Taliban takeover could see return of ‘al Qaeda’ style terror plots, warns UK spy chief
- MI5 director-general Ken McCallum stressed the need to be vigilant for an increase in “inspired terrorism” alongside potential growth of “al Qaeda-style directed plots.”
The head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency has warned about a possible return of major “al Qaeda” style terror plots against the West after the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, MI5 director-general Ken McCallum stressed the need to be vigilant for an increase in “inspired terrorism” alongside potential growth of “al Qaeda-style directed plots.” McCallum said that though terror threats do not change overnight, the Taliban’s return to power can provide a psychological boost to the terrorists.
“Terrorist threats tend not to change overnight in the sense of directed plotting or training camps or infrastructure — the sorts of things that al Qaeda enjoyed in Afghanistan at the time of 9/11,” McCallum told the BBC.
“But what does happen overnight, even though those directed plots and centrally organized bits of terrorism take a bit longer to rebuild ... Overnight, you can have a psychological boost, a morale boost to extremists already here, or in other countries,” he added.
While the Taliban have assured they would not let terror groups use Afghan soil to plot attacks against foreign countries, a UN report suggests that the insurgents, especially their Haqqani network branch, and al Qaeda remain close. The independent UN sanctions monitoring committee said that the Taliban regularly consulted al Qaeda during negotiations with the US. The Afghan Islamist hardliners even offered al Qaeda guarantees that they would honour the historical ties, which stems from friendship, intermarriage, shared struggle and ideological sympathy.
Britain has been a victim of several violent attacks by extremists in the last 20 years, the deadliest being the suicide bombings in London subway trains in 2005 that claimed 52 lives. McCallum revealed that British authorities had foiled 31 attack plots in the past four years, adding that he isn’t sure the country was safer or not 20 years after September 11 attacks in the US.
"The big concern flowing from Afghanistan alongside the immediate inspirational effect is the risk that terrorists reconstitute and once again pose us more in the way of well-developed, sophisticated plots of the sort that we faced in 9/11 and the years thereafter," he said.