Former acting CIA Director during the Obama administration, Michael Morell, said during a CBS News interview on Sunday that the Biden administration’s actions in Afghanistan have “inspired jihadists.”
Responding to the news that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaeda, posted a video on the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan asked Morell if al-Zawahiri was living in Afghanistan, as a U.N. report recently said, months after rumours of his death spread.
“We think so, which means that the Taliban is harboring Zawahiri today,” Morell said. “The Taliban is harboring al-Qaeda today. And I think that’s a very important point.”
Morell noted that following President Joe Biden’s disastrous pullout from Afghanistan, it will be significantly more difficult to gather intel and execute operations aimed at eliminating threats.
“We have a lot of work to do in order to do that, right? Morell said, “We have to figure out how we’re going to collect intelligence — two types of intelligence. How are we going to make sure that al-Qaeda is not rebuilding its capabilities and is planning on attacking us again?
“And then we have to — if we do that, then we have to collect the kind of intelligence that gives you the precision you need to conduct strikes, right? Drones need to be told exactly where on the earth to go. What tells you that is precision intelligence. So, a lot of work for the intelligence community to do here going forward,” he added.
“What happened here, it needs to be investigated,” said Morell, who served two terms as acting CIA chief under former President Barack Obama. “And I would hope that the administration, once it does the investigation, that it tells all of us publicly exactly what happened. And if we made a mistake, why?”
Morell also said that terrorist organization al-Qaeda could “bounce back” within the next 12 months as Afghanistan will now return to becoming a hotbed of terrorist training activity, as it once was prior to the U.S. invasion of the country and ousting of the Taliban in 2001.
“So right now, the places I’m most worried about are ISIS in Africa and al-Shabab in Somalia. But longer-term, I worry most about al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and — and ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Why? Because at the end of the day, the most important thing that a terrorist group can have, the most important determinant of their success is safe haven,” he stated.
Referring to Biden’s withdrawal from the war-torn nation, Morell lamented that the catastrophic handling of the withdrawal has emboldened terrorists and instilled in them confidence in the ability to take on the United States.
“I think that the Taliban winning the war in Afghanistan and then the way our exit happened has absolutely inspired jihadists all over the world,” Morell later added. “The Taliban is saying we just didn’t defeat the United States. We defeated NATO. We defeated the world’s greatest military power ever. So there’s a celebration going on. We defeated the Soviet Union. Then it fell. Now we’ve defeated NATO. Right? Maybe they can fall, too.”
“I think not only will jihadists be inspired, but a lot of them are going to come to Afghanistan to be part of the celebration, to be part of jihadist central,” he added. “So after 9/11, they all scattered from Afghanistan. I think we’re going to see a flow back in, and that’s one of the things that makes Afghanistan more dangerous than other spots on the planet.”