Analysis: Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani becomes a statesman 

While the world was transfixed over the civilian body count during a daring Israeli Defense Force raid that rescued four hostages who were held by Hamas, a designated terrorist was taking his first summer vacation in years. 

On June 5, Sirajuddin Haqqani accomplished what his father never could: international legitimacy. Traveling as the Minister of Interior, Siraj, along with his brother, Anas, and Abdul Haq Wassiq, the Taliban’s Spy Chief who is also a UN-sanctioned terrorist, Qari Ashraf, Mullah Muhammad Fazel Mazloom, and others, received the type of treatment one would expect from a statesmen instead of a man who is responsible for killing thousands of American service members. 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, warmly greeted Haqqani at the Emirati Capital. The state-run media made sure to proclaim the historic event, proclaiming:

“The two sides discussed strengthening the bonds of cooperation between the two countries and ways to enhance ties to serve mutual interests and contribute to regional stability,” WAM said. “The discussions focused on economic and development fields, as well as support for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan.”

This wasn’t some type of clandestine flight arranged behind closed doors. Siraj even convinced the United Nations to lift his travel restrictions, as did Abdul Kabir Mohammad Jan, Abdul-Haq Wassiq, and Noor Mohammad Saqib. According to unverified reports, Siraj may have met with US security officials. 

But Siraj, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist whose Haqqani Network is listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, wasn’t quite done with his summer vacation. On June 7, Siraj, the man who butchered tens of thousands of Afghans, conducted his very first Hajj. Again, this wasn’t done in secrecy. Instead, he filmed the entire event

“Haqqani will use his visit to Mecca as a signal to other terrorists of his commitment to Islam,” Maj (ret) Jason Howk, a Professor of Islamic Studies at the Air Force Special Operations School, told FDD’s Long War Journal. “And his meetings in UAE and Saudi Arabia are a sign of his recognition as a respected leader of Afghanistan by Arab leaders.”

First, it’s hard to imagine how the Biden administration was unaware of Siraj’s trips to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, considering he traveled to two countries that house American servicemembers. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates host the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing at Prince Sultan Airbase and the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Abu Dhafra, respectively. Both Wings make up the majority of the 8,000 servicemembers in both countries.

Second, it seems all but inevitable that the United States is on the path toward recognizing the Taliban. For some mysterious reason, will there be another Doha conference next week? For those keeping track, that’s affectionately called Doha III. Even though the Taliban repeatedly broke the Doha Agreement throughout both the Trump and Biden administrations by attacking American forces and maintaining their alliance with Al Qaeda, the international community will attempt yet again to reach a consensus with a terrorist organization that continues to kill former Afghan security forces.

“I don’t understand how with [Siraj’s] known ties to Al Qaeda and his harboring of Ayman al Zawahiri –whom we eliminated in his guest house– he can freely travel to countries that are US allies?” Lebanese-American counterterrorism expert Sara Harmouch told FDD’s Long War Journal.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Biden administration is leaning into its relationship with the Taliban as a way to counter the Islamic State of Khorasan Province’s threat. However, despite this whirlwind romance, ISKP is still plotting attacks, as the recent arrest of eight Tajiks with potential ties to ISKP underscores. 

With Haqqani on the loose and the Islamic State sending fighters through our southern border, it is no wonder than some analysts are concerned that the terrorism warning lights are flashing red.

Will Selber is a retired Middle East Foreign Area Officer who deployed for over four and half years to Iraq and Afghanistan. Will is a contributor to the Bulwark and the co-founder of Grumpy Combat Veteran.

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