WASHINGTON: US lawmakers from both parties on Friday urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare the Pakistan-linked Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization for its “indiscriminate attacks” on US interests.
Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and other lawmakers traveled to Afghanistan last week and met with President Hamid Karzai, US envoy Ryan Crocker and US military officials.
The trip “reaffirmed concerns substantiated by intelligence and our oversight work,” Democratic and Republican lawmakers said in their letter to Clinton.
“It was clear that the Haqqani network continues to launch sensational and indiscriminate attacks against US interests in Afghanistan and the group poses a continuing threat to innocent men, women, and children in the region.”
They also said in the letter that with Taliban peace talks stalled for months, there was little incentive to hold back on the terror designation.
“We understand there may have been reluctance within the administration to designate the Haqqani network while Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman attempted to negotiate a reconciliation agreement with the Taliban – a deal that may have included or affected the Haqqani network,” the lawmakers wrote.
“However, Ambassador Crocker told us last week that there have been no such talks since late last year, and that President Karzai has opposed their continuation.
“It is clear that there is now no reason not to designate the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organisation, and urge such action immediately.” The lawmakers said Clinton’s State Department acknowledged in November that it was engaged in the “final formal review” on the potential terror designation.
“Six months have now passed, and the Haqqanis have continued to attack US troops and the US embassy in Kabul during that period,” they said.
The United States blames the Haqqanis, who are closely affiliated with the Taliban, for fueling the 10-year insurgency in Afghanistan, attacking US-led Nato troops and working to destabilise Karzai’s Western-backed government.
Crocker blamed last month’s brazen 18-hour assault on Kabul – the biggest to hit the Afghan capital in a decade – on the Haqqani network, saying the group’s leaders planned the attack from North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt.
Before stepping down as the chief of the US military last year, Admiral Mike Mullen caused a sensation when he told Congress that the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
A formal designation as a terrorist group would make it a crime in the United States to provide any money or support to the Haqqani network.
Separately, Representative Dana Rohrabacher, an outspoken Republican, proposed a bill that would require the Pentagon to list all Americans judged to have been killed by Pakistan-backed militants.
For each death, the United States would deduct $50 million from its assistance to Pakistan and provide the money to the victim’s family.
“For too long America has funded the Pakistani government, giving it free money, while elements of the ISI and Pakistan’s military operate radical Islamic groups that are actively murdering Americans,” Rohrabacher said in a statement.