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'Blacklisting Haqqani network isn't enough'

Washington: Top American lawmakers have welcomed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to designate Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist group, but said the Pakistan's spy agency ISI continues to support it.

Lawmakers urged the US Government to start cracking down on the financial and business network of the Haqqani network which is spread across the globe.

"The labeling of Haqqani network as a terrorist organization is necessary but not sufficient. Now is the time for the State Department and Transportation Department to ramp up efforts to go after the network's global finances and
businesses and front companies," said Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman, Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

US Congressmen said that blacklisting Haqqani network isn't enough.

"This is a terrorist organization that seems to be benefiting from monies of the US taxpayer in two ways. First, we provide a lot of aid to Pakistan with insufficient control.

Much of that ends up in the hands of the ISI, the ISI then supports the Haqqani network," said Royce chairing the Congressional hearing on combating the Haqqani network.

"Second, our use of private contractors to get supplies into Afghanistan, combined with the fact that we maintain 85,000 or more troops there, means that these private contractors sometimes find it profitable to pay protection
money to the Haqqanis. So both our foreign aid funds and our military operations funds can find their way into Haqqani hands," said Royce, who is Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

Congressman Gerald Connolly said that the terrorist designation of the Haqqani network raises as many questions as it provides answers. "What does it mean with our drawdown in Afghanistan just across the border, given the impunity with which the Haqqani network now operates in that part of Pakistan? What does it mean that there's clear and documented evidence that the ISI, the Pakistani ISI has long provided overt protection, including security protection, to leaders of the Haqqani network within the Pakistani borders?" Connolly asked.

"What does that mean for the level of cooperation that is actually cited in the designation announcement, in which Pakistan was referred to as an extremely valuable ally in countering extremism and terrorism?" he asked.

Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation told lawmakers that Pakistani officials had repeatedly questioned why they should take military action when US policy toward the group was ambiguous.

"With this designation, the US leaves no doubt on where it stands on the issue and thus removes a major Pakistani excuse for failing to take action," she said.

Gretchen Peters, a researcher and author, who published an article on 'Haqqani Network Financing: The Evolution of an Industry', said the group continue to receive direct funding and certain types of logistical support from parts of the ISI.

"Their relations with the ISI are much more fraught than many outsiders imagine. The ISI certainly is able to get the Haqqanis to engage in certain activities for them, but it would be a stretch to say that they controlled them or that they trust each other," she noted.

PTI