(Adds background, congressional pressure)
By Missy Ryan
WASHINGTON Feb 5 The Obama administration,
under pressure from Congress to act against Pakistan-based
militants blamed for fueling violence in Afghanistan, moved on
Wednesday to freeze the assets of three suspected militants
linked to the hard-line Haqqani network.
The Treasury Department said that Saidullah Jan, Yahya
Haqqani and Muhammad Omar Zadran had been named "specially
designated global terrorists," meaning that assets belonging to
the men within U.S. jurisdiction would be frozen.
U.S. citizens are also barred from doing business with the
The Obama administration has been struggling to contain the
Haqqani network, which it blamed for involvement in a number of
bold, high-profile attacks on U.S. and Western interests in
Afghanistan, for years.
The group is believed to be based in tribal regions of
Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.
"Today's action underscores our resolve to continue
targeting any potential means of support for the Haqqanis,"
David Cohen, a senior Treasury official, said in the statement.
Muhammad Omar Zadran was also named for having links to the
In 2011, the United States' former top military official,
Mike Mullen, made waves by calling the group a "veritable arm"
of Pakistan's powerful intelligence service, ISI. In September
2012, the State Department officially designated the group as a
"foreign terrorist organization."
Some in Congress have pushed the administration in recent
months to go after the network more aggressively. In November,
six members of Congress, including Mike Rogers, chairman of the
House intelligence committee, and Ed Royce, chairman of the
House foreign affairs committee, sent Obama a letter asking him
to document U.S. steps against the group and calling efforts to
date "woefully insufficient."
"We know the Haqqani network continues to plan potentially
catastrophic attacks against U.S. interests and personnel in
Afghanistan," the lawmakers said in the letter, a copy of which
was obtained by Reuters.
Since then, Obama administration officials have briefed
Congress on the issue, but some lawmakers appear to remain
dissatisfied. In December, as part of an annual defense spending
bill, lawmakers required the administration to report back on
its efforts to disrupt the Haqqani group.
Some U.S. officials have been reluctant to take steps
against the Haqqani network that might jeopardize the
administration's ability to initiate peace talks between the
Afghan government and its militant opponents.
The decision to freeze suspected Haqqani militants' assets
came as the Obama administration moves to wind down its
12-year-long war in Afghanistan.
This week, President Barack Obama met with senior military
commanders to discuss the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
Officials have planned to keep a modest U.S. force there after
this year, if the Afghan government will agree to sign a
bilateral security deal that authorizes a foreign military
presence after 2014.
(Editing by Leslie Adler and Amanda Kwan)