Haqqani Network (HQN)
Sirajuddin Haqqani, emerged as the Haqqani Network (HQN) leader in 2014, after the reported death of his father Jalaluddin Haqqani. These reports of the death of the elder Haqqani were greatly exagerated. Haqqani, whose death at the age of 72 was announced on 04 September 2018, was elderly, ill, and partially paralyzed. The founder of one of Afghanistan's most notorious and brazen extremist organizations had been out of the insurgency game for years. But Jalaluddin Haqqani left behind a legacy of deadly violence that threatened to live on for decades. He who was one of the most powerful leaders of the anti-Soviet insurgency and a sometime ally of the United States.
The Haqqani network was described by U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011 as a "veritable arm" of Pakistani intelligence that has provided safe havens for militant groups fighting foreign and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. Much of the group's ties with Pakistan were forged by Haqqani during the 1980s, when the guerrilla leader was one of the main beneficiaries of Pakistani and CIA money and weapons.
The commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan said 23 September 2016 that Pakistan had not yet placed “adequate pressure” on the Haqqani Network of militants to prevent them from plotting deadly cross-border attacks. Afghan authorities allege leaders of the group, which is fighting alongside the Taliban, are directing “high-profile” attacks, particularly in the capital, Kabul, from their sanctuaries on Pakistani soil, with the covert support of the country’s intelligence operatives. “There is not adequate pressure being put on the Haqqanis" by the Pakistan government, General John Nicholson told a news conference at the Pentagon.
“The Haqqanis operationally have been able to continue to conduct operations inside Afghanistan. They constitute the primary threat to Americans, to coalition members and to Afghans, especially in and around Kabul,” he added. Though he acknowledged the number of attacks in the capital city has fallen to 16 this year compared to 23 during the same period in 2015, crediting joint U.S. and Afghan security measures. Pakistani authorities deny the presence of any sanctuaries and insist counter-terrorism military operations have indiscriminately targeted and uprooted all militant infrastructures on their side of the border, including those of Afghan insurgents.
The United States has long accused Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, of strong ties to the Haqqani Network (HQN) insurgent group. The Haqqani Network was primarily based in North Waziristan, Pakistan, and conducted cross-border operations into eastern Afghanistan and Kabul. The group was primarily composed of members of the Zadran tribe. The Haqqanis are considered the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group targeting US, Coalition and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, and typically conduct coordinated small-arms assaults coupled with rocket attacks, IEDs, suicide attacks, and attacks using bomb-laden vehicles.
Officials in Afghanistan said 09 May 2016 that the al-Qaida linked Haqqani network, had effectively taken over battlefield command of the Taliban insurgency. Haqqani militants allegedly operate from sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan and are known for staging high-profile suicide assaults on Afghan and international forces. “The Taliban are currently being commanded by [the] Haqqani [network]. We believe Haqqani and al-Qaida are two different names for the same terrorist organization,” Interior Ministry spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, told reporters in Kabul.
The Pentagon withheld $300 million in military aid to Pakistan. "The funds could not be released to the government of Pakistan at this time because the secretary has not yet certified that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network," Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said 04 August 2016. Congress had stipulated that $300 million of the $1 billion in U.S. military aid authorized to go to Pakistan in 2015 could only be transferred once Secretary of Defense Ash Carter decided that Pakistan had made satisfactory progress against the group.
The Haqqani network and its attacks against US, Afghan, and allied interests continued to receive support from the ISI in support of this goal. The ISI protected and financed Haqqani’s activities, and provides it sanctuary in Haqqani’s hometown of Miram Shah in North Waziristan. The ISI also provides the Haqqani network advance warning of drone attacks against its leadership and operations in North Waziristan, most recently against its bomb-making facilities in Western Pakistan. The Haqqani network’s expansion into Kurram Agency, a strategic Pakistani province only 90 kilometers from Kabul and beyond the scope of a majority of US drone activities has gone unchecked by the Pakistani government.
There is some evidence to suggest that Pakistani military intervention in Kurram Agency actually aided the expansion and stabilization of a sanctuary for Haqqani operations. In exchange for this active support, the Haqqani network serves as a proxy force and trusted mediator for Pakistani interests in Afghanistan, and within Pakistan itself. The ISI relies heavily on Haqqani to direct and communicate with Pakistani terrorist organizations such as Lashkar e-Taiba and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, engaged in terrorist attacks against Indian interests in Kashmir and across the subcontinent.
Across Afghanistan the Haqqani network mercilessly launched attacks against Afghan government and civilian interests. The Haqqani network is responsible for continued attacks against Afghan and Indian construction crews and infrastructure projects in Eastern Afghanistan, most notably the Kabul-Gardez road project. To support these efforts, the organization is engaged on a wholesale intimidation campaign against Afghan civilians through the use of threatening “night letters” and assassinations across Eastern Afghanistan. The Haqqani network routinely attacks Afghan government buildings, markets, and other civilian targets including banks, prisons, and foreign embassies. Most recently, senior administration officials stated that the Haqqani network is responsible for attacks against the U.S. Embassy and NATO Headquarters in Kabul, the attack on Combat Post Sayed Abad, and the Hotel-Intercontinental Kabul.
Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta, Admiral Mullen, General Allen, Ambassador Crocker, and the Congress agree: the Pakistani government’s complicity and long-standing history of actively supporting the Haqqani network is a major impediment to the United States’ goal of achieving stability and security in Afghanistan. The Haqqani and network, and by proxy the ISI, are responsible for the deaths of American service members and civilians in Afghanistan. Both the United States and Pakistan benefit from a strong, stable Afghanistan, and the ISI’s support for the Haqqani’s insurgency and continued attacks against Afghan, American, and allied interests is short-sighted. Pakistan must ultimately decide whether it will continue to support the Haqqanis, or whether it will work as partners with the rest of the world to build a stable, secure Afghanistan.
Centered in the city of Khost, the followers of popular warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani resisted extension of the Karzai government's authority into their border region. Although the Haqqani Network is separate from al-Qa’ida, very few will disagree that the Haqqani Network provided al-Qa’ida the necessary assistance to plan the September 11, 2001 attacks.
A brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the chief commander of the network, is in Afghan custody and has been sentenced to death by a local court. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is under increasing pressure at home to ensure an early execution of the convict, Anas Haqqani, to deter his brother’s group from inflicting further bloodshed on Afghans.
The Taliban has warned of “disastrous consequences” if the higher Afghan courts also uphold Anas Haqqani’s death sentence. “The war and its intensity will increase in all parts of the country. A lot of blood will be spilled and the government will be responsible for all of it,” the Islamist insurgency threatened in a recent statement released by its media wing. The Taliban has described the man as “an ordinary student of [a] religious school,” saying he is not involved in any political or military activity, nor has there been any prize money on his head. It also alleges the U.S. military is behind Anas Haqqani’s arrest and the judicial verdict.
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