US adds Haqqani Network commander to list of global terrorists

haqq02.jpgPictured, from left to right: Abdul Aziz Haqqani, Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, Yahya Haqqani, and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Images from Rewards for Justice.

The US added a brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban and operational leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, to its list of Specially Designated Global terrorists. The State Department had previously offered a $5 million reward for Abdul Aziz Haqqani for targeting Coalition troops and leading the Kabul Attack Network.

State described Aziz as “a senior member of the Haqqani Network and brother to Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.” Aziz replaced Badruddin Haqqani, his brother, who was killed in a US drone strike in August 2012, as a senior military commander.

“For several years, Aziz Haqqani has been involved in planning and carrying out improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against Afghan government targets, and assumed responsibility for all major Haqqani Network attacks after the death of his brother, Badruddin Haqqani,” State continued.

State first drew attention to Aziz in August 2014, when its Rewards for Justice program offered a $5 million reward for him and three other commanders – Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, Yahya Haqqani, and Abdul Rauf Zakir – and upped the reward for Siraj to $10 million. While Aziz was not listed as a global terrorist at the time the reward was issued, Siraj, Zakir, Yahya, and Khalil were.

Rewards for Justice said that Aziz “is involved in logistical operations and command decisions involving cross-border attacks on ISAF and Afghan forces.” Additionally, Aziz “also plays a key role in HQN’s [Haqqani Network’s] operations in Kabul and in major attacks throughout Afghanistan.” This means that Aziz is a senior leader in what the US military used to call the Kabul Attack Network.

While State did not indicate that Aziz is linked to al Qaeda, his role as an operational commander for the Haqqani Network and the Kabul Attack Network means that he has ties to the global jihadist organization. The Kabul Attack Network pools resources from the Taliban (which the Haqqani Network belongs to), al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and other jihadist groups.

Historically the Haqqanis have been closely allied to al Qaeda and have supported and sheltered members of the terrorist group in their safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Aziz’s brother, Siraj, is one of two deputies to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who just two weeks ago accepted al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri’s oath of allegiance. Aziz’s father, Jalaluddin, is a member of the Taliban’s top leadership council, the Quetta Shura. Jalaluddin endorsed Mansour as the Taliban’s new emir. And files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound reveal the depth of the collusion between the Haqqanis and al Qaeda. [See LWJ report, The Taliban’s new leadership is allied with al Qaeda, for more information on the close ties between the two groups.]

Aziz is the first Haqqani Network leader who has been listed as a global terrorist since February 2014, when the US added Saidullah Jan, a senior commander and financier; Yahya Haqqani, a senior leader involved with “military, financial, and propaganda activities”; and Muhammad Omar Zadran, a military commander.

Top Haqqani Network leaders designated as global terrorists:

Since 2008, 14 top Haqqani Network leaders have been placed on the list; six of them were designated in 2011. All of them have ties to al Qaeda. Two of them were killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan, one was gunned down in Pakistan, and one was captured by US forces in Afghanistan. They are listed below in the order in which they were designated.

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 terrorist list in July 2010. Nasiruddin was 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. Nasiruddin was gunned down in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad in November 2013.

Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, Siraj’s uncle, was added to the US’ 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 sat on the Miramshah Shura, was an operational commander of the Haqqani Network, and provided support to al Qaeda and allied terror groups. Badruddin was killed in a US drone strike in August 2012.

Fazl Rabi was added to the list of designated terrorists in June 2011. Rabi is a key financial official for both the Taliban and the Haqqani Network who has also aided the terror group in executing suicide attacks in Afghanistan and has traveled to the Gulf countries to raise money for Jalaluddin and Siraj.

Ahmed Jan Wazir was added to the list of designated terrorists in June 2011 along with Fazl Rabi. Wazir serves as a deputy, adviser, and spokesman for Siraj; has represented the Haqqani Network at the Quetta Shura; and has close ties to al Qaeda’s network in Ghazni.

Mullah Sangeen Zadran, who served as a senior lieutenant to Siraj and as 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 was considered to be one of the most dangerous operational commanders in eastern Afghanistan. Sangeen had organized numerous assaults on US and Afghan combat outposts in the region. His followers were holding Bowe Bergdahl, the only US soldier who was been captured alive in the Afghan theater. Sangeen had professed his support for al Qaeda and recently called on Turkish and Kurdish jihadists to join the fight in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Mullah Sangeen was killed in a US drone strike in September 2013.

Haji Mali Khan, who has been described by the US military as “one of the highest ranking members of the Haqqani Network and a revered elder of the Haqqani clan,” was added on Nov. 1, 2011. Khan was captured by US special operations forces during a raid on Sept. 27, 2011 in the Musa Khel district in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost.

Bakht Gul, an important Haqqani Network communications official who works directly for Badruddin as his chief of staff, was designated on May 17, 2012. Gul relayed operational orders from Badruddin Haqqani to fighters in Afghanistan, aids in “the movement of Haqqani insurgents, foreign fighters, and weapons,” and has handed out funds to commanders traveling to Afghanistan, State said.

Qari Zakir, the head of the Haqqani Network’s suicide operations in Afghanistan as well as the group’s operational commander in Kabul, Takhar, Kunduz, and Baghlan provinces, was designated on Nov. 5, 2012. Qari Zakir is considered to be a close advisor to Siraj, and also runs the network’s training program.

Saidullah Jan, a senior leader who has served as the commander of the group’s Northern Zone in Afghanistan and as a logistician, was designated on Feb. 5, 2014. He is “trusted by al Qaeda” and has traveled to Saudi Arabia with other Haqqani Network leaders to fundraise for the group.

Yahya Haqqani, a senior leader who has served as acting emir as well as a key financier and logistician, was designated on Feb. 5, 2014. He has close ties to al Qaeda, and often serves as a liaison with al Qaeda operatives in the region. He also supports Qari Zakir, the Haqqani Network’s chief of suicide operations.

Muhammad Omar Zadran, a military commander who is a member of the Miranshah Regional Military Shura, was designated on Feb. 5, 2014. He coordinates operations with the Taliban and supports suicide operations.

Aziz Haqqani, a military commander, was designated on Aug. 25, 2015. He replaced his brother, Badruddin, “and assumed responsibility for all major Haqqani Network attacks.”

Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is the father of Siraj, Nasiruddin, Aziz, and Badruddin and also the brother of Khalil, 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 he served on the Taliban’s executive council, which is known as the Quetta Shura.

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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