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Why Branding the Haqqanis Terrorists Was a Mistake

The Downsides of Making Policy During a Campaign

Courtesy Reuters

Last week, the Obama administration designated the Haqqani network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The move seems reasonable. For one, the Haqqanis are responsible for some of the most heinous terrorist attacks on Americans in Afghanistan. In July, the U.S. Congress gave Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a September 9 deadline to either add the group to the FTO list or explain her rationale for not doing so -- a potential election-year land mine.

The listing, however, is more about appearances than outcomes. As I wrote last year ("Why the Haqqani Network Is Not on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations List"), most of the network's senior members are already individually sanctioned under the Specially Designated Global Terrorist designation, which means that Treasury has long had the power to go after the assets of most of them. The FTO label simply gives Treasury the additional option of sanctioning the organization as

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