U.K. Official Warns of Increase in Morale, 'Inspired Terrorism' After Taliban Takeover

The head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency warned Friday that a "morale boost" among extremists and an "increase in inspired terrorism" could occur following the swift takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.

During an interview with the BBC, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum cited the Taliban takeover and overthrowing of the Afghan government as events that have "heartened and emboldened" people who could pose "more risk" to the U.K. and other Western countries after the NATO withdrawal.

McCallum said that the Taliban assuming control means that the U.K. has to be "vigilant" for such "inspired terrorism," in addition to a potential reemergence of "Al-Qaeda-style directed plots" against the West. He noted that terrorist threats don't typically change overnight in regard to the existence of training camps, structure and concrete plots, which are "the sorts of things that Al-Qaeda enjoyed in Afghanistan at the time of 9/11."

"But what does happen overnight, even though those directed plots and centrally organized bits of terrorism take a bit longer to rebuild...overnight, you can have a psychological boost, a morale boost to extremists already here, or in other countries," McCallum said.

Various acts of violence from the hands of the Taliban have been reported since the U.S. and other NATO countries completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan. Several Afghan journalists accused the group of detaining them for hours and beating them after they attempted to cover a protest, according to several media reports.

A human rights official for the United Nations said that the Taliban crackdown on protests resulted in four documented deaths, the Guardian reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Taliban Stand Guard in Afghanistan
The director of Britain's domestic intelligence agency warned Friday that the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan could lead to a morale boost among potential extremists and "inspired terrorism." Above, Taliban fighters stand guard along a road in Kabul on September 9, 2021. Wakil Koshar/AFP via Getty Images

Britain has seen several violent attacks by Islamist-inspired extremists in the past two decades. The deadliest was on July 7, 2005, when four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on London subway trains and a bus.

More recent knife and vehicle attacks have largely been the work of individuals inspired by militants such as the Islamic State militant group, but not directed by them.

McCallum said U.K. authorities had disrupted 31 attack plots in the past four years, by Islamic and far-right extremists. He said it was hard to say whether Britain was safer or less safe, 20 years after the September 11 attacks in the United States.

"The number of plots that we disrupt nowadays are actually higher than the number of plots that were coming at us after 9/11, but on average they are smaller plots of lower sophistication," he said.

Vendor Sells Taliban Flags
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has “heartened and emboldened” extremists, the head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency said Friday. Above, an Afghan street vendor carries Afghanistan national flags and Taliban flags to sell at an intersection in Kabul on September 8, 2021. Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images