The Corner

Remind Me Again, We’re at War in Afghanistan Because . . . ? [CORRECTED]

The Obama State Department has just released its annual terrorism report. It was due to Congress on April 30; the administration that talks incessantly about “the rule of law” — but has little interest in enforcing or complying with the law — held off until the end of August, when Washington is a ghost town. But that, as President Obama must say a lot, is par for the course.

The immediately notable thing about the report is what is not in it. Once again, the Taliban is not included in State’s listing of Foreign Terrorist Organizations — not the Taliban whose terrorism and safe haven for al Qaeda are the justification for continuing to have our troops fight and die in Afghanistan; and not the separate but related Pakistani Taliban that plots against the U.S. and tried to bomb Times Square.

I’ve argued before (most recently here) that Congress should amend the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force — the legal foundation for conducting U.S. combat operations in the War on Terror — so that the Taliban organizations (among others) are expressly specified as the enemy. But what’s the chance that we will be clear about who the enemy is if the administration can’t even bring itself to say the Taliban is a terrorist organization?

Of course, if the Obama administration were encouraging negotiations with the Taliban (it is) and even anticipating a settlement in which the Taliban were brought into the Afghan government (ditto), the State Department wouldn’t want to complicate that by naming the Taliban as a terrorist organization, right? So we are putting our forces in harm’s way in the War on Terror order to fight an outfit that we won’t call “terrorists” and that we actually see as part of the future Afghan government we are building.

Great. Meanwhile, here are some of the organizations that State puts on its list while leaving the Taliban off: the Basque ETA, the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Continuity Irish Republican Army, the Real IRA, Kahane Chai, the Shining Path, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, — I could go on, but what’s the point? 

UPDATE & CORRECTION: I was wrong about the Pakistani Taliban. The State Department has put them on the list — they are listed as “Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP).” As I report in the post, the Afghan Taliban continues not to be listed. I apologize for the error.

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