US House wants Haqqani group branded as terrorists
19 July, 2012
WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives on Tuesday urged the US State Department to designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist group, pressing the Obama administration to get tougher on an issue that already has strained ties with Islamabad.
On a voice vote, US lawmakers approved a bill that referred to the Haqqani network as "the most dangerous of Afghan insurgent groups battling US-led forces in eastern Afghanistan".
US officials have accused the Haqqanis of high-profile strikes, including an attack on the US Embassy in Kabul in September last year and an earlier truck bombing that wounded dozens of US troops.
Despite those accusations, the group is not on the US State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organisations list. Inclusion in the list would bring sanctions such as criminal penalties for anyone providing material support to the group and seizure of any assets in the United States.
The reason the network has not been placed on the list, some US officials say, is that some US State Department officials had hoped the Haqqanis could be brought off the battlefield as part of Afghan peace talks between the government and insurgents.
US State Department officials say they have also slapped individual sanctions on many of the most important Haqqani leaders, and that this has already put pressure on the group.
Washington wants Islamabad to bring the Haqqani network into talks, but has been wary of exerting too much pressure on Pakistan over the matter and further stressing ties. One headache in the US-Pakistan relationship was removed earlier this month when Pakistan reopened land routes to resupply US troops in Afghanistan.
The bill passed on Tuesday would require a report from the US State Department on whether the Haqqani network meets the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist group – and if not, why not.