Afghan, US forces target Haqqani-linked Taliban leader in Parwan
Coalition and Afghan special operations forces targeted a Haqqani Network-linked Taliban leader during a recent raid in the central Afghan province in Parwan. The Taliban commander, who serves as Parwan's deputy shadow governor, "transports weapons, fighters and suicide bombers" into the province and Kabul. Afghanistan's president accused the US of killing eight civilians during the raid.
Ten Taliban fighters, a US Special Forces soldier, and two civilians were killed after Afghan commandos and Coalition advisers launched a raid on Jan. 15 "to disrupt insurgent activities in the [Ghorband] district, including attacks on Bagram Airfield," the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.
ISAF said that the combined special operations force "came under heavy fire from insurgents, resulting in the death of one ISAF service member." The two civilians were killed after the Afghan and Coalition force launched airstrikes on nearby buildings that were occupied by Taliban fighters.
President Karzai claimed that a woman and seven children were killed during the fighting, and again called for an end to the controversial 'night raids' by Coalition forces.
"The Afghan government has been asking for a complete end to operations in Afghan villages for years, but American forces acting against all mutual agreements ... have once again bombarded a residential area and killed civilians," a statement from Karzai's office said. The statement neglected to note that Afghan commandos led the operation.
ISAF indicated that areas of Parwan province remain under the Taliban's control or influence.
"The operation was conducted in a high threat area with Taliban activity, some linked to the Haqqani Network," ISAF said. "The insurgents in this area enjoy freedom of movement allowing them to harass and threaten the local population as well as stage and facilitate attacks."
The primary target of the operation was Qari Nazar Gul, the deputy shadow governor, who also is "a member of the senior Taliban Commission."
"Gul has ties to the Haqqani Network and transports weapons, fighters and suicide bombers to Parwan and Kabul," ISAF said. He also "has conducted attacks against ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] and Coalition forces including a complex attack at Bagram Airfield." ISAF may be referring to the May 19, 2010 suicide assault on Bagram Airbase that was executed by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al Qaeda, and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. The assault was led by Bekay Harrach, a dual-hatted IMU and al Qaeda leader from Germany. Harrach is thought to have been killed during the attack.
Background on the Haqqani Network
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, Parwan, 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. In central Afghanistan, the Haqqani Network coordinates suicide operations and complex assaults with groups such as the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda, Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, in what ISAF used to call the Kabul Attack Network.
The Haqqani Network has close links with al Qaeda, and its relationship with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) has allowed the network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold of North Waziristan. The terror group 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 ISID'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 ISID'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. In November, the CIA killed Maulvi Ahmed Jan, a top deputy to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the group's operational commander, in a strike in the district of Hangu.
Despite the targeting of top Haqqani Network leaders, the group continues to expand in Afghanistan.