Special operations forces killed a senior Haqqani Network commander in an airstrike in Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. The commander was linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and served as the deputy of the top Haqqani leader in Afghanistan who was captured last week.
Dilawar, the Haqqani Network commander, was killed yesterday “during a precision airstrike” in the district of Musa Khel in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. Two of his “associates” were also killed in the strike.
Dilawar was “a principal subordinate to Haji Mali Khan,” the Haqqani Network’s senior commander for Afghanistan and the maternal uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the group’s operational leader. Khan was captured last week during a raid in Musa Khel.
As Khan’s “principal subordinate,” Dilawar “actively coordinated numerous attacks against Afghan forces and facilitated the movement of weapons” along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Dilawar also “facilitated the movement of foreign fighters and was associated with both al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.” The Haqqani Network is known to work closely with both al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Most recently, in August, ISAF and Afghan forces captured a senior Haqqani commander in Paktia province who commanded a large group of fighters that included a significant number of “Uzbek foreign fighters.”
ISAF described the killing of Dilawar as “another significant loss for the insurgent group,” which has been in the crosshairs of Coalition and Afghan forces. In August, Major General Daniel Allyn, Commanding General of Regional Commander East, told The Long War Journal that the Haqqani Network is “enemy number one.”
“The Haqqani network and its safe havens remain a top priority for the Afghan and coalition force,” ISAF stated in today’s press release, noting that special operations forces have carried out 530 raids against the Network in 2001, resulting in 20 leaders killed and more than 1,400 fighters captured.
Earlier this week, ISAF stated that so far this year, 20 leaders have been killed, and 300 leaders and 1,300 fighters have been captured. It is unclear how many of those captured remain in custody. [See Threat Matrix report, US captures Haqqani Network facilitator who was previously in custody, for details on the detention policy for captive insurgents.]
Background on the Haqqani Network
The Haqqani Network operates primarily in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika, and also has an extensive presence in Kabul, Logar, Wardak, Ghazni, Zabul, Kandahar, and Kunduz.
The terror group has close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and its relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has allowed the network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold of North Waziristan, a tribal agency in Pakistan. The Haqqani Network has also extended its presence into the tribal agency of Kurram.
In 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. In addition, the Haqqanis 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.
The terror group collaborated with elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service in at least one of these attacks. In the past, 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.]
Most recently, the US and the Afghan government have linked the Haqqani Network and Pakistan’s intelligence service to the June 2011 assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in and to the attack on the US Embassy and ISAF headquarters in September. Last week, Admiral Michael Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused the Haqqani Network of being one of several “[e]xtremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan.”
Over the past few years, six of the Haqqani Network’s top leaders have been added to the US’ list of specially designated global terrorists. All six commanders have close ties to al Qaeda. Those Haqqani network leaders designated as global terrorists are:
- Siraj Haqqani, who also is a member of al Qaeda’s executive council. Designated as a global terrorist in March 2008.
- Nasiruddin Haqqani, a key financier and “emissary” for the Haqqani Network. Designated as a global terrorist in July 2010.
- Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, a key fundraiser, financier, and operational commander for the Haqqani Network who also aids al Qaeda. Designated as a global terrorist in February 2011.
- Badruddin Haqqani, an operational commander who also aids al Qaeda. Designated as a global terrorist in May 2011.
- Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a top military commander in eastern Afghanistan who supports al Qaeda’s operation. Designated as a global terrorist in August 2011.
- Abdul Aziz Abbasin, a key commander in the Haqqani Network who is currently the Taliban’s shadow governor for Orgun district in Paktika province. Designated as a global terrorist in September 2011.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is the father of Siraj, Nasiruddin, and Badruddin and the brother of Khalil and brother-in-law of Khan, has not been added to the US’ list of terrorists, despite his close links to both the Taliban and al Qaeda. In an interview with Al Somood, the Taliban’s official magazine, Jalaluddin admitted that he served on the Taliban’s executive council, which is known as the Quetta Shura.
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