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Haqqani Network set to be branded foreign terror outfit

August 02, 2012 09:06 IST

Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence-sponsored Haqqani Network, responsible for the killings of United States and coalition troops in Afghanistan and widely believed to have been responsible for the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul a few years ago, is on the verge of being designated a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

US President Barack Obama's new Ambassador-Designate to Pakistan, Richard Olson, told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that 'on the question of the designation of the (Haqqani) Network as a foreign terrorist organisation, it is with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton right now."

"We will continue, and I can assure you, that this will be a primary focus of my activities and my diplomatic engagements with the Pakistanis to encourage further measures against the Haqqani Network -- further squeezing of the Haqqani Network," he said.

Olson acknowledged that there was certainly much more that could be done by the Pakistanis regarding putting down the Haqqani Network, but declared, "This is a very difficult issue," and that "this is one of the toughest challenges that we face."

He said, "At a personal level as well as a professional level, I was at the embassy (in Kabul) on September 13 and April 15 when the two attacks took place from the Haqqani Network out of North Waziristan."

"So, I have a certain amount of skin in the game for this particular issue," he said, "and we do know, of course, that the Haqqanis are based in North Waziristan, but the question is, how we will address the challenge represented by the Haqqani presence."

Olson said, "We are looking at all the ways that we can, as the whole of the US government attack the question of the Haqqani Network."

He noted that "we have already taken some actions against the Haqqani Network leaders who have already been designated as foreign terrorists -- sanctioned their travel and finances."

Olson said, if confirmed by the US Senate, "I will certainly take it as a central responsibility and the most urgent of my responsibilities to continue to press the Pakistanis for further action on the Haqqani Network in every way possible."

Congressional sources told that the administration's decision to designate the Haqqani Network as an FTO after months of vacillation and despite full knowledge backed by credible evidence that it was sponsored and supported by the ISI, was consequent to massive Congress pressure and the threat of a cut-off of US aid to Pakistan unless this terrorist group was named an FTO.

Last month, in the US House of Representatives, the Republican majority pushed through legislation on a voice vote to designate the Haqqani Network as an FTO.

The bill, requires the Department of State to decide within a month whether the Haqqani Network meets the criteria for it to be designated an FTO, which would lead to a freeze of any funds or fund-raising it does in the US, and anyone or any group assisting in such fund-raising could be liable to criminal and civil penalties and forfeiture of their property.

Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said, "The Haqqani Network is engaged in a reign of terror in Afghanistan and is the single largest threat for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) our soldiers face in that country."

He said, "They actively plot and kill US and allied soldiers and routinely harm innocent Afghan civilian men, women and children in their path," and argued that "to better protect the lives of US soldiers, now is the time for action, not simply paperwork and talk."

Rogers said he simply could not comprehend why the administration had been lagging in designating this group an FTO in spite of all the credible evidence of its attacks against US and coalition troops in Afghanistan and said the administration is yet to provide any reason as to why this group has yet not been designated."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC