The US Treasury Department has added three senior Haqqani Network leaders to the list of Specially Designated Global terrorists today. The designations highlight the Haqqani Network’s continued support of al Qaeda, as well as its members’ ability to travel to and receive funding and aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Saidullah Jan, a senior commander and financier; Yahya Haqqani, a senior leader involved with “military, financial, and propaganda activities”; and Muhammad Omar Zadran, a military commander, were added to the US’ terrorism list.
Both Saidullah and Yahya are directly linked to al Qaeda. Saidullah traveled to Saudi Arabia to raise funds, most recently “in late 2013.” Yahya “coordinated the transfer of supplies from the United Arab Emirates” to another Haqqani leader. Top Haqqani Network leaders are known to travel to Saudi Arabia to fundraise for both the network and al Qaeda.
The Haqqani Network is a powerful Taliban faction that operates in eastern, central, and northern Afghanistan, and is based in North Waziristan in Pakistan. The terror group has close links with al Qaeda, and is supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Sirajuddin is the operational commander of the Haqqani Network and leads the Miramshah Shura, one of four major Taliban regional councils. The US added Haqqani Network to list of global terror groups in August 2012.
Treasury identified Saidullah as “a senior member of the Haqqani Network” since 2013 “who has also acted at times as an HQN [Haqqani Network] deputy, as the HQN commander for the Northern Zone of Afghanistan, and as a key HQN logistical coordinator.” In northern Afghanistan, the Haqqani Network is known to operate in the provinces of Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar, Faryab, Badakhshan, and Kunar, according to ISAF press releases that document raids against the network.
As recently as late 2013, Saidullah traveled to Sauid Arabia with senior Haqqani Network leaders such as Khalil Haqqani and Fazl Rabi (both men are Specially Designated Global Terrorists), presumably for fundraising purposes. Saidullah also traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2010 with Ahmed Jan, another Haqqani leader who is also a Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Treasury did not indicate how the known Specially Designated Global Terrorists were able to leave Pakistan or enter Saudi Arabia without being detected. However Haqqani Network leaders are known to move between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with ease.
Saidullah also has a close relationship with al Qaeda, according to Treasury. “In late 2013, Saidullah reportedly was trusted by al Qaeda members as an HQN associate who could help with any trouble, including arrest.” It is unclear if Saidullah has facilitated the release of al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan or Afghanistan, or in both countries.
Treasury said that Yahya Haqqani is the brother-in-law of Haqqani Network emir Sirajuddin and “a senior Haqqani Network member who has been closely involved in the group’s military, financial, and propaganda activities.” Yahya has served as the acting emir of the Haqqani Network when Sirajuddin, Badruddin, and Khalil “were absent.” Additionally, Yahya has “acted as Sirajuddin Haqqani’s Arabic interpreter and messenger.”
He currently serves as a “logistician” and supports Abdul Rauf Zakir, the group’s chief of suicide operations who is also a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and other commanders in the network. In his role as a logistician, Yahya “coordinated the transfer of supplies from the United Arab Emirates to HQN senior leader Khalil Haqqani” in early 2013. He has also provided cash, IEDs, communications equipment, and other support to aid numerous Haqqani Network attacks. Treasury said that Yahya “reviewed preparations for the August 7, 2012 HQN attack against a Coalition Forward Operating Base in Logar Province” and “likely had advance knowledge of the June 2011 attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan.”
Yahya, like many Haqqani Network commanders, has close links to al Qaeda. Treasury said that he “sometimes serves as a liaison between the HQN and AQ [al Qaeda] and he has maintained ties with AQ since at least mid-2009.”
“In this role, Yahya has provided money to AQ members in the region for their personal expenses,” Treasury continued. “As of mid-2009, he acted as the HQN’s primary liaison with foreign fighters, including Arabs, Uzbeks, and Chechens.” The Haqqani Network is known to shelter and support top al Qaeda leaders and operatives as well as its military forces. It also conducts joint operations with al Qaeda.
Additionally, Yahya serves as propagandist and media specialist for both the Haqqani Network and the Taliban, its parent organization. The Haqqani Network often releases its videos on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website. Yahya would meet with Sirajuddin Haqqani “to obtain final approval” on the release of Haqqani Network videos. He also received funding directly from Sirajuddin to finance the group’s media efforts.
Muhammad Omar Zadran
Muhammad Omar is a lower-level Haqqani Network commander who leads “over 100 militants” in the eastern Afghan province of Khost. Omar, who has served as a military commander under Sirajuddin since 2005, has also been appointed as a shadow district governor. Treasury linked him to numerous attacks against Coalition and Afghan forces as well as civilians. He is also “involved in suicide attack planning.”
Omar is a member of the Miranshah Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four regional military commands. The Miranshah Regional Military Shura, which the Treasury said was “established by the Taliban to discuss logistics for insurgents, training, assignments and other needs for commanders, and deployment of terrorist cells to southeastern Afghanistan,” is led by Sirajuddin. In this capacity, Omar has “coordinated logistics, training, and assignments with the Taliban.”
Top Haqqani Network leaders designated as global terrorists:
Since 2008, 13 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. Two of them were killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan, one was gunned down in Pakistan, and one was captured by US forces in Afghanistan. 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’ terrorist list in July 2010. Nasiruddin was 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. Nasiruddin was gunned down in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad in November 2013.
Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, Siraj’s uncle, was added to the US’ 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 sat on the Miramshah Shura, was an operational commander of the Haqqani Network, and provided support to al Qaeda and allied terror groups. Badruddin was killed in a US drone strike in August 2012.
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, adviser, 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 served 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 was considered to be one of the most dangerous operational commanders in eastern Afghanistan. Sangeen had organized numerous assaults on US and Afghan combat outposts in the region. His followers are currently holding Bowe Bergdahl, the only US soldier who has been captured alive in the Afghan theater. Sangeen had professed his support for al Qaeda and recently called on Turkish and Kurdish jihadists to join the fight in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Mullah Sangeen was killed in a US drone strike in September 2013.
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.
Saidullah Jan, a senior leader who has served as the commander of the group’s Northern Zone in Afghanistan and as a logistician, was designated on Feb. 5, 2014. He is “trusted by al Qaeda” and has traveled to Saudi Arabia with other Haqqani Network leaders to fundraise for the group.
Yahya Haqqani, a senior leader who has served as acting emir as well as a key financier and logistician, was designated on Feb. 5, 2014. . He has close ties to al Qaeda, and often serves as a liaison with al Qaeda operatives in the region. He also supports Qari Zakir, the Haqqani Network’s chief of suicide operations.
Muhammad Omar Zadran, a military commander who is a member of the Miranshah Regional Military Shura, was designated on Feb. 5, 2014. . He coordinates operations with the Taliban and supports suicide operations.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is the father of Siraj, Nasiruddin, and Badruddin and also the brother of Khalil, has not been added to the US’ 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.
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.”