MI5 boss issues terror warning over Afghanistan

MI5 director general Ken McCallum
MI5 director general Ken McCallum

Mr McCallum warned of the 'potential regrowth of al Qaida-style directed plots'

Published

There is “no doubt” that events in Afghanistan will have “heartened and emboldened” extremists, the boss of MI5 said as he warned of the potential return of “al Qaida-style” terrorist plots.

Director-general Ken McCallum said that, although the Government has pledged to judge the Taliban by their actions, the UK security service and its partners will plan for the chance that “more risk, progressively, may flow our way”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is no doubt that events in Afghanistan will have heartened and emboldened some of those extremists and so being vigilant to precisely those kinds of risks (is what) my organisation is focused on along with a range of other threats.”

While “inspired” acts of terrorism are “by volume” the largest number of threats that MI5 and their partners face in the UK, Mr McCallum also warned of the “potential regrowth of al Qaida-style directed plots”.

He said that although more directed plots from terrorist organisations take time to organise and carry out, psychological boosts for their causes can happen “overnight”.

“Terrorist threats tend not to change overnight in the sense of directed plotting or training camps or infrastructure – the sorts of things that al Qaida enjoyed in Afghanistan at the time of 9/11.

“These things do inherently take time to build, and the 20-year effort to reduce the terrorist threat from Afghanistan has been largely successful.

“But what does happen overnight, even though those directed plots and centrally organised 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.

“So we need to be vigilant both for the increase in inspired terrorism which has become a real trend for us to deal with over the last five to 10 years, alongside the potential regrowth of al Qaida-style directed plots,” Mr McCallum said.

His comments follow warnings he made during his annual address in July that terrorists will “seek to take advantage” of chances to “rebuild” as troops withdraw from Afghanistan, suggesting it could be “challenging” to disrupt potential threats without “having our own forces on the ground”.