Pressure grows on White House to label Haqqani terrorists

The top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate Intelligence panels on Friday formally demanded that the Obama administration “immediately” label the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network a terrorist organization.

The group has claimed responsibility for many attacks on NATO forces and the U.S. embassy in Kabul, but the administration has been reluctant to label them terrorists as it pursues negotiations with insurgents in Afghanistan.

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After traveling to the country last week, however, the members of Congress said their concerns about the group were “reaffirmed” after meeting with President Hamid Karzai and U.S. officials. 

“It was clear that the Haqqani Network continues to launch sensational and indiscriminate attacks against U.S. interests in Afghanistan and the group poses a continuing threat to innocent men, women, and children in the region,” the members wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"We understand there may have been reluctance within the Administration to designate the Haqqani Network while Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman attempted to negotiate a reconciliation agreement with the Taliban — a deal that may have included or affected the Haqqani Network. However, Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker told us last week that there have been no such talks since late last year, and that President Karzai has opposed their continuation.”

The State Department announced in November that it was engaged in the “final formal review” on whether to designate the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, the letter says, and attacks have continued since then.

Some government officials, however, worry that labeling the organization that way could hinder talks with the Taliban, who are closely affiliated with the Haqqani Network. The State Department lists Pakistan's Tehrik-e Taliban as a terrorist organization, but not its Afghan counterparts. 

The United States has been in "direct discussions" with key Taliban leaders, President Obama said last week after signing a postwar deal with Karzai.

The letter was signed by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.).

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