State Department designates Haqqani Network a terrorist group

Congress passed the resolution before the August recess formally asking the State Department to make the decision on the Haqqani Network’s terrorist designation.

The Obama administration had already taken some steps to sanction leaders of the network, but the terrorist designation had been under review since last year.

The Haqqani Network has used Pakistan as a base, traveling across the boarder to launch attacks in Afghanistan before retreating back to Pakistan. The group is closely affiliated with the Taliban, and the terrorist label could also make potential peace negotiations with the Taliban more difficult.

U.S.-Pakistani relations have been strained in the past year as a result of the U.S. raid against Osama bin Laden in Pakistani territory and the NATO killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan-Pakistan border. U.S. officials have publicly complained about Pakistan's lack of action against the Haqqani Network operating in Pakistan, as well as the group's ties to Pakistani intelligence.

Pakistan's initial public response called the designation an "internal matter" for the United States. "It is not our business," Nadeem Hotiana, a spokesman for the Pakistan embassy, said in a statement. "The Haqqanis are not Pakistani nationals. We will continue to work with all international partners including the U.S. in combating extremism and terrorism."

Like the passing of the bill, the State Department's designation was met with bipartisan support.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) called on Pakistan to immediately sever ties with the Haqqani Network Friday.

"The Haqqani Network, with close ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that threaten our Homeland, stands responsible for many deadly attacks upon American diplomatic, intelligence, and military personnel serving in Afghanistan," King said in a statement. "I commend Secretary Clinton for this important designation."

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also hailed the move.

"This action will make it harder for the Haqqani Network to raise funds and operate its businesses, and will create new risks for anyone working with it," she said in a statement. "This is a terrorist organization and an enemy of the United States, and I urge Pakistan to redouble its efforts — working with U.S. and Afghan partners — to eliminate the Haqqani threat.”

After the House passed the bill in July, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said: “The Haqqani Network is engaged in a reign of terror in Afghanistan and is the single largest threat for IED's our soldiers face in that country.”

The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent at the end of July.

— This story was updated at 12:15 p.m.