Taliban Rages Over U.S. Decision on Terrorist Group

By MARK MCDONALD
Mohammed Riaz/Associated PressThe founder of the militant Haqqani network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, in a photo from 1998. The United States has formally declared the group, aligned with the Taliban, to be a terrorist organization.
HONG KONG — Washington has formally branded the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization for its attacks against American and NATO forces and for its role in the Taliban superstructure in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s response? Angry, swift and deadly.

The U.S. decision on the Haqqani group was announced Friday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and it was seconded by the Defense Department.

The Taliban responded with a suicide attack on Saturday that killed at least eight Afghan civilians near NATO headquarters in central Kabul.

The Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the target had been a C.I.A. safe house and claimed that “five top-level U.S. agents” had been killed. He also rejected a statement by the police in Kabul that the bomber, wearing a suicide vest, had been a young boy.

“There is absolutely no truth in what the Kabul slave administration says about this effective operation by a teenage martyr attacker as he was about 28 year old,” Mr. Mujahid said.

The Taliban, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, assailed the decision by the Obama administration, saying on its Web site that “all the negative consequence of this inhumane and criminal action against the Islamic Emirate will fall squarely on the shoulders of deceitful America.”

The Taliban said the terror-group designation, which complicates reconciliation talks but enhances the U.S. ability to squeeze the Haqqanis financially, was part of an American “satanic plot” that will be seen as “further provoking the anger of the Muslims.”

A senior Haqqani commander told The Associated Press that the network’s military chief, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is now seeking approval from the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, to carry out “80 to 100 attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and 20 attacks on other NATO members” in retaliation. Mr. Haqqani’s younger brother, Badruddin, also an important military leader, reportedly was killed two weeks ago in a U.S. drone attack in the tribal belt between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A wide-ranging, family-run criminal enterprise with overlays of religious extremism and political ambition, the group was one of the mujahideen outfits originally backed by the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1970s. It has since morphed into a potent military and political force, with links to Al Qaeda and deep ties to the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s top spy agency.

Reaction to the Haqqani designation from the Pakistani government has so far been muted.

Some analysts, including Daniel Markey, a Pakistan and South Asia specialist with the Council on Foreign Relations, are now suggesting that the decision at least raises the possibility of a future declaration about Pakistan being a state sponsor or state supporter of terrorism.

If the I.S.I. continues to maintain cordial ties to the Haqqanis, Mr. Markey said, “this may be a precursor” to such a decision.

“The United States,” he said, “needs to make it clear to Pakistan that it needs to make a choice: If it continues to work with groups like the Haqqanis, continues to treat them as legitimate insurgent groups rather than international terrorists, there will continue to be a problem, a deep problem with the U.S. government that will not be overcome easily.”

“There have been several terrorist groups operating in Pakistan with state support that we long ago designated as a foreign terrorist organization. Pakistan did nothing,” said C. Christine Fair, a South Asia scholar and professor at Georgetown, speaking Friday on the PBS Newshour. “We pretended to not notice and they pretended to not care.

“So, in one scenario, this could be just like these previous designations. Right? ‘We know what you are doing. We are going to pretend that you are not because we have got work to get done in Afghanistan.’

“At the other extreme, this could open the way for the Congress to say, well, I think we now should declare Pakistan as a state that supports terrorism.”

In April, when he was still U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan C. Crocker called the Haqqani insurgents “the worst of the worst” and “a group of killers, pure and simple.” That sort of language — blunt and unequivocal — is not often heard from career diplomats.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has echoed Mr. Crocker’s sentiments, as has the committee’s vice chairman, Senator Saxby Chambliss. She’s a California Democrat, he’s a Georgia Republican, and both had been pressing Mrs. Clinton to make the call on F.T.O. status for the Haqqani network.

The links between the Haqqani network and Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus are well-established. Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a Senate hearing last year that the network “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.”

In a backgrounder on the Haqqani network by the Institute for the Study of War, Jeffrey Dresler said it is wrong to see the Haqqanis simply as “the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war.”

“The most underappreciated dimension of the Haqqani network,” he said, “is its global character and the central role it played in the evolution of al-Qaeda and the global jihadist movement during the 1980s and 1990s.”

Meanwhile, the Haqqani commander, in speaking to The A.P., said his group was not holding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier known to be a prisoner in Afghanistan. He said Sergeant Bergdahl, 26, was in the custody of the central Taliban command and that he would not be harmed. The U.S. Army sergeant has been held for more than three years.

“We are not cowards and we consider it as coward to harm prisoners,” the Taliban commander said.

“No Easy Day,” the new book by a former commando in the Navy Seals, said the team that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan also tried several times to rescue Sergeant Bergdahl “but came up empty. It was a race to get him back before they smuggled him to Pakistan.”

Rendezvous explored Sergeant Bergdahl’s case in June, when an article in Rolling Stone said, as a disillusioned 23-year-old private, he left his weapon and other gear behind and walked away from his combat outpost after being deployed for only a few months.

Source http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/taliban-rages-over-u-s-decision-on-terrorist-group/

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