The Obama regime is worried about upsetting the Taliban’s delicate sensibilities.
Just days before a congressional deadline, the Obama administration is deeply divided over whether to designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a terrorist group, with some officials worried that doing so could complicate efforts to restart peace talks with the Taliban and undermine already-fraught relations with Pakistan.
Early this month, Congress gave Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton 30 days to determine whether the Haqqani group, considered the most lethal opponent of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, meets the criteria for designation — a foreign organization engaging in terrorist activity that threatens U.S. citizens or national security.
If she says it does not, Clinton must explain her rationale in a report due to Congress on Sept. 9. Acknowledgment that the group meets the criteria, however, would probably force the administration to take action, which is strongly advocated by the military but has been resisted by the White House and some in the State Department.
Senior officials have repeatedly called the Haqqani network the most significant threat to its goal of exiting a relatively peaceful Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and have accused Pakistan of direct support for its leadership. The network has conducted a series of lethal, high-profile attacks against U.S. targets.
In recent weeks, the military has reiterated its call for Pakistan to prove its counterterrorism commitment by attacking Haqqani sanctuaries in its North Waziristan tribal area. The CIA has escalated drone attacks on Haqqani targets, including a strike last week that administration officials said killed the son of the network’s founder and its third-ranking official.
But just as there are reasons to designate the network a terrorist group, there are several factors weighing against the move, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the administration’s closed-door deliberations.
Those factors include a tenuous rapprochement with Pakistan that led last month to the reopening of vital U.S. military supply lines into Afghanistan; hopes that the autumn end of this year’s Afghan fighting season will bring the Taliban back to the negotiating table after the suspension of talks last March; and a reconfigured U.S. offer on a prisoner exchange that could lead to the release of the only U.S. service member being held by the militants.