Haqqani network: A dilemma for US

The pressure from the US Congress on Washington to designate the Haqqani network as an international terrorist organisation reached a tipping point this weekend. On Friday, the US President Barack Obama signed into law a Bill called the Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2012.

Under the law, the US Secretary of State must designate the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organisation or explain to the US Congress the reasons for not doing so within a month.

The Haqqani network has been at the forefront of terrorist attacks on American and other targets in Afghanistan. Few in the US question the assessment that the principal threat to the stability of the Afghan government now comes from the Haqqani network.

Enjoying sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Haqqani network has often directed its fire at India. The bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 is believed to be the handiwork of the network.

The US State Department is said to be reviewing the case of the Haqqani network, but is concerned about the political and diplomatic consequences of designating it as a terrorist organisation.

Washington has been reaching out to the Quetta shura of the Taliban to find a negotiated settlement to the war in Afghanistan. With the US forces set to end their combat role by 2014, there is some urgency to the political engagement with the Taliban.

The problem for Washington is that the Haqqani network is part of the Quetta shura and naming it as a terrorist organisation might complicate the proposed talks with the Taliban.

An even bigger problem for Washington is that the Haqqani network has long enjoyed the patronage of the Pakistan army. Last year, the outgoing chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told the US Congress that the Haqqani network is a 'veritable arm' of the ISI and the Pakistan army.

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