Since 2009, U.S. and NATO commanders in Afghanistan quietly have urged Pakistan's armed forces to move against the Haqqani headquarters, which is in a madrassa in mountainous Miran Shah. But for Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani -- Pakistan's military chief of staff -- such an operation in North Waziristan was a non-starter because it meant taking troops and equipment from the eastern frontier facing Pakistan's "real enemy" -- India. Nervous officials at our State Department voiced concerns that a Pakistani military move against the Haqqanis could precipitate a "destabilizing political upheaval in nuclear-armed Pakistan -- something none of us (wants)."
The Obama administration's uncertainty and ambivalence about what to do about the Haqqani threat means this "family-led enterprise devoted to waging war" in the name of jihad carries on with near impunity. Other than missile strikes from unmanned aerial vehicles -- which carefully leaked stories have described as effective -- little has been done to thwart the flow of new jihadi recruits from Haqqani-run madrassas or to cut the cash coming into the family coffers that finances the killing of American troops.
It's not just ISI financial support. Funding for Haqqani paramilitary operations and improvised explosive devices also comes from Saudi Arabia, interest on "family" bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates, extortion and ransom from kidnappings. A recent intelligence report describes how the Haqqanis "portray themselves as deeply religious while making a fortune from the sale and transportation of opium." The organization's success in "taxing" Afghan contractors paid with U.S. tax dollars is legendary. Another report identifies "legitimate businesses" being run overtly in Pakistan and Afghanistan by loyal clan members.
Will the State Department's belated decision to designate the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization change any of this? It could, if it's done the right way.
It's not enough simply to freeze Haqqani assets in U.S. banks. It's unlikely after this week's announcement that the network has a savings account here anyway. A far better approach would be to bar any company or bank that does business with any Haqqani entity from doing any business in the U.S.
Identifying, disrupting and discrediting foreign donors and sources of funding is crucial to strangling the organization's finances. Combining this effort with a carefully orchestrated political action campaign exposing Haqqani criminal activity -- particularly the opium trade -- could discredit the network's self-proclaimed "moral authority" to attract new recruits to the jihad.
Can the O-Team pull this off? Let's hope so. It could make the difference in our keeping friends -- and doing in our enemies.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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