Sept. 7 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration is likely to tell Congress that the Haqqani network meets the criteria for being declared a foreign terrorist group, three U.S. government officials said, stopping short of saying such a designation would be made immediately.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has until Sept. 9 to make a recommendation on blacklisting the Haqqani group, a Taliban faction based in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Waziristan region. It’s unclear whether labeling the unit as meeting the criteria would have more than symbolic impact, given its leaders have already been named terrorists, the officials said on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.
U.S. and Afghan officials have blamed the Haqqanis for high-profile attacks on coalition forces and targets in Kabul, such as an assault last year on the U.S. Embassy. While Democratic and Republican lawmakers have urged Clinton to act against the Haqqani movement, analysts including Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation and Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, say that doing so could further inflame relations with ally Pakistan.
Citing four American officials it didn’t name, the New York Times reported that the Haqqanis would be labeled a terrorist group and that an announcement would be made today. Clinton is on her way to Vladivostok in Russia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Then-U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen testified last September that the Haqqani network “acts as a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence services.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan, whose help the U.S. and Afghan governments have sought to pursue reconciliation talks with the main Taliban movement, sees the Haqqanis as a tool for protecting its interests in Afghanistan after American troops withdraw by 2014, Curtis said in May.
Pakistani leaders have allowed an insurgent sanctuary in North Waziristan “due to their concerns that Pakistan will be left alone to confront an unstable, an unfriendly or an Indian-influenced Afghanistan on its borders,” an April 30 U.S. Defense Department report said.
Pakistani leaders including former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar have rejected claims of links between the Haqqanis and the country’s main military intelligence agency. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has pushed Pakistan to begin an offensive against militants in North Waziristan.
A decision to attach the terrorist label to the Haqqanis would be “unlikely to reverse the progress made in improving” U.S.-Pakistan ties, said Ikram Sehgal, a Karachi-based analyst on military affairs, in a phone interview. “In Pakistan, it will be viewed as a requirement which the Obama administration has to fulfill under Congress pressure,” he said.
“One day the Pakistan army will have to move against the Haqqanis, but I don’t see that day coming in the near future,” Sehgal said. “They will do it when they have the proper resources.”
Relations with the U.S. that soured sharply with the killing of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil have improved in recent weeks. In a sign of progress, Pakistan reopened routes used to supply NATO troops in Afghanistan that were closed after a deadly U.S. helicopter raid on Pakistani border posts.
A blanket designation may make it easier for the Treasury Department to take steps against Haqqani members who might not have been individually designated presidential executive orders.
Afghan officials said last month that Badruddin Haqqani, the network’s operational commander, was killed recently in a drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Badruddin Haqqani was in charge of kidnappings, and claimed responsibility in 2008 for holding New York Times reporter David Rohde hostage until Rohde’s escape in June 2009.
Badruddin was the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the group’s founder. His father and his brothers, Nasiruddin Haqqani and Sirajuddin Haqqani, are all designated global terrorists, according to the State Department.
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