“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,” Clinton, who is traveling in the Far East, said in a statement.
The Haqqanis have been linked to a series of high-profile attacks on U.S. and other foreign personnel in Afghanistan, including the assault on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul a year ago. Military and intelligence officials have expressed concern that if the network is not defeated or degraded in the coming months, it could mount a significant challenge to Afghan security forces after the U.S. withdrawal in 2014.
The terrorist designation prohibits Haqqani members from traveling to the United States, freezes its assets in this country and bars Americans from providing any financial or material support. The notification on Friday triggered a 10-day period before the designation takes effect.
With no known Haqqani resources in this country, the action reflects the administration’s frustration with its inability to stop the group’s assaults on U.S. installations in Afghanistan and with Pakistan’s refusal to crack down on Haqqani havens in tribal regions along its border with Afghanistan.
One administration official said the label “gives us a stronger tool . . .for going out to other countries” and urging them to take similar actions. In addition to kidnapping and smuggling, the Haqqanis are said to have access to substantial funds from both legal and illegal businesses in South Asia and the Persian Gulf. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity under conditions of a State Department-arranged conference call with reporters.
But another official, speaking without official authorization, called the designation “all theatrics,” saying it “doesn’t mean anything.”
Long before Congress forced its hand, the administration was engaged in a debate over what the designation would achieve.
U.S. military commanders have strongly supported the designation. While the military has claimed progress against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, fighting has escalated in the eastern part of the country, where network founder Jalaluddin Haqqani and his family-led fighters operate within a wide swath of territory.
A powerful, longtime player in Afghanistan, Haqqani received U.S. and Pakistani aid to fight against occupation by the Soviet Union there in the 1980s. He later became an official in the Taliban government that was ousted with U.S. assistance in 2001. He then fled into Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area and began to organize attacks against U.S. forces.