You've been designated a foreign terrorist organization. Now what?

The U.S. officially labels members of the Haqqani network terrorists. Don't expect that to turn the tide in Afghanistan

D.B. Grady

Last week, the U.S. State Department placed the Haqqani network on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. This comes after years of violence by the group against American, NATO, and Afghan forces. The U.S. action is also one more jab at Pakistan; its military intelligence arm, the ISI, has notoriously close ties with the terrorist network. One can hardly think of a group more deserving of such special attention than Haqqani, and they have certainly lived up to their new title. The day after the designation was made public, a suicide bomber in Kabul — suspected to be affiliated with Haqqani — detonated himself not far from NATO headquarters. "I saw about 12 bodies, all were civilians," The New York Times reported one witness as saying. "I saw a little girl whose legs were blown away in the back of the police truck." The bomber himself has been described as a "young boy," and at least six children are among the dead.

In the 1980s, the Haqqani family fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and forged close ties with the CIA and ISI. But relations worsened when Jalalludin Haqqani joined the wretched Taliban government in 1996 as its Minister of Tribal Affairs. After the U.S. invasion in 2001, the Haqqani network remained loyal to the Taliban. Today, it is at the heart of the insurgency in Afghanistan, and a major obstacle to post-NATO security in the war-torn country. With the State Department's action, it seems the decision has been made that the only way out is through. This is certainly a victory for David Petraeus, director of the CIA, who has long warned of the threat posed by the network.

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David W. Brown

David W. Brown is coauthor of Deep State (John Wiley & Sons, 2013) and The Command (Wiley, 2012). He is a regular contributor to, Vox, The Atlantic, and mental_floss. He can be found online here.