Haqqani Network executed Kabul suicide attack


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

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.

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  • PahtunYar says:

    The timings of the attack & the targets were carefully chosen by the attackers & its supervisor/mentor(ISI). It wanted to deliver message to the NATO forces that it does not matter how much pressure you apply to Pak military establishment it is not going to be budged. It will play the game of terrorism by its rule to achieve its forighn policy objective & be relevant. In the last nine years nothing has changed in the fundamental thinkings of Pak Military estalishment except dumping few terrorist while investing in producing by thousands hard core every year. It is quite strange NATO & US with the power they have, they can’t stop ISI/Haqanis/Pak Army establishment to shun terrorism. Is it so that British created Pak Army establishment to be a submitted force conviniently used against USSR & other Islamic countries like Palestine? As we know that Pak Army is divided into Islamic, Western, Chinese proxies, how effective are the Western minded army officers in Pak Army? It seems to me that Gen Kinani & other top brass may not hold anough sway on Islamic minded or Chinese sponsered officers. So NATO/US need to pursuade not only Western minded but the rest of it as well. Otherwise the results are speaking for itself.

  • T Ruth says:

    Excellent reporting!
    You knit together all the strands of different incidents at varying times, the jihadists involved, their co-conspirators, and the US’s and Afghanistan’s response into one comprehensible continuum.
    You have the big picture and you have all the devils in the detail.
    This is a fine example of what sets LWj apart. Thank you for your hard work.
    And if the families and friends of those that were slain are reading, my commiseration.

  • Paul D says:

    The problem with Afghanistan is Pakistan.
    Like it or not we are fighting a proxy war with Pakistan in Afghanistan and in Iraq we are caught up in a proxy war between Iran and Saudi!

  • T Ruth says:

    Bill, you may want to link this report to your earlier report:
    Hekmatyar’s ‘peace plan’ calls for NATO withdrawal by 2011
    By Bill RoggioMar 22, 2010
    Read more: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/03/hekmatyars_peace_pla.php#ixzz0oxm35HOE
    in the context of Flynn and Lamb wanting to salvage HEK and HAQ.
    I repeat my comments to that March 22 story:
    “Posted by T Ruth at March 22, 2010 12:18 PM ET:
    “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.”
    Sounds like Lamb has been promoted to his level of incompetence. I don’t think he’s salvageable. “This” may be the land of the deal, as are London, New York and by default, Washington DC, but more importantly he will learn that this is the land of the deal-breakers and of ass-whippers.
    Is this a wolf in lamb’s clothing i see before me, or a lamb in rose-tinted panties?”
    Its interesting to go back and read that thread again too with hindsight. Such is the value of keeping a Journal!
    I wonder what Flynn and Lamb have to say to the widows of the slain Cols and LTC’s. Beyond my condolences, my observation is that i detect a ring of naivity around this whole serious business of the confusion between terrorists and their State sponsor and landlord, Pakistan.
    I hope Flynn and Lamb are planning to correct themselves as keenly as when they went out handing Good Housekeeping/character certificates.

  • Zeissa says:

    PashtunYar: The US will face great difficulties convincing the PArmy faction almost diametrically opposed to their ideals and goals.

  • James says:

    Before all the doubters get going, show at least some faith. Welcome to the world of “asynchronous” warfare. We have to get it right every time, the terrorists have to get it right just once. In this single isolated case, they did.
    Now, to deal with Pakistan, I say it’s long overdue that we need to forge an alliance with India in countering Al Queda and terrorism in general. At the very least, CIA should seriously look into at least sharing and collating intelligence data with India’s intelligence services.
    As far as those of you that may be concerned about our “supposed” alliance with Pakistan, there is such a thing as engendering what I will call for now a “healthy jealousy” between 2 rivals that are supposed to be (at least on paper) our allies in the war against terrorism.
    Sure as hell, India knows that even if Al Queda had its way with the US, they’d be next on their hit list (if they aren’t first on it now already).

  • ArneFufkin says:

    I fear that Pakistan’s “strategic depth” is going to get a lot of our troops killed this next 16 months.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    Apparently the Haqqani’s have some good intel in order to get to 4 Colonels and two Sergeants.

  • kp says:

    Arnie: They could have been watching movements (so we should check out OPSEC to make sure we aren’t giving anything away in those movements) but most likely they got lucky this time. Killing any US in a patrol they consider a win. If they get lucky several times then you have an intel issue. Remember they killed more Afghani civilians than Americans in this attack (another thing they seem not to worry about).

    James: “Welcome to the world of “asynchronous” warfare”. I think you mean “Welcome to the world of “asymmetric” warfare”.

  • Charu says:

    Once Pakistan is viewed as the initiator and source of all such attacks, it all falls in place. The Islamic Republic of ISI typically tests out its strategy on Indian targets (airlines, consulates, and cities) and then follows through with attacks on similar US targets. In order to understand the Pakistani psyche and its penchant for duplicity, intrigue, double-dealings, and fratricide, read up on the history of the Moghul courts in India; deja vu!

  • James says:

    KP, thanks for the correction.

  • Sumit says:

    Indian agencies have neen screaming on top of thier lungs about terrorist state of pakistan however nothing was done. Even right now Pakistan is getting LGB, BVRAAM , frigates etc to fight Taliban. On the other hand US is selling India P8I, C17, C130 and possibly f16 or f18. Keep a conflict alive, sell weapons to both sides. Souds like lucrative business doesnt it.?

  • Spooky says:

    Its this strategy of engendering rivalry that is causing the problems. The US needs to side with one and keep with it rather than play toward the middle and, in a pinch, keep siding with the guys trying to screw us over the guys whom we respect. India distrusts the US because we’ve been playing a double game with them since the Cold War.

  • Zeissa says:

    I’m fairly sure the US and India already share intelligence. India wishes to share troops after all.
    re. Charu: Well, that helps explain why there are still a lot of Hindus left.


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