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Declare Haqqani network a terror outfit NOW, say US Senators

September 23, 2011 10:22 IST

United States lawmakers have questioned the inordinate delay in designating Haqqani network as a terrorist organisation; which top American officials believe is responsible for the recent attack on its Embassy in Kabul.

"I've repeatedly written to Secretary Clinton to press to have the Haqqani group added to the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organisations to make more tools available to our government agencies to sanction that organisation. This step is long overdue," Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said at a Congressional hearing.

"I hope the State Department will move quickly to designate the Haqqanis as a foreign terrorist organisation," Levin said as he and other lawmakers urged Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to take steps to ensure that the Haqqani network is not able to attack Americans.

Foremost is the threat posed by the militant extremists launching attacks against Afghan and coalition forces from sanctuaries in Pakistan, particularly the Haqqani group in North Waziristan and the Afghan Taliban shura in Quetta, he said.

"The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, has said that a series of recent attacks, including the deadly attack on the US embassy compound in Kabul, were the work of the Haqqanis operating out of Pakistan."

Referring to his visit to Afghanistan, Levin said they heard repeatedly how the insurgents' safe havens in Pakistan pose the main threat to US and Afghan troops and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

"Because of providing that safe haven and because of connections between Pakistan intelligence and the Haqqanis, Pakistan bears some responsibility for the attacks on us. A positive relationship with Pakistan remains an important objective. But in order for there to be a normal relationship between our two countries, it is imperative that Pakistan actively break its ties with the militant extremists using their soil against us," Levin said.

Senator John McCain also expressed concern over the presence of safe havens in Pakistan.

"We better understand what the options are to bring about a change in the present status quo which is not acceptable, which is the Haqqani Network killing Americans and that being supported by Pakistanis. So the Congress does have a role to play, especially not on just policy but also on funding. I think you're going to have a real uphill battle here in convincing the Congress to maintain a level of funding and assistance to Pakistan unless there is some change," McCain said.

Senator Susan Collins, member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has approved the foreign operations bill that places several conditions and restrictions on the Pakistan counterinsurgency capability fund, asked Panetta and Mullen if they agreed with the condition that the Secretary of State must certify that Pakistan is cooperating with US efforts against the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups.

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