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 Rubio (R) along with fellow GOP Sens. Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.). 

The legislation would call on Secretary of State Antony Blinken 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

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 Biden 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.”

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 Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Michael Waltz (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 Ernst (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.

Tags Afghanistan conflict Antony Blinken biden administration Cynthia Lummis Dan Sullivan Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Joe Biden Joni Ernst Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio Michael Waltz Shelley Moore Capito State Department state-sponsored terrorism Taliban Thom Tillis
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