Siraj Haqqani’s deputy killed in Afghanistan

Jalaluddin Haqqani with his son Nasrudin. Click to view.

US forces in eastern Afghanistan claim to have killed the second senior member of Taliban commander Siraj Haqqani’s powerful network. Combined Joint Task Force-82 (CJTF-82) has confirmed that Mullah Sangeen, Siraj’s deputy, was killed in an unspecified raid on December 11.

“Sangeen was responsible for attacks on Afghan forces and improvised explosive device bombings,” the CJTF-82 press release stated. The details and location of the raid have not been made public. CJTF-82 placed a $20,000 reward for information on his capture or death.

The US military singled out Siraj Haqqani and his network as a major threat in eastern Afghanistan in late October. Siraj Haqqani, the son of the influential Taliban leader and former defense minister Jalaluddin Haqqani, was described as “one of the most influential insurgent commanders in eastern Afghanistan” who has “vied for the lead role as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s prime antagonist.”

Siraj is believed to be the new breed of Taliban leadership in Afghanistan: dangerous not only for his connections with the Afghan Taliban, but with al Qaeda’s central leadership. The younger Haqqani’s “extended reach brings foreign fighters from places like Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Turkey and Middle Eastern countries into Afghanistan,” said Major Chris Belcher, a spokesman for CJTF-82, in October.

US and Afghan forces are now actively working to dismantle the Haqqani Network, which is active in Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, and Kabul provinces and provides support to Taliban networks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces. Mullah Manan, another senior member of the Haqqani Network, was killed in early Novmber. Manan was killed while infiltrating the Spira district in Khost province, which borders North Waziristan in Pakistan.

CJTF-82 is clearly focusing on the Haqqani network and is working to cleave Siraj from his influential father, Jalaluddin. CJTF-82 is partially conducting this information operation via its press releases. Prior statements from CJTF-82 noted Siraj was usurping command of the senior Taliban leadership, including that of his father. The current press release insinuates both Mullah Manan and Sangeen were betrayed.

“That we would get two Haqqani sub-commanders so close together certainly raises an eyebrow and begins to make me wonder if Haqqani isn’t looking to get rid of those sub-commanders he doesn’t trust,” Lieutenant Colonel Dave Anders, the operations officer for CJTF-82 stated. “Certainly, that’s all speculative, but it does make one wonder.”

Anders also noted that Siraj operates from across the border in Pakistan. “Siraj remains in Pakistan in relative safety and puts his subordinates in grave danger,” said Anders. “It’s a different kind of leadership.”

Jalaluddin Haqqani is a leader of the Taliban in North Waziristan. “He became close to Osama bin Laden during the jihad and after the Taliban took control, he served as minister of tribal affairs in its government,” PBS’ Frontline reported in an extensive feature on the senior Haqqani.

The Haqqani family runs several mosques and madrassas, or religious schools, inside of North Waziristan. The Pakistani government closed down the Haqqani-run Manba Ulom madrassa after the US commenced Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, but it was reopened in 2004. Syed Saleem Shahzad, who interviewed Siraj in 2004, described the Manba Ulom madrassa as “a center of jihadi activities, and where top Taliban and al-Qaeda commanders meet.”

Siraj’s influence in the Taliban was highlighted earlier this year when he was sent to Wana, South Waziristan to mediate infighting between Mullah Nazir’s Taliban faction and the Taliban faction backing Uzbeki al Qaeda.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Turner says:

    “Siraj remains in Pakistan in relative safety and puts his subordinates in grave danger,” said Anders. “It’s a different kind of leadership.”
    This quote would apply equally well to Osama Bin Laden. It’s funny how these guys imagine themselves to be jihadis walking in the footsteps of Mohammed, when they are cowards who wear masks, hide under burkahs and send their followers off to the “crusaders” to get slaughtered for them. This is nothing like Mohammed, who needed no mask, did not try to hide his identity in shame and stayed with his fighters to lead and inspire them in battle.

  • Neo says:

    Overall it has been a successful few weeks in the WOT. Gains have been made across the board, that in spite of the bombing in Algeria and Amarah, Iraq. The fight at Musa Qala seems to have gone about as well as could be expected. Part of the Taliban force got away and will have to be fought again another day in lots of smaller engagements, but that seems to be par for the course. The main objective of denying the Taliban an active political center in South Central Afghanistan has been met. We will stay tuned to see how things settle out in the area. Recent successes along the boarder also help. The fighting goes on especially on the Pakistani side but anything that denies the enemy even a sniff of success in Afghanistan helps.
    It appears that the Pakistani army is going to make a real fight of it in the SWAT valley. I suspect that the fighting isn’t quit as conclusive as Pakistani military sources would have us believe, but it is heartening that army is starting to show a little backbone. It remains to be seen how well the Taliban project beyond the Pashtoon tribal lands. At least Pakistan doesn’t seem on the verge of immanent collapse as it did a month ago. The radical insurgents seem to be endearing themselves to the Pakistani military establishment with gratuitous attacks on military families. Many Pakistani soldiers have sympathies for forms of conservative Islam, but perhaps the many malignant pathologies of Al Qaeda aren’t exactly what many conservative Muslims had in mind. That is something that can still go either way, but at least the Taliban isn’t going to start a victory march into Islamabad just yet.
    It seems that Algeria has lingering problems with a large radical prisoner population. You can’t keep them all locked up forever and you can’t shoot them all, so you eventually vet them and let them out a few at a time. Most go home to families and occupations, a few go blow up the nearest UN aid post. Such is the aftermath of a long bloody insurgency. I can easily see Iraq being in such a position ten years from now. One can only hope things will go that well, continuing bloodshed aside.
    In Iraq we see further contention between rival Shiite factions. This time the trouble isn’t in Karbala or Baghdad but in Amarah, a central hub of Shiite insurgent activity. The newspapers take it as violence in a new area. The Shiite insurgents probably aren’t too happy, as it speaks to a loss of control in Amarah. Don’t look for this sort of squabbling between local Shiite insurgent factions to go away anytime soon.
    Northern Iraq isn’t getting much press but has been seeing major activity over the last couple months. The US and Iraqi forces hitting Al Qaeda everywhere now and repeatedly, even in obscure places. The mole in the wack-a-mole game seems to be getting it on the noggin every time now. Kind of reminds me of the Carl Spackler character with his high pressure water hose and dynamite at the end of a certain movie, metaphorically speaking of course. Aside from controlling the cities and bases, US and IA forces now seem to be setting up a heavy presence in the center of the area around Beji, the Za’ab triangle and east toward the Hawajah area. This along with Northern Iraq’s topography tends to split the northern region into separate areas. I think at this late date it is safe to point out all the nice strategically placed airfields that were built for controlling the Sunni areas of northern Iraq. A gift from left over from Saddam (even better than the palatial troop quarters with golden plumbing fixtures). No doubt these airfields are already a huge help and will be even more when it comes time to use a smaller troop presence.
    Last, I might point out that we have been hearing fewer reports from the area between Taji and Samarra that had so much activity in late fall, early summer. Al Qaeda was obviously trying to use the area as a staging area to maintain efforts in Western Baghdad. I pointed out at one time that the area was a little too large to conventionally control with current resources. Maintaining gorilla operations in an area ringed by huge US military bases is a little problematic though, to say the least. Al Qaeda lost a lot of high value people trying to maintain a presence in the area. A fatal act of desperation.
    I’m going out on a limb to say I think Al Qaeda is taking a fatal beating in Northern Iraq this time around and by April-May next year will be confined to terrorist operations more or less guided from outside Iraq.
    Now that I think of it, this might be the best few weeks of the whole war. Maybe someone will notice.


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