Who are the Haqqani and why are they so feared?
Briefing: Afghanistan’s deadly insurgent group, like al-Qaeda, used to be friends with the CIA. Not any more...
The Afghan government is reportedly in secret peace talks with the Haqqani network, one of the country's most deadly insurgent groups. The revelation comes at the end of a month in which the militants have been the subject of a series of deadly CIA drone attacks.
Who are the Haqqani?The Haqqani network is a militant group independent of, but allied with, the Taliban that has become possibly the deadliest threat to Nato and government forces in Afghanistan. Operating mostly in the country's southeastern provinces, they have been linked with a number of daring attacks in recent years, including a 2008 assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai and the 2009 attack on the US base Camp Chapman, which killed seven CIA agents.
Who founded the Haqqani network?Like Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network has its origins in the jihad waged by the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet occupation of the 1980s. Jalaluddin Haqqani (pictured above with large beard) became a prominent mujahideen leader, who besides receiving CIA money, established links with Pakistan's secret service, the ISI, and received funding from rich foreign Arabs. Then, as now, his base was in North Waziristan, a tribal area of Pakistan.
Haqqani held positions in the mujahideen government and later the Taliban administration. After the Nato invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Haqqani retreated to North Waziristan, although he was reportedly offered the position of prime minister by Afghan president Hamid Karzai.
So, Haqqani used to be friends with America?Yes. Charlie Wilson, the congressman who was instrumental in increasing the CIA's funding for its efforts to back the mujahideen against the Soviets, once called Jalaluddin Haqqani "goodness personified".
When did the Haqqani network become a threat?Following the fall of the Taliban, Haqqani retreated to relative obscurity in Pakistan's lawless tribal region and was counted among the many commanders of the so-called Pakistani Taliban. However, his well-developed financing links with Arab countries - and alleged support from the ISI (support that Pakistan hotly denies) - meant his group could set up training camps and soon became enough of a threat to warrant separate billing from the Taliban.
Haqqani was never comfortable with the Taliban anyway, as a family friend told the Christian Science Monitor: "[Haqqani's son] Sirajuddin used to complain to me about how heavy-handed and dogmatic the Taliban were in their interpretation of Islam."
Who is their leader?Jalaluddin was last seen in a propaganda video in 2008. It is thought he is either dead or incapacitated and his son, Sirajuddin, has taken over military operations. Coincidentally or not, it was in January 2008, with an assault on Kabul's Serena Hotel, that the Haqqani network began a series of suicide attacks, generally involving foreign fighters, that have put it firmly in the sights of the CIA's notorious Predator drones.
Why are the Haqqani considered so deadly?The Haqqani network, which may number anything between 4,000 and 12,000 foot soldiers, has forged links with al-Qaeda, and is allegedly backed by the ISI, although Pakistan denies this. With its links to rich Arabs and ransom and extortion operations, the Haqqani network is well-funded.
It has a number of training camps and a steady stream of foreign recruits, many of whom have brought new ideas into the group, including the use of suicide bombers - a tactic imported from al-Qaeda in Iraq. These foreigners do not seem to form part of the Haqqani leadership, positions in which are reserved for family or clan members.
Has the US fought back?The Haqqani network has been targeted on numerous occasions by CIA drone air-strikes. In September 2008, a drone destroyed a house belonging to Jalaluddin or Sirajuddin. Neither was present, but more than 20 people, including some of their relatives, were killed. According to files released by WikiLeaks in July, Sirajuddin, also known as Siraj, is rated 'Tier 1' on a list of targets to be killed or taken captive - which makes him one of Nato's most wanted men. ·
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