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What Is the Haqqani Network in Pakistan and Afghanistan?


Haqqani Network

Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani in 2001, when he was minister of the border regions of Afghanistan.

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Question: What Is the Haqqani Network in Pakistan and Afghanistan?
Answer: The Haqqani Network is an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organization sponsored and protected by Pakistan, and headquartered in Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency. It is led by the father-son duo of Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani, who was born in 1950, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, born in the mid-1970s. The father was part of the mujahideen insurgency against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Haqqani network heads a significant part of the insurgency in Afghanistan against the United States and, when directed by Pakistan, against India's interests in Afghanistan. (Pakistan and India are engaged in a long-term battle for influence centered on Kashmir but extending across South Asia.)

The Haqqanis are Pashtun warlords. Their base in north Waziristan is a tribal area of northwest Pakistan that Pakistan does not control, and that it has only fitfully attacked in order to control Taliban forces encamped there. Much of the American effort in the so-called Afpak theater of operations has expanded the war in Pakistan's northwest. But Sirajuddin Haqqani's network, while targeted by American forces, has been spared by Pakistani forces.

In July 2010, Gen. David Petraeus began urging the Obama Administration to add the Haqqani network on the list of foreign terrorist organizations. As of June 2011, the Haqqani network was not on that list.

"Such a move," The Times wrote in 2010, "could risk antagonizing Pakistan, a critical partner in the war effort, but one that is closely tied to the Haqqani network. It could also frustrate the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who is pressing to reconcile with all the insurgent groups as a way to end the nine-year-old war and consolidate his own grip on power."

To Pakistan, the Haqqani network is playing a role in Afghanistan in the 2010s similar to the role the Taliban played for Pakistan in Afghanistan in the 1990s: it's Pakistan's proxy force, a partner in the shadows that enables Pakistan to maintain its hegemony over the region, while presuming to be the power-broker that can deliver the Haqqani network to the peace table. Americans have been skeptical.

By 2010, Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, whose corruption was no longer in doubt, no longer trusted the United States and was increasingly casting his lot with Pakistani interests--and considering an alliance with the Haqqani network. He was, in other words, accepting Pakistan's strategy.

"At the moment, the Haqqani network — and their fighters coming over the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan — is the greatest threat, at least external threat, to Afghanistan," Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said in 2010.

In 2010, the Obama administration's relations with Pakistan, while tenuous, were still, from the American side, more flattering and cajoling than alienating. That was before the killing of Osama bin Laden, which unraveled the relationship between the two countries, with bin Laden's location in Pakistan's Abbottabad, for the last five years of his life, pointing to more evidence of collusion between at least factions of the Pakistani military and the terrorist network.

That may change.

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