CENTCOM commander, General Michael Kurilla. Photo: US Defense Department

Islamic State is increasing capability in Afghanistan to carry out attacks abroad

During the US Senate Committee on Armed Service hearing session on Thursday, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in the Middle East, General Michael Kurilla, has warned the committee that the ISIS affiliate network in Afghanistan (ISIS-K) could potentially launch attacks against American and Western interests within six months.

While the group may not have the capacity to carry out attacks on American soil, General Kurilla warned that it is increasing its ability to carry operations in Europe and Asia.

“It is my commanders’ estimate that they can do an external operation against U.S. or Western interests abroad in under six months with little-to-no warning,” General Kurilla said. “In a classified [hearing], I will talk about why I make that assessment. It is much harder for them to be able to do that against the homeland,” he added.

General Kurilla said that the US’s intelligence gathering capability in Afghanistan had decreased significantly following withdrawal of troops, making counterterrorism operations difficult. “Right now, 80% of my time is spent on gathering information from high altitudes in the region,” he said. 

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The CENTCOM commander said he needed more funding for over-the-horizon capabilities in order to keep ISIS-K in check.

The ISIS-K has recently been responsible for a suicide bombing at the Tebyan Cultural Centre in the northern province of Balkh, killing and injuring several journalists, and an attack on the office of the Taliban’s governor in Balkh province which killed the governor and three other people.

The Taliban has often rejected Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan, although it has reported attacking its hideouts in Kabul and elsewhere.