A group of Democratic U.S. senators is calling on the State Department to designate the Pakistani Taliban as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The call for adding the group to the list comes after the Obama administration implicated the Pakistani Taliban in helping to train and finance activities of Faisal Shahzad, who is accused of trying to set off a car bomb in New York City's Times Square district.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York told reporters that most Americans are aware that the U.S. is at war with the Taliban of Afghanistan. But he said the attempted car-bombing attack in New York City May 1 alerted Americans of the threat posed by their sister organization in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, has long been dedicated to killing civilians and harming U.S. interests in the region, but Schumer said they now also have their sights on targets on U.S. soil. "They have publicly committed to killing Americans, and in a video that surfaced last month they pledged to make U.S. cities their main target," he said.
Schumer said he and four other Democratic senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking the administration to cite the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, which would trigger a series of counterterrorism measures.
Adding an organization to the list allows the U.S. to freeze its assets, cut off its financing and prosecute people who materially support the organization.
Senator Schumer said it is high time the U.S. uses every tool at its disposal to fight back. "This designation by the State Department is a critical component to any effort to destabilize the Pakistani Taliban, but right now we are not utilizing. I was shocked to learn that the group was omitted from the list, especially in the wake of the Times Square incident," he said.
State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed that the State Department is considering adding the Pakistani Taliban to the Foreign Terrorist Organization list. "We are considering the question of designating the Pakistani Taliban. As you would envision, there is an intentionally deliberate process that we go through, and it, any group that is to be designated must meet very specific legal criteria, but it is something that we are considering, in light of what happened. And obviously the investigation will yield the information that might give us greater clarity," he said.
Forty-five organizations are currently designated as foreign terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, the Real Irish Republican Army and Hamas.