The Taliban appointed a top leader of the Haqqani Network, who was previously in U.S. custody, to serve as the group’s governor of the eastern province of Logar.
Haji Mali Khan was appointed by the Taliban to govern Logar on Nov. 7. Khan is an uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s current Minister of Interior and deputy emir who also leads the Al Qaeda and Pakistan-linked Haqqani network. Sirajuddin Haqqani is arguably the most powerful and influential Taliban leader and has also been described by the United Nations Sanction and Monitoring Team as “an Al Qaeda Leader.”
Khan is also the brother-in-law of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the deceased founder and patriarch of the Haqqani Network who helped Osama bin Laden return to Afghanistan in 1996 and was a key figure in cementing Al Qaeda and Taliban ties.
Khan was captured by the U.S. military in Sept. 2011 during a raid in the district of Musa Khel, a Haqqani Network stronghold in Khost province. After his capture, the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, then NATO’s command in Afghanistan, described Khan as “one of the highest ranking members of the Haqqani Network and a revered elder of the Haqqani clan.”
Khan “worked directly under Siraj Haqqani,” who at the time of his capture was the the operational commander of the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network as well as the head of the Taliban’s Miramshah Shura, of the group’s key regional commands, ISAF noted in 2011.
Jalaluddin Haqqani “consistently placed Mali Khan in positions of high importance,” ISAF said, which also described him as a “top commander in Afghanistan.” Khan “managed bases and had oversight of operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.” In the year before he was captured, Khan established bases for Haqqani Network fighters in the Mangal tribal areas of Paktia province. He also facilitated the movement of Taliban and allied jihadist forces from Pakistan to Afghanistan, financed terrorist operations, and served as a logistics coordinator.
One of Khan’s duties included acting as an “an emissary between the late Baitullah Mehsud and senior leaders within the Haqqani leadership.” Baitullah led the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan before he was killed in a U.S. Predator airstrike in Aug. 2009. Baitullah received advice and direction from Al Qaeda when forming the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
More than eight years after his capture by U.S. forces, Khan was freed by the Afghan government in Nov. 2019 along with two other senior Haqqani Network leaders: Anas Haqqani, Sirajuddin’s brother and a key leader, and Qari Abdul Rasheed Omari, who served as the Taliban’s military commander in southeastern Afghanistan. Both Anas and Omar were detained in Oct. 2014 while traveling in the Persian Gulf.
The three Haqqani leaders were freed in exchange for American University of Afghanistan professors Kevin King and Timothy Weeks, who were kidnapped by the Haqqani Network in Kabul in Aug. 2016.
Khan is one of several key Haqqani Network leaders to be appointed to top level posts in the Taliban’s new government. In addition to Sirajuddin, who is the minister of interior, Khalil al Rahman Haqqani is the minister of refugees, Mullah Taj Mir Jawad is the first deputy of intelligence, and Mohammad Nabi Omari, who is the governor of Khost.
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