Taliban decries US designation of ‘low-ranking ‘ Haqqani Network commander

Yesterday, the Taliban reacted to the US designation of Abdul Aziz Haqqani, who was listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on Aug. 25. The Taliban disputed the US claim that Aziz is a senior leader in the Taliban and argued, as it has in the past, that its members “do not nor have any plans to interact with America” and therefore the imposed sanctions are ineffective.

State described Aziz as “a senior member of the Haqqani Network and brother to Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani,” who is the operational commander of the Taliban branch as well as the Taliban’s deputy emir. The Taliban said otherwise, and claimed Aziz is “a low-ranking Mujahid of Islamic Emirate, the student of knowledge Hafiz Abdul Aziz.”

With respect to the impact of sanctioning Aziz, this was the Taliban response:

The defeated Americans must realize that blacklisting Mujahideen and putting bounties on their head is now an expired formula. Our Mujahideen do not nor have any plans to interact with America where such ridiculous sanctions might have an effect. Such talk and warnings by America will never have an effect on the Jihadi determination of the Mujahideen.

The Taliban has responded in similar fashion when the US added three Haqqani Network leaders (Saidullah Jan, Yahya Haqqani, and Muhammad Omar Zadran) as SDGTs in February 2014. At that time, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the sanctions are ineffective as the Haqqani leaders do not “have trade relationships with America nor any accounts in their interest plagued banks which could be effected [sic] by these superficial seizures.”

The Taliban are technically correct; US designations have done little to stop the Taliban from obtaining financial support or conducting its activities. But from the standpoint of The Long War Journal, the designations are at the very least a useful tool in identifying senior Taliban leaders and helping the public to understand the nature of the networks.

Additionally, another Taliban theme has been repeated in the condemnation of the designations and offering of rewards for Haqqani Network leaders and commanders.

In August 2014, when the US placed bounties on Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, Abdul Rauf Zakir, Yahya, and Aziz, the Taliban responded by saying:

We believe that this announcement has clearly demonstrated the weakness and defeat of the defeated American authorities as they are facing it in the field of battles, politics and in sustaining the moribund regime. This act has proved that the Americans are now trying to hide their defeat through such propaganda wiles.

Yesterday, the Taliban stated that:

The Islamic Emirate considers this act by the defeated Americans as a clear sign of their weakness and requests all its Mujahideen to intensify their Jihad and Jihadi activities in order to force them out of Afghanistan.

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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