Special Briefing
Senior Administration Officials
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
September 7, 2012

MODERATOR: Okay, good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us on this call. As you know, earlier this morning we released an announcement by Secretary Clinton that we have decided to designate the Haqqani Network. And here to explain that in a little bit more detail we have with us two senior officials, [Senior Administration Official One], who will be Senior Administration Official One; and [Senior Administration Official Two], who will be Senior Administration Official Two. They’ll make some opening remarks, and then we’ll turn it all over to you for a few questions.

So without further ado I’ll hand it over to Senior Administration Official Number One.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks very much. I just wanted to amplify the points made in the statement released by the Secretary that there were three actions taken today. The first is that pursuant to the Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act, the Secretary sent a report to Congress saying that the Haqqani Network does meet the statutory criteria for designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, an FTO. Therefore, second of all, based on that assessment, the Secretary also notified Congress today of her intent to designate the Haqqani Network as an FTO under the Immigration and Nationality Act. And third, she has also signaled her intent to designate the organization as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity under Executive Order 13224. And later in the call we can get into some of the distinctions between FTO and EO 13224 designation.

By way of background, we’ve long been aware of the Haqqani Network’s intent to cause instability in Afghanistan and attack and kill U.S. civilians and military service members. It’s something, obviously, that Secretary Clinton and others in the Administration have spoken about frequently. And as a result, we have very vigorously employed all elements of our power in a very multifaceted effort to degrade the capacity to carry out attacks, raise money, and move people around. So utilizing very robustly our diplomatic, our military, and our intelligence pressures, we have sought to degrade the Haqqani Network’s ability to execute violent attacks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. Yes, thanks for joining us this morning. Let me carry on where Senior Official Number One left off and just give you a little background and a little more detail on what all this means. First of all, it’s important to note that both the Departments of State and Treasury have previously designated a number of key Haqqani Network leaders under Executive Order 13224. And together with these new group designations, we are further limiting the organization’s capacity to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States and our interests abroad, and we are giving ourselves greater tools to attack their financing.

We are continuing to aggressively pursue them militarily in Afghanistan, and we are utilizing our intelligence and counter terrorism capabilities against them wherever they may be. The actions announced today strengthen our whole-of-government effort against the Haqqanis and demonstrates the seriousness with which we take the task of protecting our personnel in Afghanistan. I want to also add that the Government of Pakistan was informed before the Secretary’s decisions were announced today. And as you know, we have and will continue to engage with Pakistan to ensure that we are cooperating as effectively as possible to eliminate the threat posed to both U.S. and Pakistani interests.

There – just to clarify a bit on the process. The Secretary has announced her intent because there is a process that’s normally employed here in which there would be a seven-day notification period to Congress followed by three days before the publication in the Federal Register. Those time periods will continue to be observed; but because of the congressional reporting requirement, she’s announcing now her intent to designate. That applies to the FTO designation; the Executive Order designation happens much more rapidly and without a special notification.

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. At this time, we’re ready to take a few questions. Just a reminder that this call is being recorded for the transcript, of course. And so, Operator, if we can go ahead and take our first question.

OPERATOR: Sure. Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish you ask a question, please press star, then one on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating you have been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the pound key. If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, please press star, one, at this time.

Our first question comes from Karen DeYoung, Washington Post. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. I wonder if you could tell me why the same criteria does not apply to the Taliban as an organization. And is it just that Congress forced your hand here, or do you – are you considering them seriously also for designation?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Well, let’s begin by noting that the Taliban is designated under Executive Order 13224 and also is treated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization for immigration purposes. So that covers an enormous amount of the actual activity or the remit of these designations. I – we don’t discuss internal deliberations on designations, but I think it’s fair to say that we think the approach we’ve taken today is appropriate, and I’ll leave it at that.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Jo Biddle, AFP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Good morning. Thanks very much for the call. I wondered how concerned you are about fallout from Pakistan as a result of this decision. Already some Pakistani officials have been saying that it’s not going to be very good for relations, which we know are already uneasy between the two countries.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I’m happy to talk about that because we’ve actually made – we’ve been very careful to have previewed this issue over the past several weeks, if not longer, with senior civilian and military leadership in Pakistan. And they did not express concern about this designation and are – remain committed to battling extremism in Pakistan.

Obviously, the last year, year and a half, have been a very difficult time for our bilateral relationship. The Secretary has said frequently that it is a challenging and complex but critical relationship. And indeed, over the last few months, I think that we’ve seen several positive developments, and we expect that trajectory to continue. So we’ve seen the opening of the NATO supply lines, we’ve seen greater coordination along the border. Indeed, this week alone, there was a working group meeting of a safe passage working group in Pakistan. And over the coming weeks, we are expecting a series of other important bilateral senior meetings, both in Islamabad and in the U.S., including in the lead-up to the UNGA and – in New York.

So I think our relationship is going in the right trajectory, and this is one issue which we’ve raised many, many times with the Pakistanis and are committed to working with them on. So I do not foresee that this will have a negative impact on the overall relationship.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. Could you talk a little more about the mechanics of this from a threat finance perspective? I mean, why will this be consequential given these guys have been likened to a crime family and they have all these illicit networks? How will these – how will the sanctions and the Treasury side of things help go after them?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Well, this – the designations freeze their assets, of course. I don’t know exactly what we have, but it gives us a stronger tool as well for going out to other countries and saying we’ve taken this level of action against the group, and we urge you to do the same.

So while it is true that the Haqqanis are not perhaps as far-flung in their financial operations as some other international terrorist organizations and do have a lot of their illicit activities focused in the immediate region, these are still very useful tools for approaching other governments and conveying to them the seriousness of our concerns on these matters. And of course, the Department of Justice now has a critical tool for bringing prosecutions for material support of the Haqqani Network, which it did not previously have.

OPERATOR: We will now go to the line of Dave Solomon, Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, hi. Thanks for the call. I’m just trying to get a sense of what concerns you might have on the impact on any reconciliation talks, because the Haqqanis obviously will – are probably going to play a role in that process. And with this day’s designation, does that kind of ban any contacts from U.S. officials and members of the Haqqani Network? Because I know that in the past, military folks have contacted members of that organization, and just – I’m curious what the fallout would be.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We do not anticipate that this designation will have any impact on reconciliation efforts. Those continue to go on in an unabated manner. Our core objective is to defeat al-Qaida and ensure it never returns, and our policy in Afghanistan, as you well know, is fight, talk, and build, which is focused not only on putting military pressure but also seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

We don’t anticipate that the statute has – the statute does not prohibit meetings or dialogue with members of a designated FTO, so it does not prohibit talking at some future date. But reconciliation remains a key component of our strategy. As I noted, the safe haven – or safe passage working group was meeting this week alone as a piece of that, and Ambassador Grossman will embark on an upcoming trip at some point to continue to pursue this in a very robust manner. And all those efforts, as we have said for a long time, to get Afghans to speak with other Afghans about the future of their own country are continuing through many different channels.

OPERATOR: We will now go to the line of Justin Fishel, Fox News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey there. So you may have already asked this in some ways, but I want to know specifically how you’ll be going after the funding. You talked about freezing assets. What else is going to be done in terms of sanctions? And specifically considering the linkage to the ISI with the Haqqanis, are you going to go after funding of the ISI?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: As I said before, we will be talking with government officials in a number of different countries where we suspect the Haqqanis have assets, and we will be urging them to freeze their assets and to take action against the group. And I think that I’d rather not get into it any more deeply than that, only to say that we have, of course, had, as my colleague noted, numerous conversations with the Pakistanis about the Haqqanis and the need to press them more effectively.

And I’ll leave it at that. Maybe he has something to add.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I’ll add something – just a little bit to that, which is that this is targeted specifically at the Haqqani Network. It is not targeted in any way at any organ of the Pakistani Government. And I just want to be very clear about that. We continue to talk frequently at virtually every intervention with the Pakistanis about what more can be done to squeeze the network, as the Secretary laid out in her last trip to Pakistan last fall and has talked about numerous times since then. We have a common enemy in fighting extremism given that 30,000 Pakistanis or more have been killed in the last decade, and we have a very good partnership with the Government of Pakistan on combating extremism. And as the President himself noted after the Abbottabad raid, that more terrorists have been killed in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world. So this is targeted at the Haqqani Network, period.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of David Martin, CBS News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: What was the relation of the visit of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury Bronin to Pakistan with this designation? The statement says he met with leaders of the State Bank of Pakistan as well as private Pakistani banks. Was he asking them to freeze Haqqani assets once this order takes effect?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’d probably have to refer you back to the Treasury Department for that specifically. I note there were a series of issues that he raised while he was there, but it was not meant in any way to preview this decision. This was the decision of the Secretary of State; she made it on her own time horizon. It was – obviously, the report was due to Congress today and the Treasury official’s trip was independent of that.

So of course, these issues were discussed in terms of threat financing generally, but not the specifics of the designation in any way.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Rosalind Jordan, Al Jazeera English Television.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for the call. I wanted to find out a little more about the consultations with the Pakistani Government. You said this had been going on for some time. Can we say this has been going on for six months, nine months, a year? And you also indicated that there wasn’t much in the way of objection. Were there any promises made from the U.S. to Pakistan in terms of helping them with their efforts to cut down on Haqqani Network activity?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’m not going to get into the details of any specifics of our bilateral conversations at – particularly at senior levels like that. But obviously, we’ve been talking about combating extremism in general, and Haqqani specifically over many years, and this has – as the designation decision has been before the Secretary, as we’ve told you for at least the last many months, as we’ve thought about doing that, we’ve tried to be fully transparent with the Pakistanis in the nature of a cooperative relationship, and so we’ve raised it in that context.

In terms of any sort of joint operations, as the Secretary herself suggested, there were a number of things we have always said that we would work with the Pakistanis on using all of our various channels – diplomatic, military, and intelligence. And indeed, that’s one reason why we have – why we established a series of working groups, including one specifically on counterterrorism and border issues, which is hopefully set to meet over the coming weeks. So this is an ongoing, very active, high-level engagement on these issues.

OPERATOR: Our next --

MODERATOR: Operator, we’ve got time for about two more questions.

OPERATOR: Okay. Our next question comes from Adam Entous, Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you very much. I just wanted to follow up on Justin’s question. When you say that this is targeting the Haqqani Network, period, I don’t really understand how we can say that after what Admiral Mullen said a year ago about the Haqqanis being a veritable arm of the ISI. I mean, why isn’t this a step towards looking at Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism at this point?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I want to just unequivocally state that this in no way is the consensus, unanimous view of this Administration; that we are making absolutely no effort to begin a process to designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism. If anything, as I just noted, they have been an extremely valuable ally in countering extremism and terrorism, and we are committed to continuing and maintaining and increasing that coordination and cooperation.

With regard to Chairman Mullen’s comments, I hope you also remember that he took great strides at the time to say there was too much focus on the first part of his statement and not on the second part, which was that we had to continue that engagement, we had to continue our efforts. And we are doing just that. So we have always said that we are troubled by safe havens that the Network has in Pakistan and that we will continue to work together with the Pakistanis to squeeze this, and there’s more that we can do. This is part of that ongoing effort.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. I would just add to that that there has been a misperception, which I think has appeared in some articles, that there’s some kind of relationship between an FTO designation and a state sponsorship one. There is none. And I think it’s important for people to understand that there’s no legal relationship between these things. In plenty of countries, we have had groups designated and it’s never made any difference in terms of our deliberations regarding the bilateral relationship with that country, except of course to strengthen our resolve to work with them to deal with their extremism problem. So I think it’s very important that that be fully understood.

OPERATOR: Our last question comes from the line of Dan Sagalyn, PBS NewsHour. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. So is there anything the Haqqani Network can do now to get off this list?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Well, in fact, we have a very clear set of criteria for getting off the list, and there are a number of different ways it can happen. I think the key thing is that they have to renounce violence, cease terrorist operations, and demonstrate that they no longer have the intent or capability to carry out violent attacks. So they have some distance to travel, I would say. But groups can, indeed, get off the list. But – and that should be clear to them and to everyone else.

MODERATOR: All right. Thank you all for joining the call today, and have a good afternoon.

PRN: 2012/1160