Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a military veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with a number of her Republican colleagues, is urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take into full consideration the Taliban’s violent actions since seizing complete control of Afghanistan in August and have the United States officially designate the group as a terrorist organization.
“We believe the Taliban easily meets all three criteria and urge you to consider designating the Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization and treating them as such to the maximum extent of the law,” the Republican senators wrote in a letter.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the three criteria for making the terrorist designation are that the group in question is a foreign organization; that the group engages in or is capable of engaging in terrorist activity; and that said terrorist activity threatens the security of the United States.
“Given their history of supporting terror attacks on the United States, their brutal style of governance, their continued display of atrocities against Americans and our allies, and now, their enhanced military capability, the current version of the Taliban government presents a significant threat to the United States. Further, the Taliban display the will and the means to attack Americans and American interests,” the letter reads.
During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s first hearing on the military withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) asked Blinken if the Biden administration believes that the Taliban is a terrorist organization.
“It’s designated under one of the designations, and any engagement that we have will be purely for the purposes of advancing our interests,” Blinken said, but didn’t confirm if the Biden administration considers the group to be a terrorist organization.
Blinken told the committee that the administration will look very closely at the Taliban’s actions to determine what actions it should take with them in providing aid.
“So simply put, the nature of the relationship that the Taliban would have with us or most other countries around the world will depend entirely on its conduct and action, specifically with regard to freedom of travel, as well as to making good on its counterterrorism commitments, upholding basic rights of the Afghan people, not engaging in reprisals, etc.,” he said.
Blinken told the committee that the Biden administration initiated a resolution through the U.N. Security Council, setting out the expectations that the Taliban has to meet in order to keep a working relationship with the United States and to not face harsh actions.
A resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council at the end of August states that the Taliban must allow all foreign citizens safe passage out of Afghanistan and not interfere with humanitarian aid from reaching its people.
Republican lawmakers have argued that the Afghan Taliban has already violated basic standards of conduct as outlined by the Security Council resolution and by the Immigration and Nationality Act and that the Biden administration should send a stronger message and implement harsher consequences on the terrorist group.
“Since reestablishing control of Afghanistan, the Taliban resumed the same murderous and oppressive habits that characterized their leadership tenure prior to the arrival of U.S. forces in 2001. … Most concerning to us is that among those beaten and chased by Taliban forces were American citizens and their families still living in Afghanistan,” the letter reads.
U.S. State Department officials didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.
During an interview on Sept. 13, Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) said the Biden administration is sending the wrong message to the Taliban—a message of weakness.
“One of these things that [are] always overlooked is the fact that how you message and how you communicate with the enemy is really important. In the last administration, when a plan was put on the table, there [were] very clear communications to the Taliban. If they didn’t meet those commitments to reduce violence, etc., there were going to be dire consequences. They believed that,” Risch told Fox News.
“In this particular instance, this administration went out of its way, time and again, to telegraph to them that they weren’t going to push back, starting with the withdrawal of air cover, abandoning Bagram Air Force Base. By the time this happened, the Taliban were convinced they could run right over the country, which they did.”