Senators demand Blinken designate Taliban as a terrorist organization

The Biden administration’s attempts to pretend the Taliban are partners for peace might run into some rocky waters in the U.S. Senate.

In the wake of the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has faced a withering crossfire on Capitol Hill. Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday grilled Blinken relentlessly, at one point Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) losing patience and forcefully telling him that Americans “don’t need to hear lies” about the highly controversial pullout last month, in which the administration has been accused of cover-ups and making excuses for the debacle.

It hasn’t stopped there, and now a group of senators are demanding that the State Department take a more forceful stance on the Taliban and declare it to be a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The group of senators is led by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who authored a letter to Blinken regarding the Taliban, co-signed by Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

“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. Even as the administration concluded the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces from Afghanistan, we saw public attacks on individuals, beatings of women and girls, and search teams actively pursuing allies and partners,” wrote the senators in the letter.

The letter also mentions the contentious subject of Americans left behind in Afghanistan, and emphasizes that the most troubling element of the Taliban takeover “is that among those beaten and chased by Taliban forces were American citizens and their families still living in Afghanistan.”

Senator Marco Rubio has also launched his own effort to demand the Taliban be labeled an FTO, and legislation will be introduced by him on Wednesday to ban the federal government and its various agencies from taking any action that states or implies recognition of the Taliban regime and its claim to be the legitimate and sovereign government of Afghanistan. Similar legislation has been introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representative Mike Waltz (R-FL) in the Senate and House respectively.

Blinken has been somewhat evasive on the subject, stating during Monday’s testimony that the what kind of relationship the U.S. government will have with the Taliban “will depend entirely on its conduct and actions.” He went on to try to assure the House that the world has “significant leverage” over the Taliban in the form of travel restrictions, U.N. sanctions, and Afghani government assets that are frozen in banks that are overwhelmingly American.

The Taliban has asked any Afghanis who worked with U.S. forces to return, and promises they will be treated safely. This claim has been taken with more than a few grains of salt, however, given the Taliban’s behavior in the past, its alleged torture of former interpreters, and its resurrection of the dreaded Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, regarded as an oppressive secret police.

To qualify for being placed on the FTO list, an organization must engage in terrorist activity that threatens the national security of the U.S. or the safety of its citizens.

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