Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Defeating the Haqqani Network

The New York Times had a long and interesting front-page article on Sunday about the Haqqani network, the Pakistan-based  Islamist terrorist group which is responsible for the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul and other outrages. The article reflects understandable fatalism on the part of U.S. officials who have dealt with this evil group; there are suggestions made we need to accept the Haqqanis’ power and perhaps even to reach some kind of alliance with them as we did in the 1980s when we were fighting a mutual foe—the Red Army.

This attitude helps to explain the seemingly inexplicable fact the Haqqani network is still not listed as a proscribed terrorist group by the State Department—a fact which makes a mockery of the entire process for designating terrorist groups. It is high time we took  this step and a few others suggested in a Wall Street Journal editorial–ranging “from designating the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization (as a prelude to hitting its finances); withholding $1 billion in military aid to Pakistan in the absence of antiterrorist cooperation; or hitting the Haqqanis ourselves.”

None of those steps by themselves will defeat the Haqqani network or solve the problem of Pakistani support for them and other groups such as the Taliban—but better that than inaction. Which is not to say we are doing nothing at the moment; U.S. military and intelligence forces, especially the Special Operations Command, are doing a great deal to target the Haqqani network inside Afghanistan. They have had many unheralded successes, stopping many potentially catastrophic plots. But to a large degree, the Haqqanis have enjoyed impunity within Pakistan. That needs to change, even at the risk of provoking further ire in Islamabad. Otherwise, we are putting our military and diplomatic personnel at serious risk and making it impossible to achieve our objectives in the region.