September 23, 2012 | Commentary on Terrorism
“Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo,” radioed a member of Seal Team Six as the Special Operations force zeroed in on Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
When it was over, they had not only eliminated the al Qaeda leader, they had his mail as well—thousands of letters, and notes on al Qaeda activities. The U.S. government handed some of the stuff over to the Countering Terrorism Center at West Point, which in turn cranked a report analyzing the documents.
, The report found only “scarce and inconclusive” mentions of our “trusted Pakistani brothers.” That seems odd, since Pakistan had become not just the place Bin Laden chose to build his retirement home, but the new home base for al Qaeda central. But it’s not odd at all when you consider that the Countering Terrorism Center was given access to 17 (count ‘em, 17) documents.
The Seals were reported to have removed thousands of pages of material from the Bin Laden compound. Obviously, the U.S. government decided not to share documents that talked about al Qaeda’s affiliates in Pakistan.
Of course, the government might want to keep those materials secret to exploit their intelligence value. On the other hand, the White House just might have been none too keen to highlight al Qaeda’s relationship with affiliate groups in Pakistan. The latter tack would be in keeping with administration policy which, from day one, has downplayed the affiliates—even as these groups have become an evermore clear and present danger to the United States.
Consider the Haqqani Network—an association of terrorism and criminal enterprises operating in Northwest Pakistan. As Lisa Curtis, a regional expert and analyst at the Heritage Foundation testified before Congress, “The Haqqani network has been a major facilitator of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and is responsible for some of the fiercest attacks against U.S. and coalition forces.” In 2010, Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of the leaders of the network declared in an interview, “We believe that defeating the United States in Afghanistan will help to hinder this Crusade against the Muslim world."
Yet, while the Haqqanis were busy killing Americans and working to undermine the search for peace and stability in Afghanistan, the Obama administration determinedly refused for years to designate the network an official foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
What was the White House thinking?
The Haqqanis have links with ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service. Going after Haqqanis only adds stress to the strained relations between the US and the Pakistan. Further, the White House has reached out to groups like the Haqqani trying to “negotiate” America’s way out of Afghanistan.
Whatever the White House hoped to accomplish with its go soft policy, it clearly wasn’t working. Congress was clearly frustrated. A subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee planned hearings on September 13 to call out the administration on not slapping the FTO designation on the Haqqani.
Suddenly, in August, the administration switched course. It targeted one of the network’s top operational commanders with a drone strike. That was a first. Though the U.S. had been gathering intelligence on the Haqqanis for a long time, whacking their leaders was out of bounds. Apparently, not now.
Then, a week before the Congressional hearing, the State Department abruptly designated the Haqqanis an FTO.
Why the change? Well the facts on the ground haven’t changed—but there is an election in November. By designating the Haqqani an FTO, the White House takes off the table a possible source of criticism. What a way to fight a war on terror.
First appeared in The Examiner.