While the Afghan government unveiled this week, the responsibility to live up to the Taliban’s promise that it would not be a safe haven for jihadists has been handed over to a ‘world terrorist’ designated by the US with a $ 10 million FBI premium upside down.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy leader of the Taliban and the new interior minister of Afghanistan, heads the ruthless Haqqani network described by a US expert as a “criminal enterprise operating as a jihadist group” “. He is wanted by the US in connection with a deadly bomb attack in Kabul in 2008.
His and other militants’ senior roles in government bumped fast hope that the Islamists can be more inclusive and strengthen their hard views. It also leaves Washington little but to rely on Haqqani’s organization, despite its ties to al-Qaeda and the history of US attacks.
‘They play a very clever game and keep the door open for Western intelligence agencies. They have killed and arrested several Isis members over the past few weeks, ‘said Kamal Alam, an Atlantic Council security expert, an American think tank. “But for the inclusive government, it’s a big ‘we do not need you’ ‘for the US.
The rise of the Haqqanis reflects how important the group was in the fight against the Afghan government and coalition forces, said Ioannis Koskinas, senior fellow at the New Think tank.
“The loot is the loot,” he said. While the US was distracted from the protracted peace talks that preceded its withdrawal, the Taliban’s military leadership focused on winning the battle in Afghanistan. The Haqqanis were an important component of the Taliban’s winning strategy. ”
The name was coined by Sirajuddin’s father Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former mujahideen commander, and is derived from Darul Uloom Haqqani madrassa in northwestern Pakistan, called the ‘University of Jihad’.
The Haqqanis were secretly funded by the CIA through Pakistan’s intelligence force, the ISI, to carry out guerrilla attacks against the Soviet Union during their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Jalaluddin was fluent in Arabic and cultivated ties with Osama bin Laden, founder of Al-Qaeda, and invested heavily in mattresses that served as a recruitment base for new fighters.
When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, the Haqqani network withdrew from the traditional base of Loya Paktia in southeastern Afghanistan to the North Waziristan province in Pakistan, where it operated from safe houses. is.
Sirajuddin took over in the mid-2000s and established a reputation for high-profile attacks, including a bomb attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul that killed six people and an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008.
Gretchen Peters, an expert on transnational organized crime, said the Haqqani network not only functions as a jihadist force, but also as a mafia-like organization. His most lucrative income streams included extortion, ransom for ransom, illegal mining, money laundering, narcotics and fundraising by ideological donors in Arab states, she explained.
She believes the battle between the Haqqanis and the US was so long and ‘brutal’ that it would be difficult for the two to work together. “So many of their family members were executed during drone strikes, and the idea that the US could cooperate with them in any way is unlikely,” she said.
Tog, in 2018, when the US starts talks for a withdrawal agreement in Afghanistan, get the Haqqanis seat at the table. Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Sirajuddin, was released from prison as part of a barter deal to join the Taliban negotiating team in Qatar.
Days before the Doha agreement was signed in early 2020, Sirajuddin, the most active field commander, had a seemingly generous to the New York Times. “He was the most feared leader, Americans were after him, but he did say the right things the west wanted to hear,” said Zahid Hussain, author of No victory war: the paradox of US-Pakistan relations in the shadow of Afghanistan.
Ashley Jackson, co-director of the Overseas Development Institute’s center for the study of armed groups, said the US had laid the groundwork to bring senior Afghan militant leaders into the international group to bring about a bloodless exit — but the Taliban’s armed takeover cuts off the process.
“You [now] ‘has a very awkward situation in which the Taliban government and the US are caught in a relationship of interdependence,’ ‘she said.
Nasratullah Haqpal, a political analyst in Kabul, said the US “wanted the Taliban to govern and prevent attacks on Western states.” In return, they would be prepared to support the Taliban “directly or indirectly”.
Koskinas of the think tank New America pointed to the role of Pakistan, which had an influence on the Taliban and the Haqqanis after providing a sanctuary for the Islamic movement for years.
‘Pakistan certainly has significant leverage over the Haqqanis. It’s a matter of merging interests more than control, ‘he said.
For years of researchers in Afghanistan, the country has made a comeback, with the militants in control despite 20 years of war, spending more than 150,000 deaths and billions of dollars.
Sushant Sareen, a security analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, said that although the US would push the militants through sanctions and the use of the global financial system, it would be difficult to retaliate against the Taliban or Haqqani network. to turn. jihadist allies.
“So far we have thought it was the terrorists – they are lying in bed with al-Qaeda,” he said. “If you are now telling me that they will be a partner in the fight against terrorism, then tell me who the terrorist is?”
Additional Reporting by Amy Kazmin and Benjamin Parkin in New Delhi