Terrorism, Inc. – Should Afghanistan be on the US “State Sponsors of Terrorism” List?

The US classifies countries that actively support terrorism as “State Sponsors of Terrorism.”  Should Afghanistan, or at least the Taliban, now be included on the list? 

Alternatively, should the U.S. join the international community in supplying humanitarian relief for the Taliban government in charge of Afghanistan?

The Taliban government recently named Sirajuddin Haqqani as Afghanistan’s Interior Minister.  The Interior Ministry is in charge of law enforcement, civil order and fighting crime.  Sirajuddin is the leader of the Haqqani Network which has close ties to Al-Qaeda.  He claimed credit for a deadly hotel attack, a failed attempt to assassinate President Karzai and attacks on U.S. forces.  The victims have included plenty of Afghan civilians including a ten-year-old girl. 

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His uncle, Khalil Haqqani was put in charge of securing the capital city and appointed as the Minister of Refugees.  The U.S. government has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Sirajuddin and $5 million leading to the arrest of Khalil. $15 million not for the arrest of either — just for information that leads to the arrest. 

According to the United Nations, Yahya Haqqani, another senior member of the Network, has financed Al-Qaeda and acted to threaten the “peace, stability and security of Afghanistan.”  He has been involved in numerous attacks on military and civilian targets in Afghanistan

The Network has kidnaped journalists, carried out suicide bombings and set off a truck bomb in Kabul that killed 150 and injured more than 400.  They have also extorted businesses, smuggled heroin, blown up banks and built a factory to manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which were used on U.S. troops.  They are listed by the U.S. State Department as a “foreign terrorist organization.” 

More than simply supporting terrorism, the Taliban has put these wanted fugitives in charge of the country.  According to a British intelligence source, “The Haqqani and al-Qaeda have a long history together, you could argue they are intertwined, and it is highly unlikely they will cut ties.”  A retired British diplomat said putting the Haqqani network in charge of security is like the “fox being put in charge of the henhouse.”

A designation of the Taliban or Afghanistan as a State Sponsor of Terror would likely prohibit the U.S from giving foreign aid to the country.  However, the county seems to be headed into a horrific crisis.  

The U.N. announced on September 13th, they had raised more than a billion dollars for Afghanistan. The U.N.’s World Food Program has said they will need $200 million by the end of the year.  The U.S. has already pledged $330 million for Afghanistan this year, including $64 million for the World Food Program. 

The Taliban government has requested additional humanitarian aid on top of the billion. It’s an odd request for an organization that has shown contempt for human rights.  As the U.S. and her allies (donor community) have tried to stabilize Afghanistan for the last twenty years, they have been killed by the Taliban and its allies.  Now the Taliban has created a crisis from which they expect the donor community to bail them out. 

According to the Taliban Foreign Minister, the aid is needed because “the people of Afghanistan have been reeling under the brunt of war for forty years.”  The “brunt of war” has been prosecuted by the Haqqani Network.  For a decade they fought with the U.S. to remove the Soviets from the country.  In the next decade they fought to control Afghanistan and provide a safe-haven for Al-Qaeda.  For the last twenty years they fought against attempts to bring peace to the county.

The donor community will bail out the Taliban but it’s worth considering the cost.  Continued foreign assistance will subsidize current Taliban practices, such as producing and exporting heroin.  If the Taliban continue to export heroin, they are likely to risk losing foreign assistance.  But without assistance, the economy will likely collapse providing greater incentives for further heroin production.

Averting a human catastrophe is a worthy goal.  Subsidizing a government with terrorist affiliations as it lurches from crisis to crisis may be a policy doomed to fail.  

*8/3/2022 – Editors note: Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. His presence in the capital was an express violation of the Doha agreement of 2020. The Taliban committed to “not to cooperate with orpermit international terrorist groups or individuals” in Afghanistan. This agreement included a specific commitment from the Taliban to “to defeat al-Qa’ida, its affiliates, and other international terrorist groups or individuals.” This is yet another reason to declare the government of Afghanistan a state sponsor of terrorism.

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