Feature

How they see us: Calling the Haqqanis terrorists

After two years of “spirited debate,” the U.S. has declared the Haqqani network a terrorist group.

It’s official: The U.S. has declared that the Haqqani network is a terrorist group, said The News International (Pakistan) in an editorial. The militants, based in the mountains straddling our border with Afghanistan, have been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks against NATO forces in that country, including last year’s siege of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Yet the Obama administration long had “deep misgivings” about applying the formal terrorist designation to the Haqqanis—which would trigger sanctions against those who fund or support them—for fear of offending Pakistan. The relationship between our two countries has been strained nearly to the breaking point since last year, when U.S. commandos violated Pakistani sovereignty to kill Osama bin Laden. So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed the order last week after two years of “spirited debate” among administration officials, she emphasized that there was “no plan to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism” and that the decision “would have no effect whatsoever” on U.S. relations with us

Don’t believe it, said the Peshawar, Pakistan, Frontier Post. Blacklisting the Haqqani network will only “sharpen its war teeth” and rev up its attacks on the U.S. occupiers in Afghanistan—and that presents “ominous specters for Pakistan,” since the U.S. wrongly believes that the Haqqanis are mainly based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan province. When the Haqqanis attack, expect massive pressure on Pakistan to send troops into Waziristan. We can’t even rule out that the Americans themselves might try to invade.

And who could blame them? asked the Daily Times (Pakistan). “Despite Islamabad’s repeated denials,” there’s ample evidence that some in Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, at least tolerate the Haqqanis’ presence and most likely actively support the group. In Pakistan’s own interests, this support must now end. “Perhaps Islamabad needs a textbook lesson in cost-benefit analysis, especially where national security imperatives are concerned.” If the U.S. were to prove that Pakistan was funding a terrorist group, we could not withstand the crippling economic sanctions that would result.

The blacklisting of the Haqqanis is a headache not only for Pakistan, said Weesa (Afghanistan), but also for Afghanistan. The group works closely with the Taliban and other militant groups fighting the Afghan government. It’s not as if you can easily separate them and declare this one a terrorist cell and that one an insurgent group. If peace is ever to come to our nation, the U.S. and Afghan governments will have to negotiate with all groups in the fight. But since the U.S. refuses to talk to those it calls terrorists, the peace process is now in jeopardy. President Hamid Karzai is trying to extend a “hand of friendship and peace to the armed opponents.” How can he do this “while the U.S., which is supporting his government, has blacklisted them?”

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