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House approves bill to designate Haqqani network as a terrorist organization

The House of Representatives voted to ramp up pressure on the Obama administration to designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organization.

The House adopted the plan without taking a roll call.

The bill requires the State Department to decide within a month whether the Taliban-linked organization meets the criteria for the designation. The official classification would make it illegal to provide resources to the group.

The Haqqani Network has claimed responsibility for attacks on NATO troops and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. But the administration has hedged on identifying it as a terrorist organization while it engages in delicate negotiations with the Taliban and Afghan war insurgents.

The State Department said in November that it was in the stage of "final formal review" of whether it should enact the designation. In order to qualify, a group must be foreign and engage in terrorist activity that poses danger to U.S. national security or American citizens.

Passage of the bill came after the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in May called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to formally issue the label "immediately."

And on July 10, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., introduced related legislation that would require the State Department to deem the Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organization.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., jointly introduced the legislation in late June.

"Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress agree that the Haqqani Network is a violent terrorist organization and grave threat to our security," Rogers said in a statement June 27. "The Haqqanis are responsible for killing hundreds of our troops, and their indiscriminate attacks have also murdered countless innocent Afghan men, women and children."

The top Democrats and Republicans on the bicameral intelligence panels wrote in a May letter to Clinton that the administration should nonetheless label the Haqqani Network as terrorists. It came a week after they traveled to Afghanistan as part of a congressional delegation.

"We understand there may have been reluctance within the Administration to designate the Haqqani Network while Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman attempted to negotiate a reconciliation agreement with the Taliban — a deal that may have included or affected the Haqqani Network. However, Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker told us last week that there have been no such talks since late last year, and that President Karzai has opposed their continuation,” they wrote.

The bill mandating a report from the State Department previously passed the Senate on Dec. 17, and now heads back to the Senate.