The ability of U.S. security officials to monitor and disrupt the activities of Islamist terror groups will be severely diminished as a consequence of the Biden administration's catastrophic decision to end America's military involvement in Afghanistan. Pictured: A Taliban patrol on a street in Kabul on August 17, 2021. (Photo by Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)
The ability of U.S. security officials to monitor and disrupt the activities of Islamist terror groups will be severely diminished as a consequence of the Biden administration's catastrophic decision to end America's military involvement in Afghanistan.
One of the most notable achievements of the US-led coalition's presence in Afghanistan during the past two decades has been its relentless campaign to destroy the terrorist infrastructure of Islamist terror groups such as Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation.
In the years immediately following the September 11th attacks in 2001, American and other intelligence agencies estimated that around 80 percent of Islamist-inspired terror plots against the West originated from Afghanistan or the lawless tribal territories on the Pakistani border.
Today that figure has been reduced to almost zero, as the highly successful counter-terrorism campaign mounted by the U.S. and key allies like Britain against Afghan-based Islamist terror cells has seen their infrastructure destroyed, and their ability to wreak havoc against the West curtailed.
The success of the American-led campaign has resulted in groups like al-Qaeda, as well as more recent Islamist organisations like ISIS, being forced to locate their operations to other failed states, such as Syria and Libya.
Following this week's dramatic collapse of the Western-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani and its replacement by the Taliban, senior Western intelligence officials are becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to continue monitoring the activities of Islamist terror cells in Afghanistan, as well as neighbouring countries.
Reports have already surfaced in recent days of al-Qaeda supporters flocking to join the Taliban as it intensified its campaign to seize control of the country through force of arms.
ISIS terror cells are also known to be actively involved in Afghanistan and have been accused of carrying out some of the most deadly attacks against civilian targets, including the 2020 joint attack on a hospital maternity ward and funeral procession in Kabul that left 56 dead and more than 100 wounded.
The fear now is that, as Western intelligence agencies are no longer able to monitor the activities of Islamist extremists both in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Iran, the West will find itself increasingly vulnerable to high profile terror attacks as a direct consequence of Mr Biden's disastrous withdrawal plan.
Of particular concern for Western intelligence and security officials is the fate of Afghanistan's highly respected intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), whose officers have played a central role in the U.S.-led coalition's long-running campaign against the Taliban and its terrorist affiliates.
Unlike Pakistan's ISI intelligence service, which has actively supported the Taliban and famously provided al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden with a safe house, the NDS has won many plaudits from American and other Western intelligence agencies for the bravery and courage they have displayed in taking the fight to the Taliban during the past two decades.
But now that the Islamist militants control the entire machinery of the Afghan government, NDS officers and their families have been abandoned to an uncertain fate by the Biden administration, one where their lives are at risk of reprisals by the Taliban.
As one senior Western intelligence officer told Gatestone after the Taliban seized power earlier this week, there is a great deal of anger and resentment within Western intelligence circles at the way their erstwhile Afghan allies have been abandoned to their fate. "These guys risked their lives on a daily basis for the coalition cause, and now the Biden administration is treating them as though they did not exist.
"The fact that we will no longer able to work with our former Afghan colleagues to monitor the activities of the Taliban and Islamist terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda leaves the West wide open to attack from terror cells based in Afghanistan and surrounding countries."
An important first step for the security of the United States would be immediately to shut its southern border.
The Taliban's dramatic seizure of power this week has certainly been a cause for celebration among jihadi extremists if their reaction to the power grab on social media is anything to go by.
Social media accounts sympathetic to al-Qaeda, for example, published an unsigned message shortly after the Taliban takeover congratulating "the brothers" in the movement on their victory. "Afghanistan is Conquered and Islam has won", read the message which was translated by the SITE intelligence group, which monitors extremist media.
Western counter-terrorism officials are also concerned that militant groups like al-Qaeda will be boosted after the Taliban released thousands of prisoners held at Kabul's Bagram Air Base, once the nerve centre of the coalition war effort, as well as Pul-e-Charkhi, another Afghan prison on the outskirts of Kabul.
The alarming implications, in terms of Western security, of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan are clearly an issue the Biden administration failed to take into consideration when deciding to abandon Afghanistan to its fate. It is an oversight that adds to the scale of the disaster that Mr Biden has just inflicted on the security of the Western alliance.
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.