WASHINGTON — The Obama administration declared Friday that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network of militants is a terrorist body despite misgivings about how the largely symbolic act could further stall planned Afghan peace talks or put yet another chill on the United States' already fragile counterterrorism alliance with Islamabad.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's decision, signed Friday ahead of a Sunday deadline set by Congress, bans Americans from doing business with members of the group and blocks any assets it holds in the United States. The order, which will go into effect within 10 days, completes an odyssey of sorts for the Haqqanis from the days they partnered with the CIA during the Cold War and were hailed as freedom fighters.
Clinton, whose advisers were of two minds about whether the designation was the right path, said in a statement Friday that the U.S. will "also continue our 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."
Enraged by a string of high-profile attacks on U.S. and NATO troops, Congress insisted Clinton deliver a report on whether the Haqqanis should be designated a terrorist organization and all of its members subjected to U.S. financial sanctions.
A subsidiary of the Taliban and based in the remote North Waziristan region of Pakistan, the Haqqani network is responsible for several attacks in Kabul, including last September's rocket-propelled grenade assault on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters. American officials estimate its force at 2,000 to 4,000 fighters and say it maintains close relationships with al-Qaida.
U.S. defense officials said the administration doesn't believe the Haqqanis have designs to attack the United States.