Hot on the heels of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, an al Qaeda-affiliated organization based in North Waziristan is now in the spotlight and crosshairs: the Haqqani Network (HQN). Yesterday evening, Defense Secretary Panetta and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker tagged the Haqqani Network with responsibility for this week’s attack on the US Embassy in Kabul, as well as a September 10 truck-bomb attack on a U.S. base there that injured 77 Americans. With the benefit of a safe haven in Pakistan in areas bordering Afghanistan, and a continuing relationship with Pakistan’s intelligence agency (ISI), the Haqqani network thrives and threatens the region as well as U.S. national security. The situation is, as Secretary Panetta stated categorically, “unacceptable.”
Against this backdrop, the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade held a hearing yesterday titled “US-India Counterrorism Cooperation: Deepening the Partnership.” In testimony, I outlined the threat domain faced by both countries, highlighting the fact that the security of both the United States and India is threatened by the same constellation of terror organizations, including the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami (HuJI). More must be done to combat these threats – certainly by Pakistan – but also by strengthening U.S.-India counterterrorism cooperation, especially on the practitioner-to-practitioner level.
Yes, enhanced cooperation with India will complicate U.S. cooperation with Pakistan. The truth is, however, that U.S.-Pakistani cooperation is erratic and varies based on the political climate and bureaucratic interests in Islamabad. While there is some recent good news – such as the joint effort that led to the arrest of Younis al-Mauritani – the United States cannot allow its national security to be held hostage by unfulfilled expectations in Pakistan.
As spelled out in my testimony, it is paramount that we hold Pakistan accountable to take additional action – the litmus test here is whether they finally sever their historic ties to LeT and HQN and no longer view them as proxies to influence events in India and Afghanistan, respectively. With respect to HQN, this has huge implications for the future of Afghanistan and specifically the role of the U.S. military going forward. It’s also worth noting that while HQN’s leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, along with his brothers Nasiruddin and Badruddin, have all been designated Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the Department of State, as of now, the Haqqani Network has not been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). That’s plain wrong and hopefully will be remedied ASAP.
For further reading on the Haqqani Network, I highly recommend Jeffrey Dressler’s “The Haqqani Network: From Pakistan to Afghanistan” and “The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al Qa’ida,” by Don Rassler and Vahid Brown at West Point.
I also recommend checking out Congressman Ed Royce’s Foreign Intrigue blog. Congressman Royce is the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee, which I testified before yesterday. It’s refreshing to see a member of Congress contributing some analysis to national security issues in the blogosphere.