EXCLUSIVE: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is demanding Congress and the Biden administration designate the Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization and its new government as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The Florida senator is expected to roll out legislation Wednesday that would prohibit federal departments and agencies from taking any action that states or implies recognition of the Taliban’s claim of sovereignty over Afghanistan.
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The legislation is supported by GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.
Rubio is also proposing an assessment and annual report from the State Department on which countries have “diplomatic relations” with the Taliban, and whether any foreign persons “knowingly” provide assistance to the Taliban. The legislation would require the U.S. Treasury Department to then impose sanctions on individuals who provide assistance to the Taliban.
As for humanitarian aid, Rubio’s legislation would require USAID to ensure that any humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan – or any other state in which FTOs hold territory or wield “substantial power” – does not go to those terrorists. The bill would also block appropriated funds from going to any government whose duly elected head of government is deposed by “Coup d’etat.”
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The bill would also require an annual report from the State Department on whether Pakistan is providing safe harbor to designated foreign terrorist organizations; whether or not the Taliban should be designated as a “significant foreign narcotics trafficker;” and whether the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan should be considered a “high-risk jurisdiction.”
The bill also would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection to assess whether the importation of rare earth materials from Afghanistan violate prohibitions on goods made with forced labor, and would repeal the sections of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 that provided an exception in Iran sanctions for facilities and sectors necessary for Afghanistan reconstruction.
Rubio’s proposal comes just a week after the Taliban announced the formation of its new government, after the group took over Afghanistan amidst the U.S. military withdrawal last month.
The government will be led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as deputy. Other appointments include Mullah Yaqoob as acting defense minister, Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi as second deputy, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of designated terrorist organization Haqqani Network and one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorist operatives, as acting interior minister.
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The Biden administration, despite describing its dialogue with the Taliban as “cooperative,” “businesslike and professional” amidst the United States’ now-diplomatic mission to evacuate remaining Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan following the full withdrawal of U.S. troops on Aug. 31, said it is in “no rush” to recognize the group as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
“There’s no rush to recognition, and that will be dependent on what steps the Taliban takes,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week. “The world will be watching whether they allow for American citizens, whether they allow individuals to leave who want to, and how they treat women and girls around the country.”
Psaki said she did not have a “timeline” on if and when the Biden administration would recognize the Taliban.
The White House, though, plans to continue providing humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan but did not specify how it would ensure those funds stay out of the hands of the Taliban.
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White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, earlier this month, said humanitarian assistance is an “important dimension” that should go “directly to the people of Afghanistan.”
“We do go through nongovernmental organizations who are still operating on the ground in Afghanistan,” Sullivan said earlier this month. “It will not flow through [the Taliban.]”