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article imageUS blacklists Haqqani network, testing relationship with Pakistan

By Joan Firstenberg     Sep 7, 2012 in World
Washington - The Pakistani-based Haqqani Network has been blacklisted by the U.S. and is now considered a terrorist group. This was a much-disputed decision and Pakistan voiced its surprise at it. But U.S. dismay at deadly Haqqani violence drove the decision.
The United States officially labeled the insurgent Haqqani network as terrorists, a move that could threaten Afghan peace efforts and test the already fragile U.S.-Pakistani relationship. The decision to blacklist the group was debated for the past two years.
The status change was decided since the Haqqanis, a wing of the Taliban, have conducted numerous high-profile attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and have crossed the Pakistan border into Afghanistan to launch their assaults. In September the Hagqani network reportedly sent a rocket-propelled grenade into the U.S. Embassy and nearby NATO compound in Kabul, The attack, which lasted 19 hours, killed four police officers, three coalition soldiers, and four civilians, Eleven of the Haqqani were also killed in the melee. Twenty-three civilians and NATO soldiers were injured.
The new label means sanctions will now be instituted against the Haqqanis. USA TODAY reports that it will ban Americans from doing any business with members of the militants and it will block any assets the group may be holding in the United States.
The group's ailing, aged and now-retired founder/leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was once a prized asset of the CIA, receiving cash and weapons in the 1980s to fight Soviet forces. The Haqqani has also enjoyed a close relationship with Pakistan. The U.S. has accused Islamabad of giving the network a free hand in the remote North Waziristan region and even supplying it with logistical support.
Pakistan has repeatedly said that its forces are stretched thin in fighting other insurgencies that have killed more than 30,000 people and that it cannot also take on a battle with the Haqqanis. But many analysts attribute Pakistan's reluctance to its historical ties to its leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, and an assessment that the group could turn out to be an important ally in Afghanistan after U.S. forces withdraw in 2014.
Last year, outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm Mike Mullen, fingered Pakistan for harboring the group, saying, the Haqqani network
“acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency”.
So CIA drones have now been bombarding Haqqani targets. Last month they killed Badruddin Haqqani, believed to be the group’s operational commander. In May of 2011, the U.S. State Department reported that Badruddin Haqqani sat the Miram Shah Shura, the group that is in charge of all Haqqani network activities and coordinates the attacks in southeastern Afghanistan. It blamed Badruddin for the 2008 kidnapping of New York Times reporter David Rohde.
The State Department said in May 2011 that Badruddin Haqqani sat on the Miram Shah Shura, a group that controls all Haqqani network activities and coordinates attacks in southeastern Afghanistan. It also blamed him for the 2008 kidnapping of New York Times reporter David Rohde.
Pakistani officials expressed shock at the decision and said it had come without warning, with a senior security official telling The Daily Telegraph the decision could destroy relations between the two countries.
“If they declare them to be terrorists and say they are based in Pakistan, and are being supported by the ISI and the army, that automatically makes Pakistan a state-sponsor of terrorism, and the entire world will cut relations turning Pakistan into a pariah.”
With American troops leaving Afghanistan in 2014, many analysts believe Pakistan’s support is crucial. Not only are its troops already on the front-lines against insurgents, but Islamabad is believed to have some influence over Taliban and Haqqani leaders on its land.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, an analyst in Lahore, added that the blacklisting would also make any Afghan peace process more difficult.
“On the one hand the Americans want negotiations, on the other they are going after one of the very powerful Taliban groups, who may well now be barred from talks. The Taliban and Haqqanis may now just wait for the Americans to leave and then go after the Kabul government.
However, the blacklisting move has been welcomed by the Afghan government which has long called for tougher international action.
Spokesman Sediq Sediqqi says,
"This will be a major step by the United States against the Haqqani network who are still plotting for dangerous and destructive attacks against us.”
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