General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believes Afghanistan will “likely” erupt in civil war, warning that those conditions could see a resurgence of terrorist groups operating out of the country.
Alongside a large haul of American-made infantry weapons, Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers now possess Humvees, armored personnel carriers, and at least one functioning Black Hawk helicopter.
As American forces began their withdrawal, the Taliban took over Afghanistan in a lightning campaign, with only the northern province Panjshir holding out against the hardline Islamists.
Milley questioned whether the Taliban — who are yet to declare a government — would be able to consolidate power and establish effective governance.
“I think there’s at least a very good probability of a broader civil war and that will then in turn lead to conditions that could, in fact, lead to a reconstitution of al-Qaida or a growth of ISIS or other … terrorist groups,” Milley said.
Emphasizing that he could not predict what would happen next in Afghanistan, he nonetheless gave a bleak assessment.
“The conditions are very likely that you could see a resurgence of terrorism coming out of that general region within 12, 24, 36 months,” Milley said.
The United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the first Taliban regime in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida, which had sanctuary in the country.
Western governments fear Afghanistan could again become a haven for extremists bent on attacking them.
The United States has said it will maintain an “over-the-horizon” capability to strike against any threats to its security in Afghanistan.
Taliban and opposition forces continue to battle to control the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul with resistance fighters saying they captured hundreds of Taliban troops.
The National Resistance Front (NRF) of Afghanistan, grouping forces loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, said on Sunday it surrounded “thousands of terrorists” in Khawak Pass and the Taliban abandoned vehicles and equipment in the Dashte Rewak area.
NRF spokesman Fahim Dashti added “heavy clashes” were going on.
Qatar has flown humanitarian aid into Kabul and says it will operate daily aid flights to Afghanistan over the next few days, providing much-needed supplies following a hiatus in much Western aid due to the Taliban’s takeover last month.
Qatar has emerged as a key interlocutor between Western nations and the Taliban, after developing its ties to the group through hosting its political office since 2013.
A Qatari aid flight carrying medical supplies and food products arrived in Kabul on Saturday and Qatar’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Saeed bin Mubarak Al Khayareen was at the airport for its arrival, the Qatari foreign ministry said.