The U.S. State Department on Friday officially designated the Pakistan-based Haqqani a terrorist organization.
The move by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton followed lengthy debate within the Obama administration, with many officials worried that the designation would make it more cumbersome to negotiate a peace settlement with the Haqqanis and their Taliban allies.
Negotiations, however, have failed to produce desired results, and the CIA has been launching drone strikes against Haqqani targets, including an attack last month that killed Badruddin Haqqani, son of the group's leader and a member of its governing council.
“These actions follow a series of other steps that the U.S. government already has taken against the Haqqanis,” Clinton said in a statement.
Dubbed the “Sopranos of the Afghanistan war,” the Haqqani is a “a ruthless crime family that built an empire out of kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, even trucking. They have trafficked in precious gems, stolen lumber and demanded protection money from businesses building roads and schools with American reconstruction funds,” The New York Times reported.
The group reportedly safeguards mountainous turf by planting deadly roadside bombs and shelling remote American military bases.
American intelligence and military officials call the crime clan, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the most deadly insurgent group in Afghanistan. It has been responsible for staging a daylong assault on the United States Embassy in Kabul, an attack Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged was aided by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Pakistani officials, however, claim their contacts with the Haqqanis are part of normal intelligence operations, and deny any role in directing violence against American and other NATO troops in Afghanistan.
A Pentagon spokesman said the designation would “degrade the network’s capacity to carry out attacks, including affecting fund-raising abilities, targeting them with our military and intelligence resources, and pressing Pakistan to take action.”
A senior Haqqani commander, however, called it a sign of the United States’ “lame tactics,” The New York Times reported.
“Americans are claiming that by declaring us terrorist, we would lose support of some Muslim countries,” said the commander, who spoke by satellite phone through an intermediary in Pakistan. “Let me assure everyone that we only seek Allah’s and the Afghan nation’s support.”
Clinton has nonetheless maintained the U.S. would continue its “robust campaign of diplomatic, military and intelligence pressure on the network, demonstrating the United States' resolve to degrade the organization's ability to execute violent attacks."