Coalition targets Haqqani Network commander, kills 29 fighters

Afghan and Coalition forces killed 29 fighters from the Haqqani Network during a raid designed to capture a senior leader of the group.

A large firefight broke out after the combined forces targeted what the US military described as a “foreign fighter encampment” in the Wor Mamay district in the eastern province of Paktika near the Pakistani border.

The target of the raid was a Haqqani Network commander known as Sangeen, or Fateh, who conducts attacks against Afghan and Coalition forces in Paktika. Sangeen was “operating a staging area for future attacks in Paktika province,” the US military said in a press release. Sangeen “planned and coordinated the movement of al Qaeda senior leaders and hundreds of foreign fighters from Pakistan to Afghanistan through the Spreah District.”

The raiding party took fire from Haqqani fighters in “heavily fortified positions” as they neared the camp. US and Afghan forces called in airstrikes and advanced on the positions. Six of the Haqqani fighters detonated suicide vests and others rigged hand grenades to explode as troops searched the bodies. One US solider was wounded during the fight.

The Afghan and US troops found several weapons caches stocked with suicide vests, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, heavy machine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, and ammunition.

The fighting in eastern Afghanistan has intensified over the past two days. Yesterday, Coalition and Afghan forces beat off an attack by Haqqani fighters in neighboring Paktia province.

An unknown number of Haqqani fighters attacks a small patrol base in the eastern province, sparking a five hour battle. US forces called in airstrikes to help defeat the attack. Fifteen of the attackers were killed in the failed assault.

Targeting the Haqqani Network

The US military has been targeting the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan since early 2008. US special operations forces have targeted the Haqqani leadership in multiple raids in Afghanistan, while the CIA has conducted a covert Predator air campaign against the network across the border in North Waziristan. Nearly half of the US predator strikes in Pakistan since early 2008 were aimed at the Haqqani Network and at al Qaeda leaders sheltering in their tribal areas.

“We want the Haqqanis to know we will hit them anywhere,” a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal afterthe Sept. 8 strike on the Haqqani madrassa, known as the Manba Ulom.

The Manba Ulom madrassa was established by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the family patriarch who has close ties with Osama bin Laden. The madrassa was used in the 1980s to train mujahedeen to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. After the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Haqqani family used the Manba Ulom madrassa as a training center and meeting place for senior al Qaeda leaders.

The Pakistani government closed the madrassa in 2002, but it was reopened in 2004. Since then, Taliban fighters and members of al Qaeda’s network are known to shelter in the madrassa compound.

The madrassa serves as the headquarters for the Haqqani Network, while the network’s forward operating command center in Afghanistan is located in the village of Zambar in the northern Sabari district of Khost province, Afghanistan. The network is active in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, and Kabul, and provides support to Taliban networks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces.

The Haqqanis have extensive links with al Qaeda and with Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI. This relationship has allowed the Haqqani network to survive and thrive in North Waziristan. The Haqqanis control large swaths of North Waziristan, and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces.

Siraj Haqqani, a son of Jalaluddin, has risen in prominence over the past two years. He is believed to be the mastermind of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan, and to be the senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan. On March 25, the US Department of State put a $5 million bounty out for information leading to the capture or conviction of Siraj.

Siraj is believed to be dangerous not only for his connections with the Afghan Taliban, but with al Qaeda’s central leadership. His connections extend all the way to Osama bin Laden. Siraj actively recruits foreigners into the network and trains them to conduct suicide attacks in Afghanistan.

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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  • Brian says:

    Although I hate the risk posed to our troops, I am often heartened to see reports of fanatical resistance to an operation – it is one of the best ways to tell if we are taking down something or someone valuable. Also, when they stand and fight – they lose. Here, even if there was no HVT at the locaction it looks like the enemy lost some very dedicated fighters. The lost the kind of SOBs that would otherwise have carried out suicide attacks at the time and place of their choosing. Instead, they just blew themselves up.
    I hope the soldier that was wounded recovers quickly.

  • Vedat The Turk says:

    While US troops move to contain the conflict in the Eastern part of the country their appears to be “spillage” on the western part bordering Iran. The WSJ had a good synopsis
    It’s too early to say who was behind the terrorist attack in Sistan-Baluchistan. However Iranian media has raised questions whether the Afgah / Pak conflicting is hurting Iran. This discussion may be good news for the Western Coalition as it could prod Iran to be more helpful in containing the overall situation in Afghanistan.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 05/29/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.


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