The Taliban issued a statement that denounced the recent posting of new rewards by the US State Department for five Haqqani Network leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, the group’s operational commander.
On Aug. 20, the existing reward for operational leader Sirajuddin Haqqani was raised from $5 million to $10 million, putting him in the top tier of wanted global jihadists. The State Department’s Rewards for Justice program also posted new rewards of up to $5 million each for Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, Yahya Haqqani, Abdul Rauf Zakir, and Aziz Haqqani.
The next day, a statement from the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the official name of the Taliban, was issued in English on Voice of Jihad saying that the group “strongly condemns” the bounties:
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns this act and considers it an act of shame and taunt for America. We believe that this announcement has clearly demonstrated the weakness and defeat of the defeated American authorities as they are facing it in the field of battles, politics and in sustaining the moribund regime. This act has proved that the Americans are now trying to hide their defeat through such propaganda wiles.
The Taliban concluded that the rewards “will strengthen the determination of jihadic spirit and hatred in Mujahideen against invading Americans and will pave the way for further bloodiest attacks against Americans. God willing.”
In the past, the Taliban have defended Haqqani Network leaders who are targeted by US designations. In February, the group released a statement defending three Haqqani Network leaders — Yahya Haqqani, Saidullah Jan, and Muhammad Omar Zadran — after they were added to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. In that statement, the Taliban said the designations are “ineffective and theatrical.”
As noted here in February, the designations provide valuable information on terrorist networks. And the Taliban’s reactions to the designations also provide useful insight on the group:
One of [Taliban spokesman] Mujahid’s main arguments, that the sanctions are ineffective as the Haqqani leaders do not “have trade relationships with America nor any accounts in their interest plagued banks which could be effected by these superficial seizures,” may be technically true. And keep in mind that the designations didn’t prevent other Haqqani Network leaders (Khalil Haqqani and Fazl Rabi), who are also listed, from traveling to Saudi Arabia to fundraise.
But from the standpoint of The Long War Journal, the designations are at the very least a useful tool in helping the public to understand the nature of the networks. Additionally, the Taliban’s response is interesting. Note that there is no denial that Saidullah and Yahya collude with al Qaeda.