Haqqani Network

Formed1980
DisbandedGroup is active.
Last AttackJuly 17, 2014: A suicide attacker fired grenades on the Kabul Airport. The attacker is believed to belong to HN. (5 killed, 0 wounded) [1]
UpdatedMay 15, 2015

Narrative Summary

The Haqqani Network (HN) is an Islamic nationalist insurgent group that emerged in the early 1970s in Afghanistan. In 1976, Jalaluddin Haqqani, a Pashtun tribesman educated at religious schools, began to train militants in North Waziristan, Pakistan, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing Mohammad Daud Khan, a former Afghani Prime Minister who seized power in a 1973 coup. At the same time, Jalaluddin also served as a senior member of a movement devoted to anti-Daud and anti-Soviet resistance, Hizb-i-Islami, where he developed ties to militant Islamists in the region. [2] [3] Before Jalaluddin could bring his men back to the country, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) overthrew the Daud government, and in December 1978, shortly after the coup, the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan. HN shifted its focus to ousting the Soviet Army and their Afghani allies. [4]  

Between 1981 and 1984, while combatting the U.S.S.R., Jalauddin increased his territorial control beyond the Zadran tribal areas and ousted a rival family from their leadership role in the region. In 1983, Jalaluddin retook the cities of Khost and Urgun from the PDPA and the Soviets. The Khost region is particularly important, as it connects routes to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and so it can be used to control the arms flow in and out of the region. [5] Jalaluddin became well known in the region as a skilled military leader in the fight against the Soviets by commanding his own forces and coordinating with other tribal forces in the area. [6] Like other mujahideen fighters, Jalaluddin received significant support from American, Pakistani, and Saudi intelligence agencies. He and his supporters received weapons and funds, and American officials regularly praised Jalauddin for his skill in fighting the Soviets. [7] Throughout this period, the organization largely maintained an informal structure based on family and tribal ties and other jihadi groups did not recognize HN as a distinct, independent organization until 1994 at the earliest. [8] [9] [10]

Throughout the 1980s, Jalauddin and the group of supporters that would eventually become HN played an important role in the growth of Al Qaeda (AQ). [11] Jalalhuddin supported Osama bin Laden as he formed AQ, allowing bin Laden to construct a cave complex used to train mujahideen volunteers in Haqqani territory and maintaining the new infrastructure there. [12] United against the Soviet occupation, AQ and HN continued to grow in size and power, and their relationship continued after the Soviet-Afghan War.  [13]

HN also became a component of the Taliban, which emerged in the early 1990s from a network of madrassas in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. By November 1994 the Taliban was a formidable force, seizing control of Kandahar. [14] Between 1995 and 1996 Haqqani pledged alliance to the Taliban and supported it when it captured Kabul in 1996. [15] [16] As a reward for HN’s support, the Taliban offered Jalaluddin Haqqani a cabinet position as the Minister of Tribal Affairs, a position he held from 1996 through 2001, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. [17]

After the American invasion and the collapse of the Taliban government in 2001, HN relocated its headquarters to North Waziristan, in Pakistan, and harbored AQ members there. [18] After the invasion, American and Pakistani officials reportedly met with Jalaluddin to try to persuade him to turn on the Taliban, but he refused. [19] HN began to target U.S. and NATO forces, which pushed HN to the Pakistani border region, where it regrouped to fight against the coalition. [20] U.S. officials have regularly accused Pakistan and their Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI) of harboring and collaborating with HN.

Although their base remained in Pakistan, HN has carried out some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, including an attack against the American Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul in September 2011.  [21] Six of the Haqqani Network's leaders have been designated as terrorists since 2008 by the U.S. State Department and the Department of Treasury, and many were killed by drone strikes in 2012 and 2013. [22]  These drone strikes limited the group’s capacity to carry out high profile attacks, and several important Afghan clans that had previously worked with HN reportedly moved toward participation in Afghan politics. [23] However, Afghani intelligence officials warned that HN could be recovering after several high-profile attacks in the summer of 2014. [24]

In 2015, the Pakistani government officially outlawed the Haqqani Network. It remains to be seen whether or not this official policy will translate into effective counterterrorism on the ground.
[25]

Leadership

The structure of the Haqqani Network is largely familial and hierarchical. Many of the group’s leaders who aren’t related to the Haqqanis by blood graduated from the Dar al-Ulum Haqqaniyaa madrassa in Pakistan, which Jalaluddin attended and which has ties to the Taliban. [26] [27] [28]

  1. Jalaluddin Haqqani (Unknown to Present): Jalaluddin is the founder of the Haqqani Network. As he aged, he handed over operational control of HN to his son Sirajuddin and became the group’s spiritual leader.[29]
  2. Sirajuddin Haqqani (Unknown to Present): Sirajuddin is one of Jalaluddin’s sons and the current operational leader of HN who has directed multiple high-profile attacks in Afghanistan. [30]
  3. Abdul Aziz Ahbasin (Unknown to Present): Commanded by Sirajuddin Haqqani, Ahbasin serves as the shadow governor in the Taliban-controlled province of Pakita, Afghanistan. He has been responsible for vehicle ambushes and smuggling weapons across the Pakistan-Afghan border. Ahbasin was designated by the UNSC Resolution 1267 Committee on October 4, 2011.[31]
  4. Haji Mali Khan (Unknown to October 1, 2011): Khan was the senior commander of Haqqani militants in Afghanistan prior to his arrest, and was responsible for planning and facilitating attacks throughout the Southeast provinces. Khan is the uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani. He was also a highly-revered elder in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas where the Haqqani Network is based. Khan was captured by Coalition forces on October 1, 2011 and was designated as a terrorist on November 1, 2011 by the U.S. State Department.[32]
  5. Badruddin Haqqani (Unknown to 2012): Badruddin was a senior Haqqani Network leader and is thought to have served as the top deputy to his older brother, Sirajuddin. Badruddin was killed in a drone strike in 2012. [33]
  6. Maulvi Ahmad Jan (Unknown to 2013): Jan was Sirajuddin’s advisor and one of the group’s spiritual leaders. He was killed in a drone strike in 2013. [34]
  7. Sangeen Zadran (Unknown to 2013): Zadran was the shadow Governor for the Paktika Province, a Haqqani Network commander, and a senior lieutenant to Sirajuddin. He was killed in a drone strike in 2013. [35]
  8. Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani (2002 to Present): Khalil Haqqani is a major fundraiser in the Persian Gulf for the Haqqani Network. He has also engaged in weapons training and distribution, and organized detention of combatants captured by HN and AQ. He was added to the U.S. State Department's foreign terrorist list, as well as the UN 1267 list, on February 9, 2010. [36]
  9. Nasiruddin Haqqani (2004 to December 24, 2010): Nasruddin was Sirajuddin’s half brother who led the financing and funding of the Haqqani Network. He was shot dead in Islamabad. The killer was not identified. [37]

Ideology & Goals

Prior to official formation of HN, Jalaluddin Haqqani was a member of the executive committee of Hizb-i Islami, one of the most radical anti-Soviet anti-Daud resistance movements in the region. HN drew its ideology from Hizb-i-Islami and from the Taliban. HN is also ideologically aligned with Al Qaeda, but unlike AQ, HN has a regional rather than a global focus. It also shares the AQ goal of driving foreign military and influence out of Afghanistan permanently. [38]

Size Estimates

Designated/Listed

September 7, 2012: The U.S. Secretary of State designated the Haqqani Network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. [43]

Resources

Due to Jalaluddin Haqqani’s wide network in the 1980s, HN is well funded and well connected within the region. In the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of Pakistan, HN has benefitted from financial support from wealthy individuals, and the majority of HN funds came from contacts close to Jalaluddin Haqqani himself.  However, the group has also drawn support from organizations in the Gulf region, and Jalaluddin’s sons have reportedly traveled to the Gulf on multiple occasions to raise support and financial assistance from wealthy sympathizers abroad.[44]

HN has also raised significant portions of its revenue from criminal enterprises such as the illegal sale of chromite and the smuggling of timber, precious jewels, and metals. HN has utilized kidnapping and extortion in some instances, though these activities are not thought to be a significant source of their income. [45]

The Taliban and Al Qaeda are reportedly the largest sources of financial and military support for HN. The provision of militia, weapons, training, and finances from both the Taliban and AQ has fueled the continuous growth of HN since the mid-1990s.

HN also received weapons and support from the CIA, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan's ISI during the 1980s struggle against Soviet invasion. [46] During the war, Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Department, which had close ties to Haqqani, participated in the “dollar for dollar” campaign, in which Saudi Arabia agreed to match all American assistance to the resistance efforts.

External Influences

In the 1980s, HN maintained a relationship with the American and Saudi intelligence organizations until the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. [47] HN has always maintained strong ties with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI).  On several occasions, the U.S. accused Pakistan of supporting HN and using HN as a proxy to gain leverage in Afghanistan, but Pakistan has denied the accusation. [48] Pakistan’s ISI allegedly pressed Jalaluddin Haqqani to join the ranks of the Taliban in order to orient the group towards Pakistani objectives. [49]  In 2015, the Pakistani government officially outlawed the Haqqani Network. It remains to be seen whether or not this official policy will translate into effective counterterrorism on the ground. [50]

Geographical Locations

The Haqqani Network operates in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in northern Pakistan, and in southeastern Afghanistan in the Khost, Paktia and Paktika, and North Waziristan region. [51] The group's organizational headquarters is reportedly in a town in the FATA called Miram Shah, where it operates base camps in order to facilitate activities such as weapons acquisitions, logistical planning, and military strategy formulation. [52]

HN-controlled regions of northern Pakistan have historically served as safe-havens for other militant organizations, such as Al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lakshar-e-Taiba, and members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This strategic location of the Haqqani Network facilitates interaction between many of these insurgent groups.

Targets & Tactics

HN targets Western buildings and organizations, as well as institutions that sympathize with or support foreign officials. Past targets have included the Serena Hotel in Kabul, where the Norwegian Foreign Minister was reportedly meeting at the time of the attack; NATO convoys; the U.S. Embassy; and military bases throughout Afghanistan. On several occasions, HN has hit targets of interest to Pakistan’s military, such as the Indian embassy in 2008 and Indian construction companies, fueling allegations of ties between ISI and HN. [53]

HN’s tactics include suicide bombings, IEDs, small arms violence, extortion, kidnapping, and smuggling to increase publicity and cripple foreign forces in the region. The group is thought to have pioneered the use of suicide bombing in Afghanistan, and routinely uses foreigners in their attacks rather than local members. [54]

Additionally, HN possesses highly advanced technological expertise, specifically with regards to bomb-making and remote detonation. [55] For example, HN operatives have frequently used remote detonation through cellular phone signals and radio frequency, instead of traditional pressure-triggered devices used in much of Afghanistan and Iraq by other groups.

Political Activities

In 1992, Jalaluddin was briefly appointed as the Justice Minister to the Islamic State of Afghanistan. After the U.S. invasion, Jalaluddin was reportedly invited to Islamabad to discuss a post-Taliban government. [56]

Major Attacks

Throughout the 1980s, HN carried out a continued campaign against the Soviet forces and their Afghani allies in Afghanistan. HN also waged a military campaign against other local families for control in the tribal areas. Specific attacks during this period are not well documented, but it was in this timeframe that Jalaluddin became well-known in the region as a skillful military leader in the fight against the Soviets by commanding his own forces and coordinating with other tribal forces in the area. [57]

After the American invasion, HN began carrying out attacks against U.S. and NATO forces, but attribution of attacks in the early 2000s is difficult.

  1. September 2006: A suicide bomber killed a tribal elder and governor of Paktia Province Abdul Hakim Taniwal, who was also a close friend of President Hamid Karzai. The next day, another suicide bomber attacked Taniwal’s funeral, killing five police officers and two children. HN claimed the attack. (7 killed, 40+ wounded).[58]
  2. January 14, 2008: Four gunmen attacked the Serena Hotel in Kabul, shooting indiscriminately and setting off at least one suicide bomb. At the time, a Norwegian delegation was meeting at the hotel, and was a suspected target of the assault. Afghanistan’s intelligence chief implicated Siraj Haqqani in the attack. (9 killed, unknown wounded).[59]
  3. March 3, 2008: A suicide truck attack killed U.S. soldiers in the Sabri district headquarters in the Khost province. The attack was attributed to HN. (2 killed, unknown wounded).[60]
  4. April 27, 2008: HN was blamed for for the attempted assassination of Hamid Karzai, the Afghani President at the time. Hizb-i-Islami and some senior Afghan defense officials reportedly provided logistical assistance to HN. (8 killed, 11 wounded).[61]
  5. July 7, 2008: An HN car bombing targeted the Indian Embassy in Kabul and killed 54 people. American intelligence officials reportedly found evidence that Pakistan’s ISI had provided support in the attack. (54 killed, unknown wounded).[62]
  6. May 18, 2010: An attack on a NATO Coalition convoy killed U.S. and Canadian colonels, lieutenant colonels, U.S. soldiers, and Afghani citizens. (18 killed, unknown wounded).[63]
  7. September 12, 2011: HN is believed to be behind a truck bomb explosion near Combat Outpost Sayed Abad. (5 killed, 77 wounded).[64]
  8. September 13, 2011: Insurgents attacked the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul and laid siege to the bases for nineteen hours, killing five police officers and eleven civilians. (16 killed, 160+ wounded).[65]
  9. October 31, 2011: The Taliban claimed a car bomb attack in West Beirut, and Afghan and American officials suspect that HN specifically carried out the attack. (5 killed, 77 wounded).[66]
  10. June 22, 2012: Militants carried out a 12-hour siege of a popular hotel in Kabul. Afghan Special Police, backed by NATO forces, ended the siege. NATO Commanders claimed that HN was responsible for the attack. (20 killed, unknown wounded).[67]
  11. July 15, 2014: Experts claim that HN was responsible for a truck bomb attack in a market located in a remote eastern district in Afghanistan. (72 killed, unknown wounded).[68]
  12. July 17, 2014: A suicide attacker fired grenades on the Kabul Airport. The attacker is believed to belong to HN. (5 killed, unknown wounded).[69]
  13. June 22, 2015: A car bomb exploded outside of the Afghan parliament building, and gunmen shot into the crowd. The Taliban claimed responsibility, but Afghan intelligence blamed HN and alleged that the attack was funded by Pakistan’s ISI, which Pakistan denied. (5 killed, 30+ wounded).[70]

Relationships with Other Groups

Between 1995 and 1996 Haqqani pledged alliance to the Taliban and supported the group when it captured Kabul in 1996. [71] [72] As a reward for HN’s support, the Taliban offered Jalaluddin Haqqani a cabinet position as the Minister of Tribal Affairs, a position he held from 1996 through 2001, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. [73]

In addition, relations with Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan date back to the early 1990s, when AQ was just starting to form. [74]  AQ and HN continued to grow in size and power, and their relationship continued after the Soviet-Afghan War.  [75]

HN also has ties to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as did most of the Taliban-affiliated groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is reported that HN has urged TTP militia to refrain from violently engaging Pakistani forces.[76]

HN has also been tied to operations with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a terrorist group reportedly nurtured and funded by the ISI. Though direct links between these two groups are not known, it is suspected that the ISI utilizes both groups to carry out terror operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. [77] It is also suspected that Al Qaeda and the ISI utilize Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) as a proxy for carrying out attacks alongside HN’s forces.

Community Relationships

The Haqqani Network is closely tied to the local tribes in the FATA region in Pakistan. HN frequently provides financial compensation to locals willing to help support, protect, and provide for HN operatives or operations. This allows HN to draw upon a large population of fighters for their operations.

Given HN’s familial structure, the inner command circle is not open to fighters and leaders who do not belonging to the Haqqani family or Zadran tribe.[78]


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