When it was announced in 2021 that all NATO forces were going to depart the country, many pointed out that the collapse of the diplomatic and intelligence posts would likely follow. Unfortunately, those predictions quickly became reality as a mass evacuation of the NATO-Plus coalition’ national assets flew away in the night. The departure of security and intelligence expertise opened the door for the Taliban-Haqqani terrorist network, and their close partner Al Qaeda, to occupy and expand their footprint in Afghanistan. It was just a short journey from their previous safe haven in Pakistan where the Haqqani terror network operates as an extension of the Pakistan security sector.

Fast forward one year and the cost of the collapsing intelligence framework has clearly shaken the confidence of the FBI to keep Americans safe from a large terrorist attack from a foreign location. Yesterday, the FBI Director Christopher Wray made his concerns very public at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Wray said he was worried about a terrorist attack emanating from Afghanistan because of our departure from the country. He pointed out the loss of sources and collection capabilities, calling them a worrying intelligence gap.

He specifically mentioned his concern about a reconstituted Al Qaeda threat; and this comes on the heels of the death of their leader. He also noted that IS-K might be able to take advantage of the weak security environment of the Taliban-Haqqani regime, to expand and strengthen.

Wray also raised the threat that would-be terrorists already in the United States might be inspired by what they see in Afghanistan. The constant propaganda, and the success of the Taliban-Haqqani regime in taking rapid control of Afghanistan are indeed the fuel of self-motivated and easily-radicalized terrorists already inside our borders.

On Al Qaeda and the drone strike that eliminated Zawahiri, a long-sought after September 11 terrorist and the most recent Al Qaeda leader, Wray had a few thoughts. When asked by Senator Graham if Wray was surprised that the Al Qaeda leader was not only in Kabul, but was staying in the guest house of the Taliban-Haqqani regime’s number two leader, Wray said “I was not surprised, but was disappointed.”

While the FBI Director was not able to comment publicly on the current activity of Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, he was clear about his answer to Senator Graham’s follow-up question. Graham asked if Al Qaeda still sought to hit Americans at home, and Wray simply replied, “Oh yeah.” Those who are working on Afghan refugee asylum and resettlement can likely expect some more federal scrutiny of military aged males after the Al Qaeda chief was found in Kabul—Al Qaeda was good at exploiting loose immigration laws to set-up September 11.

There is much to watch as the Taliban-Haqqani regime and their Al Qaeda partners react to the death of their close friend Zawahiri. So far, the terror regime in Kabul and their allies/supporters in Pakistan have been quite confused on how to react. They want to look strong after such a humiliating blow to their prestige, but they also don’t want to admit they are still closely intertwined with Al Qaeda. So far, the most they can muster are some small forced protests against America for using a drone to kill someone in Afghanistan. That is pretty ironic based on the tens of thousands of Afghans murdered by the Taliban-Haqqani network and Al Qaeda since 2001.

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Jason spent 23 years in USG service conducting defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and education missions globally. Now he teaches, writes, podcasts, and speaks publicly about Islam, foreign affairs, and national security. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild, works with numerous non-profits and aids conflict resolution in Afghanistan.