General Mark Milley has said that a civil war in Afghanistan is “likely” following the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country and this could lead to a growth in terror groups.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to Fox News‘s Jennifer Griffin during a visit to Ramstein in Germany on Saturday. There is a major U.S. airbase there that’s currently processing Afghan evacuees.
His remarks about a possible civil war come as the Taliban is attempting to consolidate its position in Afghanistan but is facing resistance from opposition fighters in the Panjshir Valley.
Milley was asked if he believed the U.S. was safer following the troop drawdown and said it was too early to say.
“My military estimate is…that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war,” the general said.
“I don’t know if the Taliban is gonna be able to consolidate power and establish governance. They may be, maybe not,” he said.
Milley also expressed concern about the possibility that terror groups could grow as a result of an Afghan civil war. ISIS-K, a Central Asia affiliate of the Islamic State group (ISIS) is opposed to the Taliban, while al-Qaeda has close ties with them.
“But I think there’s at least a very good probability of a broader civil war and that will then, in turn, lead to conditions that could, in fact, lead to a reconstitution of al-Qaeda or a growth of ISIS or other myriad of terrorist groups,” Milley said.
“You could see a resurgence of terrorism coming out of that general region within 12, 24, 36 months. And we’re gonna monitor that,” the general added.
Milley also discussed “over the horizon” capabilities for combatting terrorism, which would involve airstrikes but not ground forces. The general said “it is possible to do it” but suggested it could be more difficult without a presence on the ground.
“We’re going to have to maintain very, very intense levels of indicators and warnings and observation and ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] over that entire region,” he said.
“We’ll have to reestablish some human intelligence networks, etc.,” Milley went on. “And then as opportunities present themselves, we’ll have to continue to conduct strike operations if there’s a threat to the United States.”
Taliban forces continued to battle fighters of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul on Saturday with both sides claiming to have the advantage. During the Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001, they did not control the valley.
The new Taliban government will also have to contend with ISIS-K as the two Islamic groups have differing ideologies and there has been long-running conflict between them.