Following the chaotic withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan in August, the Taliban took over, but the terrorists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) remain. Although the Taliban steadfastly denied that al-Qaeda was in the country, that statement was not taken seriously. The Taliban and al-Qaeda always had a good relationship. 

ISIS is another matter. ISIS and the Taliban are enemies. ISIS believes the Taliban are too concerned with just Afghanistan and not enough with global jihad. And that global jihad is still a concern with the United States. But how will Washington target the terrorists in Afghanistan without any troops or intelligence assets on the ground?

Members of the Pentagon insist that they can continue to track and target terrorists using “over the horizon” capabilities. That method is not only much harder but uncertain as demonstrated when a humanitarian worker was confused with an ISIS planner and targeted. He and several of his family members, including children, were killed in the attack.


The US Still Has a Lot of Tools

ISIS-K fighters
ISIS-K fighters pose for a propaganda photo, that was taken by their media arm. (File photo)

SOCOM Commander Army General Richard Clarke speaking at Halifax International Security Forum, in Canada on Friday said that the job of finding and hunting terrorists in Afghanistan has gotten appreciably harder. However, there are still tools in the toolbox, Clarke said. 

“We built up amazing counterterrorism capabilities over the last 20 years,” he said. “Some of those capabilities can still be used in Afghanistan today,” General Clarke said.  

Clarke advocates working with partner Afghans who remained in the country as well as regional allies. However, Afghans who worked with the U.S. and remained are in grave danger with the Taliban regardless. If they were even suspected of still working with the Americans, their lives would be worth little. 

Asked specifically about over-the-horizon strikes, Clarke said, “It’s going to be harder. Anytime you have a physical presence on the ground, it stimulates the enemy forces — you see and sense, you’re with partner forces.”