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Senator Joni Ernst leads senators to ask Blinken to name the Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization


Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, led a group of senators on Wednesday in sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking him to name the Taliban as a Foreign terrorist organization (FTO).

The Taliban, a Sunni Islamist nationalist group, recently regained control of Afghanistan after the Biden administration ordered the complete withdrawal of the US military from the country after 20 years of war.

“Since reestablishing control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have resumed the same murderous and oppressive habits that characterized their mandate before the arrival of US forces in 2001,” the senators wrote. “Even when the administration concluded the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan, we saw public attacks on individuals, beatings of women and girls, and search teams actively pursuing allies and partners.”

Senators Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Hold a press conference as the Senate debates the coronavirus relief program on Friday, March 5, 2021. (Photo by Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The senators added that the most worrying aspect of the group and its control over Afghanistan “is that among those beaten and pursued by Taliban forces were American citizens and their families still living in Afghanistan.”

Republican Senators Rick Scott of Florida, Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama signed the letter.

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The State Department recognizes al Qaeda – whom the Taliban helped protect in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – and a number of other groups like FTO, but the Taliban have not yet been part of the list of the department.

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The listed organizations must engage in terrorist activities that threaten the safety of U.S. nationals or the national security of the country, according to the State Department.

The Taliban are responsible for the most insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, according to the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and have denied basic health care and education rights to Afghan citizens, especially women.

Taliban soldiers stand guard in Panjshir province, northeastern Afghanistan, Wednesday, September 8, 2021 (AP Photo / Mohammad Asif Khan)

Taliban soldiers stand guard in Panjshir province, northeastern Afghanistan, Wednesday, September 8, 2021 (AP Photo / Mohammad Asif Khan)

“The Taliban appointed Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani network and a known terrorist wanted by the FBI for the murder of American citizens, as interior minister and allowed terrorist organizations to join the government,” said senators.

They continued, “Given their history of supporting terrorist attacks against the United States, their brutal governance style, their continued display of atrocities against the Americans and our allies, and now their enhanced military capability, the current version of the Taliban government poses a significant threat to the United States … 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 throughout the measure of the law. “

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In addition to Ernst’s letter, lawmakers on Tuesday introduced two resolutions in the House and Senate calling on the State Department to designate the Taliban as FTO.

Blinken responded to lawmakers’ questions on Monday at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The senator said the nature of the Taliban’s relationship with the United States and the rest of the world “will depend entirely on its conduct and actions” on the freedom to travel, respect for human rights and the fight against terrorism.

He says there is “significant leverage” the world has against the Taliban, he notes that travel restrictions are in place, UN sanctions against the Taliban and Afghanistan’s financial reserves are currently frozen in almost exclusively American banks.

The Haqqani Network, whose leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the deputy leader of the Taliban, has been designated FTO since 2012.

Fox News’s Adam Shaw contributed to this report.


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