Bush Takes Tough Line On Taliban

By T.C. Malhotra | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - President Bush's decision to maintain economic sanctions against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban demonstrated that Washington is not planning to ease off on the fundamentalist Islamic militia when it came to the question of terrorism, regional analysts here said Thursday.

Bush earlier this week issued an order directing that sanctions remain in place, as the Taliban continued to give safe haven to the Saudi-born international terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil said the U.S. decision would harm the Afghan people, and reiterated the militia's stance that it would not allow Bin Laden to use Afghan territory as a base for attacks against any country.

"The new Bush administration is showing the Taliban that they cannot wash their hands off the actions taken by Osama-related groups," said a New Delhi based analyst, Rahul Banerjee.

"It is also indicating that it does not take the Taliban's word seriously about Osama's activities being strictly monitored and controlled. The U.S. will make the Taliban pay for continuing to host [him]."

Sanctions were imposed against the Taliban, which rules 90 percent of war torn Afghanistan, after the 1998 terrorist bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa killed 224 people.

"The Taliban continues to allow territory under its control in Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven and base of operations for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida organization who have committed, and threaten to continue to commit, acts of violence against the United States and its nationals," Bush's executive order read.

It freezes all property of the Taliban in the United States and bans trade-related activities by U.S. citizens in the Taliban controlled territory in Afghanistan.

The order came amid reports that the U.S. had warned the Taliban that it would be held responsible in the event of further terrorist actions by Bin Laden-linked groups against American interests.

According to reports from Islamabad, the U.S. message was conveyed to the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abus Salaam Zaeef, by U.S. ambassador William Milam at a meeting last Friday in the Pakistan capital.

The State Department confirmed that the meeting took place, and said the U.S. ambassador told the Taliban it should expel Bin Laden and stop supporting terrorism.

Investigators believe Bin Laden may be linked to last year's bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, which cost the lives of 19 U.S. sailors.

Meanwhile, concerned over growing threats of terrorism emanating from Taliban-held areas, India is seeking global cooperation to deal with the issue.

A joint statement issued after a recent meeting of US-India joint counter-terrorism working group said the two governments agreed that "the policies of the Taliban regime of Afghanistan foster terrorism."

In a meeting of a similar joint working group in Moscow last week, India and Russia denounced the Taliban's decision to enforce separate dress codes for Hindus and Sikhs, calling it "cultural terrorism."