David Rohde: Taliban no longer ‘Al Qaeda lite’


Click to view slide show of the Haqqani Network. Pictured is a composite image of Siraj Haqqani.

New York Times reporter David Rohde writes about his kidnapping by the Haqqani Network and seven-month captivity. Rohde tells us three things that longtime readers of The Long War Journal and more recently Threat Matrix already know:

1) The Haqqani Network is intricately linked with al Qaeda.

2) The Haqqanis and the wider Taliban movement seek to impose a global Caliphate.

3) The Haqqani Network and other Taliban groups are in full control of North and South Waziristan.

Rohde observes:

Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.

Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.

I had written about the ties between Pakistan’s intelligence services and the Taliban while covering the region for The New York Times. I knew Pakistan turned a blind eye to many of their activities. But I was astonished by what I encountered firsthand: a Taliban mini-state that flourished openly and with impunity.

The Taliban government that had supposedly been eliminated by the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was alive and thriving.

All along the main roads in North and South Waziristan, Pakistani government outposts had been abandoned, replaced by Taliban checkpoints where young militants detained anyone lacking a Kalashnikov rifle and the right Taliban password. We heard explosions echo across North Waziristan as my guards and other Taliban fighters learned how to make roadside bombs that killed American and NATO troops.

And I found the tribal areas – widely perceived as impoverished and isolated – to have superior roads, electricity and infrastructure compared with what exists in much of 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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  • Keith says:

    I’ve never completely understood why we want to keep countries with irreconcilable difference together. Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas have always been Balkanized.
    Why not allow people to decide for themselves which political system they want and then have a designated impartial arbitor decide which land and how much they should be allocated? Obviously a lot of the differences are already geographically established.
    Yes, it would be upsetting for some people to be relocated to a new area. But if special attention were given to swapping like property and housing for one another, it could be done. And yes, it would be difficult. But no more so than fighting a war and locals living in a war zone. Unlike Iraq, these contested areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan already consider themselves de facto independent states.
    Then give the Taliban their Talibanistan and let them live under “God’s will.” Once these like-minded people are together geographically, it will be easier to control them. Also, by giving them something to lose–thier country–they may not act so recklessly. And of course we could give them exactly what they want by quarantine, thus keeping their society “pure.”
    They would no longer be able to claim the role of liberator because everybody would have already decided what they wanted.
    They want nothing to do with us, and–God knows–we want nothing to do with them. In this way, we all agree.

  • steve m says:



Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram