This warning comes as intelligence agencies that are charged with anticipating these threats face new questions following the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan military with alarming speed.
Less than a week after a military assessment predicted Kabul could be surrounded by insurgents in 30 days, the world on Sunday watched stunning scenes of Taliban fighters standing in the Afghan president's office and crowds of Afghans and foreigners frantically trying to board planes to escape the country.
On Sunday, Gen. Mark Milley (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) told senators that U.S. officials will alter their earlier assessments regarding the pace of terrorist groups reconstituting themselves in Afghanistan. A person who is familiar with the matter said to The Associated Press.
In June, the Pentagon's top leaders said an extremist group like al-Qaida may be able to regenerate in Afghanistan and pose a threat to the U.S. homeland within two years of the American military's withdrawal from the country. Experts say that the Taliban and al-Qaida are still aligned two decades after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to expel Taliban leaders. Other violent groups may also be able to find refuge under the new regime.
According to an official who was directly informed of the briefing, but not authorized to speak publicly about the details, officials believe that terror groups such as al-Qaida could grow faster than anticipated. The person spoke to the AP under anonymity.
According to a person familiar with the matter, officials from the Biden administration who spoke with senators -- including Milley, Secretary Of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin - said that U.S. intelligence agencies were working to create a new timeline on the basis of evolving threats.
On Sunday, former and current intelligence officials reacted to criticisms of the failure of agencies to predict how quickly Kabul might fall. A senior intelligence official stated that "a rapid Taliban takeover was always possible" and added: "As they advanced, they eventually met with little resistance." This was something we have known for a long time, and it is possible. Tactical conditions on the ground can sometimes change quickly. The official did not speak publicly about the matter and was allowed to do so under condition of anonymity.
At a July 8 news conference Joe Biden said that "the likelihood there's going be the Taliban overrunning all of it and owning the entire country is highly unlikely." "
The decreased U.S. troop presence, which was down to 2,500 troops at Trump's end, may have hindered intelligence efforts. Robert Ashley, a retired Lt. General, was the leader of the Defense Intelligence Agency from October to December. He said that having less Americans embedded with Afghan forces meant that there was less insight into their performance.
Ashley stated that it was very, very difficult to gauge morale at the unit-level because people aren't there anymore. "And I wouldn’t be surprised if Afghan leaders tell us what we want to hear."
With the Taliban under control and U.S. troops leaving, it will be more difficult to monitor terrorist threats in Afghanistan. The intelligence agencies of Afghanistan work alongside the troops. The military presence in Afghanistan is not required for spying. This limits the information that spies can gather about the Taliban support and the morale of Afghan troops.
Marc Polymeropoulos, a 26-year veteran of the CIA, stated that if they leave, as they did, it means that we too must leave. "And that definitely affects our intelligence gathering footprint."
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a Democratic member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that after evacuations have been settled, "our focus will shift" to intelligence and counterterrorism activities. He said that the U.S. must ensure that it can track whether Al Qaeda has reconstituted there.
"The Taliban has many reasons to respect their agreement with the United States, and keep al-Qaida away from them," he said. He said that our task now was to monitor and verify this commitment.
Tensions rose when U.S. national-security officials briefed House members. Republican leader Kevin McCarthy became furious after the administration officials would not confirm that President Ashraf Ghani had left the country, according to a person who participated in the meeting.
McCarthy asked, "Why aren't we doing it now?"
Ghani left the country on Sunday as Taliban insurgents closed in. He posted on Facebook that his decision to leave the country was to avoid bloodshed in the capital. He didn't say where he went.
Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida, a Republican and Green Beret who was in Afghanistan during World War II, strongly criticized the briefing for being "a regurgitation" of Saturday's president's statement.
Waltz claimed Austin was to blame for the Afghan forces' inability to fight. Blinken, however, cited the date set by the former President Donald Trump's administration as a reason for the American withdrawal.
Waltz stated that there was no discussion about a way forward, except for vague assurances that they would protect the homeland.