Siraj Haqqani sheltering in Kurram, near area of US helicopter strikes


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

Two of the US helicopter cross-border helicopter strikes that took place last month in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Kurram occurred in an area where Siraj Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani Network, was sheltering. The Pakistani military and government’s severe reaction to the US incursions in Kurram are attributed in part to concern that Siraj, a key asset, was close to being killed in the attack, US intelligence officials and a Pakistani official told The Long War Journal.

The helicopter strikes, which took place on Sept. 27, occurred near the village of Mata Sanger, after US forces pursued Haqqani Network fighters who attacked Combat Outpost Narizah in Khost province in Afghanistan.

The helicopter attacks sparked a major protest from the Pakistani military after two Frontier Corps soldiers were killed. In response, Pakistan closed NATO’s supply lines through the Khyber Pass for more than a week as Taliban forces savaged convoys in Baluchistan and in the northwest, destroying more than 150 fuel and supply trucks.

It is now believed that Siraj Haqqani was in a safe house close to the scene of the helicopter strikes. Siraj, the son of Mujahideen commander Jalaluddin, is said to have relocated to Kurram from Miramshah in North Waziristan after a family member was killed in a US Predator strike. Siraj’s brother Mohammed was killed in a US strike in February, and a military commander named Saifullah Haqqani was killed in a strike in September.

Siraj and other “key guest mujahideen” recently left North Waziristan for Kurram, with the knowledge of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, a US official said. The move occurred sometime in September, officials believe.

Members of the Turi tribe, a Shia tribe in Kurram, as well as members of the Bangash tribe attempted to resist the influx of Haqqani Network fighters into areas run by rival tribes, and clashed with the Haqqanis. Also, the Turis were moving against a stronghold operated by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami faction in Spina Shaga.

The Pakistani media characterized these clashes as local sectarian fights over a water dispute, but US and Pakistani officials said this story was cover to allow the Pakistani military to intervene on behalf of the Haqqanis and Hekmatyar, who are viewed as “good Taliban” as they do not fight the Pakistani state. In September and October, multiple accounts of Pakistani helicopter gunships intervening in the “water dispute” were reported in the Pakistani media. The Pakistani military claimed that more than 70 “militants” were killed in the strikes.

The Haqqani Network is now said to be “mediating” between the rival tribes. Khalil and Ibrahim, two sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, have appeared in Peshawar and Islamabad, to “bring peace to the area,” Dawn reported.

The Turis have battled the Taliban for years, and have fought them to a standstill [see BBC report, The Pakistani tribe that is taking on the Taliban, for more information on the Turis’ struggles in Kurram]. Despite driving the Taliban out of their area, the Turis remain cut off as the Taliban continue attacks along the single road that connects the remote area to the rest of Pakistan. The Turis have not received support from the Pakistani military.

Both the Taliban and the Haqqani Network have maintained a presence in Kurram for years. The tribal agency borders the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Nangarhar, and is an ideal launchpad for attacks into Afghanistan. Allied Pakistani terror groups such as the Sipah-i-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Lashkar-e-Taiba also have used Kurram as a transit point to support their activities in Afghanistan. In 2006, the Sipah-i-Sahaba took control of a mosque in Parachinar, the main town in Kurram, and used it as a forward base for its fighters in Pakistan, but were driven out by the Turis.

Fazl-e-Saeed Haqqani is the local commander for Haqqani Network fighters in Kurram. Hakeemullah Mehsud, the current leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Paksitan, led Taliban forces in Kurram prior to his promotion in 2009. Mullah Toofan, who is considered to be a successor to Hakeemullah, currently leads Taliban forces in Kurram.

Kurram is also thought to be a possible safe haven for al Qaeda’s top leaders. Last week, a NATO official told CNN that Osama bin Laden was hiding in an area between Kurram and the northern district of Chitral in Pakistan’s northwest. Bin Laden is said to be living comfortably and is being aided by members of the ISI.

Background on the Haqqani Network

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.

The Haqqani Network has been implicated in some of the biggest terror attacks in the Afghan capital city of Kabul, 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 LWJ report Pakistan’s Jihad and Threat Matrix report Pakistan backs Afghan Taliban for additional information on the ISI’s complicity in attacks in Afghanistan and the region.]

The Haqqani Network is led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin. Jalaluddin is thought to be ill and is considered the patriarch of the network. Siraj runs the daily operations and is the group’s military commander.

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.

The US Treasury recently added Nasiruddin Haqqani, Siraj’s brother, to the list of specially designated global terrorists. Nasiruddin is a key financier and emissary for the Haqqani Network. According to the Treasury, Nasiruddin has traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between 2004-2009 to carry out fundraising for the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.

Despite Siraj’s ties with al Qaeda, and the Haqqani Network’s use of suicide attacks, some top US military commanders have stated 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.”

A Haqqani Network leader known as Zakim Shah serves as the shadow governor of Khost province. Khost, Paktika, and Paktia provinces are the main strongholds of the Haqqani Network in eastern Afghanistan. The Haqqani Network also has a presence in the provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Zabul, and Kabul.

The Haqqani forces in Paktika province are commanded by Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a senior lieutenant to Sirajuddin Haqqani. A US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal that Sangeen also commands forces outside of Paktika and that he has become one of the most dangerous operational commanders in eastern Afghanistan.

Last year, Sangeen took credit for the kidnapping of a US soldier who apparently stepped away from his post at a combat outpost in Paktika on June 30, 2009. US forces in eastern Afghanistan launched a massive manhunt for the soldier, but failed to find him. The soldier is believed to be held across the border in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

US and Afghan forces hit the Haqqani Network hard in the summer of 2009 during a series of raids in Khost, Paktika, Paktia, Logar, and Zabul. Major battles were fought in mountainous regions as the joint forces assaulted strongly-defended Haqqani Network “fortresses.” The raids failed to dislodge the Haqqani Network from the provinces.

The Haqqani Network has also been heavily targeted by the CIA in the covert air campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Siraj has been the target of multiple Predator strikes. His brother, Mohammed, who served as a military commander, was killed in a February 2010 strike in North Waziristan. Seven of the 17 Predator strikes in the month of September have taken place in territory administered by the Haqqani Network.

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  • Tim says:

    Bravo, Bill! A sentiment reflected even by the Indian intelligence community:

  • JT says:

    Is there such a thing as a clear answer regarding the agreed upon rules for hot pursuit in the Af-Pak border area?
    (other than the UN resolution regarding sovereignty requiring a country to not allow cross border raids from its territory – this argues in favor of the US, but as a UN statement, typically isn’t worth much)

  • Charu says:

    Great reporting! Goes a long way to explaining Pakistan’s anger at the incursions. Ordinary Frontier Troop deaths would not have raised their duplicitous hackles quite as much, and there had to be more to the temper tantrum that they enacted for our behalf. They were PO’d that our hot pursuit nearly took out their “good” Taliban ally who, apparently, can shoot at us but not the other way around. Time to reward their perfidy with another billion….

  • Girish says:

    A very possilbe explaination for the reaction of the PAK establishment,
    1. A video recording of the chopper attack !!!!
    2. The amry expaination for stopping cargo – need to improve security
    3. The political howls – PAK is a soverign country
    If the US attacks gets close – the crys get louder.
    Good news is US is getting very close and they keep pushing. Hopefully the persist.

  • blert says:

    The Good Taliban are assets ONLY because they are antagonists of Kabul and function to keep the Pashto nation divided.
    The strategic depth that Islamabad is worried about is the ground EAST of the Durand Line.
    Obviously, in any conflict with India, the ability to whip tank formations back and around through Afghanistan is nonsense. You can’t even route trucks that way.
    Islamabad’s role is to fight Kabul in order to hang on to Baluchistan and Pashtunistan. That’s it.
    We are witnessing Taliban/ISI moves against our northern route precisely because it counters Islamabad’s stranglehold on our logistics.
    Islamabad regards this campaign as being totally integrated with her fight against New Delhi. Hence all of the crazy talk about India funding and supplying anti-Islamabad Taliban. Obviously, India would have no way of running such a game. Any agents operating in the area would simply be compromised and murdered. That’s one of the key functions of the ‘Good’ Taliban: doing ISI’s wet work in a deniable manner.
    A perfect example of this was the General HQ attack some months back. ISI was able to target obstreperous officers and provide an example for the rest.
    ISI started out as an intelligence outfit but has morphed into the true ruling faction, pulling the strings from behind the curtain. They’ve got so many cut-outs — it’s a hall of mirrors — that the puzzle never gets solved.
    We’ve seen the same phenomena in Russia: Putin’s clique all hail from the KGB and hangers on.
    The IRGC has likewise performed a reverse LBO on the Iranian State. Ahmadinejad has slotted guardsmen everywhere that counts. He’s hardly a puppet now.
    And who could forget the parallel administration and empire of the SS under Nazism. If successful, Hitler wanted them to run the eastern territories, entire, starting with Poland.
    911 was a sucker punch administered by an ISI asset that failed to check back with Islamabad. Who can forget the Bagram airlift of ISI assets back to home turf, late 2001? Bush made a fateful bargain that day.

  • steve m. says:

    “In September and October, multiple accounts of Pakistani helicopter gunships intervening in the “water dispute” were reported in the Pakistani media. The Pakistani military claimed that more than 70 “militants” were killed in the strikes.” Is there any way to help these tribes that are fighting against taliban/pak army?

  • crusader says:

    i have a question to anyone on this community.
    what is the status of the afgh/pak talibans strenght of arms? wich weapons do they posses and for how long is their supply of munitions going to last?
    how and from where is the ammuntion to obsolete soviet made weapons being smuggled into the countries.
    how many weapons caches have the us and isaf armies been able to destroy?
    it stuns me that they can go on fighting for all this time.
    did really the soviet union leave behind so much war material for the taliban to last three lifetimes?
    this is beyond me…anyone have good answers to my good questions?

  • Jimmy says:

    Taliban and all Pakistan sponsored Jihadi groups are one of the most sophisticated armed ‘army’ in recent times. Let the world not be fooled by their rag-tag battle fatigues…their gus are the best! Why?
    When Soviet Union left Afghanistan, they left behind SOME weapons only. But the Americans had already gifted the Pak Army, ISI, Jihadi groups over $5Billion of most sophisticated arms and ammunition to fight the Soviets…especially rocket propelled grenades and shoulder launched anti-aricraft and anti-helicopter missiles! Plus, many of the weapons carried by these Jihadis have clear Chinense markings…especially the hand grendes, no doubt presents from their handlers – Pakistan Army, ISI. Then there are other Islamic countries like Iran, Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia who clandestinely provide support for our enemies. And finally, quite a lot of the weapons gifted foolishly by NATO to their ‘ally’ Pakistan in its war against (or for) taliban misteriously end up in the black market in border cities like Peshawar or in NW tribal areas.
    The strength of all these Jihadis combined must be somewhere around 50,000 to 70,000 (definitely less than 100,000). I am sure there are enough sophisticated guns and ammunition around to last them many more decades…and if we go on feeding Pakistan with weapons, this war may never end.
    In other words, Crusader, WE are feeding the monster (Pak Army, ISI, Jihadi groups) out to destroy us!

  • Charu says:

    @blert, brilliant commentary! I always saw Pakistani Punjabis to be the South Asian version of Prussian Junkers, but had not considered the ISI analogy with the SS. Interesting! ISI’s takeover is similar to how the Nazis co-opted the Junker militocracy.
    @crusader, great question. The Taliban are funded by Saudi and other Muslim sympathizers around the world, along with Pakistani collusion (and very possibly indirectly through our largess) , and from kidnapping ransoms,extortion and heroin sales. My guess is that their supply of arms and ammunition would be from Pakistan; either manufactured there or bought from global arms dealers and transited through Pakistan. We had to have analyzed captured Taliban arms and ammo to figure out their origins. Interdict the Taliban’s supply routes and the war is good as won.

  • Rookie says:

    If islamic terrorists like the “German” lot can move freely from Hamburg to Pakistan training camps and back to Germany, surely moving weapons is easier.
    The area occupied now by Pakistan & Afghanistan have rat lines for centuries, no problems to smuggle things in and out, and impossible to stop.
    I doubt that the Taliban are using old soviet equipment on a large scale. Money are pouring in from all over the world in form of donations, also part from the drug trade, also I bet directly from US Treasury via the Pakistan “aid”.
    Besides, they don’t need expensive equipment, one AK47 can cost as low as 30$.
    Until ISI is not recognized as a terrorist entity and treated as an enemy, nothing will change. And in this note – “Operation Evil Airlift” , or how Talibans and their handlers were able to escape and regenerate. A shameful moment, paid with blood every day since.

  • Rookie says:

    And furthermore, more ominous than ISI funding to the Taliban which is going for decades now, is this:
    Iran is doing it’s best to increase the American casualties both in Iraq and Afghanistan and is buying the very leaders US supported them to power in those countries.
    Sometimes you have to ask: did they bought key people in the US too? Because otherwise only sheer stupidity can explain the lack of reaction towards a country that declared war to US years ago.

  • crusader says:

    it was shocking to hear about the reality of the opponents strenght of arms. i would never have guessed it.
    it is a controversy that we are now being attacked by our own weapons once donated during the soviet invasion to afghanistan.
    it seems like a part of the cold war is now a part of the present warm war.
    the coalition troops are facing a well equiped foe with a good supply of weapons and ammunition.
    the common idea of the taliban and jihadis is that they use obsolete soviet made weapons like the ak47 (in all its varieties and names) rpg, mortar rounds, ieds, hand guns, explosives.
    since the truth told by you here i have more questions.
    what weapons besides the big variety of hand arms have the coalition forces seen the taliban and jihadis with?
    have they used tanks, cannons, howitzers, aa guns, aa missiles, heavy machine guns etc?

  • Jimmy says:

    Here is the info about the latest installment of protection money (aka deadly weapons) from the US. The world is making fun of the way Pakistan can simple bully its way into more money and weapons from the mighty US!
    About your question on heavy weapons used by Taliban and Jihadis, the answer would be that since the Pakistan Army ISI is the same as Jihadis…they have every form of weaponry at their disposal! Even nuclear weapons!! Scary, is it not?
    For example, the US gifts Pakistan with navy frigates and F-16 war planes and allows China to give Pakistan sophisticated missiles and nuclear warheads…all under the name of fighting terror. How are Navy ships useful to fight Taliban?? On top of that when India would have threatened war with Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks, the Jihadis (whom Pakistan is supposed to be fighting!) said they would gladly ally with Pakistan Army to fight India! Does’t that show that Pak Army and Jihadis are one and the same? And that all weapons with Pak Army are actually also at the disposal of the Jihadis, if the time comes?

  • madashell59 says:

    After reading these posts along with the links and information over the past month. My original thoughts that Iran is the main problem has become worse. I think it is time for an all out clamp down on Pakistan and Iran. That is surround and isolate. Close off all supply lines period. Oh this will be hard and expensive but what else do we do. Play this game for how long with a weak administration. With China (and North Korea), Iran, and Pakistan (and possibly Russia) hell bent on taking down the US and where 2 of the three already have nucelar weapons and one is about to have them. Oh, lets not forget about the small guys that are holding on to the coat tales such as Venezula, Libya, Syria, etc.
    The current US adminstration is running scared both on the home front and the international front. I am starting to think that they are quite incompotent and are acting like the Three monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil).
    When is the free world going to wake up??????

  • crusader says:

    enough said about the lamentations about the pak armys role in this. they play both sides but how eager are they to run a puppet war for a master far away with nothing in common? put yourself in their shoes…they are fighting fellow countrymen even if they are vicious. as a paki i wouldnt want to wage such a war…
    the question remains…what heavy weapons have the pak/afg taliban been seen with? anything out of the ordinary been spotted or captured by the coalition forces?

  • Jimmy says:

    I am no intelligence expert and my information is basically from online photos and TV coverage of captured Taliban armaments. The main weapon with the Taliban is the road side bomb, IED, suicide bombs, rocket launchers, grenade launchers and AK47 guns. As you can see they do not need heavy weapons…in an insurgency, the enemy does not use tanks and missiles and fighter planes. They use handheld weapons and fight a war of attrition.
    How can they take on the mighty NATO? That’s where Pakistan Army ISI come in. Funding, moral support, training, resting places, sanctuary, ammunition, explosives, protection from international justice and recruits are provided by the Pakistan Army. Considering this, I would put myself in our soldier’s shoes rather than a Paks’s! Wouldn’t you?

  • blert says:

    Based on YouTube footage: They’ve got plenty of very-heavy machine guns.
    It functions very much like our 50 Cal machine gun.
    During the Soviet occupation it became the only anti-helicopter weapon normally available.
    Then Thatcher provided MANPADS: the Shorts ‘Blowpipe.’
    AFTER that example, Charlie Wilson was able to get Stingers issued to the Muj.
    So Charlie Wilson’s War ™ is bogus on this point — the whole focus of the movie!

  • crusader says:

    those weapons you speak of are already known to me and that is the common idea of the opponents arms.
    what i ask you or anyone else is if they have ever been see with heavier weapons, ever? i am interested in knowing that…
    my meaning is that it is understandable that the pak army have no real interest to fight this puppet war for the us masters so why would they?
    you can sit there and lament and call me all kinds of names but i can understand their situation.
    the pak army is not AQ or talibans there are merely underlings of an unwanted war…
    sure i could put myself in the soldiers of the coalition but never those of the aq or taliban…well perhaps i could…they seem to be poor farmers brainwashed into this sordid war…
    OBL now theres a vicious man, a spoiled richmans son playing out a perverted fantasy as a james bond foe…

  • Render says:

    These are my observations from both still photo’s and video that I have seen thus far since 2002. They should not be taken as the gospel on the subject and it should be understood that I do not have access to any classified data on the subject…
    The Taliban and their allies on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line have used anti-aircraft artillery up to and including 12.7mm, 14.5mm, and 23mm guns, in single and twin mounts, and both ground and vehicle mounted. 12.7mm is by far the most common, with both 12.7mm and 14.5mm guns seen on both sides of the border. The majority of those weapons are of Chinese/Pakistani origin, most of the remaining Soviet era guns would be long past their service life expectancy, but it cannot be assumed that a few do not remain in use. The Taliban has also used Chinese made shoulder-fired SAM’s in Afghanistan, of both Pakistani and Iranian origin depending on the region/province in question.
    The Taliban use 82mm, 107mm, and 122mm rockets, usually of Chinese manufacture and transferred from Pakistani stockpiles, Chinese Type 63 107mm being the most commonly seen. The Taliban use mortars in all calibers from 60mm up to 122mm, almost entirely of Chinese/Pakistani origin, 82mm being the most commonly seen. The Taliban use the SPG-9 73mm and B10 82mm recoilless rifles in both the direct fire and indirect fire roles, all from Chinese/Pakistani origins. US designed Pakistani made 106mm recoilless rifles are rumored in Taliban usage, but I haven’t seen confirmation of that yet. At least half if not more of the RPG-7’s seen in Taliban hands are Type-69’s of Chinese/Pakistani origin.
    Taliban light and medium machine guns are a mixed bag. As fast as the Soviet era guns wear out, they’re replaced with Chinese/Pakistani variants. Primarily of the RPD and PK series, the occasional oddball Bren gun still shows up from time to time. Interestingly there are to the best of my knowledge, no reports of Pakistani MG-3’s in Taliban hands.
    Use of the name “AK-47”

  • Render says:

    To give some examples. In the right hand column of the LWJ main page, the photo accompanying The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan section is of Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud. Hakeemullah has an AKSU-74 (either of Russian origin or FATA gun shop) and Waliur has an MP-5 (either of Pakistani origin or FATA gun shop).
    Below that section on the front page is the Quetta Shura section. The prop guns in the back round of the accompanying photo are an AKM (left) and AK-74 (right). Both are likely of Russian/former SSR or FATA gun shop origin.
    Of course it has to be said that none of this is confirmable without detailed examination of the markings on the guns in question…

  • crusader says:

    what about mines and handgrenades? have they been seen with the talibans and aq?
    what i ment was that most of the arms are versions or modified copies of the original soviet ones. the ak 47 was actualy made in the late stages of ww2 but was made famous even if the name changed during time.
    the name is missleading but it points on the design that have been modified throughout time.
    i heard the germans had a weapon similar to the ak47 but saw little use and later was not developed as they lost the war to the soviet union.
    what about tanks? have they operated some soviet made ones?
    have the aq and talibans caputered any weapons from the us coalition forces and then used them?
    do they don’t use them out of principle that the americans are the opressors? during the soviet invasion did they use other weapons than the soviet ones due to them being the opressors at the time?

  • crusader says:

    so the common opinion on this thread is that the insurgents in afghanistan will never run out of ammunitions and arms?
    i would have thought that the limit was 5 years of full insurgency…i reckon i was wrong…


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