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U.S. Declares Haqqani Network a Terrorist Organisation

WASHINGTON, Sep 8 2012 (IPS) - The U.S. State Department on Friday declared the Haqqani network, a militant group based in Pakistan, a “terrorist organisation”.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed the order while in Brunei and also sent a formal report to Congress, two days before a congressional deadline.

Clinton’s statement minces no words in its characterisation of the Haqqani network, a group that has been responsible for deaths and kidnappings of U.S. soldiers, as well as an onslaught of suicide bombings. And while the statement touches on the subject of offering aid to the group – and its consequences – it barely mentions Pakistan.

Such a designation, formally known as a “foreign terrorist organisation”, brings with it a “prohibition against knowingly providing material support or resources to, or engaging in other transactions with, the Haqqani Network, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States.”

Pakistan doesn’t fall into the category, but its exclusion from the statement may have been by design.

“The Pakistani government seems to have signalled that they can live with this decision,” Marvin Weinbaum, a former analyst on Pakistan and Afghanistan in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, told IPS.

If Pakistan were to be called out for letting the Haqqani network operate on its territory, a string of events would automatically ensue, thus souring a relationship that, even now, is only barely recovering after a year of significant disagreements.

“The U.S. government is not going to directly involve Pakistan, because then it would imply that the Pakistani government is aiding and abetting the Haqqani network,” Weinbaum said. “That would have to lead to the U.S. putting sanctions on Pakistan.”

In a briefing on Friday, two senior officials from the State Department echoed such analysis, saying they didn’t see Pakistan creating any problems regarding the decision. As one official put it, reconciliation efforts between the two countries would neither be put on hold nor be affected by the new decision.

“Obviously, the last year, year and a half, have been a very difficult time for our bilateral relationship,” the official said. “(Secretary Clinton) has said frequently that it is a challenging and complex but critical relationship … over the coming weeks, we are expecting a series of other important bilateral senior meetings … and this is one issue which we’ve raised many, many times with the Pakistanis and are committed to working with them on.”

The Haqqani network is one of the strongest elements of a tangle of politics, espionage and terrorism, a group allegedly backed by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Further confusing the equation is the fact that the network’s fighters are fighting with the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistan Army, offering a complex web of loyalties.

Known for running automobile and construction businesses as fronts for its militant activities, the Haqqani network is thought to have two staunch allies, the ISI and Saudi funders. But Weinbaum doesn’t think that the new U.S. listing will make much of a difference to these ties – or any resulting militant activity.

“Now that the decision has been passed, it will make it difficult for the Haqqani network to get support and funding from open channels,” he says. “It will definitely make it harder, but it won’t stop.”

Weinbaum believes that Clinton’s move was being heavily pushed by the Congress, members of which have become increasingly frustrated at the ease of ability with which the Haqqani fighters and leadership have been operating. Such frustrations have undoubtedly been further stoked given how little the United States has been able to do to slow the group, with close ties to Al-Qaeda.

“The decision doesn’t change anything fundamentally,” Weinbaum says. “But Congress will definitely feel less frustrated now. It’s election year, and as such this is a good move by the State Department.”

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