DOD Welcomes Designation of Haqqani Network as a Terrorist Group

DOD Welcomes Designation of Haqqani Network as a Terrorist Group

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2012 – The Defense Department has welcomed the decision by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to designate the Haqqani network a terrorist organization, Pentagon Spokesman George Little said today.

Clinton notified Congress that the Haqqani network meets the Immigration and Nationality Act’s statutory criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization.

“The Haqqani network represents a significant threat to U.S. national security, and we will continue our aggressive military action against this threat,” Little said in a written statement. Military officials have repeatedly connected the group to deadly attacks in Afghanistan, including those against U.S. forces and targets such as the American embassy in Kabul.

The organization also qualifies as a specially designated global terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224, which took effect in 2001, Clinton’s report says. The order blocks property and prohibits transactions with people who commit, threaten to commit or support acts of terrorism against the United States.

In her report to Congress, Clinton said the consequences of the designations “include a prohibition against knowingly providing material support or resources to, or engaging in other transactions with, the Haqqani network, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States, or the control of U.S. persons.”

The actions, she added, follow a series of other steps the U.S. government already has taken against the Haqqanis.

“The Department of State previously designated key Haqqani network leaders under E.O. 13224, and the Department of the Treasury has designated other militants with ties to the Haqqanis under the same authority,” Clinton said in the report.

“We also continue our robust campaign of diplomatic, military and intelligence pressure on the network,” she added, “demonstrating the United States’ resolve to degrade the organization’s ability to execute violent attacks.”

Clinton said she took the action in the context of the overall Afghanistan strategy -- the five lines of effort that President Barack Obama laid out in Afghanistan in May.

These include increasing the capacity of Afghan security forces to fight insurgents, transitioning to an Afghan security lead, building an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, pursuing Afghan-led reconciliation, and creating an international consensus to support peace and stability in the region.

“We will continue to work with both Afghanistan and Pakistan to move these efforts forward,” Clinton said, “and build a more peaceful and secure future.”

The designations also build on Defense Department efforts, Little said, “to degrade the network's capacity to carry out attacks, including affecting fundraising abilities, targeting them with our military and intelligence resources, and pressing Pakistan to take action.”

The designations will reinforce DOD efforts, he added.

“By strengthening our whole-of-government approach against the Haqqanis,” Little said “we are supporting our campaign efforts in Afghanistan and further limiting the organization's capacity to destabilize the region."

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While tactically sound, this decision does not pass the strategic common-sense test.

We attempt to gauge our strategic progress in this conflict by measuring tactical metrics. That works in a conventional campaign where miles advanced, armies defeated or flags captured matter; but does not work for assessing progress in resolving an insurgency. Insurgent causation radiates out from government and manifests in the perceptions of the populace affected by that governance. To resolve insurgency one must fix governance so as to address those critical perceptions, and this action does not help us do that.

The Haqqani fighters and leadership that we target are but the tip of a populace iceberg. Measuring tactical successes against those targets in no way assesses how those same actions increase or decrease the size of that base of support that is beneath the surface. We have not effectively defined our strategic metrics and we do not measure them. Such metrics are subjective and must be assessessed through the perceptions of the affected populace. We are not very good at that, nor do we possess the patience. It is far easier to measure immediate, objective tactical metrics that appear to indicate that we are making progress.

This insurgency has grown in size and intensity since 2003, when we supported the development and ratification of an Afghan Constitution that centralized far too much power in the executive, and that within Afghan culture elevated and centralized the majority of patronage away from local leaders and up to Kabul. This created, in effect, a Northern Alliance monopoly of power and triggered the beginning of a revolutionary insurgency among the disempowered populaces represented by Mullah Omar, Haqqani and all of the various militant Pashtu groups bundled as some flavor of “Taliban” taking sanctuary in Pakistan.

Our ever increasing efforts to put down that revolution have in turn provoked the continuous growth of a powerful resistance insurgency within and among the regular, largely apolitical, people of Afghanistan proper. Our actions may well suppress fighting in localized areas for some "decent interval" (as Kissinger negotiated for in Vietnam), but they cannot truly "win," as they attack the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem’s roots.

I realize political decisions may have us walk away from this fight. That will reduce the resistance insurgency, as the COG for the resistance is our very presence and our COIN approaches to date. But if we stay, we owe the President an alternative framework of understanding. The COG for the revolution is much more likely the constitution of Afghanistan and our protection of what it creates. The critical operation must be a reconciliation of the issues this has caused with the commitment to allow all of the reconciling parties to share in developing a new, more appropriate and holistic constitution. So long as there is revolution, no amount of effort against the resistance can fix this. We must address the revolution first, but instead we dedicate ourselves to protecting the drivers of revolution with every bit as much energy as we apply to attacking the symptoms of resistance.

The Northern Alliance played upon our Western sensibilities and bias to produce the current version. They knew (and know) full well that it creates a system that protects their monopoly. It also creates a veritable Ponzi scheme of patronage that has driven the reasonable level of corruption that has traditionally fueled Afghan politics into the outrageous criminal enterprise it is today. But it drives this insurgency as well. For GIRoA low level violence while staying in power is good enough. They have no intent or interest to end this. We need to understand that.

Haqqani is just a symptom. This decision makes targeting the symptom easier, but it does not help us win the current fight. And to believe that these Taliban groups will respond to diplomatic approaches that would have them submit to a life of subjugation to those empowered and protected by the current constitution is delusional, and demonstrates a very flawed understanding of insurgency in general, and insurgency as applied to this culture in particular.

Respectfully submitted for consideration,

RCJ