US general warns of civil war in Afghanistan

By: News Desk      Published: 02:42 PM, 5 Sep, 2021
US general warns of civil war in Afghanistan
File photo.

Afghanistan will "likely" erupt in civil war, the top US general told US media Saturday, warning that those conditions could see a resurgence of terrorist groups in the country.

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.

"My military estimate... is that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war," General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News.

He 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-Qaeda 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," Milley told Fox News, "that you could see a resurgence of terrorism coming out of that general region within 12, 24, 36 months."

The United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the first Taliban regime in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda, 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.

General Mark Milley was asked about the military operation to process 17,000 Afghan evacuees headed for the US. "What they're doing as people come in, they're getting their names registered. They're doing the biometrics. They check their irises. They do their fingerprints. They take a full facial photo," he explained, referencing not only the Department of Homeland Security but officials in the FBI, USAID, the State Department, and Customs and Border Protection. 

The general emphasized that maintaining US security and intelligence gathering in the region will be a more difficult task now that the US has no official presence inside Afghanistan. "We'll have to re-establish some human intelligence networks, etc.," he said. "And then as opportunities present themselves, we'll have to continue to conduct strike operations if there's a threat to the United States."

President Biden has said the US will continue to counter terrorism through "over horizon" capabilities by relying on military airstrikes instead of using ground-based operations. 

Milley told Fox News "it is possible to do it." But added, "We're going to have to maintain very, very intense levels of indicators and warnings and observation and ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] over that entire region.