The Taliban has issued a second statement denying any role in the deadly Kabul bombing on May 31. No group has claimed credit for the attack. But the Taliban was quick to defend the Haqqani Network after the Afghan government alleged that its men were responsible. In so doing, the Taliban again affirmed that the Haqqanis are an integral part of its organization — not an independent faction.
Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) has blamed the Haqqani Network and the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment, which has long backed the Taliban, for the massive bombing near the diplomatic area of Kabul.
“These terrorists once again proved they don’t represent any religion and they only carry out such coward attacks to please their Pakistani masters which is against all Islamic and human rights” principles, the NDS said in a statement, according to Sky News.
The Taliban responded on June 1 via a statement issued on its Voice of Jihad website, directly addressing the claims made by the NDS. (The group had previously denied any involvement within hours of the attack. The denial may be self-serving, as the Taliban is concerned with how attacks targeting civilians are perceived.)
“After the Islamic Emirate denied all involvement following yesterday’s blast in Kabul and condemned the incident, the spy agency of Kabul – in order to hide its failure and plots of their masters as well as to confuse common thinking – quickly alleged that the incident was the work of Islamic Emirate especially of Haqqani Sahib’s Mujahideen!!?,” the June 1 statement reads.
“We once again reject all allegations about involvement of Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate in the Kabul incident,” the message continues. “None of our Mujahideen including those of Haqqani Sahib had any role in this event and neither does the killing of civilians benefit the Islamic Emirate.” (Emphasis added.)
“Haqqani Sahib” is a reference to either Jalaluddin Haqqani or his son, Sirajuddin, who is the operational leader of the Haqqani Network. Sirajuddin also serves as one of the Taliban’s two deputy emirs.
The Taliban has long maintained that the Haqqani Network does not operate independently and that the concept of a separate entity is a western construct. Any uncertainty concerning the Haqqanis’ role within the Taliban should have been put to rest when Mullah Mansour — the successor to the Taliban’s founder and first leader, Mullah Omar — appointed Sirajuddin as one of his two top deputies in 2015.
After Mansour was killed in May 2016, Mullah Habaitullah Akhundzada was selected as the Taliban’s new emir. Habaitullah, who still serves as the group’s leader, also appointed Sirajuddin as one of his two most senior deputies. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, The Taliban’s new leadership is allied with al Qaeda and Taliban names Mullah Haibatullah as new emir.]
In 2012, Sirajuddin himself denied claims that the Haqqani Network is a separate entity, instead describing his followers as one of many “fronts” within the Taliban.
“There is no truth to such claims and rumors at all; they are part of the war of rumors by the enemies of Islam,” Siraj said in the Sept. 2012 edition of Al Samoud, an official Taliban magazine. “We are one of the fronts of the Islamic Emirate, and we do jihad in the cause of Allah under its banner, and we are proud of our pledge to its Emir [then Mullah Omar] and we carry out its orders and all its regulations,” Siraj continued. “All formations and the employment figures with us are by the Islamic Emirate, and we obey completely in good deeds the Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar…”
Siraj’s explanation of the Haqqanis’ role within the Taliban is identical to that of other senior leaders. Jalaluddin, his father, told Al Samoud in a 2008 interview that “all the Mujahideen wage jihad under the leadership of the Ameer ul-Momineen Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahid against the American invaders and their lackeys.”
“There is no crisis (of division) under the names moderate or extremist among the Mujahideen,” Jalaluddin continued. “They all fight under a unified leadership.”
During the interview, Jalaluddin also stated that he is “a member of the High Council of the Islamic Emirate,” which is known as the Quetta Shura. The Taliban affirmed several times since the 2008 interview that Jalaluddin was a member of the Quetta Shura. Jalaluddin, who has held senior positions within the Taliban, swore his allegiance to Mullah Omar in the 1990s.
Mullah Sangeen Zadran, one of Siraj’s top lieutenants and the Taliban’s shadow governor in Paktika province, has also denied that the Haqqanis are a separate group. Zadran explained the relationship during an interview published in Al Samoud in Jan. 2012.
“It [a supposed division between the Haqqani Network and the Taliban] is a rumor war that the broadcast stations of the enemy and its media centers are waging,” Sangeen said. “I assure you with all confidence that all the mujahideen of the Emirate are united under the leadership of the Emir of the Believers Mullah Mohammed Omar, may Allah the Almighty preserve him, and he is the one who guides this battle in all the land, and his honest leadership is taking the jihadi movement towards the anticipated victory, Allah the Almighty willing.”
In September 2012, the Taliban released a statement on their website declaring that there is “no separate entity or network in Afghanistan by the name of Haqqani.”
“The honorable Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani is a member of the Leadership Council of Islamic Emirate and is a close, loyal and trusted associate of the esteemed Amir-ul-Mumineen [leader of the faithful, Mullah Omar] and those Mujahideen entrusted under the command of his sons are in fact the heroic Mujahideen of [the] Islamic Emirate who like other Mujahideen strictly obey the esteemed Amir-ul-Mumineen and wage Jihad against the invaders throughout the country,” the Taliban said.
In Dec. 2016, the Taliban released a lengthy video containing clips of Sirajuddin. That same video celebrated the historical alliance between the Taliban and al Qaeda. Jalaluddin Haqqani was one of Osama bin Laden’s earliest allies in the region, providing the al Qaeda founder with crucial local support. Sirajuddin has his own strong ties to al Qaeda. Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound highlight the degree to which al Qaeda’s men cooperate with Siraj and his forces inside Afghanistan.