US wants ‘squeeze’ on Haqqani network
WASHINGTON, July 10: A debate on US President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill pushed the Haqqani network out of Congress’s agenda, although the State Department continues to urge Pakistan to “put the squeeze” on the terrorist group.
The United States blames the Haqqani network for killing hundreds of US and Nato soldiers in Afghanistan and the US Congress is considering a move to declare the group a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO).
The House of Representatives was scheduled to deliberate the issue on Monday but an urgent debate on President Obama’s healthcare package pushed it to the next working day.
On Tuesday, it was dropped from the suspension calendar as well, although it may come up at a later date.
The Haqqani network’s designation as an FTO will bring a set of strict sanctions against the group and can also prevent future negotiations with them. US allies, such as Pakistan, will also have to impose those sanctions.
But reports in the US media claim that there’re elements in both Pakistani and US administrations who do not want this designation yet as they want to include this group in future negotiations with the Taliban.
The issue was raised at a regular briefing at the State Department as well where spokesman Patrick Ventrell asked Pakistan to “put the squeeze” on the network because it was killing US and Nato troops and Afghan civilians.
He noted that a meeting of the “trilateral core group”, consisting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the US, also considered this issue at a meeting in Tokyo last week.
“We want the Pakistanis to put the squeeze on the Haqqani Network, and we’ve been very clear about that,” he said.
“We’ve got to get this group to stop – this is a group that has made heinous attacks against Afghan civilians, against Americans as well, and we want them to be stopped and we want the squeeze to be put on.”
Mr Ventrell noted that the Obama administration had already designated a number of leading individuals of the Haqqani Network with the full brunt of US sanctions.
“We haven’t taken a decision on the wider issue that’s still under review, but clearly, we’ve put the pinch on all the key leaders,” he added.
He disagreed with the suggestion that the Obama administration was reluctant to designate the network as an FTO because this would force Washington also to designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“I’m not going to get into our analysis of the review,” said Mr Ventrell.
“We look at each case individually and carefully and apply the law appropriately.”