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Terror Is Their Family Business

Why won’t the State Department designate the Haqqanis?

Jul 16, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 41 • By JEFFREY DRESSLER
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Since at least 2005, the Haqqani network has managed to extend its influence beyond the three provinces of P2K, making significant inroads into the provinces surrounding Kabul. It has expanded its infrastructure to areas such as Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, and Kapisa in order to plan and execute the spectacular attacks in Kabul that have become its signature. Since 2008, the network has made an assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai, and against both of his vice presidents. It tried to blow up the Indian embassy in Kabul, and conducted multiple attacks on luxury hotels hosting foreign nationals. Most notably, it orchestrated attacks in September 2011 and April 2012 on the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

It seems that the September 2011 operation was the Haqqanis’ unofficial response to the Obama administration’s peace initiative with the Taliban. The Haqqani network is operationally and financially independent of the Taliban, but it continues to pledge allegiance to its leader, Mullah Omar. If he doesn’t want to make peace with the White House, the Haqqanis are not going to cut a side deal. Nonetheless, in August 2011, Ibrahim Haqqani was invited to a meeting with U.S. officials in the United Arab Emirates to discuss his family’s presumptive role in peace negotiations. The administration had its answer when the Haqqani network launched two operations against U.S. troops on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. One was a suicide car bombing of a U.S. base just south of Kabul that injured 77 U.S. soldiers. The other was that first attack on ISAF headquarters and the American embassy. 

It is nonsensical that the State Department has yet to designate the Haqqanis as a foreign terrorist organization for fear that it might make a group waging terrorist operations against U.S. and Afghan troops less likely to sit for peace talks. The concern that listing the Haqqani network might upset the government of Pakistan is also absurd. As then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee, the September 2011 attacks were conducted with support from Pakistan’s intelligence service. 

It’s a good time, then, to make Pakistan’s military leadership reconsider some of its activities in Afghanistan, like its support of the Haqqani network. With the pending withdrawal of the majority of U.S. and coalition forces by the end of 2014, the White House’s ability to shape the region’s future is becoming increasingly limited. 

Jeffrey Dressler is a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War and author of the recent report “The Haqqani Network: A Strategic Threat.”

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