What Haqqani leader's killing means for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Nasiruddin Haqqani served as the chief fundraiser for the Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Anjum Naveed/AP
Shadows of local residents are reflected on the bullet-riddled wall of the Afghan bakery where Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the feared militant Haqqani network, was assassinated in Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 11.

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A senior leader of the Haqqani network, a US-designated terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, was killed in Pakistan this week, raising concern over rifts in militant groups and implications for the governments in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nasiruddin Haqqani, son of founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, and who served as the head fundraiser for the network, was shot on the outskirts of Islamabad, according to Pakistani Taliban and Pakistan’s intelligence unit, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). No one has claimed responsibility for the shooting.

"Nasiruddin Haqqani was killed in Islamabad while travelling in a car with a few other unidentified people," a Taliban source told Reuters. Pakistan’s Express Tribune reports he was shot by a gunman on a motorcycle as he was returning home from prayers.

The Haqqani network is allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and has been referred to as “the most formidable foe” to US troops in Afghanistan. The group has a stronghold in the tribal areas of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan.

CBS reports that Nasiruddin’s death “represents a significant blow to” the Haqqani network and its allies.

The murder of Nasiruddin “will pile pressure on the Pakistani government,” reports The BBC, since the death took place on its soil.

The US has long accused Pakistan’s ISI of supporting the Haqqani network, “as a key proxy in the Afghan war,” reports the Associated Press. It’s an accusation Pakistani officials have denied.

Nasiruddin represented the Haqqani network in the Taliban’s effort to set up a political office in Doha earlier this year for peace talks with the US, and he was expected to play a role in peace negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban.

“Afghan authorities will be angry that someone who had been working to facilitate peace moves with the Afghan Taliban has been removed from the picture,” reports the BBC.

Nasiruddin was added to a US Treasury list of global terrorists in 2010, and the Haqqani network was added as a terror group in September 2012, due to its links to Al Qaeda.

According to CBS, a source from the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) said there was friction between them and the Haqqani network. TTP leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike earlier this month, had previously referred to “the Haqqani brothers as ‘puppets’ of the country’s intelligence agency….”

Just last week, The New York Times reported on emerging fractures in the Haqqani network at home in Afghanistan.

…[M]urmurs of discontent have broken out on the Haqqanis’ home turf. As the Haqqanis themselves — Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin, his son, who now leads the group — shelter across the border in Pakistan, support has turned to resentment in some corners.

Most startlingly, leaders of Mr. Haqqani’s native Zadran tribe in Khost Province say they have formally broken with the feared militant network.

“The tribe now understands who Mr. Haqqani works for,” said Faisal Rahim, a former Haqqani commander and head of the Zadran Tribal Council, referring to Pakistan’s support for the network. “His war is not a holy war. It’s a war for dollars, for Pakistani rupees and for power.”

By all accounts, the Haqqani network remains a potent source of concern for American military commanders and counterterrorism experts. It has kept up its barrage of attacks on Kabul and its global fund-raising campaign. But the changing attitudes among some in Afghanistan show how much the years of war have changed the social landscape — and, particularly, how deep the distrust of foreign influence runs among Afghans, even when it comes to favorite sons.

The shift has come gradually over the past few years, as fighters loyal to the Haqqanis have killed an increasing number of the tribe’s elders for refusing to afford them food and shelter, according to tribal authorities, former Haqqani commanders and Afghan officials. In September, an insurgent killed another Zadran elder as he prayed in a mosque in Khost City.

The Haqqani network is currently run by Nasiruddin’s brother, Sirajuddin Haqqani. Jalaluddin, their father, was a revered fighter against the Soviets in Afghanistan dating back to 1979.  

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