By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
The Obama administration added a Haqqani network commander to the list of terrorists prohibited from engaging in the U.S. financial system Tuesday, and effectively froze any of his property that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Mali Khan has directed hundreds of fighters to conduct terrorist attacks against Afghan civilians, police and coalition forces, the State Department said in a statement.
Khan's deputy provided support to the suicide bombers who attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul earlier this year, according to the U.S. government. Twelve people died in the attacks.
The designation was made despite Khan's current detention in Afghanistan. He was captured during a combined Afghan and coalition force security operation.
Khan's detention "marked a significant milestone in the disruption of the Haqqani Network, but does not absolve Mali Khan of his actions conducting terrorist acts for the Haqqani Network," the release from the State Department said.
The designation will strengthen the ability to target the finances of the Haqqani network, in addition to helping other U.S. agencies enforce their own actions against the group.
A Treasury official told CNN it is not uncommon for an order like this to be released after the designee has been captured, with each case requiring a varying degree of time to prepare. The timing of the order "is not driven by the arrest," the official said.
Haqqani fighters have been blamed for numerous attacks that have resulted in the deaths of coalition and Afghan forces. In addition to the attack on the Intercontinental, the network has also been accused of being behind a 20-hour attack on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul in September. The network is based in Pakistan's tribal region, and remains a sticking point in the tumultuous relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently disclosed a meeting between U.S. officials and Haqqani network representatives earlier this summer at the request of Pakistan's intelligence agency. She said such meetings are part of the U.S. strategy to "fight, talk, build" in Afghanistan as the United States works to stabilize the country even after the anticipated pullout of combat forces after 2014.
One reason for talks with the Haqqanis is to "test whether these organizations have any willingness to negotiate in good faith," Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week. "There's evidence going both ways, to be clear. Sometimes we hear that they will - that there are elements within each that wish to pursue that - and then other times that it's off the table. So I think that with respect to the Haqqani network it illustrates this point."
Khan is not the first operative of the Haqqani network to be sanctioned by the United States. In 2008, it targeted Siraj Haqqani, the operational commander, and son of the group's founder. Various other senior officials have been sanctioned as well.
Despite the ongoing efforts to sanction individual members of the Haqqani network, members of Congress continue to call on the State Department to designate the entire organization as a foreign terrorist organization. The administration has held high-level discussions in the past about making such a designation, but some fear it could drive the Haqqani's away from a possible future peace deal.