It seems increasingly likely that the Pakistani Taliban were behind Faisal Shahzad’s attempted bombing of Time Square for all that they disavowed him. Which is why Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and New Jersey’s Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez sent a letter to the State Department on Tuesday demanding that the group be deemed a terrorist organization – a move that would immediate freeze its assets, bar foreign nationals with ties to the group from entering the U.S. and criminalize the act of providing any material assistance to the group.
Pakistan has long resisted such a move, saying that the Pakistani Taliban is simply an umbrella organization and many of its members are already listed as terrorist groups by the State Department. On the ground, Pakistanis don’t have the same idea of what ‘taliban’ means – to them the word is roughly translated as a learned person or a student – so there’s a danger inciting negativity in communities by branding all “taliban” terrorists, according to Bilal Baloch, a research analyst with the Transnational Crisis Project.
Still, Schumer argues, if the group is now a threat on U.S. soil – however botched – it has to be taken seriously. “With this attack on our homeland they’ve declared war on the citizens of the United States,” Schumer said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “There is no wiggle room, there is no doubt that the Pakistan Taliban pose a threat.” When asked if the Democratic Senators were criticizing the Obama Administration’s security policies, Schumer said that wasn’t true. “The bottom line is there’s a decision process going on at the State Department right now and we want to weigh in and make our voices heard,” he said.