The likelihood of a 9/11-type attack has diminished over the past 20 years, but a Taliban victory in Afghanistan could encourage US-based extremists at the same time the FBI faces increasing threats from individuals motivated by racial and political grievances. top national security officials warned on Tuesday.
Christine Abijaid, director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the threat of terrorism to the country is less “intense” than it was two decades ago, and the threat posed in Afghanistan by groups such as al-Qaeda. And Islamic State is primarily a regional threat at the moment. And FBI Director Christopher Wray said that although extremist groups have never stopped plotting attacks against the United States, the FBI is in a better position to stop them.
Still, officials said, the collapse of the Afghan government and the potential growth of foreign terrorist groups could prompt Westerners to commit acts of violence. This is on top of a domestic terrorism caseload, which Ray says has “exploded” from about 1,000 investigations to about 2,700 since the spring of 2020.
“We are concerned that, with developments in Afghanistan – among other things – that there will be more impetus for the first bucket,” Ray said of the threat of international terrorism. “So I think we anticipate, unfortunately, growth in both categories as we look at the next few years.”
US officials say they are monitoring the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban intensified attack, especially keeping an eye on how al-Qaeda or IS rebuilds to the point of being able to attack the US. can do.
“I think it’s fair to assess whether the development of those groups’ external operational capability, we have to monitor and assess whether it’s going to happen faster than we predicted,” Abijaid said. “Afghanistan is a very dynamic environment right now.”
Officials also defended the vetting process for background checks on Afghanistan refugees seeking entry to US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyerkas, saying that the number of refugees denied entry is minimal because “we have been exposed to derogatory information.” Many people have not been found who qualify for entry into the United States because of their status.”
“The (screening) architecture that has been built in the 20 years since 9/11 has remained and only got stronger,” he said. “We have a screening and vetting architecture. We have greater collaboration between federal agencies in the terrorism, intelligence and law enforcement communities. We are always vigilant in this regard.”
Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed to this report.