July 14, 2021
- McCallum says withdrawal of allied troops from the country will be utilized by extremist groups as a ‘propaganda victory’
- Western allies have to be aware of the possibility of terrorist training facilities returning to pre-September 11 levels
MI5 chief Ken McCallum said the withdrawal of British, US, and allied troops from Afghanistan will be utilized by extremist groups as a “propaganda victory.” (Reuters/File Photo)
By Arab News
LONDON – The UK is among the countries at risk of Islamic extremist attacks following the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the head of MI5 warned on Wednesday.
Ken McCallum said Afghanistan could become a hotbed of training camps and a base for extremists to launch lethal attacks, as had happened in the past, and the threat was being taken seriously by security forces.
He added that the withdrawal of British, US, and allied troops from the country will be utilized by extremist groups as a “propaganda victory,” which could “inspire” British Muslims to travel there via Pakistan to train and carry out attacks.
“As we near the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we are still contending with large volumes of risk … often coming at us faster and more unpredictably,” McCallum said. “Every week the police and I brief the home secretary on the most immediate threats to lives we are dealing with. It requires constant vigilance.”
Last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said most British forces had now departed Afghanistan, in line with the deadline for full departure in September for the withdrawal of all US military personnel.
McCallum said that while a western military presence in Afghanistan had successfully broken the infrastructure of Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, terrorist organizations would likely “rebuild” after foreign troops had left.
“As we seek to illuminate potential threats and take disruptive action, we will have neither the advantage nor the risks of having our own forces on the ground,” he said.
“Terrorist groups will often seek to make use of ungoverned space to advance their agenda. If pockets of ungoverned space open up, then some terrorist groups can establish training facilities as we have seen in the past.
“It does not automatically follow that they would build from there to direct terrorist attacks against the UK, but it is clearly a possibility which we must allow and take into account,” McCallum said.
The UK and Western allies have to be aware of the possibility of terrorist training facilities returning to pre-September 11 levels while combating its results without boots on the ground, McCallum warned.
“The traveling of UK-based extremists to south Asia, Pakistan or Afghanistan, gave rise to some very sharp risks and some horrible tragedies in the UK, and this is not something which is taken lightly in any way, shape, or form,” he said.
“This form of counter terrorism is not new to us. It is how we have always operated, in Somalia for instance, but from that experience, we know it is challenging.”