Ex-Pentagon Chief Predicts New Afghan War Against Al-Qaeda
By Staff, Sputnik
The US war in Afghanistan is nearly 20 years old, although US meddling in the country has lasted twice as long and is in large part responsible for the rise to power of radical groups like the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Daesh [Arabic for ‘ISIS/ISIL’]. Washington once found their hatred of secular communism useful and hailed their righteous fight as their own.
Former Pentagon and CIA chief Leon Panetta told CNN on Friday that al-Qaeda will regain its former strength in a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, necessitating a new US war in the future.
“We’re going to have to go back in to get Daesh. We’re probably going to have to go back in when al Qaeda resurrects itself, as they will, with this Taliban,” Panetta told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday. “They gave safe haven to al Qaeda before; they’ll probably do it again.”
“I understand that we’re trying to get our troops out of there, but the bottom line is, we can leave a battlefield, but we can’t leave the War on Terrorism, which still is a threat to our security,” he claimed.
His comments came a day after a series of deadly attacks in Kabul that killed 13 US service members and at least 180 Afghan civilians, with another 1,300 people wounded. The bombs, which targeted crowds attempting to get out of the country via Hamid Karzai International Airport in the wake of the Taliban’s seizure of power, were claimed by Daesh-K, a branch of the terrorist group that was founded in 2015 in Afghanistan - with American help, according to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
US President Joe Biden said afterward "we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay." On Friday, he gave US commanders “all authorities they need” to strike Daesh-K targets in retaliation for the bombings.
While Panetta was head of the US Central Intelligence Agency in 2011, he oversaw the operation in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader who planned the September 11 attacks. Panetta later became Pentagon chief and oversaw the withdrawal of 90% of US troops from Afghanistan, reducing their numbers from 90,000 to about 8,400 by the time he and then-US President Barack Obama left office in early 2017.
This time around, the Taliban have made numerous pledges not to give harbor to terrorist groups, part of a larger push to win their government international recognition and the financial and economic benefits that would yield. China, the US, Pakistan, and other nations have united in their urging the Taliban to keep to that promise, although regional powers have done so with the lure of regional integration for Afghanistan, while the US has only offered to remove sanctions in place freezing the country’s assets.