Today the US State Department added the Haqqani Network’s chief of suicide operations to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Qari Zakir, who is also known as Abdul Rauf, is now the 10th Haqqani Network leader to be added to the US’s list of global terrorists since 2008.
State described Qair Zakir as “the chief of suicide operations for the Haqqani Network and the operational commander in Kabul, Takhar, Kunduz, and Baghlan provinces” in Afghanistan. Additionally, Zakir runs the al Qaeda-linked terror group’s “training program, which includes instruction in small arms, heavy weapons, and basic improvised explosive device (IED) construction.”
According to State, Qari Zakir “has been involved in many of the Haqqani Network’s high-profile suicide attacks and is partially responsible for making some of the final determinations on whether or not to proceed with large-scale attacks planned by local district-level commanders.” Haqqani Network fighters who have graduated from his training program have been involved in some of the most high-profile suicide assaults in Afghanistan over the past several years, including the September 2011 attack on the US Embassy and other installations in Kabul; the June 2011 suicide assault on the Intercontinental Hotel, also in Kabul; and a series of massed assaults on Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province in 2010. Although it is not mentioned by State, he was also very likely involved in the September 2012 suicide assault on FOB Salerno, which included at least one foreign fighter from Oman.
Qari Zakir is considered to be “a trusted associate and confidant” of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani Network. Qari Zakir approached Siraj in 2008 to help with the expansion of the Haqqani Network’s operations in northern Afghanistan. In turn, Siraj agreed to fund his operations.
Qari Zakir is an Afghan citizen, and is based out of Miramshah, the main town in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Miramshah serves as the headquarters for the Haqqani Network.
Background on the Haqqani Network
In September 2012, the US finally added the Haqqani Network to the list of global terrorist entities. The Haqqani Network is a powerful Taliban subgroup that operates primarily in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika, but also has an extensive presence in Kabul, Logar, Wardak, Ghazni, Zabul, Kandahar, Baghlan, Kunduz, and Takhar. In addition, the network has expanded its operations into the distant Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Faryab, and Kunar, according to ISAF press releases that document raids against the network.
The terror group has close links with al Qaeda, and its relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has allowed the network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold of North Waziristan. The Haqqani Network has also extended its presence into the Pakistani tribal agency of Kurram.
In 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. In addition, the Haqqanis have established multiple training camps and safe houses that are used by al Qaeda leaders and operatives and 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.
The terror group collaborated with elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service in at least one of these attacks. American intelligence agencies have 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.]
In the summer and fall of 2011, the US and the Afghan government linked the Haqqani Network and Pakistan’s intelligence service to the June 28, 2011 assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and the Sept. 13, 2011 attack on the US Embassy and ISAF headquarters. Shortly after the September attack, Admiral Michael Mullen, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused the Haqqani Network of being one of several “[e]xtremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan.”
The US military has been hunting top Haqqani Network commanders in special operations raids in the Afghan east, while the CIA has targeted the network with a series of unmanned Predator airstrikes in Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan. Both Siraj and Sangeen have been the targets of past strikes. Mohammed Haqqani, a mid-level Haqqani Network military commander and a brother of Siraj, was killed in a Predator airstrike in February 2010.
On Oct. 13, 2011, the Predators killed Jan Baz Zadran, who was considered to be the Haqqani Network’s third in command, in an airstrike in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan. As the top aide to operational commander Sirajuddin Haqqani, Jan Baz served as the Haqqani Network’s logistical and financial coordinator and also acquired weapons and ammunition for the network. He is thought to be the most senior Haqqani Network leader killed or captured since the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
Top Haqqani Network leaders designated as global terrorists:
Since 2008, 10 top Haqqani Network leaders have been placed on the list; six of them were designated in 2011. All of them have ties to al Qaeda. They are listed below in the order in which they were designated.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the overall leader of the Haqqani Network as well as the leader of the Taliban’s Miramshah Regional Military Shura, was designated by the State 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 have told The Long War Journal that Siraj is a member of al Qaeda’s top council. In April 2010, Siraj said that cooperation between al Qaeda fighters and the Taliban “is at the highest limits.”
Nasiruddin Haqqani, one of Siraj’s brothers, was placed on the US’s terrorist list in July 2010. Nasiruddin is a key financier and “emissary” for the Haqqani Network, and is known to have 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.
Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, Siraj’s uncle, was added to the US’s list of terrorists in February 2011. Khalil is a key fundraiser, financier, and operational commander for the Haqqani Network, and has been crucial in aiding and supporting al Qaeda’s military, the Lashkar al Zil or Shadow Army.
Badruddin Haqqani, another one of Siraj’s brothers, was designated by the State Department on May 11, 2011. Badruddin sits on the Miramshah Shura, is an operational commander of the Haqqani Network, and provides support to al Qaeda and allied terror groups. Badruddin is thought to have been killed in a drone strike in August 2012 but the report has not been confirmed.
Fazl Rabi was added to the list of designated terrorists in June 2011. Rabi is a key financial official for both the Taliban and the Haqqani Network who has also aided the terror group in executing suicide attacks in Afghanistan and has traveled to the Gulf countries to raise money for Jalaluddin and Siraj.
Ahmed Jan Wazir was added to the list of designated terrorists in June 2011 along with Fazl Rabi. Wazir serves as a deputy, advisor, and spokesman for Siraj, has represented the Haqqani Network at the Quetta Shura, and has close ties to al Qaeda’s network in Ghazni.
Mullah Sangeen Zadran, who serves as a senior lieutenant to Siraj and as the Taliban’s shadow governor for Paktika province in Afghanistan, was added to the list of designated terrorists on Aug. 16, 2011. US military officials have told The Long War Journal that Sangeen is considered to be one of the most dangerous operational commanders in eastern Afghanistan. Sangeen has organized numerous assaults on US and Afghan combat outposts in the region, and is currently holding Bowe Bergdahl, the only US soldier who has been captured alive in the Afghan theater. Sangeen has professed his support for al Qaeda and recently called on Turkish and Kurdish jihadists to join the fight in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Haji Mali Khan, who has been described by the US military as “one of the highest ranking members of the Haqqani Network and a revered elder of the Haqqani clan,” was added on Nov. 1, 2011. Khan was captured by US special operations forces during a raid on Sept. 27, 2011 in the Musa Khel district in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost.
Bakht Gul, an important Haqqani Network communications official who works directly for Badruddin as his chief of staff, was designated on May 17, 2012. Gul relayed operational orders from Badruddin Haqqani to fighters in Afghanistan, “aids in “the movement of Haqqani insurgents, foreign fighters, and weapons,” and has handed out funds to commanders traveling to Afghanistan, State said.
Qari Zakir, the head of the Haqqani Network’s suicide operations in Afghanistan as well as the group’s operational commander in Kabul, Takhar, Kunduz, and Baghlan provinces, was designated on Nov. 5, 2012. Qari Zakir is considered to be a close advisor to Siraj, and also runs the network’s training program.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is the father of Siraj, Nasiruddin, and Badruddin and also the brother of Khalil, has not been added to the US’s list of terrorists, despite his close links to both the Taliban and al Qaeda. In an interview with Al Somood, the Taliban’s official magazine, Jalaluddin admitted he served on the Taliban’s executive council, which is known as the Quetta Shura.