'Both Stick and Carrot': US Threatens Afghan Taliban With Terrorist List if it Repudiates Promises
20:43 GMT 20.08.2021 (Updated: 22:49 GMT 20.08.2021)
© AP Photo / Pakistani Taliban handoutThe Taliban fighters
© AP Photo / Pakistani Taliban handout
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Friday that listing the Taliban* as a terrorist organization was one tool in several that Washington could use to lure the Afghan militant group into living up to its promises, which include renouncing terrorism and ending support for terrorist groups.
Asked at a Friday press conference about whether the threat of being placed on the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list was a pressure tool Washington was using to get results from the Taliban, Price responded that it was.
“We have a number of tools at our disposal. The Taliban, right now, is a specially designated global terrorist group. They’re on the SDGT designation list. That is one tool. It’s both a stick and … a carrot, a potential inducement, to induce the Taliban to uphold those basic international norms, the basic rights of its people," Price said. "But the FTO list, other sanctions, that’s one single tool.”
The SDGT list, maintained by the US Treasury, is used for applying financial sanctions to groups that frustrate their operations, while the FTO prohibits material support for them and is much higher profile. The Taliban was added to the SDGT list in 2002, but while the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, is listed as a foreign terrorist organization under Executive Order 13224, the Afghan Taliban is not.
According to US state-funded media outlet Voice of America, "political expedience has obligated keeping the group off the list" in order to ease negotiations with the group, which has fought an 18-year insurgency against the US occupation and US-backed Afghan government.
"There is no doubt that the Taliban occasionally attacks civilians intentionally, not accidentally, and that's the definition of terrorism," James Dobbins, a former US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told VOA in 2017. "And, thus, the designation would be accurate enough. The question is whether or not it would serve the US and Afghan government purposes for that step to be taken."
The Haqqani Network, another Islamic extremist group allied to the Taliban, is on the FTO list, though. However, in 2012, when the US State Department added the Haqqani Network to the list, the Taliban said there was "no separate entity or network in Afghanistan by the name of Haqqani" and that the group's purported leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is a member of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban's top leadership council across the border in Pakistan.
After capturing the Afghan capital of Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban promised to form an inclusive government and invited women to join it, while promising amnesty to government employees who worked with the US-backed regime. However, in speaking about women's rights, a Taliban spokesperson said other nations must respect their cultural values. The last time the Taliban were in power, from 1996 until 2001, women were essentially deprived of social and political rights.
The Taliban has also made promises about not allowing groups to use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack other countries. That promise was aimed partly at the United States, which invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the first Taliban government in October 2001 in retribution for the Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to operate and train in the country, including planning and executing the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. However, their promise was also aimed at China, which is concerned about the Taliban's past refuge for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a terrorist organization in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region that seeks to separate the province from China.
However, the US has already taken some measures against the Taliban since it seized power, including freezing Afghanistan's assets in US banks, arguing there had been no "formal transfer of power to the Taliban."
*The Taliban is listed as a terrorist organization in Russia.