in the event that there is a reconstitution” of terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

This means ensuring that “we have sufficient collection to monitor these indicators, so that we can provide a warning to the political community, to the operators, so that they are able to take action in the event that we see this. “, she said.


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