Rise to Peace blog

The U.S. Removed Five Extremist Organizations From Its Terrorism Blacklist

The U.S. is expected to remove five extremist groups from its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) blacklist, all of which are thought to be defunct, including several that formerly represented substantial risks, killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people across Eurasia and the Middle East. Although terrorists have different reasons for being inoperative in these circumstances, patterns emerge in why they decide to abandon the terrorist or extremist organization. Some members have left after growing disillusioned with the organization’s planning and strategy. Aside from that, the group is undeterred because it lacks strong leaders or is unable to make a public impression, which makes them undaunted in civil society.

Despite the fact that the five organizations are no longer functioning, the judgment is politically controversial for President Biden’s administration and the nations in which they operate. This is because many of their victims are still plagued by the attacks they perpetrated, and it could lead to backlash from casualties and their families who have lost loved ones. However, the decision has come under speculation as to understand why these groups are now no longer considered a threat.

The State Department said in special notices to Congress that the five groups’ terrorism classifications will be legally withdrawn when the conclusions are released in the Federal Register, which is likely to occur this week. According to Secretary of State Blinken, the common motivation for the revocation is the same in each case: they were constituted based on a five-year administrative review of the designations, as required by law. On Sunday, the State Department said that revoking FTO designations ensures that the terrorism prohibitions are current and credible. It does not reflect any change in policy toward any of these organizations’ previous activities.

Removing the organizations from the FTO list immediately lifts a slew of restrictions that had been imposed as a result of the designations. Asset freezes and travel bans are among them, as is a prohibition on any American supplying material aid to the groups or their members. All but one of the five organizations were recognized as FTOs for the first time in 1997 and have opted to stay on the list for the past 25 years. Officials familiar with the case said the choices were made after lawmakers were consulted some months ago about whether the latest five-year reviews should go forward.

Only the classified parts that prompted the notifications, which are not classified on their own, provide the particular reasons for each of the removals. These portions are marked “SECRET/NOFORN,” indicating that U.S. officials can only disclose their information with appropriate security clearances, not by foreign governments. The Basque separatist group ETA, the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, the radical Jewish group Kahane Kach, and two Islamic groups active in Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Egypt are among those being removed from the list.

Final Thoughts: Classification Over Emotions

It is critical to remember that a terrorist organization has always had the option of deterring, surrendering, and redeeming itself. When the government continues to subjugate these groups, it encourages these organizations and individuals to grieve and retaliate with additional attacks, even if they lack resources. One essential counterterrorism lesson learned is that terrorists, no matter their ideology or objectives against the government and society, still have weak points. Their inactivity could indicate that the government’s counterterrorism actions are effective and efficient.


Kristian N. Rivera, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

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