US could label Pakistan-based militants 'terrorists'
US General David Petraeus is pushing to have top leaders of an insurgent group designated terrorists, a move that could complicate any eventual Afghan political settlement, a report said today.world Updated: Jul 14, 2010 15:45 IST
US General David Petraeus is pushing to have top leaders of an insurgent group designated terrorists, a move that could complicate any eventual Afghan political settlement, a report said Wednesday.
The new commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan introduced the idea of blacklisting the Haqqani network last week in discussions with President Barack Obama's senior advisers on Pakistan and Afghanistan," The New York Times reported, citing unnamed administration officials.
The report cited them as saying the idea "was being seriously considered."
But it warned the move could "risk antagonizing Pakistan, a critical partner in the war effort, but one that is closely tied to the Haqqani network".
Haqqani leaders are based in Pakistan. Created by Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani and run by his son Sirajuddin the group is one of the toughest US foes in Afghanistan and believed to have close ties to Pakistani intelligence.
Pakistani security officials have said that they are willing to help broker peace efforts in Afghanistan by acting as a bridge between the Kabul government and the Haqqani network.
The New York Times said designating them terrorists could "frustrate" Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who wants to reconcile with insurgent groups as a way to end the nine-year war and consolidate his grip on power.
US and NATO officials say Pakistan is vital to reversing Taliban momentum in Afghanistan, where commanders are scheduled to boost the number of foreign troops to 150,000 in a counter-insurgency push to end the war quickly.
Placement on the State Department's list would mainly impose legal limits on US citizens and companies, prohibiting trade with the Haqqani network or its leaders and requiring that banks freeze their assets in the United States.
Senator Carl Levin said the law would also require the US government to apply pressure on any nation harboring such a group, in this case Pakistan.
Petraeus visited Pakistan on Monday for the first time since becoming commander in Afghanistan, holding talks with army chief of staff General Ashfaq Kayani and praising Pakistan's fight against homegrown Taliban.
Washington has branded Pakistan's tribal belt -- where Haqqani leaders are based -- a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and home to Islamist extremists who plan attacks on US-led troops in Afghanistan and on cities abroad.
The United States has been waging a covert drone war targeting Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked commanders in the region.
US officials would like to see Pakistan action against groups active within Afghanistan, but Pakistani commanders are reluctant to deploy overstretched troops against those which refrain from attacks within Pakistan.