U.S. declares Pakistan warlord group terrorists
The terrorist designation allows the U.S. to pressure companies or countries to stop doing business with the Haqqani network.
Tribune Washington bureau
WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday designated Pakistan's Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization, opening the way to use new tools to thwart an enemy that has attacked U.S. troops and Afghan civilians while operating much like an organized-crime family.
The terrorist designation allows the U.S. to pressure companies or countries to stop doing business with the Haqqanis.
The move by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came after lengthy debate within the Obama administration, with some officials fearing the designation might make it harder to negotiate a peace settlement with the Haqqanis and their allies, the Taliban. But negotiations have gone nowhere, and the CIA has been launching drone strikes at Haqqani targets, including an attack last month that killed Badruddin Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the group's leader and a member of its governing council.
"This designation could meaningfully impair the international fundraising and business efforts that allow the Haqqanis to fund their terrorist attacks, foreign-fighter training and radicalization programs," said Jeffrey Dressler, a leading expert on the Haqqanis at a Washington, D.C., think tank, the Institute for the Study of War.
A senior Obama administration official, who declined to be identified, said the terrorist designation did not prohibit U.S. officials from talking to the Haqqanis, a clan of Afghan Pashtun warlords based in Pakistan's tribal areas. The warlords operate across the border in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials remain skeptical of the U.S. commitment to peace talks, and designating the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization will make negotiations less likely, said a Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The Haqqanis agree, senior commanders in the group told the Reuters news service.
"It means the United States is not sincere in their talks," an unnamed Haqqani commander was quoted as saying.
Another commander said the move will mean hardship for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in 2009 and is being held by the group.
The decision nonetheless drew praise from members of both parties in Congress, which had passed legislation requiring the decision be made by Sunday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the Haqqanis are responsible for deaths or injuries to more than 1,300 U.S. troops and have orchestrated a series of terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan, including suicide bombings and assassinations.
"This is a critical step that clears the path for the United States to begin to put a chokehold on the network's finances," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who chairs the House Intelligence Committee.
U.S. officials have long said elements of Pakistan's government support the Haqqanis. Adm. Mike Mullen, shortly before he retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in September that the Haqqanis were a "virtual arm" of Pakistani intelligence.
Analysts believe the Haqqanis have a fighting force of about 5,000 that splits its time between Afghanistan and Pakistan.