The US today designated the Pakistan-based dreaded Haqqani network as a terrorist group, a move that could degrade the organisation's ability to execute violent attacks and pressurise Islamabad to act militarily against the outfit.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally designated the militant network as terrorist organisation in a report to the Congress today.
"I have sent a report to Congress saying that the Haqqani Network meets the statutory criteria of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO)," Clinton said.
"Based on that assessment, I notified Congress of my intent to designate the Haqqani Network as an FTO under the INA. I also intend to designate the organisation as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity."
She and other administration officials "had already discussed the issue with their counterparts in Pakistan, and the administration's special envoy, Marc Grossman, is expected to formally inform Pakistan’s leaders on Friday," the New York Times said in a report.
State Department officials would also begin notifying senior lawmakers.
Clinton said the consequences of these designations include a prohibition against knowingly providing material support or resources to, or engaging in other transactions with, the Haqqani Network, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organisation that are in the US.
"We also continue our robust campaign of diplomatic, military, and intelligence pressure on the network, demonstrating the United States' resolve to degrade the organisation's ability to execute violent attacks," Clinton said.
She said the US would continue to work with both Afghanistan and Pakistan to move these efforts forward and build a more peaceful and secure future.
The designations of the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity would make it easier to pursue those who provide support for the al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked movement. But they could further deteriorate relations with Pakistan.
The Obama administration has been debating the option for nearly two years amid mounting pressure to take a concrete step on the matter, as a Congressional deadline approached.
"This shows that we are using everything we can to put the squeeze on these guys (Haqqanis)," an administration official told the New York Times on condition of anonymity.
Another senior administration official said the designation "is a very strong signal of our resolve to combat the Haqqanis."
Congress had approved a legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law on August 10. The law gives Clinton 30 days to determine whether the Haqqani network is a terrorist group, and report her decision to lawmakers by September 9.
Both houses of Congress have taken up the issue, calling for the Obama administration to add the Haqqani network to the State Department's terror organisation list.
The Haqqani group has been tied to the deaths of American and NATO troops, as well as multiple attacks on embassies and other government infrastructure in Afghanistan.