US House seeks FTO tag for Haqqani network

Washington: The US House of Representatives has demanded that Pakistan-based dreaded Haqqani network be designated as a foreign terrorist organisation, ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to act tough on the issue amid Islamabad`s lame efforts to rein in the al-Qaeda-linked outfit.

The House cleared a bill yesterday through a voice vote expressing the sense of the Congress that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should designate the outfit as a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO). The bill, which was proposed by Senator Richard Burr and was brought to the House floor under suspension of the rules, requires the State Department to decide within a month whether the Haqqani network meets the criteria for the designation, in the absence of which the Pakistan-headquartered outfit can raise funds in the US.

The Haqqani network is believed to be responsible for a number of terrorist attacks against the US interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan appears reluctant to control the outfit despite US pressure. "The Haqqani network is engaged in a reign of terror in Afghanistan and is the single largest threat for IEDs our soldiers face in that country. They actively plot and kill US and allied soldiers and routinely harm innocent Afghan civilian men, women and children in their path," said Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"To better protect the lives of US soldiers, now is the time for action, not simply paperwork and talk. There is no good reason that this group has not yet been designated," Rogers said. On May 11, Rogers, Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger and their Senate counterparts, Chairman Dianne Feinstein and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, called on the Obama administration to designate the Haqqani network as an FTO.

On June 27, Chairman Rogers, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon introduced the legislation demanding that the Haqqani network be designated. Language from the Rogers/Ros-Lehtinen/McKeon bill was included in the bill that was passed by the House yesterday. An official FTO designation is a critical step allowing the United States to more aggressively undermine the network`s support.

Specifically, an FTO designation permits the United States to freeze the network`s assets, keep those affiliated with the group from coming to the United States, and prosecute those individuals aiding or assisting the network with the crime of providing material support to terrorism. The bill, which mandates a report from the State Department, was previously passed by the Senate on December 17. The measure now heads to the White House.