Designate the Taliban as a Terrorist Organization: It’s Long Overdue

August 19, 2021 Updated: August 20, 2021


The chaos unfolding in Afghanistan is the result of a failure of American strategy, intelligence, and will. As the lead member of the alliance against the Taliban, and as the lead country that sought to bring democracy to Afghanistan, the United States must take responsibility for its failure. The elements of that failure are many, but the ludicrous U.S. State Department’s failure to designate the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist organization is one of the worst.

While the Afghan Taliban are not on the State Department terrorist organization list, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is the Pakistani Taliban organization, is so designated. The failure to include the Afghan Taliban is due to a disastrous initiative to negotiate with them. Americans supposedly don’t negotiate with terrorists, and to make sure we supposedly don’t, we leave the ones we want to negotiate with off our State Department list. This foreign policy of elision only fools ourselves, and its lack of clarity paved the way for the Taliban to waltz back into Kabul while we played the tune.

Now that we are leaving Afghanistan, there is no excuse not to change the tune back to reality: the Taliban are terrorists and they should be added to the State Department list of terrorist organizations. State recognition should be denied the Taliban until they reinstate the prior government and institute elections as do legitimate governments.

Don’t hold your breath waiting, though.

As recently as early June, the Taliban claimed responsibility for igniting a truck full of explosives in Balkh District, which killed at least 16 people, and wounded 117 others. Of these, two civilians died, and 67 civilians were wounded. Eighty shops and ten houses were damaged. The district building and police headquarters were almost completely destroyed.

Perhaps the worst of the top-five Taliban leaders is Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the leader of the murderous Haqqani network. In 2008, the network was accused of attacking Kabul’s top hotel. In 2012, it was placed on the State Department list of terrorist organizations. By 2017, the network had about 5,000 fighters in southeastern Afghanistan. It currently oversees the financial and military assets of the Taliban across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The network has also been blamed for a suicide attack on India’s embassy, and an attempted assassination of Hamid Karzai, who was then president of Afghanistan. Haqqani is alleged to lead not only his own network, and in part the Taliban, but also to be part of al-Qaeda’s terrorist leadership structure.

Professor Mary Habeck at Georgetown University, who has written three books on al-Qaeda, wrote in an email, “There is no distance between al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Deputy head of the Taliban is Sirajuddin Haqqani who is also a subordinate of [al-Qaeda commander Ayman] Zawahiri. The State Department declared Sirajuddin a ‘specially designated global terrorist’ i.e. al-Qaeda in 2008 and no administration has taken that designation back showing that this administration, like all the others, recognizes this fact.”

According to a U.N. report in 2020, “The senior leadership of Al-Qaida remains present in Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of armed operatives, Al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, and groups of foreign terrorist fighters aligned with the Taliban. … Relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani Network, and Al-Qaida remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage.”

According to the report, “The Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaida during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honour their historical ties. Al-Qaida has reacted positively to the agreement [with the United States in February 2020], with statements from its acolytes celebrating it as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global militancy.”

Al-Qaeda’s celebration is our despair. To include the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network on the State Department list, but not the al-Qaeda-linked Taliban, when the Taliban are in large part led by the Haqqani, is a fatal logical flaw.

Clearly, the Taliban is a terrorist organization. That the Biden administration continues with the fallacy that they are not, allows the United States to negotiate and appease the Taliban further. But appeasement of the Taliban, and its enablers in Pakistan and China, is exactly the wrong strategy.

Appeasement kicks the can down the road, as we have done so many times since the 1972 opening to the Chinese Communist Party, which should itself be considered a terrorist organization, according to a University of Chicago scholar. It puts off the day of reckoning, which will be the more painful, the longer we wait to decisively confront the global enemies of democracy.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”