February 2, 2022 | House Committee on Homeland Security

The Dynamic Terrorism Landscape and What It Means for America

February 2, 2022 | House Committee on Homeland Security

The Dynamic Terrorism Landscape and What It Means for America


February 2, 2022


Of full written testimony


Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Katko, and other members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here today to speak about the dynamic terrorism landscape and what it means for America.

As the American foreign policy establishment has shifted its focus from international terror organizations to great power competition with China and Russia, the terrorism threat has not receded. In some cases, it has intensified. To be clear, the challenges created by America’s enemies and adversaries such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea must be addressed. However, we turn our back on the dangers posed by Islamic terror groups at our peril.

Make no mistake, withdrawing from conflicts against terrorist groups has not ended what has been wrongly called the “endless wars.” Disengaging from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and other countries has strengthened our enemies. Our withdrawal has given our enemies new life. Our enemies are waging an endless jihad, one where they seek to overthrow existing Muslim governments and establish emirates, with the ultimate goal of imposing a reborn Islamic caliphate. These emirates would be extremely hostile to America and would give terror groups safe haven, which the 9/11 Commission identified as a key element that allowed al-Qaeda to execute its deadly attack against the American homeland. Today, al-Qaeda has safe havens in several countries, including Afghanistan, Somalia, and Mali. And al-Qaeda continues to benefit from state sponsorship of terrorism, with Iran and Pakistan topping the list.

As wrong and counterproductive as the “endless war” narrative is, the desire to end the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and elsewhere is understandable, as America has spent an enormous amount of blood, treasure, and political capital since al-Qaeda attacked us on September 11, 2001, and killed nearly 3,000 of our countrymen. Poor political, military, and intelligence leadership, compounded by bad strategy and weak allies and partners, has led to exhaustion amongst our political class. Since 2009, the primary impulse among three successive administrations was to disengage from these so-called endless wars. Victory, they believed, or even holding the line against our jihadist enemies, is no longer feasible.

We can argue the merits of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, ousting the Taliban and standing up a now-defunct Afghan government, or supporting the weak Somali government. But once engaged in these conflicts, it was in America’s interests to see them through and not to abandon partners, as imperfect as they are, to satisfy political expediency.

Negotiating With the Taliban and the Withdrawal from Afghanistan

The Trump’s administration’s decision to negotiate with the Taliban, and the Biden administration’s decision to quickly withdraw U.S. forces without giving the Afghan government ample time to prepare, was disastrous. Both decisions directly led to the collapse of the Afghan government and military and the loss of a key partner in the region.

President Trump’s negotiations with the Taliban, which excluded the Afghan government, legitimized the Taliban in the international community. The negotiations also delegitimized the Afghan government both at home and abroad. These negotiations were predicated on the ideas that the Taliban would negotiate in good faith and join an Afghan government, respect its constitution, and preserve women’s rights, all while acting as a reliable counterterrorism partner against al-Qaeda and other international terror groups. As we all witnessed last summer, these assumptions were false. The Taliban always sought to regain full control of Afghanistan and re-establish its emirate. It achieved these goals with the help of al-Qaeda and allied terror groups, all who played a key role in the Taliban’s summer offensive.

President Biden doubled down on President Trump’s misguided deal with the Taliban by following through on it. Biden hastily withdrew U.S. forces as the Taliban launched its offensive to seize the country. The Afghan government was not prepared — it just did not believe America would abandon it after 20 years of commitment — and was routed within four months from the day Biden announced the withdrawal. An unknown number of American citizens and residents — hundreds, if not thousands — and tens of thousands of Afghans who helped America’s efforts to establish a democracy remain trapped in Afghanistan, at the mercy of the Taliban. They are essentially hostages.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan led to the immediate collapse of the Afghan government and military and the swift return to power of the Taliban, which calls its government the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. This is the same name the Taliban used for its previous regime, under which al-Qaeda plotted and executed the 9/11 attacks from Afghan soil. The Taliban’s alliance with al-Qaeda has not been broken, but in fact has strengthened as it was forged in 20 years of war against the United States and its allies. Afghanistan is again a safe haven for al-Qaeda.

Setting aside the very serious issues of Taliban control of Afghanistan and al-Qaeda’s safe haven there, America’s abandonment of Afghanistan has had second- and third-order effects on America’s allies, adversaries, and enemies. American’s adversaries and enemies now sense weakness and are seeking to drive wedges between America and her allies. The desire to end the so-called endless war in Afghanistan has called into question America’s commitment to its allies and its leadership on the global stage.


Full Written Testimony


Afghanistan Al Qaeda Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Islamic State Jihadism Military and Political Power Pakistan The Long War U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy