Joni Ernst Launches Push to Label Taliban a Terrorist Organization

Posted: Sep 15, 2021 9:45 AM
Joni Ernst Launches Push to Label Taliban a Terrorist Organization

Source: Caroline Brehman/Pool Photo via AP

While it's something of a surprise that Taliban terrorists are not yet officially considered terrorists in the eyes of the United States government, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and some of her Republican colleagues want to change that. 

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, Ernst — along with Senate colleagues Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) — urges the State Department to use its authority to officially designate the Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization.

"The hasty and ill-conceived withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan created a security vacuum which the Taliban exploited through a country-wide offensive that deposed governing authorities in all Afghan provinces and in the capital city of Kabul," explains the letter. 

"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," notes Ernst's letter, outlining the "public attacks on individuals, beatings of women and girls, and search teams actively pursuing allies and partners" in recent weeks.

The tens of billions of dollars worth of military equipment Biden left behind that the Taliban now controls is another reason Ernst and her colleagues want a terrorist designation for the Taliban. "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," the letter to Blinken states. "Further, the Taliban display the will and the means to attack Americans and American interests."

For a group to be designated a terrorist organization by the United States, three criteria must be met. The organization must be foreign, it must engage in terrorist activity or have the means and motivation to engage in terrorism, and that activity must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or U.S. national security.

"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," Ernst's letter closes. 

There is good reason to insist the Biden administration make clear its feelings toward the Taliban after relying on them and leaving significant resources for them to seize in their aggressive offensive that toppled the Afghan government with a speed that defied Biden and Blinken's estimations. And with the State Department providing tens of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan — supposedly through trusted U.N. partners — there's increased concern over how the Biden administration may continue to indirectly enrich and enable Taliban terrorism.