The Hindu Profiles | On Hibatullah Akhundzada, Panjshir and Haqqani Network

Haqqani Network | The sword arm of Taliban


On August 17, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, arrived in Kabul from Quetta in Pakistan. The Haqqanis have been part of the Taliban and the responsibilities given to Sirajuddin point to the influence the group has over the Taliban. He is the leader in charge of military operations in Afghanistan. Believed to be in his 40s, Sirajuddin has established himself as a key figure in the Taliban-led “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” that will take shape in the coming days.

In terms of importance, Sirajuddin is seen as the third most powerful Taliban figure after Mullah Baradar and Hibatullah Akhundzada. With this, Sirajuddin is emerging as the top leader of the Haqqani Network, the much-feared group that first emerged to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and continued to fight and defeat the U.S. with its terror tactics.

Although his stature has risen within the militant ranks, Sirajuddin remains a UN-designated global terrorist responsible for the suicide bombings and raids unleashed on the U.S. and NATO troops as well as civilians in Afghanistan over the past two decades. The Haqqani Network has also been responsible for some of the attacks on prominent targets in Afghanistan. In June 2011, they attacked the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel. They have carried out attacks against the Indian and the U.S. Embassies in Kabul, the Afghan Presidential palace and the office of the NDS, the Afghan national intelligence.

Power tussle

In July 1988, Jalaluddin Haqqani had voted for peace along with the tribal elders of entire Afghanistan. He had put his signature in a long list of tribal leaders of the northeast Afghanistan, where his clan, the Haqqanis, dominated over an area that traditionally covers Waziristan of Pakistan. His representatives came to meet the UN-appointed special negotiator for Afghanistan, Diego Cordovez. The plan was to create the “broadest” possible government in Afghanistan that would put an end to the violence that had broken out in Afghanistan beginning with the Soviet invasion of the country in 1979. The peace process, or the Cordovez formula, however, did not take off as Pakistan began to chart its own course after the withdrawal of the USSR. Afghanistan had become an open space for power tussle after Soviet withdrawal.

Jalaluddin belonged to the Zadran tribe in the northwest frontiers of Pakistan and the mountains in the eastern Afghanistan. These were some of areas where resistance to the Soviet occupation rose prominently among the Pashtuns.

The Haqqanis were associated with Younus Khalis of Hezb-e-Islami, one of the main anti-Soviet jihadist groups. As the resistance grew stronger in the 1980s, Jalaluddin’s militants received weapons and training, including stringer missiles supplied by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The attacks by the Haqqanis on the Soviet forces in Afghanistan were legendary and they evolved as the conflict among the Mujahideen groups intensified in the aftermath of the exit of the Soviet Union and the fall of the government of Mohammad Najibullah.

Ties with al-Qaeda

Jalaluddin, a Minister in the previous Taliban government from 1996 to 2001, was considered close to al-Qaeda and its founder Osama bin Laden. He had several sons from his multiple marriages — Badruddin, Nasiruddin, Anas, Azizuddin, Sirajuddin and Khalil. He lost most of his sons in the battles that the Haqqanis fought against the Americans and the NATO forces. Anas and Sirajuddin are now in the leadership of the Network. Anas was seen holding talks with former CEO of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah and Sirajuddin has proved to be the military successor of his father.

The Haqqani Network’s emergence as the sword arm of the Taliban in Kabul has surprised many observers, who believe the Haqqanis are closely aligned with Arab insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda, a tradition that goes back to Jalaluddin’s collaboration with the Arabs against the Soviets and his own marriage to an Arab woman. According to the Taliban-U.S. agreement, the leading figures of the Taliban and aligned groups are expected to be out of the list of global terrorists. Any delay to this effect will create complications for the Haqqanis, who are now in Kabul.

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Printable version | May 12, 2022 4:24:46 am |