U.S. spy chief: Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Iraq pose greater terror threat than Afghanistan

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said Monday that terrorist groups operating in Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Iraq currently pose a greater threat to the U.S. homeland than those in Afghanistan.

Why it matters: The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has prompted new warnings from military and intelligence officials about the possibility that al-Qaeda will reconstitute.

But as top Biden officials have repeatedly warned, the terror threat has “metastasized” to the point that militant groups based in Afghanistan are no longer the top threat facing the U.S.

Al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen, al-Shabaab in Somalia, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — though it has been severely degraded in recent years — are among the terrorist groups that are currently higher on the U.S. priority list.

ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State responsible for the bombing at Kabul’s airport that killed 13 U.S. service-members and scores of Afghan civilians, is viewed as the top threat in Afghanistan.

What they’re saying: “In terms of the homeland, the threat right now from terrorist groups, we don’t prioritize at the top of the list Afghanistan,” Haines said at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit. “What we look at is Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Iraq for ISIS. And that’s where we see the greatest threat.”

Haines stressed, however, that the U.S. “will want to monitor any possible reconstitution of terrorist organizations” in Afghanistan, and acknowledged that the Taliban’s takeover has made counterterrorism more challenging.

“Our intelligence collection is diminished and that is something that we have to prepare for and that we have been preparing for, frankly, quite some time,” she said.