Top Haqqani Network leaders include Arab relatives
In yesterday's Reuters article about the capture of Haji Mali Khan, the top Haqqani Network commander for Afghanistan, we at The Long War Journal noticed an interesting tidbit:
Members of the Haqqani network declined to comment on the ISAF statement, but confirmed to Reuters that Khan is Sirajuddin Haqqani's maternal uncle. They said he was not a senior commander but his relatives are involved in the Haqqanis' fight against NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The initial ISAF press release announcing Mali's capture described him as the uncle of Siraj Haqqani and the brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, patriarch of the network. [Note: The ISAF press release has since been corrected and no longer states that Mali is a brother of Jalaluddin.]
In trying to understand some of the kinship relationships between the Haqqani Network's top leaders, it is helpful to look at the "Haqqani Network Family Tree" published in Jeffrey Dressler's "Afghanistan Report 6: The Haqqani Network" back in October 2010.
Dressler's tree shows that Jalaluddin Haqqani had at least two wives, one from the Zadran tribes in eastern Afghanistan, and the other an Arab. The tree also shows that sons born to each of the wives have gone into the family business. Jalaluddin's sons by the Zadran wife include Badruddin, Baseeruddin, and Mohammad Omar; all three are known to have served as network operatives and leaders. Mohammad Omar was killed by a drone strike in Paktia province in February 2010. Badruddin was designated a global terrorist by the US in May 2011.
Siraj Haqqani, the overall operational leader of the Haqqani Network, is a son of Jaluddin by his Arab wife. According to Dressler's tree, one of Jalaluddin's brother-in-laws is Ghazi Khan. It is probable that Mali Khan, described by the Haqqanis yesterday as an uncle of Siraj on the maternal side, is related to Ghazi.
Other sons of Jalaluddin's Arab wife include Nasiruddin, listed by the US as a global terrorist in July 2010, and Nasir Ahmed.
The family business extends to more distant relatives as well: Ahmad, a nephew of Siraj, was detained in Pakistan in 2005; and Saifullah, a first cousin of Siraj, was killed in September 2010. [See Threat Matrix report, Siraj Haqqani's cousin reported killed in Waziristan strike.] The fact that Ahmad and Saifullah apparently did not bear the Haqqani surname may indicate that they, like Mali Khan, are relatives of one of Jalaluddin's wives.
As Dressler observes, Siraj Haqqani's mixed Afghan and Arab ancestry has enabled him to forge powerful links with jihadists from the Arab world as well as nearer to home:
Siraj allegedly won over Jalaluddin's sons born to his Zadran wife, including Nasir Ahmad and Ibrahim, who view him as the unchallenged leader of the network. Although the exact reason for their decision to recognize Siraj is unknown, his Arab lineage may have been preferred given the network's increasingly influential role amongst foreign militants in North Waziristan. .... Unlike his father Jalaluddin, Siraj has grown up interacting with foreign Islamic extremists in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai, where his Arab mother reportedly lives. U.S. intelligence officials describe Siraj as "a lot more worldly than his father... not content with his father's methods." This may include an aversion to any sort of political settlement, as he and his younger cadre have no experience in politics. For this reason, the ISI likely sees the Haqqani network as their most reliable Afghan proxy. [footnotes omitted]
Dressler's tree also includes a note stating that "Haqqani's wife, sister, sister-in-law, & 8 grandchildren killed in drone strike in Pakistan, September 2008." There were a number of strikes on insurgent targets in Pakistan in early September 2008, but the strike on a known Haqqani compound on Sept. 8, 2008 may have been the one that killed Jalaluddin's Zadran wife and several relatives. [See LWJ report, Haqqanis attack Pakistani forces in North Waziristan.]
Another person of interest in the Haqqani family is Jalaluddin's younger brother Ibrahim Omari, who served as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan but then reportedly rejected the movement in March 2002 and was offered the post of military commander of Paktia province by Hamid Karzai. His whereabouts are currently unknown, although some say he returned to Pakistan, and he appears to have switched sides again. Dressler's tree shows him as the Haqqani Network's foreign fighter liaison in Miramshah, Pakistan. News reports from earlier this year noted his involvement in the secret peace talks that were held directly between the US government and the Taliban before they were scuttled by the Afghan government, which was holding its own peace talks through the High Peace Council. Given Ibrahim's role in the former negotiations, and the suggestion in some quarters that the Haqqani Network might be implicated in the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, it is not inconceivable that Ibrahim may be linked to Rabbani's demise.