Why are the Taliban not a terrorist group?
March 4, 2009 2:26 AM   Subscribe

Why is the Taliban not on the US or UK proscribed lists of terrorist organisations?

I checked out the lists referred to here and here. There are other organisations who have similar stated aims to the Taliban - Hizb-i Islami Gulbuddin, for example, who were put on the Canadian and British lists (but still, bizarrely, not on the US list) - but nothing on the Taliban. Can anyone tell me why? Is it the definition of "terrorist group"?
posted by YouRebelScum to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Al Queda is listed on the wiki site.
posted by watercarrier at 2:30 AM on March 4, 2009

Speculation: the US (maybe uk?) supported the Taliban in the cold war. It would look bad to go as far as calling them a terrorist group.

*Polishes tinfoil hat*
posted by Not Supplied at 4:06 AM on March 4, 2009

Al Queda is listed on the wiki site.

Taliban ≠ Al Queda
posted by Neiltupper at 5:04 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Because they never had committed an act of terrorism prior to the invasion? That's changed now of course. Brutal repression of your own people is not terrorism, nor is fighting a civil war, necessarily.
posted by BinGregory at 5:09 AM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: BinGregory - I think they do regular reviews, so even if it wasn't the case back in 2002 it should be now since their attacks have been escalating. Also, other Afghan parties with a lesser profile are being considered - the Brits and Canadians have Hizb-i Islami on their list of proscribed groups, the US thinks they are "of concern".

Not Supplied - as I understand it, the US did not really support the Taliban, so much as their backers the ISI - and this stopped in the 90s (the Talibs appeared in '94).

I wondered if it was a matter of leaving options open to deal with them in the future, but the rhetoric from the Bush Administration was fairly consistently "the Taliban are very bad people and we want to blow them up" and Obama appears to be taking a similar line.
posted by YouRebelScum at 5:13 AM on March 4, 2009

Legal Criteria for Designation under Section 219 of the INA as amended

1. It must be a foreign organization.
2. The organization must engage in terrorist activity, as defined in section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA (8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(3)(B)),* or terrorism, as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)(2)),** or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.
3. The organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.

From your link. The Taliban definitely never met 3. (and may not have met 2.) prior to the invasion. They never had ambitions outside their own country by all accounts. The degree to which the Taliban was assisting Bin Laden, as opposed to simply not throwing him out, has not been conclusively determined.
posted by BinGregory at 5:16 AM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: BinGregory - thanks for that. It makes sense until 2001, but does not explain why they are still not on the list, since they definitely threaten US personnel in Afghanistan.
posted by YouRebelScum at 5:35 AM on March 4, 2009

Sorry, I didn't preview. You've got a point, but the FTO list hasn't been updated since 2005 (surprising!). Was Karzai installed already by 2005? Because if not, you could argue that the Taliban were the State, and thus not a FTO which must be sub-national...? I dunno, I admit it does seem strange that they haven't been added. Your speculation about leaving options open for negotiation makes a certain amount of sense.
posted by BinGregory at 5:45 AM on March 4, 2009

It makes sense until 2001, but does not explain why they are still not on the list, since they definitely threaten US personnel in Afghanistan.

But again, the definition cited above is not about "threatening US personnel" in general -- if that were the case, every single armed conflict in the world that the US had ever engaged in would be a war against terrorism. Similarly, under that logic, the American Revolution would have been fought by 'terrorists' against the British -- you can see the problems that begin to pile up when you try and define any armed resistance as 'terrorism'.

The Taliban never engaged in terrorist activity that threatened non-Afghans.
posted by modernnomad at 6:32 AM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: Violent separatists are - famously - called "terrorists" from the point of view of the powers that be (even if freedom fighters by others). That seems to be why the list includes the IRA, ETA and the LTTE (amongst others) who only really threaten those from the same country (UK, Spain, Sri Lanka, etc). Also, if there's anywhere that should start to be considered a threat to US interests, then it's Afghanistan and FATA right now - as repeated US statements have made clear.
posted by YouRebelScum at 6:46 AM on March 4, 2009

Best answer: They're on OFAC's SDN list, which is really the most comprehensive master list of people/organizations/government sanctioned by the U.S. gov't available to the public. As was mentioned previously, the FTO is rarely updated so the SDN list is a much better guide to who's currently on the U.S. shitlist.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:49 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

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