The Obama administration on Friday formally designated the Pakistan-based Haqqani network -- responsible for high-profile attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan -- as a terrorist organization, a move some say could put U.S.-Pakistani ties in an even more precarious position.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a report to Congress Friday morning stating the Haqqani network "meets the statutory criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization," a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press.
Clinton did so two days ahead of a congressional deadline set in July to try to spur the Obama administration into imposing on the group the blanket financial sanctions that come with the terrorist designation. The U.S. had already placed sanctions on individual Haqqani leaders and has been targeting its members militarily, but had held off on formally labeling it a terrorist group, according to the AP.
"We are drying up their resources, we are targeting their military and intelligence personnel and we are pressing the Pakistanis to step up their own efforts," Clinton said earlier this month.
The Taliban- and Al-Qaeda-affiliated Haqqanis have been blamed for a September 2011 assault on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul and other strikes throughout the country. According to the New York Times, U.S. officials say Pakistan's intelligence agency is secretly aiding the Haqqanis, a charge Pakistanis deny.
A senior Pakistani official told Reuters blacklisting the group would be counterproductive and put increased pressure on the Pakistani government.
"If the United States wants to have a constructive relationship with Pakistan, then this is a bad move," the official said. "This will push Pakistan into a corner."
According to the New York Times, "many" senior officials, including some in the White House, expressed reservations about the designation out of concern about further souring relations with Pakistan, putting peace talks with the Taliban at risk and potentially putting Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier known to be held by the Haqqanis, in jeopardy.
But Supporters of the designation won out, with one senior administration official telling the Times it is a "very strong signal of our resolve to combat the Haqqanis.”
“This shows that we are using everything we can to put the squeeze on these guys,” another administration official said.