Guest post by C. Christine Fair
In September, 2011 Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, astonished the American public when he declared the Haqqani Network to be a virtual arm of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. Before then, Admiral Mullen had been one of the most outspoken defenders of Pakistan and its military’s efforts to combat Islamist terrorist. Since then, Congressional pressure mounted on the Obama administration to take a stronger position on Pakistan’s intransigent support for one of the most lethal organizations killing Americans and allied forces in Afghanistan. At long last, on September 7, the Obama administration announced that it would designate the network of Jalaluddin Haqqani to be a foreign terrorist organization.
The question arises as to what outcomes will emerge from this latest round of designating entities based in and operating from Pakistan. First, this designation gives the US government greater leverage in targeting the group’s vast licit and illicit funding network spanning the Gulf and South Asia. Second, it finally clarifies what the official position is with respect to the network. The US inter-agency has long been conflicted about the relevance of the network to a resolution in Afghanistan with some believing that the Haqqanis are important while others rubbish the notion. In either case, Pakistan has long exploited the inter-agency friction as an excuse for inaction. Pakistan can no longer hide behind this ruse. Third, it could give some hope to Afghans that hard earned democratic gains will not be forfeited to entrepreneurs of violence, like the Haqqanis.
However, it is not clear whether this designation will pave the way to declare Pakistan a state that sponsors terror, a club populated by Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan. In fact, the US State Department rule this out categorically. With this off the table, Pakistan is likely to behave with the same insouciance with which it greeted the previous designations of groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, among numerous others. Without some threat of meaningful sanctions, Pakistan’s military and intelligence agency are unlikely to take this designation any more seriously than those of the past and will indeed double down on their support for the organization as a further signal of resistance to Washington’s preferences in the region.