Haqqani Network

Formed1970
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackJune 22, 1975: HN launched an assault against the pro-Daoud governor in the Ziruk district of Paktika province, Afghanistan. (12 killed, 0 wounded). [1] [2]
Last AttackMay 31, 2017: HN allegedly conducted a car bombing in Kabul, killing more than 150 people in one of the Afghan war’s worst strikes. [3]
UpdatedNovember 8, 2017

Narrative Summary

The Haqqani Network (HN) is a Sunni Islamist militant organization operating in the southeastern region of Afghanistan and the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. Renowned mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani formed the Haqqani Network in the late 1970s. One of the earliest Afghan Islamists and an Islamic scholar, Jalaluddin Haqqani played a pivotal role in the political order of Afghanistan’s southeastern provinces of Khost, Paktya, and Paktika (collectively referred to as Loya Paktya).

HN’s first declaration of jihad came in the summer of 1973 after Mohammad Daud Kahan’s coup unseated the Afghan monarch, Zahir Shah. Jalaluddin Haqqani traveled to Pakistan with other Afghan Islamists for training and support to combat the new Afghan regime. [4] [5] [6] Available historical records cite HN’s first attack in 1975, when Jalaluddin and his fighters launched an assault against the pro-Daoud governor in Ziruk district of Paktika province, Afghanistan. This attack established HN’s credentials as a prominent mujahideen commander in the region. [7] [8] HN rose to prominence in the anti-Soviet war in the 1980s as part of the mujahideen.

In the 1980s, HN was one of a few renowned guerilla forces with the sufficient military infrastructure, political ties, and resource links in Pakistan to effectively conduct a sustained campaign against the Soviet-backed Afghan regime. In the decade that followed, HN was an integral actor in enabling the Quetta Shura Taliban’s broader organized violence in the northern region of Afghanistan and in its conquest of Kabul in 1996. [9] [10] [11] As the Quetta Shura Taliban rose to power, HN nominally deferred to the Afghan Taliban’s authority, with Jalaluddin Haqqani serving as its Minister of Tribal and Border Affairs from 1996 through 2001. [12]

During this period, HN also cultivated a closer, personal relationship with Osama bin Laden, some of whose earliest Al Qaeda training centers for Afghan Mujahideen and foreign fighters were organized under HN’s protection across Loya Paktya. [13] HN reportedly facilitated Al Qaeda’s escape during the U.S. battle at Tora Bora in 2001, enabling the jihadists to move from Afghanistan to a safe haven in Pakistan. [14] Jalaluddin Haqqani served as HN’s leader until his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, began to assume greater command of the group in 2004, along with several of his close relatives. [15]

Since 2001, HN has sought to drive the U.S.-led NATO coalition out of Afghanistan and help re-establish Taliban rule in the country. Over the last decade, HN has evolved from a relatively small, tribal-based jihadist network into one of the most influential terrorist organizations in South Asia. It is largely responsible for the violence in Kabul and attacks against the NATO coalition.

HN’s ascent to new positions of influence has much to do with how it emerged and skillfully organized against Western forces and policies post-9/11. HN’s senior leadership continues to depend on a traditionally hierarchical military structure in order to be centrally controlled, adaptive, and decisive in its campaigns. [16] The network’s senior leaders also recognized the importance of locating its central military command in safe havens in Pakistan, thereby minimizing HN core leadership exposure to Western counterterrorism measures across sovereign borders. [17] In Afghanistan today, however, HN increasingly employs decentralized models in which separate, distinct types of military and political structures exist side-by-side. [18]

Unlike the “shadow” structures of the Quetta Shura Taliban in southern Afghanistan, HN opted instead to maintain a far more opportunistic system, focusing on expanding its Islamist organization by usurping existing Afghan administrative structures across the country. [19]

In strategic regions, especially where the network controlled territory, district-level Afghan state and non-state leaders who did not adhere to HN’s military-political campaign were either suppressed or killed and replaced by new HN-approved leaders to reorient local municipalities toward the jihadists’ aims. [20] In this way, HN’s political targeting often amounted to a sustained Islamist militant offensive against not only the Afghan state and population, but also against Western effort. [21]

Over the last decade, rather than launching Al Qaeda style global jihad against the West, HN’s post-9/11 leadership employs political acts in pursuit of power, co-opting, infiltrating, and in some cases overtaking Western-backed Afghan institutions of governance across the war zone in a quest to consolidate power over the sovereign state and population. [22]

In 2008, for example, Sirajuddin Haqqani engaged in a tactical alliance with a key commander in northern Afghanistan, Abdul Rauf Zakir, who requested financial assistance from HN in exchange for expanding HN’s influence and operations in Kabul and in select northern provinces of Afghanistan, namely, Takhar, Kunduz, and Baghlan. [23] Over time, Zakir has become a close confidante of Sirajuddin Haqqni, serving as the chief of suicide operations for HN, and facilitating HN’s military training program and high-profile suicide attacks. [24]

HN’s most notable alleged attacks include a suicide bombing of a U.S. base in Khost province in 2009, a 19-hour siege on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in 2011, and an assault on a U.S. Consulate near the Iran border in 2013. Since the 2013 death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, HN has become the only group with the cohesion, influence, and geographic reach to provide Pakistan with “strategic depth”—a territorial buffer on its western border. Its efforts have helped the Afghan Taliban credibly control or contest territory accounting for about one-third of the Afghan population. 

For its part, Pakistan denies sponsoring Islamist militant proxies, but Western and Afghan officials say Islamabad also sponsors terrorism, in order to undermine Afghanistan and India. In 2011, Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called HN a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). [25]

The Haqqani Network remains an active militant threat in Afghanistan. In August 2016, Sirajuddin Haqqani was named deputy to the newly appointed Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.[26]   

On May 31, 2017, Haqqani Network detonated a car bomb in Kabul, killing more than 150 and wounded nearly 500 people. Afghan intelligence blamed the violence on HN, which continues to maintain close ties to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Pakistan’s ISI. On October 11, 2017, the Pakistani military recovered several hostages  from the group. [27]

Leadership

The core structure of HN is largely familial and hierarchical. Many of the group’s prominent leaders graduated from the Dar al-Ulum Haqqaniyya madrassa in Pakistan, the religious educational institution from which HN derived its name. This Deobandi seminary is where Jalaluddin Haqqani cultivated a network of militants who have played leading roles in Islamist militant command structures (e.g., Al Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Lashkar-e-Taiba) across the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. [28] [29] [30]

  1. Ibrahim Haqqani (Unknown to Present): Ibrahim, an uncle to Sirajuddin Haqqani, is one of the earliest and most senior members of HN. Ibrahim served as a Mujahideen commander in the anti-Soviet war in the late 1980s and as a senior leader of the Quetta Shura Taliban in the 1990s. Ibrahim Haqqani has facilitated historical negotiations between the Taliban and HN, notably those protecting HN’s business ventures in southeastern Afghanistan. More recently, in 2015, Ibrahim Haqqani participated in the Murree peace talks as part of the Taliban delegation. Ibrahim Haqqani oversees many of HN’s real estate holdings in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.[31]
  2. Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani (Unknown to Present): Khalil, an uncle to Sirajuddin Haqqani, is one of the earliest and most senior members of HN. Khalil has acted on behalf of Al Qaeda and facilitated its terrorist operations. Khalil serves as a main fundraiser for HN, traveling to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and Pakistan in order to solicit donations, and operating front companies to facilitate HN operations in Pakistan. He also organized the detention of enemy prisoners captured by HN and Al Qaeda. He was added to the U.S. State Department's foreign terrorist list on February 9, 2011, as well as the United Nation’s 1267 list, on February 9, 2010.[32]
  3. Jalaluddin Haqqani (1973 to 2001): HN’s patriarch and historic leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was considered by the West to be one of the most significant militant commanders operating in the post-9/11 Afghan conflict. One of the earliest Afghan Islamists and an Islamic scholar, Jalaluddin Haqqani rose to prominence in the 1980s as a renowned anti-Soviet mujahideen commander across Afghanistan’s southeastern provinces of Khost, Paktya, and Paktika (collectively referred to as Loya Paktya). During this period, Jalaluddin Haqqani also cultivated a close, personal relationship with Osama bin Laden, whose first Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan was organized mostly under Jalaluddin Haqqani’s protection in Haqqani strongholds in Loya Paktya. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani handed over operational control of HN to his son Sirajuddin Haqqani.[33]
  4. Sirajuddin Haqqani (2001 to Present): Sirajuddin Haqqani is one of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s sons and the current leader of HN. In 2015, Sirajuddin Haqqani was appointed to become a deputy to the Afghan Taliban, overseeing day-to-day military operations for the Islamist militant organization. Sirajuddin Haqqani presided over a shift toward a far more violent, politically ambitious militant organization than that commanded by his father, challenging the authority of the Afghan state and Western interests in the region. Sirajuddin Haqqani has pursued far more lethal tactics than those of his father, including the use of death squads for public executions, as well as videos of mass beheadings and brutal assassinations, which had been eschewed by the Quetta Shura Taliban under Omar’s leadership.[34]

Ideology & Goals

Prior to the official formation of HN, Jalaluddin Haqqani studied as an Islamic scholar at the Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania, the Pakistan-based Deobandi madrassa from which HN took its name. In the early 1970s, Jalaluddin Haqqani sought military training in Pakistan to help overthrow the Afghan regime of Mohammed Daoud Khan, a former Afghan Prime Minister who seized power in a 1973 coup. [35] As one of the most ardent advocates of Pashtun nationalist secession, Daoud was perceived by Pakistan as a threat to its sovereign territory.

HN’s underlying goal in the post-2001 Afghan conflict has primarily focused on eradicating Western influence and reestablishing a Taliban rule in Afghanistan. [36] HN opposes U.S.-led coalition forces, the establishment of new security forces, and the implementation of new democratic institutions. [37] The role of HN’s violence varies, but the purpose is often to enforce obedience over its own population, to terrorize and deter rival groups, and to establish the upper hand in the fight, showing the network’s leadership to be strong in times of crisis or a wider civil war. [38]

Since Sirajuddin Haqqani took over the network, HN’s ideological goals have shifted to be far more violent and ambitious. [39] The more recent history of HN suggests that it is no longer solely based on fundamentalist religious ideology or nationalist separatism. Rather, HN’s use of power to effect political change in the modern era, whether to capture territory, restore a national emirate, or for comparatively less tangible aims, such as helping to create a global Islamic caliphate, is often the result of a complex, pragmatic blending of motives. [40]

Its actions suggest HN is relying on an attrition strategy, hoping to wait out various challenges, and consolidate power over the long term. [41]

Size Estimates

Designated/Listed

September 19, 2012: The U.S. Secretary of State designated HN as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. [46]

November 5, 2012: The United Nations listed HN for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of” and “otherwise supporting acts or activities of” those designated and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with the Taliban in constituting a threat to the peace, stability and security of Afghanistan. [47]

Resources

HN has been more successful than other Islamist organizations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, because it forges relationships with a diverse set of political or ideologically like-minded state and non-state actors. This includes, but is not limited to, senior Al Qaeda members and foreign fighter volunteers from around the world, factions of the Pakistani Taliban, wealthy private donors from the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, and allegedly elements of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate.  Each of these actors have interests in gaining influence in Afghanistan. [48]

For instance, Ahmad Jan Wazir served as a key financier and chief deputy to Sirajuddin Haqqani. He traveled with senior members of the network to raise funds in the Gulf. Ahmed Jan was also a key leader in the Quetta Shura Taliban. Nasiruddin Haqqani, a brother to Sirajuddin Haqqani, also served as a key financier and emissary for HN, often traveling to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to solicit donations. He served as HN’s liaison to the Tehrik-i-Taliban, and represented HN in the Quetta Shura Taliban’s efforts to set up an office in Doha for peace talks with the U.S. He was killed by an unknown assailant on the outskirts of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, in 2013. [49]

HN has worked to establish one of the most complex and modern jihad finance infrastructures in South Asia. HN’s ties to Arab Gulf states and to Pakistan provide the majority of its financial revenue. In the Afghanistan-Pakistan region alone, HN’s vast array of front companies allows the group to launder illicit and licit proceeds across key business sectors, including import-export, real estate, car dealerships, telephone, construction, and weapons and natural resources smuggling. [50] [51] [52] [53] [54] HN has also expanded its kidnap-for-ransom campaigns of wealthy or influential Afghans.  These schemes have long been reliable avenues to shore up the network’s finances, toward larger targets, namely, Western hostages, in attempt to obtain even larger financial concessions. [55] [56] Afghan intelligence officials also suggest that following Sirajuddin Haqqani’s appointment as deputy to the new Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, HN has obtained greater access to the Afghan Taliban’s resources, including narcotics trade. [57]

Historically, HN received significant military and financial resources from the U.S. CIA, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan's ISI, in particular during the 1980s as part of the anti-Soviet resistance. HN’s familial ties have also helped the network secure funds and fighters from Arab Gulf states. [58] 

External Influences

HN established its jihadist credentials in the 1970s during the Afghan war against the Soviets as a Taliban-allied militant group. [59] The network rose to power in large part through the backing of Pakistan, which allegedly supports Islamist militants in Afghanistan in order to create strategic depth. [60] Since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, it has been alleged that Pakistan quietly supports HN and other allied militant proxies to both hasten the departure of Western forces and influence a post-NATO Afghanistan that supports Pakistani interests. [61]

In September 2011, the U.S.’s top military official, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, publicly accused Pakistan’s ISI of playing a direct role in supporting HN in its attack on the American Embassy and International Security Assistance Forces Headquarters in Kabul.  At the time, these targets were two of the most prominent symbols of American diplomatic and military presence in Afghanistan. [62]

In 2015, the Pakistani government ostensibly outlawed HN. [63] However, according to Western and Afghan intelligence officials, Islamabad has shown no sign that it is genuinely willing to end its alleged support for HN. [64]

Because of HN’s close relationship with certain Islamist militant factions (Al Qaeda, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba) and state actors (allegedly, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), HN employs a policy of “organizational ambiguity” to ensure that the link between foreign sponsors and HN operations is kept from public view. [65]

When HN attacks are linked to state-facilitated violence, the West has, in select cases obtained enhanced legal authorities to apply military, financial, and diplomatic pressure on both HN and its backers. For this reason, the U.S. State Department designated HN as a foreign terrorist organization following its 2011 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Washington's subsequent accusations of HN's direct links to the ISI have further beleaguered Western relations with Islamabad. [66] 

Geographical Locations

HN’s senior leadership is primarily based in North Waziristan, Pakistan, organizing cross-border political violence across Afghanistan. The group is headquartered in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Miran Shah, where it makes key military, financial, and political decisions. HN has reportedly expanded its influence in the Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Spin Tal. Since 2001, HN has gradually increased its activity far beyond its traditional strongholds in southeastern Afghanistan, expanding to its western and northern borders. [67] In 2016, HN reportedly moved between Miran Shah and Spin Tal and Peshawar in order to avoid the Pakistani Army’s military offensive, Zarb-e-Azb. [68]

HN-controlled regions of northern Pakistan have historically served as safe havens for its allied-militant organizations, such as Al Qaeda, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lakshar-e-Taiba, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. [69] Territory’s strategic territory, which straddles the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, enables HN to leverage the local influence of various militant groups, and to methodically cleave (or unify) the disparate regions along clan, village, tribal, or ethnic lines, thereby widening its area of control. [70]

In southeastern Afghanistan, HN has expanded into the provinces of Logar and Wardak, and merged jihadist networks surrounding the southern approaches to Kabul. [71] [72] In such regions, HN provides mostly indirect support, such as funds, training, and sanctuary, to co-opt local Islamist militant leaders who are already governing and policing the territories closest to Kabul. [73] 

Targets & Tactics

HN is believed to have pioneered the use of suicide bombing in Afghanistan. In addition to mobilizing local members, the group uses foreigners to carry out its attacks. [74] For example, HN uses its relationships with Al Qaeda and foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Chechnya to further its tactical goals.  These relationships are coordinated primarily by Sirajuddin Haqqani’s brother, Yahya Haqqani. [75] Additionally, HN possesses highly advanced technological expertise, particularly related to bomb-making and remote detonation devices. [76]

Since 2001, HN has sought to drive the U.S.-led coalition out of Afghanistan and reestablish Taliban rule in the country. In order to achieve this, HN employs complex, high-profile attacks in the form of suicide bombings, beheadings, vehicle detonations, and kidnappings of Western and Afghan hostages. [77] [78] [79]

HN is largely responsible for the violence in Kabul, and has conducted some of the most notorious attacks against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. One of HN’s most lethal initiatives is its enhanced training program.  Lead by HN’s chief of suicide operations, Abdul Rauf Zakir, fighters from the enhanced training program conducted a 19-hour siege on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in 2011. [80] Other notable HN attacks allegedly include the 2009 suicide bombing of a U.S. base in Khost province, which killed seven CIA operatives, and a 2013 assault on a U.S. Consulate near the Iran border. [81] [82] [83]

Under Sirajuddin Haqqani’s leadership, HN has expanded the network’s kidnap-for-ransom campaigns of wealthy and influential Afghans. Although these local schemes help to support the network financially, HN also seeks more lucrative targets in Western hostages. [84]

Americans that have been held hostage by HN, include, but are not limited to, New York Times reporter David Rohde, U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, and, more recently, U.S. citizens Paul Overby, Caitlan Coleman, and Kevin King. [85] [86] [87] HN has increased its focus on taking American hostages with the goal of obtaining greater ransom payments, valuable propaganda opportunities, and possible U.S. concessions regarding prisoner exchanges. [88] However, due to the U.S. government’s strict policy against negotiating with terrorists and the inability of most American citizens to pay hefty ransoms, HN has not always achieved its objectives through these hostage missions.

Islamist militant leaders from Al Qaeda and the Quetta Shura Taliban deliver hostages to HN for two main reasons. First, because of HN’s alleged connections to the Pakistani government, the network’s most senior leadership generally enjoys de facto immunity from retaliation.  This usually ensures that HN can hold American detainees without fear of Islamabad’s intervention or state prosecution. [89] As a result, the United States’ challenge of dealing with American hostages and related foreign policy issues in the region has grown more difficult. Second, HN has a more extensive media operation than the Quetta Shura Taliban, and is therefore better able to capitalize on using prisoners in jihadist propaganda.  These messages are intended to inspire like-minded recruits and donors, and to intimidate Western viewers, such as U.S. policymakers, private-entity ransom negotiators, and the families and employers of the hostages. [90] HN’s abduction of Americans might also indicate a broader political strategy of signaling to its supporters an enhanced commitment to advancing its anti-Western cause. [91] 

Political Activities

Before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, key HN leaders served in political positions in the Afghan government, which was then controlled by the Afghan Taliban. Since 2001, HN’s political activities have largely focused on eradicating Western influence and reestablishing the Taliban’s rule in Kabul. In the post-9/11 era, HN has responded with retrenchment to the new military, political, and financial realities of Western technology, U.S.-led Coalition forces, and the Western-backed Afghan state. [92]

Sirajuddin Haqqani’s appointment to the Quetta Shura Taliban posed a confounding policy issue for U.S. military and civilian leaders, who have tried over the last decade to draw a distinction between the mainstream Taliban, with whom the U.S. is seeking a negotiated political settlement, and the far more ruthless, Al Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani faction, against whom the U.S. is taking far more aggressive military and financial action. [93]

Major Attacks

  1. July 22, 1975: HN launched an assault against the pro-Daoud governor in the Ziruk district of Paktika province, Afghanistan. (12 killed, 0 wounded).[94]
  2. September 10, 2006: A HN 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 HN suicide bomber attacked Taniwal’s funeral, killing five police officers and two children. (7 killed, 40+ wounded).[95]
  3. January 14, 2008: Four HN 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).[96]
  4. March 3, 2008: HN allegedly conducted a suicide attack with a truck in the Sabri district headquarters of Khost province. The attack killed U.S. soldiers. (2 killed, unknown wounded).[97]
  5. April 27, 2008: HN allegedly conducted the assassination attempt against then Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Hizb-i-Islami and some senior Afghan defense officials reportedly provided logistical assistance to HN. (8 killed, 11 wounded).[98]
  6. July 7, 2008: HN conducted a car bombing targeting the Indian Embassy in Kabul. American intelligence officials reportedly found evidence that Pakistan’s ISI had provided support in the attack. (54 killed, unknown wounded).[99]
  7. November 10, 2008: HN captured David Rohde, a New York Times reporter traveling with two Afghan colleagues. Rohde was subsequently detained by HN in Pakistan for seven months. (Unspecified).[100]
  8. June 30, 2009: HN captured Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl was the longest-held American prisoner of war since Vietnam. In exchange for his release, the Obama administration freed five Taliban fighters from Guantanamo Bay. This trade was extremely politically controversial. (Unspecified).[101]
  9. May 18, 2010: HN conducted an attack on a NATO convoy, killing U.S. and Canadian soldiers, in addition to Afghan citizens. (18 killed, unknown wounded).[102]
  10. September 13, 2011: HN conducted an attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. The fighters laid siege to the bases for nineteen hours, killing five police officers and eleven civilians. (16 killed, 100+ wounded).[103]
  11. June 22, 2012: HN fighters 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).[104]
  12. October 8, 2012: HN captured American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle in Afghanistan. The family had four children during their five years in captivity. During this time, HN militants raped Coleman and murdered her infant daughter. On October 11, 2017, the Pakistani military rescued Coleman, Boyle, and their three surviving children. (1 killed, 1 wounded).[105]
  13. September 13, 2013: HN allegedly facilitated the suicide attack on the U.S. Consulate in Herat Province. The attack was initially planned by the Quetta Shura Taliban. (Unspecified).[106]
  14. November 2013: HN deployed a 61,500-pound truck bomb against U.S. Forward Operating Base Goode in Paktya Province, Afghanistan. The device, which did not detonate, was one of the largest bombs recovered in Afghanistan and could have resulted in a mass-casualty incident. (Unspecified).[107]
  15. July 15, 2014: HN allegedly conducted a truck bombing at a market located in a remote district in eastern Afghanistan. (72 killed, unknown wounded).[108]
  16. May 31, 2017: According to Afghan intelligence officials, Haqqani facilitated the detonation of a car bomb in Kabul, killing more than 150 people in one of the Afghan war’s worst strikes. (Unspecified).[109]
  17. June 22, 2017: A car bombing and shooting occurred outside the Afghan parliament building. Although the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, Afghan intelligence blamed HN, and alleged that the attack was funded by Pakistan’s ISI. The Pakistani government denied these claims. (5 killed, 30+ wounded).[110]

Relationships with Other Groups

Since the 1970s, HN has forged relationships with a diverse set of state and non-state actors, including senior al Qaeda members, members of the Pakistani Taliban, wealthy private donors from the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, and officials from within Pakistan’s security establishment. Each of these actors has interest in gaining influence in Afghanistan. [111]

Historically, HN cultivated a close, personal relationship with Osama bin Laden, whose Al Qaeda training centers for Afghan Mujahideen and foreign fighters were organized mostly under Jalaluddin Haqqani’s protection in HN strongholds across Loya Paktya. [112] HN reportedly facilitated Al Qaeda’s escape during the U.S. battle at Tora Bora in 2001, enabling jihadists to move from Afghanistan into a safe haven in Pakistan. [113] Today, HN maintains close relations with Al Qaeda in Pakistan. [114]

In northern Afghanistan, HN has increasingly used its alliance with select Islamist militant leaders to renew and intensify violence toward Jamiat-e Islami party members. Jamiat-e Islami has been a historical rival to the Taliban-Haqqani, Pashtun-based leadership and the Pakistani state.

HN has a tactical alliance with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in northern Afghanistan. As part of this alliance, HN provides sanctuary and training for IMU militants in North Waziristan, and facilitates select IMU attacks in northern Afghanistan. [115] [116] [117]

The Afghan Taliban’s operations in northern Afghanistan have revealed highly organized logistics with HN support. Specifically, without HN’s long-standing cooperation with the IMU, it is unlikely that the provincial capital of Kunduz would have fallen to the Taliban in September 2015. [118]

In western Afghanistan, HN has expanded its support structure from the borders of Pakistan to Iran. Most notably, in September 2013, HN facilitated an attack by the Quetta Shura Taliban on the U.S. Consulate. [119]

HN sustains close ties with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and has reportedly urged the TTP to refrain from violently engaging Pakistani military forces. [120] Historically, Nasiruddin Haqqani served as HN’s liaison to the Pakistani Taliban leadership, and represented HN in the Quetta Shura Taliban’s efforts to set up an office in Doha for peace talks with the United States. [121]

HN also maintains links with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a terrorist group reportedly sponsored by the ISI. ISI allegedly utilizes HN, LeT, and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) as proxies for carrying out terror operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. [122]  

Since the death of long-time Taliban leader Mullah Omar, HN has become the only group operating in the Afghan war zone with an organizational structure sufficient to help the Afghan insurgency secure a sizeable power-share across Afghanistan. [123] Moreover, Sirajuddin Haqqani’s appointment to the Quetta Shura Taliban has posed a confounding policy issue for U.S. military and civilian leaders, who have tried over the last decade to draw a distinction between the mainstream Taliban, with whom the United States is seeking a negotiated settlement, and the far more ruthless, Al Qaeda-affiliated HN faction, against whom the United States is taking far more aggressive military and financial action. [124]

Community Relationships

HN’s successful integration into the local political landscape of Islamist militancy across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is not a new phenomenon. Since the 1970s, HN has depended on an intricate network of jihadist supporters and tribal solidarity to wage violent campaigns across the region. However, through the methodical absorption of key qawm leaders, from the village elders, khans, and mullahs, to the senior militia commanders of hardline Islamist groups across conflict zones, HN has set itself apart in the region. HN has significant operational reach, and has demonstrated ambition and ability to project influence, employ violence to achieve political ends, and broaden its network well beyond its traditional community in southeastern Afghanistan. [125]

In many cases, HN has reconstituted beyond its traditional safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan by relying on indirect forms of control. HN does this in order to evade detection and sabotage by the West, while organizing violence well beyond its traditional tribal and ethnic strongholds. [126] [127] [128]

HN has been more successful than other Islamist organizations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, because it forges relationships with a diverse set of political or ideologically like-minded state and non-state actors. This includes, but is not limited to, senior Al Qaeda members and foreign fighter volunteers from around the world, factions of the Pakistani Taliban, wealthy private donors from the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, and allegedly elements of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate.  Each of these actors have interests in gaining influence in Afghanistan. [129]

In previous decades, HN based its organization mainly on a familial structure. Therefore, the core command was not open to fighters and leaders who did not belong to the Haqqani family or Zadran tribe. [130] More recently, HN has sought to reconstitute beyond its Pakistan-based sanctuaries. Specifically, the network has increasingly decentralized its military-political structure through Afghan-based leaders. Its organizational structure extends down to the tribal, sub-tribal, clan, family, and village levels. [131] This horizontal network allows HN to work through relatively autonomous sub-networks entrenched in different environments. As a result, HN can compartmentalize, and sometimes even merge, the military, economic, diplomatic, and informational functions of each sub-network, and more effectively target subsets of the state and population. [132] [133] [134] [135]


References

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