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The U.S.' ability to prevent terrorist attacks "will change" but not diminish after the U.S. withdraws its troops from Afghanistan, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN Thursday.

Why it matters: Sullivan's interview comes after CIA director William Burns told a Senate panel Wednesday that withdrawal could allow terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS to rebuild, following President Biden's announcement Wednesday that the U.S. will begin the process of leaving the country in May.

  • Burns noted that those groups currently do not have the capacity to attack the U.S. homeland.
  • However, he said it is "simply a fact" that "the U.S. government's ability to collect and act on threats will diminish" once forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

What they're saying: "It is simply a fact that our ability to deal with the threat on the ground will change when there aren't U.S. forces and coalition forces there, but we believe our posture will remain at a level where we can suppress the terrorist threat in Afghanistan," Sullivan said.

  • "We will not have the same level of daily intelligence, but at a strategic level, in terms of being able to know whether or not al-Qaeda or ISIS is developing an external plotting capability, which they do not currently possess ... we will have months of warning."
  • "And we will have the assets and capabilities to deal with that threat as it arrises," he added.
  • "[O]ur ability to protect the American homeland, in my view, will not diminish."

Go deeper

Apr 14, 2021 - World

CIA director: Afghanistan withdrawal poses "significant risk" of terrorist resurgence

William Burns. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

CIA director William Burns acknowledged Wednesday that there is a "significant risk" that the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan could allow al-Qaeda and ISIS to rebuild, but stressed that these groups currently do not have the capacity to attack the U.S. homeland.

Why it matters: President Biden is set to formally announce on Wednesday that the U.S. will withdraw all forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, potentially bringing America's longest war to a close after 20 years.

Updated Apr 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden says the U.S. will begin Afghanistan troop withdrawal on May 1

Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden said in a speech Wednesday that it's "time to end America’s longest war," as his administration outlines plans to begin a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan starting May 1, with a full exit deadline of Sept. 11.

Driving the news: "I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth," Biden said. "It is time for American troops to come home."

Obama says Biden is right to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

Former President Obama speaking in Miami in November 2020. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama said Wednesday that President Biden "has made the right decision in completing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan," starting May 1.

Why it matters: Lawmakers, and specifically several top Republicans, on Tuesday rallied against Biden's expected plan to pull the U.S. out of the longest war in American history, saying it was too soon and could further destabilize Afghanistan.