The U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan will likely lead to civil war and the resurgence of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley in an interview.
“My military estimate is … that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war,” Milley told Fox News during an interview at Ramstein airbase in Germany. “I don’t know if the Taliban is going to [be] able to consolidate power and establish governance.”
After the Taliban took over the country last month amid the U.S. withdrawal and the resulting chaos, terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda or ISIS could establish a foothold, the general said.
“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 myriad of terrorist groups,” Milley told the network.
In late August, Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and President Joe Biden received flack for not anticipating the Taliban—itself a designated terrorist group by several federal agencies—taking over the country in just 11 days. They later defended the pullout, saying that the rushed and chaotic evacuation of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans was built into their contingency planning.
When the Taliban captured areas in Afghanistan, the group also opened prisons while Pentagon officials later confirmed that thousands of ISIS-K terrorists may have been released from those facilities, including one at Bagram airbase. During the final phase of the evacuation in the Kabul airport, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack that left 13 U.S. service members dead.
“You could see a resurgence of terrorism coming out of that general region within 12, 24, 36 months. And we’re going to monitor that,” Milley added in the interview, published Saturday.
As a result, he said, the United States will have to “re-establish some human intelligence networks” and will have to “conduct strike operations if there’s a threat to the United States.”
The Taliban, meanwhile, has engaged in heavy fighting with a resistance group in the Panjshir valley, located about 100 miles northeast of Kabul. On Saturday night, the terrorist group posted a video online claiming to have entered the valley, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported that a resistance fighter confirmed the Taliban entered.
Emergency, an Italy-based nongovernmental organization, told the paper the Taliban made its way to the Panjshir village of Anabah.
The police headquarters and district center of Rukhah, adjacent to the provincial capital Bazarak, had fallen, and opposition forces had suffered numerous casualties, with large numbers of prisoners and captured vehicles, weapons, and ammunition, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi also said on Twitter.
But resistance fighters, including a spokesman, denied the Taliban’s claims.
Fahim Dashti, spokesman for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), a group of anti-Taliban forces, told Reuters that the Taliban “propaganda machine” was trying to spread distracting messages.
“The resistance forces are ready to continue their defense against any form of aggression,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.