Hillary urged to declare Haqqani a terror group

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers said that Haqqani network continues to launch sensational attacks against US interests in Afghanistan.

Washington: A bipartisan group of powerful US lawmakers on Friday urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to "immediately designate" the Pakistan-based notorious Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organisation.

The lawmakers who have written a letter to Hillary in this regard include, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein and vice chairman Saxby Chambliss and House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger.

The lawmakers pointed out that it was clear that the Haqqani network, based in Pakistan`s North Waziristan, continues to launch sensational and indiscriminate attacks against US interests in Afghanistan, and poses a continuing threat "to innocent men, women, and children in the region".

"Last week, our travel to Afghanistan for meetings with President (Hamid) Karzai, Ambassador Crocker, General Allen, and many military, intelligence, and State Department officers serving in Afghanistan reaffirmed concerns substantiated by intelligence and our oversight work," the lawmakers wrote.

The letter said there is little question that the Haqqani network meets the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) -- it engages in terrorist activity that threatens the security of US citizens or the national security of the US.

On November 01, 2011, they said, the State Department wrote that it was engaged in the "final formal review" on whether to designate the group as an FTO.

"Six months have now passed, and the Haqqanis have continued to attack US troops and the US embassy in Kabul during that period".

"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," they said.

"However, (US) Ambassador (to Afghanistan Ryan) Crocker told us last week that there have been no such talks since late last year, and that President Karzai has opposed their continuation," the lawmakers said in the letter.

"Without commenting on the appropriateness of any such agreement, 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 demanded.

The State Department said it is reviewing the letter, underscoring that it has already designated several top Haqqani leaders as a foreign terrorists.

"We have made designations of many of the key leaders of the Haqqani network, including Sira Judin Haqqani who was designated by the department in 2008. He`s a key leader," State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference.

"Key members Badruddin Haqqani, Sangeen Zadran, Mali Khan were all designated in 2011. And Treasury designated five other significant members," she said.

"When we designate these individuals it allows us to freeze any US-based assets and to pursue civil and criminal penalties against US individuals who conduct any transactions with them, as you know," she said.

"As we continue our review, we consider it absolutely essential to designate individuals because that allows us to pursue the assets of individuals rather than have to, sort of, try to divine who might be covered by a blanket designation.”

"So one could argue that in terms of the effectiveness in freezing operating capital of the network, individual designations are also a very essential part of this, which we have pursued aggressively," Nuland asserted.

"In addition to US national individual designations, we`ve also worked with the international community, and the majority of those individuals that I cited have also been added to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1988 list of sanctioned individuals," she noted.