In the wake of the failed car bombing in Times Square, the State Department is pursuing avenues to blacklist the terrorist group behind the attack.
"We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it. And that he was working at their direction."
The Pakistani Taliban has long been a source of concern to the United States government. The group has taken aim at both Pakistani and Western targets since its creation in December 2007. At one point the group's spokesman Maulvi Omar declared:
"Our main aim is to target the US allies in Afghanistan but the government of Pakistan's ill-strategy has made us to launch a defensive Jihad in Pakistan....The government of Pakistan would be paid in the same coin now."
Since then, the Pakistani Taliban has targeted key cities in Pakistan's Punjabi heartland, including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and Lahore.
But the failed attack in Times Square has spurred interest in combating the group. As State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley recently explained:
"We've been focused on the Pakistani Taliban for some time, but obviously we are gleaning information in this investigation based on the information that the suspect is providing us."
Leading the charge is a group of senators who wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking that the Pakistani Taliban be designated a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" (FTO). The State Department has designated 45 groups as FTOs, with the most recent addition being the addition of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula around the time of the failed Christmas Day airline bombing.
The formal process of designating a group an FTO is carried out by the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Among the factors that the office considers are actual terrorist attacks carried out by a group, whether the group has engaged in planning and preparation for possible future acts of terrorism, and whether the group has the capability and intent to carry out future attacks.
In asking the State Department to designate the group, the Senators explained:
"The Pakistani Taliban is a murderous organization dedicated to killing civilians, harming U.S. interests in the region, and has even taken credit for terrorist acts committed on U.S. soil….Designating the Pakistani Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization would be an effective means of curtailing support for their terrorist activities and pressuring other groups to withdraw their logistical, financial, and political support for this terrorist organization."
Designating the Pakistani Taliban as an FTO would have the effect of making the group persona non grata in the international community—imposing severe travel and financial sanctions on members. It also would make it illegal to provide any assistance to the group.