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US gov't officially designates Haqqani network as terrorists

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- The Obama administration has formally designated the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. officials said Friday, in a complicated political decision as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and pushes for a reconciliation pact to end more than a decade of warfare.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed a report to Congress on Friday morning just before leaving Brunei for regional meetings in Russia. The report states that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network “meets the statutory criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization,” said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't designated to discuss the action publicly.

Enraged by a string of high-profile attacks on U.S. and NATO troops, Congress gave Clinton a Sunday deadline to deliver a report on whether the Haqqanis should be designated and all of its members subjected to U.S. financial sanctions. Clinton's decision comes amid numerous disagreements within the administration about the utility of the designation.

The U.S. already has placed sanctions on many Haqqani leaders and is targeting its members militarily but it had held back from formally designating the al-Qaida-linked network a terrorist group amid concerns about hampering peace efforts in Afghanistan and U.S. relations with Pakistan.

The U.S. long has branded the Haqqanis among the biggest threats to American and allied forces in Afghanistan, and to Afghanistan's long-term stability. A subsidiary of the Taliban, it is based in northern Pakistan but crosses the border to launch attacks, including a rocket-propelled grenade assault on the U.S. Embassy and NATO compound in Kabul in September.

But the group's increasingly prominent role in the insurgency and its close links to Pakistan's intelligence service complicate matters.

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