What Haqqani's new terror status means

(CBS News) Right up there with al Qaeda on the list of enemies is a militant group on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan known as the Haqqani network.

On Friday, the Obama administration declared it a terrorist organization - which essentially blacklists it.

Jalaluddin Haqqani
An undated photo of Jalaluddin Haqqani, patriarch of the Haqqani network, a fundamentalist Islamic group based near the Afghan border in Pakistan. CBS

The Haqqani network has been linked to some of the most spectacular terrorist attacks of the Afghan war. One attack last year targeted the U.S. embassy in Kabul, and another giant truck bomb set off at the entrance to an American outpost last June are just to name a few.

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton interrupted a trip through Asia to announce the Haqqani network would be officially designated a foreign terrorist organization, it may have seemed like a blinding flash of the obvious. But it was a decision which had tied the Obama administration in knots and was only settled by the need to meet a Congressionally ordered deadline.

Haqqani: Terrorist designation may bring "hardships" for U.S. POW Bowe Bergdahl
U.S. designating Haqqani network a terrorist organization

The designation gives the administration a tool - but not a silver bullet - to go after Haqqani finances by pressuring banks in Pakistan and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf to freeze their assets. That's not nearly as fast acting as the CIA drone strike which last month killed Badruddin Haqqani, one of the sons of the patriarch of the network.

This image made from video released Wednesday April 7, 2010 by the Taliban via the Site Intelligence Group shows U.S. soldier Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl. AP Photo/Site Intelligence Group

But the terrorist designation also complicates the on-again-off-again efforts to start peace talks. More specifically, it could add another obstacle to attempts to negotiate the release of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who walked of his base and has been held by the Haqqanis since 2009. It is also a slap in the face of a critical U.S. ally, since the Haqqani network is based in Pakistan and, according to U.S. officials, is supported by Pakistani intelligence.

Whatever the ultimate effect of the terror designation, life does seem to be getting more difficult for the Haqqanis. By this time last year, the Haqqanis had been blamed for 12 attacks in and around Kabul. So far this year there have been just three.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.