For the first time since the 2004 congressional mandate that the secretary of State submit an annual report on international terrorism to the speaker of the House of Representatives, the State Department has failed to fulfill this duty. No Country Reports on Terrorism was issued in 2022.
Major events happen so frequently lately that little ones often go unnoticed. Between Russian atrocities in Ukraine, Iranian atrocities in Iran, and the Biden administration's atrocious policies at home, it was easy to overlook this missing report last year.
According to 22 USC 2656f, "The Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by April 30 of each year, a full and complete report providing . . . detailed assessments with respect to each foreign country . . . in which acts of international terrorism occurred."
The April 30 deadline is rarely met. June and July releases are more common. The CRT most recently released, covering 2020, came out on December 16, 2021.
When asked for a comment on the tardy report, Vincent Picard, spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism told me, "We've hit a couple of internal bureaucratic process hurdles this year that are almost resolved. The report should be released soon."
The nature of the CRT's retrospective assessment of the previous year means that some years are far more politically charged than others. The 2021 CRT was produced by the Blinken State Department assessing 2020, the final year of the Trump administration. Had it been submitted in accordance with law, the 2022 CRT would have been the Blinken State Department's assessment of the Biden administration's first year.
What could it say? 2021 was a spectacularly bad year for U.S. foreign policy and perhaps the most significant year for global terrorism since 1979.
It started out with Blinken assembling a team of failed diplomats who specialize in "peace processing" but never produce anything close to peace for their efforts: Brian McKeon, Ross Wilson, Wendy Sherman, and the dung beetle of international diplomacy, Robert Malley, whom Biden put in charge of jump-starting Obama's failed Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA.
Blinken's team began the year in Alaska, meeting a team of Chinese diplomats who berated them.
In violation of the Taylor Force Act, the Biden administration restored funding to the Palestinian Authority in 2021, despite the PA's continued "Pay to Slay" program, which rewards terrorists who attack Israel with stipends and compensates the families of dead terrorists ("martyrs") for the violence carried out by their dead relatives.
But the single-most-disastrous decision of the Biden administration in 2021 was its botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, effectively handing the country over to the Taliban, erasing 20 years of effort, leaving behind billions of dollars' worth of military hardware, and abandoning a secure Bagram Air Base in favor of a fantasy about the military's "Over the Horizon" capability to stop terrorist acts.
At the time, Blinken did his best to put lipstick on the pig, praising the withdrawal as a logistical tour de force and announcing that "a new chapter of America's engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It's one in which we lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun." But with the benefit of hindsight, there's little to celebrate. Afghanistan has returned to the 1990s safe-haven for terrorists, only this time al-Qaeda and ISIS are fighting each other, and the Taliban are fighting the people of Afghanistan, especially women and former U.S. allies.
So what did Antony Blinken do at the end of the year instead of ensuring that the Country Reports on Terrorism was dutifully submitted to the speaker of the House? He released his Spotify playlists — one list to tell the world that his favorite tunes of the year were sung by Taylor Swift, Lizzo, and Bad Bunny, and another list to showcase his favorite musicians from the various countries he visited in 2022.
Unless Congress does something about the State Department's dereliction of duty, little will happen. Team Biden will prefer to ignore its responsibilities and hope that no one notices the absent report. Congress must ensure that this does not happen.
Among the long list of investigations that the Republicans in the House plan for 2023, one of the inquiries should be geared toward compelling Blinken to submit the Country Reports on Terrorism for 2021 and explain why it has not been submitted, eight months (and counting) past the deadline. It should make for interesting reading — far more interesting than Blinken's list of his favorite music.
A.J. Caschetta is a Ginsberg-Milstein fellow at the Middle East Forum and a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.