Today under Executive Order 13224, the State Department added Haji Mali Khan, a top Haqqani Network leader who is currently in US custody, to the list of specially designated global terrorists. The designation allows the US to freeze Khan’s assets and prohibits others from engaging in financial transactions with him.
The State Department described Khan as “a Haqqani Network commander” who has “overseen hundreds of fighters, and has instructed his subordinates to conduct terrorist acts.”
“Mali Khan has provided support and logistics to the Haqqani Network, and has been involved in the planning and execution of attacks in Afghanistan against civilians, coalition forces, and Afghan police,” the State Department designation continued. “In June 2011, Mali Khan’s deputy provided support to the suicide bombers responsible for the attacks on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. The attack resulted in the death of 12 people.”
Khan also has links to al Qaeda, Jason Blazakis, the chief of the US State Department’s Terrorist Designations Unit, told The Long War Journal.
Khan was captured by US special operations forces during a raid on Sept. 27 in Musa Khel district in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost. Also captured were his deputy, his bodyguard, and and an unspecified number of “insurgents,” according to to the International Security Assistance Force.
ISAF described Khan as “one of the highest ranking members of the Haqqani Network and a revered elder of the Haqqani clan.” He “worked directly under Siraj Haqqani,” the operational commander of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network. Khan is Siraj’s maternal uncle. Siraj’s father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, the patriarch of the family, “consistently placed Mali Khan in positions of high importance,” ISAF said.
One of Khan’s duties included acting as an “an emissary between the late Baitullah Mehsud and senior leaders within the Haqqani leadership.” Baitullah, who was also closely tied to al Qaeda, led the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan before he was killed in a US Predator airstrike in August 2009.
As the top commander in Afghanistan, Khan “managed bases and had oversight of operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan,” ISAF stated. In the past year, Khan established bases for Haqqani Network fighters in the Mangal tribal areas of Paktia. He also facilitated the movement of forces from Pakistan to Afghanistan, financed terrorist operations, and served as a logistics coordinator for forces in the field.
Top Haqqani Network leaders designated as terrorists by the US
Haji Mali Khan is the latest senior Haqqani Network leader to be added to the US’s list of specially designated global terrorists. Five other top Haqqani Network leaders have been placed on the list since 2008; three of them have been designated in the last year.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the overall leader of the Haqqani Network as well as the leader of the Taliban’s Miramshah Regional Military Shura, was designated by the State Department as a terrorist in March 2008; and in March 2009, the State Department put out a bounty of $5 million for information leading to his capture. US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal that Siraj is a member of al Qaeda’s top council. In April 2010, Siraj said that cooperation between al Qaeda fighters and the Taliban “is at the highest limits.”
Nasiruddin Haqqani, one of Siraj’s brothers, was placed on the US’s terrorist list in July 2010. Nasiruddin is a key financier and “emissary” for the Haqqani Network, and is known to have 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.
Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, Siraj’s uncle, was added to the US’s list of terrorists in February 2011. Khalil is a key fundraiser, financier, and operational commander for the Haqqani Network, and has been crucial in aiding and supporting al Qaeda’s military, the Lashkar al Zil or Shadow Army.
Badruddin Haqqani, another one of Siraj’s brothers, was designated by the State Department on May 11, 2011. Badruddin sits on the Miramshah Shura, is an operational commander of the Haqqani Network, and provides support to al Qaeda and allied terror groups.
Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a senior lieutenant to Siraj and the Taliban’s shadow governor for Paktika province in Afghanistan, was added to the list of designated terrorists on Aug. 16, 2011. US military officials have told The Long War Journal that Sangeen is considered to be one of the most dangerous operational commanders in eastern Afghanistan and has organized multiple assaults on US and Afghan combat outposts in the region.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is the father of Siraj, Nasiruddin, and Badruddin and also the brother of Khalil, has not been added to the US’s 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 he served on the Taliban’s executive council, which is known as the Quetta Shura.
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 2010 assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in June 2011 and the attack on the US Embassy and ISAF headquarters in September. Shortly after the attack, 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.”
The US military has been hunting top Haqqani Network commanders in special operations raids in the Afghan east, while the CIA has targeted the network with a series of unmanned Predator airstrikes in Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan. Both Siraj and Sangeen have been the targets of past strikes. Mohammed Haqqani, a mid-level Haqqani Network military commander and a brother of Siraj, was killed in a Predator airstrike in February 2010.
Just last month, the Predators were successful in killing Jan Baz Zadran, who was considered to be the Haqqani Network’s third in command, during an Oct. 13 airstrike in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan. Jan Baz was a powerful leader in the Haqqani Network. He was believed to be the top aide to the network’s operational commander, Sirajuddin Haqqani. Jan Baz served as the Haqqani Network’s logistical and financial coordinator, and also acquired weapons and ammunition for the network. He is thought to be the most senior Haqqani Network leader killed or captured since the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
While the US is targeting the Haqqani Network in military operations and with financial sanctions, it also seeks to negotiate with the terror group to help end the insurgency in Afghanistan. The US is pursuing a policy of “fight, talk, build” with the Haqqanis and other Taliban groups. US officials are said to have met with Ibrahim Haqqani in August as he was visiting the United Arab Emirates, in an attempt to gauge the Haqqani Network’s willingness to negotiate. Siraj Haqqani has publicly said the group will not negotiate with the US and would only do so under the banner of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.