The most deadly US foe in Afghanistan
The Haqqani network, born of the Russian war and nurtured by the CIA, is behind many spectacular assaults in Afghanistan.
(Page 2 of 3)
The network is better connected to Pakistani intelligence and Arab jihadist groups than any other Afghan insurgent group, according to American intelligence officials.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
These links go back a long way. It was here – in the dusty mountains of Paktia Province, near the Pakistani border – that the group's putative leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, first rose to fame. Born into an influential clan of the Zadran tribe, Mr. Haqqani morphed into a legendary war hero for his exploits against the Russians in the 1980s. Many in the southeastern provinces of the country fondly recall his name, even those who are now in the government.
In the 1980s, Haqqani quickly established himself as one of the preeminent field commanders. "He could kill Russians like you wouldn't believe," says one US intelligence officer who knew him at the time. The Central Intelligence Agency forged close links with him, and through the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency funneled large amounts of weapons and cash his way.
Unlike many commanders, Haqqani was often in the line of fire himself and would at times retreat to Saudi Arabia to convalesce from his wounds. It is believed that his trips to the Gulf helped him forge close links with Arab militants, and he became one of the first Afghan commanders to host foreign fighters. His ties with Arab fighters and Al Qaeda continue to this day, say US and Afghan military officials.
Although he joined the Taliban government in the mid-1990s, Haqqani was never formally part of the Taliban movement. "The Taliban wanted to create an Islamic emirate, but Haqqani favored an Islamic republic," claims Maulavi Saadullah, who was a close friend at the time.
"During those years, [Haqqani's son] Siraj used to complain to me about how heavy-handed and dogmatic the Taliban were in their interpretation of Islam," recalls Waheed Muzjda, an Afghan-based policy analyst who knew the family.
Still, the Taliban saw Haqqani's usefulness as a commander and enlisted him in the fight against the Northern Alliance. On the eve of the American invasion in October 2001, Haqqani was named the head commander for all of the Taliban forces.