Jeff Dressler of the Institute for the Study of War–one of the best Afghanistan analysts out there–has an excellent question in this Weekly Standard article: Why hasn’t the administration designated the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization?
There is no legitimate reason to avoid this designation for a group that, according to the testimony of administration officials, has carried out numerous terrorist attacks in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan. Once it is designated, that will allow the U.S. and other governments to more actively go after its finances, leaders, and supporters. It appeared that designation–which is favored by both U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General John Allen–was a done deal last year, but it still hasn’t happened, apparently because the State Department wants to maintain the ability to negotiate with the Haqqanis.
There is, in fact, scant chance this fanatical organization will ever voluntarily lay down its arms. But even those who think there is a chance of negotiating with the Haqqanis should favor designation, because the offer to lift that status could be a useful carrot to dangle in front of the Haqqanis. The fact that the Haqqanis have not been designated bespeaks a woeful confusion and lack of purpose within the higher echelons of the administration about the whole war effort in Afghanistan.
If we are serious about drawing down troop numbers without leaving behind utter chaos, then we need to take sterner steps now to try to decrease the power of the Haqqanis and their close allies in the Quetta Shura Taliban. Designation as a terrorist organization isn’t enough. But it’s a start.