Haqqani Net­work snags plan for Afghan pullout

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ASHISH KU­MAR SEN

Con­tin­ued sup­port from Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence agency for a ma­jor Is­lamic ter­ror­ist net­work is ham­string­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to with­draw U.S. troops from neigh­bor­ing Afghanistan, ac­cord­ing to West­ern of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts.

Pak­istani of­fi­cials have re­sisted U.S. pres­sure to crack down on the so-called Haqqani Net­work, which shel­ters Tal­iban and al Qaeda mil­i­tants who travel unim­peded be­tween their safe havens in Pak­istan and the bat­tle­fields in Afghanistan.

In what a West­ern diplo­mat de­scribed as a quid pro quo ar­range­ment, the net­work, in re­turn for safe pas­sage across the bor­der, re­frains from at­tack­ing Pak­istani in­ter­ests and en­cour­ages the Tal­iban to fight in Afghanistan.

“The Haqqani Net­work has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant source of ten­sion be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Islamabad,” said the diplo­mat, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

Mean­while, a re­port from Democrats on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee warned that the United States must over­haul its aid to Afghanistan to avert a pos­si­ble eco­nomic col­lapse when U.S. troops leave in 2014.

“Afghanistan could suf­fer a se­vere eco­nomic de­pres­sion when for­eign troops leave in 2014 un­less proper plan­ning be­gins now,” the re­port said.

The Haqqani Net­work, led by the fa­ther-son duo Jalalud­din and Si­ra­jud­din Haqqani, op­er­ates in North Waziris­tan, which abuts Afghanistan. The group has head­quar­ters in and around Mi­ram Shah, the re­gion’s cap­i­tal.

“Ties be­tween Pak­istani mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence and the Haqqa­nis re­main strong in some cases, and that’s ex­tremely prob­lem­atic,” said a U.S. of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity cit­ing the sen­si­tive na­ture of the sub­ject.

“We’ve asked the Pak­ista­nis for as­sis­tance to pres­sure the Haqqa­nis, and they should frankly do more to thwart the ac­tions of a group that stages at­tacks against U.S. forces on the other side of the bor­der in Afghanistan,” the U.S. of­fi­cial added.

Proxy for Pak­ista­nis

Jef­frey Dressler, a re­search an­a­lyst at the In­sti­tute for the Study of War who has in­ves­ti­gated the Haqqani Net­work, said Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment views the group as its proxy to ex­tend Pak­istani in­flu­ence in­side Afghanistan.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary and the In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) agency also use the Haqqa­nis as a tool to check In­dia’s in­flu­ence in Afghanistan by at­tack­ing diplo­matic mis­sions and other in­ter­ests of its re­gional arch­en­emy, he added.

The Haqqa­nis are thought to have or­ches­trated many high­pro­file at­tacks in Afghanistan, in­clud­ing an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai and sui­cide at­tacks on the In­dian Em­bassy in Kabul in July 2008 and Oc­to­ber 2009.

The net­work’s abil­ity to per­suade many Pak­istani Tal­iban to fight in Afghanistan rather than at­tack the Pak­istani state is sig­nif­i­cant, Mr. Dressler said.

El­e­ments in Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity ser­vices in the past have warned the Haqqa­nis of im­pend­ing U.S. Preda­tor drone strikes and even taken them into cus­tody to pro­tect them from those at­tacks.

Pak­istan de­nies sup­port­ing the Haqqani Net­work. Pak­istani of­fi­cials did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Im­tiaz Gul, who heads the Cen­ter for Re­search and Se­cu­rity Stud­ies in Islamabad, said Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary and the ISI are mak­ing “con­scious ef­forts to re­de­fine their re­la­tion­ship with the Haqqani Net­work” since the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2. The al Qaeda leader was killed in a Navy SEALs raid on his hide-out in the Pak­istani gar­ri­son town of Ab­bot­tabad, about 60 miles from the cap­i­tal, Islamabad.

“Pak­istan it­self has re­frained from di­rect at­tacks on the net­work, but has never ob­jected to raids on the Haqqani clan,” Mr. Gul said.

Mo­hammed Haqqani, a son of Jalalud­din Haqqani, was killed in a drone strike last year. Afghanistan.

In 2001, the United States top­pled the Tal­iban, which once im­posed bru­tal meth­ods to rule Afghanistan, be­cause it con­tin­ued to shel­ter bin Laden af­ter the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the World Trade Cen­ter and the Pen­tagon.

Paul Pil­lar, a CIA vet­eran who served as na­tional in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer for the Near East and South Asia, said the Haqqani Net­work is “one of the tough­est prob­lems there is with re­gard to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with any­one in

In what a West­ern diplo­mat de­scribed as a quid pro quo ar­range­ment, the net­work, in re­turn for safe pas­sage across the bor­der, re­frains from at­tack­ing Pak­istani in­ter­ests and en­cour­ages the Tal­iban to fight in Afghanistan. “The Haqqani Net­work has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant source of ten­sion be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Islamabad,” said the diplo­mat, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

West­ern of­fi­cials are count­ing on an im­prove­ment in the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion to jus­tify the start of a with­drawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan next month. Pres­i­dent Obama is ex­pected to an­nounce the pace of that with­drawal in com­ing days.

Talk­ing to the Tal­iban

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has stepped up its ef­forts to con­tact the Tal­iban’s se­nior lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing the group’s oneeyed leader, Mul­lah Mo­hammed Omar, in a bid to se­cure peace in Afghanistan.”

“It is hard to see how the Haqqa­nis would be­come part of any rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process in Afghanistan un­less they were strongly pushed by the Pak­ista­nis and the na­ture of that re­la­tion­ship changed sub­stan­tially,” he added.

“A ma­jor Pak­istani role will be nec­es­sary if there is go­ing to be any set of deals in Afghanistan that will not be up­set by the Haqqa­nis.”

The U.S. has ratch­eted up its ef­forts against the Haqqa­nis, with in­creased Preda­tor drone strikes and fi­nan­cial sanc­tions.

“David Pe­traeus has made no se­cret of his cam­paign against the Haqqa­nis,” said the West­ern diplo­mat. Army Gen. Pe­traeus is the top U.S. com­man­der in Afghanistan.

Jalalud­din Haqqani gained no­to­ri­ety as a fear­some com­man­der of the mu­ja­hedeen that fought the Soviet army in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Dur­ing that pe­riod, he re­ceived funds and weapons from U.S. and Pak­istani in­tel­li­gence ser­vices.

Char­lie Wil­son, the late Texas Demo­crat who helped send mil­lions of dol­lars to the Afghan re­sis­tance while serv­ing in Congress, once de­scribed Jalalud­din Haqqani as “good­ness per­son­i­fied.”

Mr. Haqqani and Osama bin Laden forged a friend­ship dur­ing the fight against the Sovi­ets. When U.S. forces at­tacked Afghanistan in Oc­to­ber 2001, Mr. Haqqani al­lowed the al Qaeda leader to use his group’s safe havens in Pak­istan.

The Haqqa­nis are eth­nic Pash­tuns and be­long to the Zad­ran tribe in Pak­tia prov­ince in south­east­ern Afghanistan. The net­work is ac­tive across much of the re­gion and seeks to re­gain con­trol over its tra­di­tional bases in Khost, Pak­tia and Pak­tika prov­inces.

A se­nior Afghan of­fi­cial, how­ever, claimed the net­work has no sup­port among Afghans.

“I don’t think Haqqani has any sup­port among the Zad­ran in Pak­tia and Khost prov­inces,” said Ghu­lam Fa­rooq War­dak, Afghanistan’s ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter and a mem­ber of the peace coun­cil charged with lead­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts with the Tal­iban.

“If he has any sup­port that could be from non-Afghan net­works of terrorism,” he added.

Mr. War­dak is re­luc­tant to in­clude the Haqqa­nis in any rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­fort.

“Those who are get­ting re­sourced, equipped and trained by in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ists, I don’t think they fall in the cat­e­gory of whom we should talk to and who should be rec­on­ciled,” he said.

West­ern of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts think the Haqqani Net­work’s core, par­tic­u­larly Si­ra­jud­din Haqqani and those around him, will be un­will­ing to make peace re­gard­less of what Pak­istan or Afghanistan do.

Si­ra­jud­din grew up in North Waziris­tan in the com­pany of for­eign Is­lamic ji­hadists and is viewed as an ide­o­log­i­cal ex­trem­ist who has am­bi­tions that ex­tend be­yond south­east­ern Afghanistan.

Jalalud­din Haqqani has been rel­e­gated to the role of ide­o­log­i­cal fig­ure­head.

The West­ern diplo­mat said it is un­likely there will ever be a con­crete peace in Afghanistan.

“We won’t get a Day­ton-style peace agree­ment in Afghanistan,” he said, re­fer­ring to the peace ac­cord that ended the war in Bos­nia in 1995.

Jalalud­din Haqqani

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.