US military seeks to bridge intelligence gap in Afghanistan

The latest report from the inspector general of the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) has highlighted Operation Enduring Sentinel (OES) and the US Army’s commitment to reducing the intelligence gap in Afghanistan.

According to the report, General Michael E. Kurilla, the commander of USCENTCOM, has been making efforts at the beginning of this year to enhance information gathering and analysis.

Citing the commander of USCENTCOM, the report acknowledges that the DoD currently lacks the necessary level of granularity to fully comprehend potential terrorist threats. To address this, the DoD plans to conduct tests of alternate airborne intelligence platforms capable of prolonged surveillance. These efforts aim to monitor and assess terrorist groups operating within Afghanistan.

Michael Eric Kurila has pointed out that ISIS-K continued to destabilize Afghanistan this quarter with a series of high-profile attacks. These included a bombing at the Kabul airport, an assassination and an attempted assassination of Taliban regional governors, and two separate bombings at the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Pentagon inspector said the Taliban is highly motivated to defeat ISIS-K but lacks the capabilities to prevent future terrorist attacks. The report warns that ISIS-K could strike U.S. or Western interests abroad within 6 months if they prioritized such attacks.

According to the report, US diplomats have been engaging with the Taliban to advocate for US priorities in Afghanistan. These priorities encompass various areas such as ensuring the safety of Americans in the country, facilitating the relocation of US Afghan allies, addressing economic concerns, countering terrorism, and addressing human rights issues, particularly the repression of women and girls by the Taliban.

Following the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, the US Department of Defense announced that it will maintain a robust over-the-horizon counter-terrorism capability and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups.

However, experts in counterterrorism express skepticism regarding the United States’ ability to effectively monitor terrorist activities in Afghanistan.

Seth Jones, a former Pentagon counterterrorism official, highlights the existing information gap, noting that even during the war in Afghanistan, the US faced challenges in comprehensively understanding the situation on the ground.