National Security & Defense

Why Obama Needs to Pretend the Taliban Aren’t Terrorists

The administration makes a desperate and indefensible claim.

No doubt because of my background investigating, prosecuting, and studying terrorism, the cynical claim by White House spokesmen that the Taliban is not a terrorist organization has annoyed me even more than the Obama administration’s nonstop lying usually does. No surprise then that I could be found railing about it on The Kelly File Thursday night.

In that spirit, ten thoughts for the weekend:

1. Under federal law, there are only three requirements for a group to qualify as a “foreign terrorist organization”: It has to be (a) foreign, (b) engaged in “terrorist activity” (bombings, assassinations, etc., carried out to intimidate people and change policy), and (c) a national-security threat to the United States. The law that covers this is Sec. 1189(a) of Title 8, U.S. Code, from the federal Immigration and Nationality Act. It’s here, and it’s just the first few lines — even a president who routinely ignores the laws he is sworn to execute faithfully should be able to make some time for it, maybe on the plane ride between the golf course and the Saudi palace.

2. Obviously, even if it were true, as posited by Messrs. Schultz and Earnest (speaking for President Obama), that the Taliban is concerned only with Afghanistan, not with the global jihad, that would be irrelevant. They easily fit the definition of a foreign terrorist organization

3. Of course, it is not true that the Taliban is concerned only with Afghanistan. The administration’s risible claim to the contrary is part of its campaign to bleach the Islam out of radical Islam. Islamic supremacism, the ideology that fuels jihadist terror, is a global conquest ideology. Obama wants you to believe that there is just a dizzying array of small, disconnected, strange-sounding, indigenous “insurgent” groups that are not joined by any unifying ideology — the Afghan Taliban (not to be confused with the Pakistani Taliban), Hamas, Hezbollah, the Haqqani Network, Boko Haram, al-Nusra, Ansar al-Sharia, the sundry jihadist franchises that invoke al-Qaeda’s name (in the Arabian Peninsula, in the Islamic Maghreb, in the Indian subcontinent . . . ), and so on. You are not to see them as a united front against the West, but instead as animated by strictly parochial political and territorial disputes. The strategy, a disingenuous elevation of semantics over substance, is designed to minimize the global jihadist threat to the West that has intensified on Obama’s watch and has undeniable roots in a supremacist interpretation of Islam.

4. You need not take my word for it when it comes to the Taliban’s ideological connection to the global jihad. Instead, just look at what they do. What did the Taliban do when they ruled Afghanistan? They willfully allowed their territory to be used as a launch pad for attacks against the United States (the 1998 embassy bombings in eastern Africa, the 2000 bombing of the Cole, and the 9/11 atrocities). And after 9/11, when, by simply handing bin Laden & Co. over to the United States, they could have stayed in power and avoided an invasion of the Afghanistan they are said to be preoccupied with, what did they do? At enormous cost to themselves, they tried to shelter al-Qaeda. In the 14 years since, they have continued to abet the global jihadist campaign, and have reveled in making war against the United States — a war they now understandably think they will win.

5. The Taliban’s continued alliance with al-Qaeda’s global jihad is of a piece with Hamas’s self-proclaimed incorporation in the Muslim Brotherhood’s global ambitions, and with the forward-militia role Hezbollah plays for Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s revolutionary state that exports its Shiite version of jihad. All of these actors perceive themselves as enmeshed in a civilizational struggle against the West. We can’t erase that by pretending there is no animating ideology, pretending that they can be pacified if we satisfy their local grievances.#page#

6. This business of distinguishing “insurgents” from “terrorists” is nonsense. An insurgency is just a domestic uprising (in the sense that the insurgent is from the country in which he is rebelling). When insurgents use terrorist tactics they are domestic terrorists. It may make Obama feel better to say that his pal Bill Ayers was an “insurgent,” but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a terrorist.

7. The most disturbing facet of the “insurgent” canard is that Obama is buying the logic of such Islamic supremacists as the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They claim that Hamas and Hezbollah are not terrorist organizations (as American law designates them to be) but domestic political organizations that engage not in terrorism but in “resistance” — a righteous fight against “injustice” and “occupation” in their homelands.

8. Obama, of course, is not approving of the Taliban’s tactics and goals. But he wants you to see them as domestic insurgents because progressives believe insurgents should be negotiated with and brought into a political settlement — and to the extent insurgents go overboard in their aggression, progressives believe they should be prosecuted in the civilian justice system, not fought militarily like wartime enemies.

9. In the United States, Obama is operating in a political environment where the public — based on longstanding prudential American policy — believes we should not negotiate with terrorists because that encourages and legitimizes their savage methods. Similarly, the public strongly believes international terrorists are enemies who must be defeated, not defendants who must be indicted. Obama knows he is negotiating with, intends to settle with, and eventually will leave Afghanistan to the tender mercies of, the Taliban. Therefore, the administration is desperate that you not look at the Taliban as terrorists.

10. But they are terrorists.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

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