Media top headlines August 20
In media news today, the Los Angeles Times says Kamala Harris now ‘owns’ Afghanistan policy after touting her role in withdrawal decision, Columbia Journal Review torches NYT, CNN for their roles in the ‘Cuomo myth,’ and media outlets repeat Biden remark that GOP governors are ‘banning masks in schools’
The Biden-ordered Afghanistan withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover has increased the global terror threat to its highest point in two decades, and without U.S. intelligence operatives in the region, an al Qaeda 9-11 style attack may be imminent, experts warn.
Dr. Tom Copeland, an expert in intelligence failures and mass casualty terrorist attacks and director of research at the Centennial Insititute told Fox News on Thursday that the fall of the Afghan government will likely coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attack. Moreover, Copeland warned, the United States’ complete withdrawal could presage another attack of that nature on U.S. soil.
“Having an entire country as a safe haven, will give [al Qaeda] more physical space and more breathing space to reconstitute and go back to planning major events, so I think the U.S. withdrawal itself is a large part of that threat,” Copeland said.
With the country under complete Taliban control, al Qaeda is expected to set up shop and fully resume operations, making terror attacks on the West an ever-present national security concern, he explained.
The fear, Copeland said, is that for the first time in nearly 20 years, the U.S. will be blind on the ground with the absence of an embassy, military bases, and a CIA station based in the region.
“Even though we may be better organized to defend the homeland than we were in 2001, this withdrawal is going to leave us with a much more limited window into what the terrorists are doing inside Afghanistan,” he told Fox News.
On Friday, President Biden appeared to downplay the threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, only to be later corrected by the Pentagon.
“Let’s put this into perspective here,” Biden said during a press conference Friday defending the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone?”
Roughly an hour later, Fox News National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin questioned Defense Department press secretary John Kirby on Biden’s statement.
Griffin asked Kirby for an estimate on how many al Qaeda operatives were currently in Afghanistan, and Kirby was not able to give her a specific number.
“I haven’t seen an estimate on that,” Kirby said. “OK, I don’t know if we have an exact estimate.”
“You don’t have military intelligence estimates about how many al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan?” Griffin pushed back.
“We know that al Qaeda is a presence as well as ISIS in Afghanistan,” Kirby said. “And we’ve talked about that for quite some time. We do not believe it is exorbitantly high, but we don’t have an exact figure for you, as I think you might understand.”
Military historian and Fox News contributor Victor Davis Hanson believes Copeland’s assessment of an impending attack on the West “may very well be correct.”
“The next three and a half years, I think, will be our most dangerous since the 1950s of the Cold War,” Hanson told Fox News on Thursday.
“Jihadists now have a centrally located haven that has a proven record of successfully launching anti-Western terrorist operations; the Taliban are far more jubilant now than in the past, given the climatic defeat of the entire NATO coalition, and, finally, they feel there no longer exists U.S. deterrence,” he explained.
“I am confident saying that the U.S. is at higher risk of international terrorism today than at any point in the last 20 years.”
“Iran, China and Russia will in the next year likely become far more adventurous in our experience on the expectation that the Biden administration, the woke Pentagon, and the politicized intelligence agencies either cannot or will not deter them,” Hanson went on. “That encourages the Taliban who feel that the U.S. will be pressed simultaneously by several enemies and won’t dare confront them.”
Paul D. Miller served in Afghanistan, first in the military – then as a CIA operative — before he was tapped as director of the Afghanistan desk for the National Security Council during the Bush and Obama administrations. Asked about the U.S. national security threat expressed by Copeland and Hanson during a Fox News interview on Thursday, Miller said plainly “I am confident saying that the U.S. is at higher risk of international terrorism today than at any point in the last 20 years.”
What upsets him most, he said, is that this “was an avoidable catastrophe.
“It was a manmade disaster, it was policy engineered chaos,” he said. “The President continues to insist that this was unavoidable. It was inevitable. The war had already been lost. There was no other way out, could not have been would have the chaos. All of this is false…and everybody paid responsibility for the consequences of his choice to withdraw.”
Miller noted that the government in Afghanistan is the “same one that harbored al Qaeda 20 years ago.”
Until Biden’s withdrawal, al Qaeda and affiliated Jihadist militants “were on the run,” Miller explained. Now, the terrorist group is “certain to regain some measure of safe haven in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.
“They were spending their energy and their time running and hiding from our airstrikes or drones or Special Forces. They didn’t have time to plan their attacks. They now have breathing room to reconstitute themselves and focus on creating, recruiting, fundraising and planning. They couldn’t do that for 20 years. Now they can. That means we are all at heightened risk of a terrorist attack – not just United States, but this could very well be our European partners as well.”
As for a timeline, U.S. intelligence agencies should gear up for an attack “within the next four to five years,” Copeland said.
“They said al Qaeda might take two years to reconstitute itself but it sounds like from what I’ve read, they’re thinking they could do it in six months,” he told Fox News.
“Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll have an attack in six months, it does take time to plan these spectacular events… I don’t think it’ll happen then, but I think in the next four or five years we should anticipate at least efforts by al Qaeda and ISIS and other groups that may form in the aftermath here.”
Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report
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