President Joe Biden in an address to the nation on Sunday said, “terrorists may seek to exploit” the United States’ failed withdrawal from Afghanistan as thousands of fearful Afghans and Americans flood the Kabul airport in an effort to escape Taliban violence.
“The security environment is changing rapidly. There are civilians crowded at the airport, although we’ve cleared thousands of them,” Biden said. “We know that terrorists may seek to exploit the situation and target innocent Afghans or American troops.”
Even though on Friday, Biden said he had “no indication” Americans were struggling to safely get to the airport, he said on Sunday that his administration is “under no illusions about the threat.” Biden specifically warned of terror group ISIS-K, which is the “sworn enemy of the Taliban.”
ISIS’s Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) has grown in prominence in Afghanistan since the fall of the parent organization’s “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, often clashing with Taliban fighters as both attempt to expand their territorial control. ISIS has a long history of targeting civilians, particularly girls and Shiite Muslims generally.
“We are maintaining the constant vigilance to monitor and disrupt threats from any source, including the likely source being ISIS-K, the Afghan affiliate referred to as ISIS-K,” he said. “But everyday we have troops on the ground. These troops and innocent civilians at the airport face the risk of attack from ISIS-K at a distance, even though we are moving back the perimeter significantly.”
Former President Donald Trump agreed to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, in a negotiation with the Taliban. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to not attack U.S. troops and to cut ties with al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups. Biden announced in April he would not abide by the agreement and extended the Afghan war by four months, making the new withdrawal date the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. He then revised the date, announcing American military presence would end on August 31.
Biden’s failed withdrawal largely puts Americans and Afghan allies at risk because civilians were not extracted from Afghanistan before the country fell to the Taliban last week — something former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “didn’t have to be this way.”
Pompeo, who oversaw Trump’s negotiations for peace in Afghanistan after 20 years of war, told Breitbart News exclusively on Friday that the former president’s plan involved getting everyone out safely before calling more troops home.
So President Trump had made clear in his campaign, he wanted to get our young men and women home as quickly as he could. We were striving to achieve that. He also made very, clear both when I was CIA director, but more directly to me when I was the Secretary of State, that we had a second objective—and that was to make sure we could do so in a way that was orderly, that got equipment home, that got American civilians out, and then protected our second objective there, which was to continue to be able to reduce the risk that we ever had an attack on the homeland from that place.
When speaking about al-Qaeda, Pompeo also warned that the failed withdrawal could spark an increase in Islamic terrorism altogether:
We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this terror threat is a global risk—we have to make sure we confront it, not just in Afghanistan, but every place we find it. So I do think if we get that piece wrong, and it appears that the collapse of the Afghan military because of the poor decision-making and planning of the Biden administration, it absolutely increases the risk of that whether it’s a month or six months or a year from now—that radical Islamic terrorists will have an ungoverned space in which to begin to plan and plot. And it will be even more difficult than it needed to be to measure these plots and make sure we’re able to interdict them, or take them down before they’re able to strike.
Thousands of Americans are still stuck behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, and reports of assaults have beatings have continued to surface in recent days. Regardless, the Biden administration said it will not prioritize American citizens over Afghan allies.