U.S. designates Haqqani network a terrorist group

Fri Sep 7, 2012 9:28pm GMT

By Phil Stewart and Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it is designating the Pakistan-based Haqqani network a terrorist organization, triggering sanctions against a group American officials blame for high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, and which they say has ties to the Pakistani state.

The decision to blacklist the Haqqani network, announced by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a trip to Russia, could heighten tensions between Washington and Islamabad and have far-reaching implications for any reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Senior Haqqani commanders warned as much, telling Reuters that it showed the United States was not sincere about peace efforts in Afghanistan. The commanders also said it would bring hardship for America's only prisoner of war, U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who is being held by the militants.

"They are on the one hand claiming to look for a political solution to the Afghan issue while on the other they are declaring us terrorists," said one of the commanders, speaking to Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"So how can peace talks succeed in bringing peace to Afghanistan?"

The Haqqanis, a Pashtun tribe with strongholds in southeastern Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan, are the most experienced fighters in Afghanistan and are blamed for some of the boldest attacks, including one on embassies and parliament in Kabul in April that lasted 18 hours.

The United States accuses Pakistan's intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani network and using it as a proxy in Afghanistan to gain leverage against the growing influence of its arch-rival India in the country. Pakistan denies the allegations.

A senior Pakistani security official said blacklisting the Haqqani network would be counterproductive and would put unnecessary pressure on Islamabad, a strategic U.S. ally.   Continued...

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