The Pakistan-based Haqqani Network carried out last week’s deadly suicide attack in Kabul that killed 18 people, including six Coalition soldiers.
US military intelligence officials said the deadly, al Qaeda-linked Taliban group run by Siraj Haqqani planned and executed the May 18 attack on a Coalition convoy that killed a US and a Canadian colonel, two lieutenant colonels, two US soldiers, and twelve Afghan civilians.
“This one, like past attacks in the capital, can be traced back to Siraj,” a US military intelligence officer told The Long War Journal. “It was his cell, and the attack was hatched across the border in Pakistan.”
The US officials disclosed the information after a briefing today by the spokesman for the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s top intelligence service. Saeed Ansari, the NDS spokesman, claimed the attack was organized in Pakistan with the help of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI.
“All the explosions and terrorist attacks by these people were plotted from the other side of the border and most of the explosives and materials used for the attacks were brought from the other side to Afghanistan,” Ansari said, according to a report in The New York Times.
“Of course, when we say that those attacks were plotted from the other side of the border, the intelligence service of our neighboring country has definitely had its role in equipping and training of this group,” Ansari said, referring to the ISI without directly naming the organization.
Afghan intelligence detained seven Taliban cell members, including the cell’s deputy leader, who aided with the Kabul attack. Ansari claimed that the cell’s leader, who is known as Dawood, serves as the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kabul.
The Haqqani Network has been implicated in some of the biggest terror attacks in the nation’s capital, including the January 2008 suicide assault on the Serena hotel, the February 2009 assault on Afghan ministries, and the July 2008 and October 2009 suicide attacks against the Indian embassy. American intelligence agencies confronted the Pakistani government with evidence, including communications intercepts, which proved the ISI’s direct involvement in the 2008 Indian embassy bombing. [See “Pakistan’s Jihad” for additional information on the ISI’s complicity in attacks in Afghanistan and the region.]
The Haqqani Network has extensive links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and its relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has allowed the network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold of North Waziristan. The Haqqanis control large swaths of the tribal area and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces. They have established multiple training camps and safe houses used by al Qaeda leaders and operatives, as well as by Taliban foot soldiers preparing to fight in Afghanistan.
Siraj is one of the most wanted Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in the Afghan-Pakistan region. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan. He is the mastermind of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan, including suicide assaults in Kabul, and he is the senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan. He is the leader of the Taliban’s Miramshah Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four regional commands [see LWJ report, “The Afghan Taliban’s top leaders“].
Siraj is considered dangerous not only for his ties with the Afghan Taliban, but also because of his connections with al Qaeda’s central leadership, which extend all the way to Osama bin Laden. Siraj is a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or top council, US intelligence sources told The Long War Journal. In a tape released in April 2010, Siraj admitted that cooperation between the Taliban and al Qaeda “is at the highest limits.” On March 25, 2009, the US Department of State put out a $5 million bounty for information leading to the capture of Siraj.
Despite Siraj’s ties with al Qaeda, and the Haqqani Network’s use of suicide attacks, some top US military commanders believe that Jalaluddin Haqqani, his father, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, another supporter of al Qaeda, are “absolutely salvageable” and ripe for negotiations.
“The HIG already have members in Karzai’s government, and it could evolve into a political party, even though Hekmatyar may be providing al Qaeda leaders refuge in Kunar,” Major General Michael Flynn, the top military intelligence official in Afghanistan, told The Atlantic in April 2010. “Hekmatyar has reconcilable ambitions. As for the Haqqani network, I can tell you they are tired of fighting, but are not about to give up. They have lucrative business interests to protect: the road traffic from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to Central Asia.”
Sir Graeme Lamb, a senior adviser to General McChrystal, echoed Flynn’s view on Hekmatyar and Haqqani, and discounted the groups’ close ties to al Qaeda.
“Haqqani and Hekmatyar are pragmatists tied to the probability of outcomes,” Lamb also told The Atlantic. “With all the talk of Islamic ideology, this is the land of the deal.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.