U.S. Weighs Official “Terrorist Organization” Status for the Pakistani Taliban
Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, May 12, 2010
In light of evidence that the group known as the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attempted May 1 Times Square bombing, the Obama administration is “actively considering” designating it as a ”foreign terrorist organization” in the next few weeks —a move that would allow the U.S. government to freeze any assets belonging to the group and make it a federal crime to assist the group, officials said Tuesday. But the disclosure, first made by State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, immediately raised questions among some counterterrorism experts as to why Washington didn’t act sooner. “I’m pretty surprised that it has taken the U.S. government such a long time to do this,” says Hassan Abbas, a Columbia University professor and former Pakistani police officer who is considered the leading academic expert on the Pakistani Taliban. “This is certainly one of the most lethal [terrorist] groups in South Asia and I would rank it in the top five of all international terror groups.”
The Pakistani Taliban – actually a coalition of militant groups known collectively as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) -- didn’t even exist until December 2007, when the group was launched in response to the bloody siege of Islamabad’s Red Mosque in Islamabad. The siege ended when Pakistani troops stormed the building, killing more than 100 Islamic radicals. Abbas says the TTP has grown rapidly since then, with a core of as many as 3,000 members and roughly 15,000 fighters belonging to tribal militias who can be called on at short notice. That makes the TTP far larger and arguably more dangerous at this point than Al Qaeda, with which it is loosely allied, Abbas adds. The group’s attacks have grown in brazenness and sophistication, resulting in the deaths of more than 4,000 Pakistani military and law enforcement officers, according to Abbas.
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