US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Friday she will meet an obligation to decide in coming days whether the Pakistan-linked Haqqani network should be considered terrorists.
US lawmakers have pressed Clinton to blacklist the group, which is blamed for grisly attacks in Afghanistan, but some US officials have warned such a step could dramatically set back already fraught ties with Pakistan.
Clinton, visiting the Cook Islands for a Pacific Island summit, said that she would abide by legislation by US Congress that requires her to state by Sept. 9 whether the Haqqani network met the criteria of a terrorist group.
“I’m aware that I have an obligation to report to Congress. Of course we will meet that commitment,” Clinton told a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
Clinton declined comment on which way she is leaning but said that the US was already “putting steady pressure” on the Haqqani network.
“That is part of what our military does every single day along with our ISAF partners,” she said, referring to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.
“We are drying up their resources, we are targeting their military and intelligence personnel, we are pressing the Pakistanis to step up their own efforts,” she said.
Before stepping down as the top US military officer last year, Admiral Mike Mullen said that the Haqqani network had become a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
The State Department has designated certain members of the network as terrorists but has resisted blacklisting the entire group.
The US has slowly been rebuilding cooperation with Pakistan, which was severely set back after US forces found and killed Osama bin Laden living last year near the military’s main academy.
The US Senate and House of Representatives in resolutions have both urged the State Department to blacklist the group, which would make it a crime in the US to provide any financial or other support to the Haqqani network.
Technically, Clinton is only asked to declare whether the Haqqani network meets the criteria of a terrorist group and is not being forced to make an actual decision on the designation.
US officials have linked the Haqqani network to some of the most sensational attacks in Afghanistan including a June assault on a hotel near Kabul that killed 18 people and a siege last year of the US embassy.
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials said a US drone strike killed five militants in northwest Pakistan.
Two intelligence officials said at least seven missiles were fired yesterday from US drones at a vehicle and a house in the village of Degan in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan near the Afghan border.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media. They said the area is dominated by anti-US militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. They did not know whether the killed men belong to his group.
The CIA-run drone program is controversial in Pakistan where many call it an infringement on the nation’s sovereignty. The US maintains it is necessary tool to combat militants.