So why have some analysts questioned the move? Two
scholars of the Taliban, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Keuhn, argued in
the New York Times that the listing is pointless:
The decisions we make today
will shape and constrain our future policies. Between 2002 and 2004, for
example, some senior Taliban leaders sought reconciliation and cooperation with
the Afghan government and the international community. The negative responses
they received left little room but to pursue the path of resistance. Likewise,
listing the Haqqanis as an F.T.O. now will deter them from coming to the negotiating
table. It will also be seen as a sign of American insincerity by the Taliban
and thus play into the hands of those opposed to a conciliatory approach.
They cite several U.S. leaders suggesting that the Haqqani group might be open to reconciliation. Still, the idea that the Haqqanis might accept a political
role in a future Afghanistan has been making the rounds for years.
At the same time, experience should inspire skepticism of
a possible Haqqani reconciliation. While the mainstream Taliban has publicly
expressed interest in a negotiated settlement with the Afghan government, the
Haqqanis have not. Despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's attempt last to reach out to the Haqqanis for
talks, using the Pakistani government as an intermediary, those efforts failed.
Designating the entire Haqqani organization, and not just
its senior leadership, as terrorists could carry a number of benefits. Most important, the
designation limits Pakistan's options for dealing with them openly. The
Haqqanis operate in many respects like a big black market
criminal enterprise; they get away with a lot of travel and illegal business
activities because of the tacit tolerance they seem to enjoy in some quarters of the Pakistani government.
Pakistan's support for the group is integral to their
successful financing. Being put on the FTO blacklist allows the U.S. Treasury
Department's highly effective terrorist
financing cell to target the organization. Additionally, listing one of the
Pakistani government's favorite terrorist groups gives the U.S. government
additional leverage in its discussions with Islamabad over the future of
Arguably, the biggest barrier to a negotiated settlement
in Afghanistan is not the insurgency itself, but Pakistan.
Islamabad has stood
in the way of negotiation efforts it dislikes, and has declined to
participate in other efforts that have targeted favored groups such as the Haqqanis.
The FTO designation gives the U.S. more leverage for constraining Pakistan's
ability to support the terrorist group.
The FTO designation also shows how smart it was to
develop the Northern Distribution Network, a supply network into Afghanistan. The opening of the NDN, which is a
northern alternative to Pakistan's vital supply lines for the war in
Afghanistan, gave the U.S. the capacity to sit out Pakistan's eight-month closure
of the supply lines earlier this year. Islamabad can no longer hold those
supply lines over Washington's head, and in return Washington is applying
additional pressure on Islamabad.
That's not to say there aren't downsides: van Linschoten
and Keuhn might in fact be right that the Haqqanis are less likely to participate
in a negotiated settlement inside Afghanistan. But that doesn't mean the
blacklist is a bad idea. The Haqqani Network has operated far more openly than
other insurgent groups active in Afghanistan, to their great benefit and our
great loss. It's past time they feel the same financial, political, and social
pressure the have other groups.