US set to brand Haqqanis a terrorist group
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Risking a new breach in relations with Pakistan, the Obama administration is leaning toward designating the Haqqani network, the insurgent group responsible for some of the most spectacular assaults on American bases in Afghanistan in recent years, as a terrorist organisation.
With a Congressional reporting deadline looming, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top military officials are said to favour placing sanctions on the network, which operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to half a dozen current and former administration officials.
A designation as a terrorist organisation would help dry up the group's fund-raising activities in countries like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, press Pakistan to carry out long-promised military action against the insurgents and sharpen the administration's focus on devising policies and operations to weaken the group, advocates say.
However, no final decision has been made.
A spirited internal debate has American officials, including several at the White House, worried about the consequences of such a designation not only for relations with Pakistan, but also for peace talks with the Taliban.
Perhaps the most important consideration, administration and Congressional officials say, is whether the designation would make any difference in the group's ability to raise money or stage more assaults as the American-led NATO force draws down in Afghanistan.
Several Haqqani leaders have already been designated individually as "global terrorists"; hence the issue now is what would be gained by designating the entire organisation.
Clinton, in the Cook Islands at the start of a trip to Asia, declined to discuss the internal debate but said she would meet the Congressional deadline in September. "I'd like to underscore that we are putting steady pressure on the Haqqanis," she said.
With virtually unanimous backing, Congress approved legislation that President Obama signed into law on August 10 giving Clinton 30 days to determine whether the Haqqani network is a terrorist group. If she says it is not, she must explain her reasoning in a report to lawmakers by September 9.
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