Why the Haqqani Network is Not on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations List

The Politics Of Naming and Shaming

(Photo: Telestar Logistics / flickr)

Members of the Haqqani network have killed hundreds of U.S. citizens and carried out spectacular acts of terrorism, including against the U.S. embassy, NATO headquarters, the Intercontinental Hotel, the Indian embassy, and the British Council -- all in Kabul. Yet the organization is not on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. This apparent lapse is not for lack of bipartisan support: In a September letter, U.S. Senators Lindsay Graham (R–S.C.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to add the network to the list, to “curtail logistical, financial and political support for the group’s terrorist activities.” The appropriate answer to their inquiry would seem obvious. The Haqqanis are both foreign and terrorists, after all.

In the event, Clinton punted the request; indeed, the matter is not as simple as Graham and Gillibrand seemed to believe. The Haqqani network differs in form, function, and focus from most groups that make the terrorist list. Moreover, it is not at all clear that designating the organization would achieve the intended U.S. policy results.

U.S. terrorism lists have evolved dramatically in the past 30 years. The first list, that of state sponsors of terrorism, drawn up in 1979, focused on states alone. At the time, that made sense. Regimes in Iran, Libya, and Syria, for example, supported, directed, and supplied terrorist proxies to kill Americans and threaten U.S. interests. The states themselves evaded direct confrontation with the stronger power.  By placing state sponsors on the list, which led to cutting off sensitive exports and prohibiting most foreign aid, the United States pressured fragile regimes to change their behavior. Sometimes it worked: In secret negotiations over disarming weapons of mass destruction, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s Libya sought normalization and removal from the list.

But at the end of the Cold War, state sponsors and their toadies lost ground. Independent groups no longer beholden to governments overshadowed them. Both the

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