If It Walks and Talks Like a Terrorist Organization ...

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By Lisa Beyer

The Afghan Haqqani network acts like a terrorist group. Its forces killed 16 people during a siege on the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul last September, among other atrocities.

It talks like a terrorist group; its leader, Siraj Haqqani, has taken credit for terrorist acts. And yet it isn't a terrorist group, at least not officially in the U.S.

Members of Congress have been pressing the Obama administration to designate the Haqqani network a terrorist organization for months. The president and his advisers have resisted. For one thing, the group enjoys support from Pakistan, with whom the U.S. already has strained relations. For another, the administration hopes to coax the Haqqanis into national reconciliation talks aimed at soothing civil strife in Afghanistan before U.S. troops withdraw in 2014.

Last month, the House and Senate pushed the issue, passing a bill requiring the secretary of State to report to Congress on whether the group should be included on the terrorist list. The president signed the bill Aug. 10, giving Hillary Clinton a month to complete her report.

She should say yes to the designation. It may ruffle feathers in Pakistan, but the Pakistanis aren't likely to help combat the Haqqanis. As for preserving the prospect of the Haqqanis joining reconciliation talks, the U.S. is already pursuing its fighters and killing them, so if that doesn't wreck goodwill, a terrorist listing shouldn't.

Most important, a designation would give the U.S. a powerful new weapon against the Haqqani network: sanctions that would require financial institutions to block all transactions in which the group has an interest. Terrorists don't need a lot of money, but they need some. The Haqqanis raise much of theirs in the Persian Gulf, whose banks prefer to stay on the right side of the U.S. Treasury.

(Lisa Beyer is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)

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-0- Aug/15/2012 20:23 GMT