U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday announced that the Pakistan-linked Haqqani network, blamed for a series of attacks in Afghanistan, met the criteria to be designated a terrorist group.
“Today, I have sent a report to Congress saying that the Haqqani Network meets the statutory criteria of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO),” Clinton said.
Senior commanders of the group, meanwhile, said Washington’s decision to designate the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization shows it is not sincere about peace efforts in Afghanistan.
The move will also bring hardship for U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who is being held by the militants, the commanders told Reuters.
Despite concerns that such a move could impact already tense ties with Islamabad, Clinton added in a statement that she had met a Congress deadline and told U.S. lawmakers she intended to press ahead with the designation.
“We also continue our robust campaign of diplomatic, military, and intelligence pressure on the network, demonstrating the United States’ resolve to degrade the organization's ability to execute violent attacks,” she said.
The move will make it a crime in the United States to provide the Haqqanis with any material support, and freeze any of the group’s property or interests in the U.S.
Clinton said she was taking the action “in the context of our overall strategy in Afghanistan” under a five-point policy laid out by President Barack Obama when he visited Afghanistan in May.
These include boosting the ability of Afghan security forces to fight insurgents as NATO-led forces transition to handing the lead for security to their Afghan counterparts and encouraging an Afghan reconciliation.
“We will continue to work with both Afghanistan and Pakistan to move these efforts forward and build a more peaceful and secure future,” Clinton added in the statement.
Congress had given the top U.S. diplomat a deadline of Sunday to determine if the group met the characteristics to fall into the category of being a foreign terrorist organization.
President Barack Obama’s administration, while pressuring the Haqqani network, had previously stopped short of declaring it to be a terrorist group due to worries over relations with Pakistan.