FBI Head Concerned Some U.S. Extremists Might Be Inspired to Attack After Taliban Takeover

FBI Director Christopher Wray is concerned that the collapse of the Afghanistan government and swift takeover by the Taliban could inspire some U.S.-based extremists to attack, the Associated Press reported.

Wray on Tuesday said that domestic terrorism cases have "exploded" since the spring of 2020 from about 1,000 investigations to around 2,700 from individuals motivated by racial and political grievances.

There was also concern of other Westerners being inspired to commit acts of violence, and officials warned that the U.S. would need to be prepared to deal with an increase in extremist activity domestically and abroad.

"We are concerned that, with developments in Afghanistan—among other things—that there will be more inspiration to the first bucket," Wray said of the international terrorism threat. "So I think we anticipate, unfortunately, growth in both categories as we look ahead over the next couple of years."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Homeland Security and FBI
Top national security officials have raised concerns of extremist groups being inspired to take action against the U.S. following the Taliban's swift takeover of Afghanistan. Above, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (left) and FBI Director Christopher Wray testify before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to discuss security threats 20 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on September 21, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Greg Nash/Pool via AP

Christine Abizaid, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the terrorism threat to the country is less "acute" than it was two decades ago, and that the danger posed in Afghanistan by groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) is at the moment primarily a regional threat. And Wray said that though extremist groups have never stopped plotting attacks against the U.S., the FBI is better positioned to stop them.

Even so, the officials said, the collapse of the Afghanistan government and the potential ascendancy of foreign terror groups there could inspire Westerners to commit acts of violence.

U.S. officials say they're monitoring the situation in Afghanistan following the speedy Taliban blitz, particularly with an eye on how Al-Qaeda or ISIS could rebuild to the point of being able to conduct an attack targeting the U.S.

"I think it is fair to assess that the development of those groups' external operations capability, we've got to monitor and assess whether that's going to happen faster than we had predicted otherwise," Abizaid said. "Afghanistan is a very dynamic environment right now."

Officials also defended the vetting process they have in place to screen the backgrounds of Afghanistan refugees seeking entry into the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the number of refugees denied entry has been minimal because "we have not found many people with derogatory information relative to those who qualify for admission to the United States by reason of their status."

"The [screening] architecture that has been built over 20 years since 9/11 remains in place and has only strengthened," he said. "We have a screening and vetting architecture. We have greater cooperation amongst the federal agencies in the counterterrorism, intelligence and law enforcement communities. We remain ever vigilant in that regard."

Christopher Wray
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned of a potential increase in extremist activity against the U.S., domestically and abroad, following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. Above, Wray testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 12, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images