Pakistani security forces have detained a top commander of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network as he was returning from Saudi Arabia to the network’s headquarters.
Nasiruddin Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin, the patriarch of the Haqqani Network, was detained along with a Haqqani Network leader known as Mullah Muhammad Jan and three others, according to Newsweek. Nasiruddin was captured as he was traveling by car from Peshawar to Miramshah in North Waziristan, the headquarters of the Haqqani Network.
“Nasiruddin and his four traveling companions were arrested just as they were returning from the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, a trip that also had included substantial fundraising activities,” Afghan Taliban sources told Newsweek.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directory has reportedly moved Nasiruddin and the four other Haqqani Network members to a safe house.
Newsweek reported that “it is unlikely that US intelligence will get access to Nasiruddin, largely because he could reveal just how closely the Haqqanis are linked to the ISI and other Pakistan intelligence agencies.”
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal agreed, and stated that any access given to Nasiruddin would be closely monitored and scripted.
“By the time we get access to him, if that even happens, he’ll be well prepped by the ISI,” one intelligence official said. “The Haqqanis are as important to the ISI as the Lashkar-e-Taiba. I don’t expect we’ll get any meaningful intel from him.”
Another intelligence official said Nasiruddin’s detention is designed to deflect US demands that the Pakistani military take on the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan.
“This is a show capture; you can be sure Nasiruddin isn’t languishing in a prison,” another intelligence official said. “With Nasiruddin’s capture, the Pakistanis can tell us their so-called offensive in North Waziristan is having an impact.”
Top Pakistani military officers have claimed that the military is waging a stealth campaign in North Waziristan, using “surgical” strikes. The Pakistani military claims there are 40,000 troops in North Waziristan conducting operations. But there is no evidence to support these claims, and the US has been forced to launch Predator and Reaper strikes in North Waziristan to disrupt the Taliban and al Qaeda’s operations.
Background on Nasiruddin Haqqani
The Haqqani Network has extensive links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and its relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has allowed the network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold of North Waziristan. The Haqqanis control large swaths of the tribal area and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces. They have established multiple training camps and safe houses used by al Qaeda leaders and operatives, as well as by Taliban foot soldiers preparing to fight in Afghanistan.
The Haqqani Network has been implicated in some of the biggest terror attacks in the Afghan capital city of Kabul, including the January 2008 suicide assault on the Serena hotel, the February 2009 assault on Afghan ministries, and the July 2008 and October 2009 suicide attacks against the Indian embassy. American intelligence agencies confronted the Pakistani government with evidence, including communications intercepts, which proved the ISI’s direct involvement in the 2008 Indian embassy bombing. [See LWJ report Pakistan’s Jihad and Threat Matrix report Pakistan backs Afghan Taliban for additional information on the ISI’s complicity in attacks in Afghanistan and the region.]
Nasiruddin is a key financier and “emissary” for the Haqqani Network. He is one of several brothers of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the overall operational leader of the Haqqani Network as well as the leader of the Miramshah Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four regional commands. Siraj was designated by the Treasury Department as a terrorist in March 2008; and in March 2009, the State Department put out a bounty of $5 million for information leading to his capture. US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that Siraj is a member of al Qaeda’s top council.
The US Treasury Department added Nasiruddin to its list of specially designated global terrorists in July 2010. According to the Treasury, he traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between 2004-2009 to carry out fundraising for the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.
“As of mid-2007, [Nasiruddin] Haqqani reportedly received funding from