The West faces ‘extreme danger’ from terror groups filling the security void left behind by the ‘catastrophe’ of departing British forces and their allies in Afghanistan, experts have warned.
Extremists like ISIS and Al-Qaeda could regroup in the wake of the fall of Kabul, with one former diplomat judging the threat to be on a par to that faced by the world before 9/11.
The Taliban, said to have been supported by up to 20 terror groups in a lightning advance to power, took control of the city this morning amid chaotic scenes at the airport as thousands tried to flee, marking an ignominious withdrawal of Western troops following a two-decade mission.
The departure, timed by the US to fall before September 11 this year, could lead to a severe threat ‘coming straight to our door’, one former senior British diplomat warned.
Sir Ivor Roberts, a former UK counter-terrorism chief and senior adviser to the Counter Extremism Project, a Washington-based think tank, said: ‘This is a moment of extreme danger for the West.
‘Quite apart from disaster being visited on Afghan people, the West faces a renewal of the same terrorist threat which led to 9/11 and the rise of ISIS.
‘Some reports have spoken of up to 20 terrorist groups providing foreign fighters to support the Taliban sweep through Afghanistan.
‘Alongside the power the Taliban has demonstrated over the last few days and the potential extremism potentially brewing beneath the surface, the UK and the West will bear the consequences.
‘This international catastrophe is coming straight to our door, in the form of an international terrorist threat.’
Justine Fleischner, head of regional operations for Conflict Armament Research (CAR), is currently supporting evacuation efforts for the arms monitoring group’s Afghan colleagues.
Ms Fleischner, who is currently in the Middle East, said: ‘We’ve solidified our reputation as bad allies—and by us I mean US, UK, and NATO moreover.
‘The Taliban has not and will not sever ties with Al-Qaeda.
‘This has been reaffirmed by recent UN reports and investigations into financial networks and longstanding ties that include generations of intermarriages and bonds formed on the frontlines between Taliban and Al- Qaeda fighters.
‘We are likely to see an Al-Qaeda resurgence and the victory has already been a major boost to morale among global jihadi groups spanning the Middle East and Africa.’
The UK-based not-for-profit company works globally, including in Afghanistan, to investigate the supply of weapons to active conflict zones.
‘I think there is a dangerous narrative of the defeat of the West that has been emboldened by recent events in Afghanistan,’ Ms Fleischner said.
‘While it might take some time for these networks to truly regroup, the absence of US and UK eyes and ears on the ground in a very unpredictable and unstable region is likely to seriously undermine counterterrorism efforts globally.’
The Taliban’s links to Al-Qaeda span back to when the then leader, Osama bin Laden, was based in the country, from where the 9/11 plot emerged.
As well as a possible resurgence of the terror group, ISIS has claimed responsibility for, or been linked to, bloody attacks, including the murder of more than 30 people at Kabul University in November 2020.
Thousands of prisoners, said to include former ISIS and Al-Qaeda fighters were released by Taliban fighters from a jail on the outskirts of the city yesterday, Another terror link concerns the presence of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the Haqqani network, among the Taliban leadership.
The group is proscribed under UK law and has been linked to an attack on a British Embassy vehicle in November 2014 which killed six people.
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