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Blog: Haqqani Network: What Does it Take to Call Terrorists Terrorists?


Location: Washington, DC

An act of Congress, apparently.

The Haqqani network is an Afghan and Pakistani insurgent group, based on the Pakistan side of the border in North Waziristan. Some call the Haqqanis "the Sopranos" of the Afghanistan war, a ruthless crime family that built an empire out of kidnapping, extortion and smuggling. Their financial network stretches into the Middle East beyond.

But they are much more than a criminal syndicate. Its base of operations has become arguably the most important Islamist militant haven in the region. Al-Qaeda and other terrorists take shelter, train and plan attacks under their protection. A report published by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center describes the Haqqani network as interdependent with al-Qaeda, an enabler for other terrorist groups, and "the fountainhead of local, regional, and global militancy."

From their base across the border, the Haqqani network has been behind some of the most deadly attacks in Afghanistan - the Indian Embassy, prominent hotels and last September, a 19-hour attack on NATO headquarters and the American Embassy. They have killed many Americans. But yet, the Haqqani network managed to stay off the State Department's "Foreign Terrorist Organization" blacklist -- despite calls from U.S. commanders in the field to do so.

How did these guys escape the blacklist, which would have implications for its widespread financial holdings? The State Department didn't want to ruffle Pakistani feathers and was worried it would harm talks with the Taliban. My goodness. As the Washington Post editorial page pointed out this week, those concerns are "surreal" when the Obama Administration is targeting the Haqqanis with drone strikes and asking the Pakistani military to invade their safe haven.

More than frustrated, Congress passed a law that gave the Secretary of State one month to decide whether the Haqqanis belonged on the list. This reportedly led to deep debates within the Obama White House. My subcommittee called a hearing for next week to ask the State Department to explain their position.

This morning news comes that the State Department will place the group on the terrorism list. It only took years to figure out the obvious…

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