US forces in eastern Afghanistan claim to have killed the second senior member of Taliban commander Siraj Haqqani’s powerful network. Combined Joint Task Force-82 (CJTF-82) has confirmed that Mullah Sangeen, Siraj’s deputy, was killed in an unspecified raid on December 11.
“Sangeen was responsible for attacks on Afghan forces and improvised explosive device bombings,” the CJTF-82 press release stated. The details and location of the raid have not been made public. CJTF-82 placed a $20,000 reward for information on his capture or death.
The US military singled out Siraj Haqqani and his network as a major threat in eastern Afghanistan in late October. Siraj Haqqani, the son of the influential Taliban leader and former defense minister Jalaluddin Haqqani, was described as “one of the most influential insurgent commanders in eastern Afghanistan” who has “vied for the lead role as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s prime antagonist.”
Siraj is believed to be the new breed of Taliban leadership in Afghanistan: dangerous not only for his connections with the Afghan Taliban, but with al Qaeda’s central leadership. The younger Haqqani’s “extended reach brings foreign fighters from places like Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Turkey and Middle Eastern countries into Afghanistan,” said Major Chris Belcher, a spokesman for CJTF-82, in October.
US and Afghan forces are now actively working to dismantle the Haqqani Network, which is active in Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, and Kabul provinces and provides support to Taliban networks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces. Mullah Manan, another senior member of the Haqqani Network, was killed in early Novmber. Manan was killed while infiltrating the Spira district in Khost province, which borders North Waziristan in Pakistan.
CJTF-82 is clearly focusing on the Haqqani network and is working to cleave Siraj from his influential father, Jalaluddin. CJTF-82 is partially conducting this information operation via its press releases. Prior statements from CJTF-82 noted Siraj was usurping command of the senior Taliban leadership, including that of his father. The current press release insinuates both Mullah Manan and Sangeen were betrayed.
“That we would get two Haqqani sub-commanders so close together certainly raises an eyebrow and begins to make me wonder if Haqqani isn’t looking to get rid of those sub-commanders he doesn’t trust,” Lieutenant Colonel Dave Anders, the operations officer for CJTF-82 stated. “Certainly, that’s all speculative, but it does make one wonder.”
Anders also noted that Siraj operates from across the border in Pakistan. “Siraj remains in Pakistan in relative safety and puts his subordinates in grave danger,” said Anders. “It’s a different kind of leadership.”
Jalaluddin Haqqani is a leader of the Taliban in North Waziristan. “He became close to Osama bin Laden during the jihad and after the Taliban took control, he served as minister of tribal affairs in its government,” PBS’ Frontline reported in an extensive feature on the senior Haqqani.
The Haqqani family runs several mosques and madrassas, or religious schools, inside of North Waziristan. The Pakistani government closed down the Haqqani-run Manba Ulom madrassa after the US commenced Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, but it was reopened in 2004. Syed Saleem Shahzad, who interviewed Siraj in 2004, described the Manba Ulom madrassa as “a center of jihadi activities, and where top Taliban and al-Qaeda commanders meet.”
Siraj’s influence in the Taliban was highlighted earlier this year when he was sent to Wana, South Waziristan to mediate infighting between Mullah Nazir’s Taliban faction and the Taliban faction backing Uzbeki al Qaeda.