The bodies of two Taliban fighters dressed in military uniforms lay just outside of Jalalabad Airfield after an attack on Nov. 13, 2010.
For the second time in one month, Afghan intelligence operations conducted by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), have thwarted what would have been devastating urban terror attacks by the much-vaunted Haqqani Network. The total of three plots, all allegedly tied to the Haqqani Network and the Kabul Attack Network, a cell of militant commanders under the leadership of Taj Mir Jawad and the Taliban Shadow Governor for Kabul Province (Dawood), were discovered in the later stages of operational planning.
On July 30, NDS announced the arrest of Gul Mohammad, an NDS officer who passed along classified information “to Pakistan” and was helping to facilitate insurgent attacks against the Afghan Defense Ministry and ISAF headquarters; both are located in Kabul. Gul Mohammad had previously served eight years with the Afghan National Army and was in charge of security at a variety of checkpoints in Kabul City.
Prior to the arrest of Gul Mohamad, NDS operatives broke up a Haqqani Network plot to attack Kabul International Airport. On July 26, Afghan intelligence officials uncovered a series of caches hidden near the airport– including one that had five Afghan army uniforms. The Haqqani Network and the Taliban have repeatedly used Afghan army and police uniforms to help penetrate secure compounds and conduct terror assaults. NDS discovered the caches after security forces seized a Haqqani Network cell leader in nearby Kapisa province. Officials claim the unnamed insurgent commander had direct connections to Haqqani leadership in Miramshah in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agency of North Waziristan, and that he provided them with details concerning the attacks and the caches.
The successful intelligence operations came after two high-profile security incidents rocked Kabul earlier this summer. On July 17, a suicide assault team killed Jan Mohammad Khan, the former governor of Uruzgan province who had become one of Karzai’s top advisers, and Mohammad Hashim Watanwal, a parliamentarian from Uruzgan, in an attack on Khan’s compound in Kabul.
On June 28, a Haqqani Network attack against the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul City left at least 20 people dead. Attackers wearing suicide vests had stormed the hotel building the night before an international forum was to convene there on the transition of security between NATO and the Afghan government. NDS said that at least four of the 10 attackers that night contacted insurgent commanders located in Miramshah, including Badruddin Haqqani, a high-level commander thought to be the third-in-command of the Haqqani Network. And on June 18, A heavily armed three-man-strong suicide assault team dressed in military uniforms attacked a police station in the 1st district in Kabul, near the Finance Ministry, killing nine people.
In what might be indicative of the impact of ongoing operations against the Kabul Attack Network and the Haqqani Network leadership nodes, the deputy commander of the Kabul Attack Network recently disclosed details about the June 28 attack which paint a far different picture of how the operation was intended to go down — and also highlight the important roles that informants and turncoats play in the network’s ability to launch such attacks. The interview, obtained from the Australian, bears repeating:
The deputy head of the Haqqani network’s Kabul cell, which is responsible for planning and co-ordinating attacks in the Afghan capital, told The Sunday Times that the attackers were aided by a police officer, an interpreter and the bodyguard of a senior government official who was staying at the hotel. The policeman, whose job was to guard the hotel grounds, was bribed by the Haqqanis to lead the attackers into the hotel kitchen, according to the deputy, who used the name Habibullah Rahman.
At about 10.30pm, the policeman cut a hole in the perimeter wire to allow the insurgents inside the grounds. Meanwhile, the bodyguard of a senior Afghan official chatted with a group of hotel security staff. His job was to alert the attackers via text message if they were spotted, Rahman said.
Once inside the kitchen, the attackers were met by the interpreter, who worked for a group of foreign businessmen staying at the hotel, according to Rahman. His job was to guide the suicide squad to the rooms where foreigners slept.
Despite months of planning, the attack was launched on the wrong day – a security conference of high-ranking Afghan officials was scheduled for the following day. “We’re not sure what happened,” said Rahman. “We were angry that we made this mistake. We wanted to cause maximum embarrassment for the government by showing them that even their security conferences were not safe from attack.”
The recent intelligence successes follow on the heels of a momentous targeting campaign by the Afghan government and NATO forces to erode the military capabilities of the Taliban and Haqqani Network. On June 30, NATO officials publicly stated that Afghan-led security forces have captured or killed more than 80 Haqqani leaders and facilitators since January, primarily in the Paktika, Paktia, and Khost areas.