On Monday, U.S. drones fired missiles near Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan region. Today, media outlets cited an official U.S. military statement, which said it had been targeting the network of veteran Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, otherwise known as the Haqqani Network, [although Dawn noted the statement did not directly refer to Monday’s incident]. According to Reuters, ” The missiles targeted a sprawling complex comprising a house and a religious school, or madrassa.” The attack killed 23 people, including several of the commander’s relatives, although media outlets differed on their identities. While Reuters reported that one of Haqqani’s wives, his sister-in-law, a sister, two nieces, eight grandchildren and a male relative were killed in the attack, the AP noted the dead included his wife and sister, as well as four children. CNN cited Haqqani’s son, Mulawi Jalaluddin Haqqani Badradin, who said the missile attack killed two of his father’s three wives and one of his sisters. His son also told the news agency that Haqqani “was in Afghanistan when the missiles hit and was not hurt.” The most recent media reports noted that the newly appointed Al Qaeda chief in Pakistan, Abu Haris, also died from wounds sustained from yesterday’s attack, along with three other AQ members. [Image from Reuters]
After sifting through media coverage of this incident, I was curious to learn more about Jalaluddin Haqqani and how his network factors into the larger Al Qaeda/Pakistani Taliban framework, [also see CHUP’s past interview with RAND’s Farhana Ali]. The Haqqani Network is led by both Jalaluddin Haqqani [see left inset image] and his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, [either not to be confused, of course, with Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani]. Jalaluddin, a former mujahideen who fought against Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, is now “considered to be the closest aide of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar,” according to Imtiaz Ali, who profiled the Haqqani Network for the Jamestown Foundation. Ali added:
He rose to prominence after playing a leading role in the defeat of Muhammad Najibullah’s communist forces in Khost in March 1991. After the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in 1995, the senior Haqqani joined the Taliban movement and rose to the top echelon of power in the regime. He remained a minister during the Taliban government and a top consultant to Mullah Omar. The senior Haqqani has rarely been seen in public since the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001, when he is believed to have crossed into Pakistan’s Waziristan Tribal Agency to evade the advance of Coalition forces.
Although there have been many rumors that Jalaluddin is seriously ill or even dead, the Long War Journal reported in August 2008 that he appeared in a Taliban produced propaganda video “proving he is very much alive…” The younger Haqqani, Sirajuddin [whose alias is Khalifa, see right composite image from LWJ] has reportedly filled the void left in his father’s absence and “has emerged as the most dangerous and challenging foe for the Coalition forces in Afghanistan,” noted Ali. He reportedly has a $200,000 bounty on his head. Many of the high-profile attacks that have recently occurred in Afghanistan, including an attempt to assassinate President Hamid Karzai, have been linked to this network.
The main headquarters of the organization is said to be in Dande Darpa Khel, a village near Miramshah, the site of Monday’s U.S. missile attack, [see above]. The town is about 10 miles from the Afghan border, [for an interactive map of the region, visit this link by PBS Frontline]. The Haqqanis belong to the eastern Zadran tribe of Afghanistan, which also has roots on the Pakistan side of the border, Imtiaz Ali noted. According to the Long War Journal, “The Haqqanis hold major clout on both sides of the border; and through Siraj’s leadership, the group provides a ‘critical bridge’ to Pakistani Taliban groups and Al Qaeda linked foreign fighters.”
The report added, “The elder Haqqani’s past relationship with the Pakistani intelligence apparatus, the Inter-Service Intelligence or ISI, has virtually guaranteed Jalaluddin’s freedom of movement on the Pakistan side of the border as several ‘failed’ operations against him have proven.” This past July, the NY Times revealed that the U.S. CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] had given Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gilani evidence of the ISI involvement with Haqqani, [although Pakistan quickly rejected such reports as “unfounded” and “baseless,” see this past CHUP piece for more details].
If such reports are true, that will further complicate matters for Pakistan’s newly sworn-in president Asif Ali Zardari, who just today pledged to jointly fight militancy with President Karzai. According to the Chicago Tribune, “…it is not clear whether Zardari can control the country’s powerful military or the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s main spy agency, which Afghan officials have accused of being behind most major terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and supporting militants in the tribal areas.” Even if the CIA’s evidence against the ISI is “unfounded,” as the government has asserted, the Haqqani Network’s influence is still pervasive and therefore dangerous. Their reaction to Monday’s air strike and the subsequent deaths will likely be that of revenge, leading to a higher intensity of attacks on Coalition targets, which will inevitably result in further pressure on Pakistan. Essentially, this cycle will undoubtedly continue.
Another good resource: The Washington Post released an interesting article on Wednesday on the “new” U.S. approach in Pakistan, i.e. the use of these unmanned Predator drones.