Under pressure from key lawmakers and top military commanders, US is considering designating several Pakistani-based militant groups including the Haqqani network and the Pakistani Taliban as terrorist outfits.
Topping the list of the groups to be labelled as Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) is the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani network State Department spokesman P J Crowley said on Wednesday.
Crowley however refrained from giving any time line as to when the sanctions on these organisations would be slapped so that overseas travel and financial restrictions could be imposed on them.
"We are evaluating a number of entities in Pakistan. There's a legal process and legal criteria that has to be met. This is something that we're looking into. We'll make a determination one way or the other when we're finished," Crowley said.
Responding to question about the demand being made by Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed that TTP and Haqqani network be designated as a FTO, Crowley said nothing is holding the State Department from doing so, except for the legalities involved.
Levin had described the Haqqani group as the "greatest threat" to Afghanistan and also advocated drone strikes against them. The new American military commander in Afghanistan David H Petraeus is also reported to have pushed for labelling the Haqqani network as terrorists.
"Obviously there is an impact on any group that is designated as a FTO. It has very definite financial and legal implications. It's one of the reasons why there's a deliberate process involved," Crowley said.
"Whether you're talking about the Haqqani network, whether you're talking about the Pakistani Taliban or any group anywhere in the world, we take this responsibility seriously. We designate individuals and groups on an ongoing basis," he said.
"We have evaluated these groups for quite some time. We evaluate not only in terms of what they've done, the threat they represent to the US and, you know, the prospective policy impact that this has. So if the question is, are we looking into the Haqqani Network, we are. Have we reached a determination yet? We have not," he said.
Explaining the possible reasons for the delay in declaring these outfits as FTO, Crowley said these steps have to be carefully evaluated and documents because it does have financial and legal consequences. "Frequently we could be subject to a lawsuit. So we would have to defend a decision that we've made in these designations," he said.
"We want to make sure that you have done your due diligence and you can actually defend the decision that is made. We also make sure that any action that we take actually supports our broader strategy. And we understand the impact that that designation would have on the ground, in either Pakistan or Afghanistan," Crowley said.
"So these are all things that we take into account when we evaluate steps like this," Crowley said in response to a question.