GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization

GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization
© Greg Nash

A group of GOP senators unveiled a bill Wednesday that would direct the State Department to officially list the Taliban as a terrorist organization, ramping up their pressure on the Biden administration to take action against the militant group following its takeover of Afghanistan last month. 

The bill, called the Preventing Recognition of Terrorist States Act, was introduced by Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Gen. Milley faces his toughest day yet on Capitol Hill The Memo: Biden's immigration problems reach crescendo in Del Rio MORE (R) along with fellow GOP Sens. Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Capito grills EPA nominee on '#ResistCapitalism' tweet GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE (W.Va.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Overnight Energy: Judge blocks permits for Alaska oil project MORE (Alaska), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) MORE (N.C.) and Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisThe bipartisan reason Congress should regulate big tech GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Crypto debate set to return in force MORE (Wyo.). 

The legislation would call on Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Republican lawmakers warn against more military coordination with Russia Uyghur Tribunal is a litmus test of the human rights establishment MORE to “designate the illegitimate Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a state sponsor of terrorism and the Taliban as a terrorist organization,” according to a press release from Rubio’s office

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The bill also calls for sanctions on foreign actors who “knowingly provide assistance to the Taliban” and would mandate a report “that determines whether the Taliban should be designated as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker under the Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.” 

The senators also aim to make sure that U.S. taxpayer money does not go to any foreign terrorist organizations that may be present in Afghanistan. 

“There is no doubt that a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan poses a direct threat to our national security interests and that of our allies and partners both in the Middle East and in Central Asia,” Rubio said in a statement. 

The senator added that "following the Biden Administration’s disastrous military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country is already becoming a safe haven for terrorists who hate America.” 

“Unfortunately, there is no reason to think President BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE will treat the Taliban like the terrorists they are,” he added. “Congress must take action to deal with this new reality and keep Americans safe.”

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While the Taliban were declared Specially Designated Global Terrorists in July 2002 by then-President George W. Bush, the group is not currently included on the State Department’s official list of foreign terrorist organizations. 

The legislation comes after Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump-backed challenger to Cheney decried him as 'racist,' 'xenophobic' in 2016: report State Department spokesperson tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers fret over wild week of deadlines MORE (R-S.C.) and Rep. Michael WaltzMichael WaltzGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Defense & National Security — The mental scars of Afghanistan MORE (R-Fla.) each introduced a resolution Tuesday calling on the State Department to issue the terrorist organization designation for the Taliban. 

Several other Republican senators led by Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstHillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — Instagram 'pausing' kid-targeted plan Senators aim to increase oversight of cryptocurrency mining with new bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates MORE (Iowa) on Wednesday sent a letter to Blinken also supporting the action, writing that the “current version of the Taliban government presents a significant threat to the United States.”

Biden is unlikely to officially recognize the Taliban’s government since they captured Kabul last month. The Taliban takeover prompted a chaotic wave of evacuations of Americans and Afghan allies from the country amid fear of an oppressive regime similar to the one the group led more than 20 years ago. 

Despite criticisms from Republicans on his decision to rapidly withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the president has continued to stand by his actions, and Blinken said last month that the Taliban must earn any international “legitimacy and support” they seek.