On May 28, President Biden addressed servicemembers and their families at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia. Midway through his speech, the president offered his rationale for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. They don’t need to be stationed inside the country, Biden argued, because “over-the-horizon” operations can neutralize any worrisome terrorist threats.
“And now, as we draw down, we’re also going to focus on the urgent work of rebuilding over-the-horizon capabilities that’ll allow us to take out al-Qaeda if they return to Afghanistan—but to focus on the threat that has metastasized,” the president said.
“Return to Afghanistan”? Al-Qaeda is already there, and so is ISIS.
On June 1, a team of counterterrorism experts working for the U.N. Security Council published its latest analysis of al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan. One U.N. member state reported to the team that al-Qaeda is currently operating in at least 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. This intelligence is bolstered by al-Qaeda’s own weekly Arabic newsletter, which has reported on the group’s presence in still more Afghan provinces over the last year. Senior al-Qaeda figures have also been hunted down in Taliban-controlled areas, as they continue to enjoy the protection of their jihadi blood brothers.