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State Department designates Pakistani Taliban as a “foreign terrorist organization”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday designated Pakistan’s largest Taliban umbrella group as an official "foreign terrorist organization." The group, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which took credit for the attempted May 1 bombing of New York’s Times Square, is now threatening to attack Western aid workers assisting Pakistan with its ongoing flood ...

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday designated Pakistan’s largest Taliban umbrella group as an official "foreign terrorist organization."

The group, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which took credit for the attempted May 1 bombing of New York’s Times Square, is now threatening to attack Western aid workers assisting Pakistan with its ongoing flood crisis, according to State Department officials.

Last fall, the Pakistani Army launched an ambitious offensive aimed at rooting the group out of its stronghold in South Waziristan, but top leaders such as Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali Ur Rehman, who the United States has named "specially designated global terrorists," remain at large.

The TTP is widely suspected of being involved in the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. A 2009 suicide attack on the U.S. consulate in Peshawar was led by the TTP.

President Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said in May that the TTP was "closely allied" with al Qaeda. "They train together, they plan together, they plot together," he said. "They are almost indistinguishable."

Because U.S. law requires that an organization pose a direct threat to the United States in order to be listed, the TTP’s claim of involvement in the Times Square bombing attempt was significant. Now, the U.S. government can prosecute anyone giving "material aid" to the TTP, and the government can freeze the group’s assets in the United States.

Lawmakers and some experts had been calling on the State Department to take action sooner.

"We cannot wait any longer to go after this group with everything we’ve got. This organization poses an existential threat to the safety of not only our soldiers fighting abroad, but also Americans here at home. It’s time we dealt them with using every tool at our disposal," Sen. Chuck Schumer, NY, said in May.

UPDATE: The State Department has sent out some additional information, including that there is a $5 million reward for information leading to the location of Mehsud and Rehman.

Spokesman P.J. Crowley detailed the ties between the TTP and al Qaeda:

"TTP and al-Qaida have a symbiotic relationship; TTP draws ideological guidance from al-Qaida, while al-Qaida relies on TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border. This mutual cooperation gives TTP access to both al-Qaidas global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members. Given the proximity of the two groups and the nature of their relationship, TTP is a force multiplier for al-Qaida," Crowley said.

States Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin focused on the Times Square episode: 

"Faisal Shahzads attempted attack on U.S. soil highlights the direct threat posed by the Pakistani Taliban Todays actions put the TTP and its sympathizers on notice that the United States will not tolerate support to this organization, which has inflicted great harm to U.S. and Pakistani interests," said Benjamin.

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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