|Following the US withdrawal from Kabul, Taliban fighters stand watch inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport.|
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned on Thursday that the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, which used Afghanistan as a staging location for an attack on the US 20 years ago, may try to re-establish itself after the United States withdrew, leaving the Taliban in control.
He addressed a small group of reporters in Kuwait City at the end of a four-day trip to Persian Gulf republics, "That's the essence of the organization." He stated that the US is ready to prevent an al-Qaeda resurgence in Afghanistan that would pose a threat to the US.
During its reign of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban provided al-Qaeda with a safe haven.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US attacked and toppled the Taliban when they refused to hand up al-Qaida commanders. Al-Qaeda was greatly reduced throughout the 20-year US war, although doubts have been raised regarding its future prospects. “We gave the Taliban notice that we don't want that to happen,” Austin added, alluding to the potential of al-Qaeda utilizing Afghanistan as a staging ground in the future.
Taliban commanders agreed not to assist al-Qaeda or other extremist organizations that might pose a danger to the United States in a February 2020 deal with the Trump administration.
However, US authorities think the Taliban have links to al-Qaeda, and many countries, especially Gulf Arab governments, are afraid that the Taliban's return to power may allow al-Qaeda to reclaim control.