- Kuwait Times Extra
WASHINGTON: The United States is considering declaring the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based ally of Al-Qaeda and the Taleban, a terrorist organization, The New York Times reported late Friday. Citing unnamed current and former administration officials, the newspaper said a terror designation would help curb the group’s fundraising activities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries, and pressure Pakistan to undertake military action against the insurgents. Senior military officers like General John Allen, the commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and many top counter terrorism officials are pushing for the designation, which President Barack Obama’s administration has been debating for nearly two years, according to the paper. But it said no final decision has been made amid a fierce internal debate in the administration ahead of a congressional deadline looming in September.
Opponents, including some in the White House, were said to worry about the serious consequences such a move could have on already shaky ties with Pakistan and peace talks with the Taleban. The move could also bring Pakistan closer to being designated a state sponsor of terror shortly after the country reopened critical NATO supply routes through its territory. “The optics of designating look great, and the chest-thumping is an understandable expression of sentiment, but everyone has to calm down and say, ‘What does it actually do?’” an administration official involved in the debate told the Times. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also cited as saying that she would meet Congress’s September 9 deadline, though she declined to discuss the debate. “I’d like to underscore that we are putting steady pressure on the Haqqanis,” she said.
“That is part of what our military does every day.” The Haqqani network is a faction of the Afghan Taleban whose leaders are based in neighboring Pakistan, where Islamabad has come under immense US pressure to wage an offensive against the group. The network has been blamed for a series of well-coordinated, commando- style raids on the Afghan capital targeting foreign embassies, NATO bases and government buildings. Meanwhile, a twin suicide bomb attack targeted a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, killing eight civilians and four Afghan policemen, local officials said.
A spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said no one from the alliance was killed in the attack, which happened in Wardak province’s Sayed Abad district. “The truck bomb was huge, killing 12 and wounding 50 more,” said provincial governor spokesman Sahidullah Shahid. The Taleban, which took responsibility for the early morning attack, said it had dispatched two bombers, one on foot and one in an explosives-laden truck. The NATO base was targeted last year on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks when a suicide bomber drove into it, killing four civilians and wounding 77 US troops.
Wardak province saw the worst single incident suffered by foreign forces in over 10 years of war when the Taleban shot down a transport helicopter last year, killing 38 troops, 30 of whom were American, mostly elite Navy SEALs. Two US troops were killed yesterday in a separate insurgent attack in eastern Ghazni province, ISAF said in a statement. Violence is increasing across Afghanistan ahead of the 2014 deadline for NATO to withdraw most of its troops, and fears are mounting that the 350,000-strong NATO-trained Afghan security forces will not be able to tackle insurgents once they leave.
This week 19 Afghans, including an adolescent boy and a young girl, were beheaded in three separate attacks. Insider attacks, when Afghan forces turn their weapons on foreign troops, have sharply shot up. Three Australian soldiers were shot dead by a gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform this week, bringing to 15 the number of foreign soldiers killed this month in insider attacks. A total of 45 NATO-led coalition troops have been killed in rogue shootings this year. — Agencies
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