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WASHINGTON – U.S. lawmakers are joining a growing bipartisan list that in recent days has called on the U.S. State Department to put the Haqqani Islamist militant network on the U.S. terrorist list, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

However, the Haqqani network, along with a second major jihadist group operating in Pakistan’s North Waziristan and headed by the tribal warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur, is essential in ongoing U.S.-Taliban discussions.

At the same time, they are the groups targeting troops of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Afghanistan where they attack them and then retreat back into the North Waziristan area.

Both groups are known to be affiliated with al-Qaida. The Pakistani government doesn’t want to attack the groups, even though it seeks to bring the area more under Islamabad’s control.

Until now, the Pakistani government has been reluctant to go after the Haqqani or Bahadur networks since it backs them and sees them helping to extend Pakistani influence in Afghanistan once the U.S. and NATO troops leave by the end of 2014.

As it now stands in the ongoing U.S.-Taliban negotiations, the Haqqanis would be involved in any post-war power sharing with Kabul and no longer would have to retreat to Pakistan’s North Waziristan area.

The fact that Islamabad doesn’t want to pursue the Haqqanis or Bahadurs runs counter to U.S. interest in Pakistan in going after them as well as al-Qaida.

The U.S. seeks more leverage over the Taliban, which is increasing gains in Afghanistan, while the jihadist groups will continue fighting for political and military leverage of its own.

As a consequence, the U.S. intends to continue its drone attacks into the North Waziristan area, where resentment against the U.S. inevitably will mount among the local population. This comes despite Pakistan’s demand that the unmanned drone attacks cease.

On the other hand, if Islamabad were to undertake counter-terrorist operations in the North Waziristan area, then there may be reconsideration of the use of drones in the area, observers suggest.

A U.S. demand to continue negotiations with the Taliban has been for the Haqqani network to disassociate itself from al-Qaida. The Taliban has indicated that it might do that, although enforcement would be questionable. This would help Pakistan in any future negotiations, particularly in helping to shape the future of Afghanistan after NATO leaves.

Since the Haqqani and Bahadur groups will want to work with, not against, Pakistan given their potential post-NATO role in Afghanistan, they will want to prevent the Pakistani Taliban from continuing to attack Islamabad.

However, the Haqqani and Bahadur groups will want to extract a price from Islamabad and that is a greater role in Afghanistan.

For this approach to work, Washington must accept Islamabad’s position that the Haqqanis and Bahadur groups can be dealt with.

However, the recent congressional initiative could undercut the Obama administration’s position at a critical time when both sides need each other.

And if the Haqqani network is labeled officially as a terrorist group, then the Pakistani government, which has backed the Haqqanis, could be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, thereby souring U.S.-Pakistani relations even more.

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