Washington, D.C. – This morning, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, participated in a hearing examining worldwide security threats to our nation. She questioned Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines about the consequences of the Administration withdrawing all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11th.
Senator Collins asked, “If, as many experts predict, the Taliban will make significant territorial gains once U.S. forces are gone, what would be the implications for U.S. interests, both regionally here at home and globally?”
CIA Director Burns told Senator Collins that al Qaeda and ISIS both continue to pose potential terrorist threats and remain intent on attacking U.S. targets, whether it is in the western region or ultimately on American soil.
“I think it is also clear that our ability to keep that threat in Afghanistan in check from either al Qaeda or ISIS in Afghanistan has benefited greatly from the presence of U.S. and coalition militaries on the ground and in the air, fueled by intelligence provided by the CIA and our other intelligence partners,” said CIA Director Burns. “When the time comes for the U.S. military to withdraw, the U.S. government's ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That's simply a fact.”
DNI Director Haines concurred with CIA Director Burns’ assessment, stating, “I fully agree with Director Burns' analysis and that is the intelligence community's perspective on this issue.”
Director Burns said the CIA would “retain a suite of capabilities”—some of which are already in place and some of which will have to be developed—to help protect U.S. interests in the region. He concluded that there is a significant risk once the U.S. military and its coalition partners withdraw, but he committed to working with all intelligence partners to provide strategic warnings to other agencies to address threats if they begin to materialize.
Senator Collins also thanked CIA Director Burns for his focus on Havana Syndrome. About 40 U.S. diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, and the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China, suffered symptoms from these probable microwave attacks. Last year, Senator Collins joined a bipartisan group in introducing a bill that would authorize additional compensation for injured individuals.
“I promised in my confirmation hearing that I take very seriously ensuring that our colleagues at CIA…receive the care that they deserve and that we get to the bottom of the question of what caused these [Havana Syndrome] incidents and who might have been responsible,” CIA Director Burns told Senator Collins. “And I look forward to staying in close touch with you on that. I know my colleagues at CIA deeply appreciate your personal commitment on this issue.”
Click HERE to read the DNI’s 2021 Annual Threat Assessment Report that was published ahead of the hearings.