UN slaps sanctions on Afghanistan's Haqqani network | Asia Pacific

UN slaps sanctions on Afghanistan's Haqqani network

UN slaps sanctions on Afghanistan's Haqqani network

Updated 6 November 2012, 22:11 AEDT

The UN Security Council has ordered global sanctions against the Haqqani militant network in Afghanistan.

The move has been welcomed by Kabul, but dismissed by the Taliban as meaningless.

Leaders of the Haqqani group, who're mainly based in Pakistan, have been accused of launching terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, targetting the US and Indian embassies and also a major hotel in Kabul.

The sanctions will include freezing Haqqani assets, travel bans and an arms embargo.

Some observers say the move may be counter-productive for Afghanistan.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Security strategist Fazil Rahman, Director of Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad

FAZIL: Actually, the Haqqani network is an old Mujahideen group, which was effectively used during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Then later on, after 9-eleven and when operation 'Enduring Freedom' was launched in Afghanistan, there had not been very comprehensive strategy to deal with the situation. And they left the Pakistani borders open, and pushed these Mujahideens and they sought refuge in some of the Pakistani areas. Traditionally, this group used to be based in the Khost area of Afghanistan, but then because of American pressure, they moved into some of the unruly areas of Pakistan, where the reach of the state has been very weak, because of the nature of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

LAM: And many members of the Haqqani network are said to be sheltering in Pakistan - do you think it's significant that Pakistan as a member of the 15-nation council, did not object to the motion, to place the Haqqani network on a UN sanctions list?

FAZIL: Well, actually, Pakistan has been trying to clear the border regions of these terrorist networks and some of these Taliban networks, which are existing in the areas located on the Pakistan-Afghan border. So far, I think this group has been very strong and they're located in an area where the capacity of the state to deal with them effectively is not great. Pakistan is unable to take any military action against these people, but as far as these activities are concerned, I think Pakistan does not approve at all. Pakistan has offered several time to fence several areas - entry/exit points of these insurgents, but there were serious objections by the Afghan government. They did not allow Pakistan to make fences on the border. So Pakistan's capacity to deal with such a long border is limited. Every day, more than 50-thousand people cross the border so in that kind of situation, where there are more than 2.5 million refugees living in Pakistan, to close the border entirely is not feasible.

LAM: The United States designated the Haqqani network a terrorist organisation, two months ago, back in September. Does this latest UN pronouncement take it up one notch? What impact do you think this might have on the Haqqani network?

FAZIL: Here I find a kind of discrepancy in the policy approach - a kind of double standard. The Haqqani network has been existing there for over ten years, and there has been no such movement, and indirectly, there had been reports and acknowledgement on the part of the US that they had been in touch for negotiation, with the Haqqani network. But somehow, because of the failure to take up the matters politically, the political process has been scuttled, now I think they thought that when the drawdown time is coming, perhaps it could be one thing that they can put pressure on the Haqqani network, as well as on Pakistan.

LAM: The Haqqanis are allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan - will this UN move have any kind of impact on stability in Afghanistan, with the 2014 western military troop pullout firmly in mind?

FAZIL: These groups are already outlawed groups. They do not get any recognisable and clear cut support from any country or any state. So putting sanctions on them, they can restrict their mobility, they can freeze their assets and they can try to do certain things which may not really have any greater impact on the ground situation.

LAM: Do you think, if nothing else, it might annoy them even more, that they become even less cooperative in Afghanistan?

FAZIL: Even if there are some possibilities of negotiatiions or reconciliation, now there'll be another point on the agenda, by removing them from these terrorist lists by the US and the UN. It has burdened an already-heavy agenda in terms of negotiations and reconciliation.

LAM: And you think it's counter-productive to slap sanctions on the Haqqani network?

FAZIL: Well, actually, politically, yes, because they will be isolated. They'll be liable to international condemnation and all that. But you know, I'm more concerned about the ground realities, how much impact it would create on the ground. Politically, to declare them a terrorist group, a terrorist network, but will it have impact? Will it facilitate, will it ease the the difficulties in terms of creating a stable situation in Afghanistan?

There has to be a simultaneous political process - taking a political path towards reconciliation, because all these groups are Afghan groups. And at the end of the day, they have to live together. We need to facilitate and to give some room for intra-Afghan dialogue. I think Afghans are quite capable of sorting their differences by themselves.

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