|Therefore, the Americans have targeted the Haqqani network in North Waziristan extensively in recent years, especially since a suicide bomber killed seven senior CIA officers in the Khost area of Afghanistan on December 31, 2009.
While the Americans treat the Haqqani network as an enemy, there are those in the Pakistani establishment who still consider it as a strategic asset and a possible ally in Afghanistan after the exit of US-led forces.
But the embassy attack in Kabul has deeply anno yed the Americans, prompting key US military officials to once again set off a volley of anti-Pakistan statements by publicly accusing Islamabad of "sleeping with the enemy".
After the sweet words that followed the recent arrest of senior al-Qaeda leader Younis al-Mauritania from Pakistan, senior American officials have turned their guns on Pakistan and warned that the US would "do everything it can" to defend American forces from Haqqani militants.
Clearly embarrassed by the Taliban attack, Panetta, a former CIA chief, accused Pakistan on September 15 of not curtailing the Haqqani network. He said his country's response would show Pakistan that the US meant business. "Time and again we have urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis. And we have made very little progress in that area. I think the message the Pakistanis need to know is: we are going to do everything we can to defend our forces."
Panetta said he was concerned about the Haqqanis' ability to attack American troops and then escape back into what is a safe haven in Pakistan, "which is unacceptable".
Panetta has long pressed Islamabad to go after the Haqqanis. "I'm not going to talk about how we're going to respond. I will just let you know that we are not going to allow these kinds of attacks to go on. These kinds of attacks - sporadic attacks and assassination attempts - are more a reflection of the fact that they are losing their ability to be able to attack our forces on a broader scale." Asked whether the Kabul attack raised concerns about the Afghans' ability to take over their own security, Panetta said that overall their response was good.
On September 16, it was the turn of the US ambassador to Islamabad, Cameron Munter, to accuse Pakistan of having ties with the Haqqani network, saying the Kabul attack was the work of the same network. Munter told Radio Pakistan, "There is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop."
Munter's remarks clearly endorsed Panetta's threat that the US could take direct military action against the Haqqani network with or without Pakistan's support, making a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman state, "Any unilateral action on Pakistan's soil will have disastrous ramifications for ties between Islamabad and Washington."
The next one to warn Pakistan was John Brennan, Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser: "The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qaeda as being restricted solely to hot battlefields like Afghanistan. We reserve the right to take unilateral action," he said on September 17.
Three different statements, but the message to Islamabad is clear: take action against the Haqqani network or the US will do it unilaterally.
On the other hand, while responding to these warnings, the Foreign Office spokesman in Islamabad said:
Pakistan is prepared to continue cooperating with the United States in countering terrorism but, at the same time, continuous criticism, like the recent remarks of the US defense secretary are not in line with the cooperation the two countries have agreed to maintain in counter-terrorism.
Washington should be more concerned about the safe havens and sanctuaries inside Afghanistan from where Pakistanis had been attacked. Terrorism and militancy are complex issues and require close cooperation among all concerned. Pakistan and the United States have cooperated in countering terrorism.
But Pakistan's cooperation is premised on respect for Pakistan's sovereignty and entails joint actions. We have raised the issue of safe havens and sanctuaries on the other side of the border in Afghanistan from where militants have launched attacks against our border posts and villages, killing many innocent Pakistani civilians and destroying schools and homes.
During his subsequent meeting with the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, in Spain on the sidelines of a NATO conference, Pakistani army Chief General Kiani reportedly refused to give any commitment to his American counterpart with regard to military action against the Haqqani network.
According to Pakistani media reports, the issue was raised by Mullen. But Kiani told him that the Pakistan army was not in a position to give any time frame for carrying out a military operation in the restive North Waziristan. While citing "capacity constraints", Kiani told Mullen that going after the Haqqani network at this stage would have serious repercussions for Pakistan.
In a speech to NATO chiefs, Kiani virtually ruled out any imminent full-scale action against the Haqqani network. "The army chief reiterated the resolve and commitment of Pakistan in the struggle against terrorism while underlining Pakistan's sovereign right to formulate policy in accordance with its national interests and the wishes of the Pakistani people," an official statement issued by the military said of Kiani's speech.
Meanwhile, Pakistani media have taken contradictory positions on the US demand on Islamabad to act against the Haqqani network. The English daily The Express Tribune said in its September 17 editorial titled Attack in Kabul and beyond:
What Leon Panetta doesn't seem to realize is that there is a rather glaring contradiction at the heart of the American policy in Afghanistan. They are constantly urging Pakistan to do more to tackle the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, even going so far as to demand military action in North Waziristan; while, at the same time, they are negotiating with the Taliban themselves as they prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan.
In an ideal world, Pakistan would be able and willing to take on and destroy the Haqqani network but right now they have no incentive to do so. The US and Pakistan are involved in a crisis of mutual trust in which Pakistan is seen as showing defiance. Given that the US has already announced the date from when they begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the Pakistan military is trying to take steps to ensure that they maintain their influence there. Propping up the Haqqani network to serve our interests in Afghanistan is one such measure. Pakistan fears India will be the dominant regional power in Afghanistan after the Americans leave, and thus sees no qualms in using the Haqqani network as its proxy.
On the other hand, another English daily, The News, said in a September 17 editorial titled Panetta's Warning:
Nobody on this side of the fence has been able to credibly deny that the Haqqani network has its rear echelons quartered in Pakistan. It may be a piece of Pakistan over which the government has little writ or control, but it is undeniably within Pakistan's internationally recognized borders.
The Haqqani network is not a de-facto arm of al-Qaeda, nor does it necessarily have common cause with al-Qaeda, but it has linkages with other terrorist groups and the Taliban operating across the borderlands with Afghanistan. Pakistan's own links with the network, as with so many other groups which are now a liability rather than an asset, hark back to the war against the Russians in Afghanistan ... For Pakistan, the Haqqani network is a headache that has become a migraine. Time, perhaps, for medication.
On his part, Sirajuddin Haqqani tried to rescue Pakistan in a rare phone interview from an undisclosed location with Reuters:
The Haqqani group no longer has sanctuaries in Pakistan, and instead felt secure inside Afghanistan. Gone are the days when we were hiding in the mountains along the Pak-Afghan border. Now we consider ourselves more secure in Afghanistan besides the Afghan people. Senior military and police officials are with us. There are sincere people in the Afghan government who are loyal to the Taliban as they know that our goal is the liberation of our homeland from the clutches of occupying forces.
Asked if the Haqqani network was behind the Kabul assault, Sirajuddin said:
For some reasons, I would not like to claim that fighters of our group had carried out the attack on the US Embassy and the NATO headquarters. Our central leadership, particularly senior members of the shura, suggested I should keep quiet in future if the US and its allies suffer in future.
Asked whether there were 10,000 Haqqani fighters as some media reports have suggested, Sirajuddin laughed and said: "That figure is actually less than the actual number."
To another question, Sirajuddin said his group would take part in peace talks with the Kabul government and the United States only if the Taliban did. He said the group had rejected several peace gestures from the United States and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government in the past because they wanted to create divisions between militant groups.
"They offered us very, very important positions but we rejected [them] and told them they would not succeed in their nefarious designs. They wanted to divide us and any further efforts to do so will also fail," said Sirajuddin, who carries head money of US$5 million, announced by the US which has already tagged him as a specially designated global terrorist.
Amir Mir is a senior Pakistani journalist and the author of several books on the subject of militant Islam and terrorism, the latest being The Bhutto murder trail: From Waziristan to GHQ.
[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English -- Online newspaper focusing on political and economic issues from an "Asian perspective," with over 50 contributors in 17 Asian countries, the United States, and Europe, and a branch office in Bangkok; successor of the Hong Kong/Bangkok-based print daily Asia Times that closed in 1997, it claims an average of 100,000 daily site visitors, with 65% of the audience based in North America, and 22% in the Asia-Pacific region; tends to be critical of the United States; URL: http://www.atimes.com]
Pakistan: Report Says Rabbani's Murder To Affect Relations With Afghanistan
SAP20110921142005 Karachi Ummat in Urdu 21 Sep 11
[Report by Saifullah Khalid: "Rabbani Always Strived for Improving Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations"]
Islamabad -- The murder of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani has deprived Pakistan of its greatest supporter in the Afghan coalition government. It is a major setback for Afghan President Hamid Karzai too, as it will affect his political position.
Rabbani was among the founders of jihad against the Soviet Union. He had a vast circle of friends in Pakistan, who included retired generals as well as political leaders.
Rabbani always spoke in favor of Pakistan despite the obviously pro-Indian attitude of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. He was the only one among this entire coalition who knew the art of understanding others. He always had contacts with Pakistan. In the presence of anti-Pakistan and pro-India leaders like Abdullah Abdullah and Asadullah Halim, Rabbani always spoke well about Pakistan and strived to improve Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. His murder will reinforce Pakistan's loneliness in Kabul's power corridors.
On the other hand, the Pashtun Karzais have lost their reliable and effective Tajik companion, who was regarded as being beyond the Tajik-Pashtun division.
Following the murders of [Hamid Karzai's] brother in 2011 and of a powerful Pashtun coalition partner Jan Muhammad Khan on 17 July, Rabbani's murder is a major political setback for Karzai. At his level, Jan Muhammad was regarded as great a leader as Jalaluddin Haqqani. Following the murders of Jan Muhammad and Burhanuddin Rabbani, Hamid Karzai has lost two of his powerful and effective supporters from among the former mujahidin, which is not only a major political setback for him but is also a golden opportunity for those who design to foment the Tajik-Pashtun conflict in Afghanistan.
The situation in the Afghan capital Kabul appears to be quite adverse these days, as Taliban are relentlessly targeting the high security zone. The US forces appear to be completely helpless against the Taliban. Since 12 June, the Taliban have carried out 10 major attacks in Kabul's high security zone. On the other hand, US coalition forces' intelligence, security, planning, and fighting spirit appear to be failing badly. Observers assert that the murders of Jan Muhammad and Rabbani have deprived the Karzai government of the facility of frank contacts with the Taliban and other anti-government groups.
[Description of Source: Karachi Ummat in Urdu -- Sensationalist, pro-Usama Bin Ladin Urdu daily. Harshly critical of the US, Israel, and India. Propagates Muslim unity to counter US/Western influence. Circulation 20,000. Editor-publisher Rafiq Afghan is an Afghan war veteran.]
AFP: US Pressures Pakistan Over Haqqani Network Ties
SAP20110922049001 Hong Kong AFP in English 0221 GMT 22 Sep 11
[AFP Report: "The Haqqanis: Pakistan Ties and US Fears"]
ISLAMABAD, Sept 22, 2011 (AFP) - The United States is increasing pressure on Pakistan to cut ties with the Haqqani network, probably the most dangerous faction in the Afghan Taliban, founded by a CIA asset turned Al-Qaeda ally.
The United States blames it over some of the most spectacular attacks in Afghanistan, such as last week's 19-hour siege in Kabul and the 2009 killing of seven CIA agents, and accuses Pakistani spies of having ties to the group.
So who are the Haqqanis? Why are the Americans so concerned? How much of a threat do they represent and what exactly is their connection to Pakistan?
The network's founder is Jalaluddin Haqqani, a disciplined Afghan guerrilla leader bankrolled by the United States to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s and now based with his family in Pakistan.
In the 1980s, Jalaluddin was close to the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. He then allied himself to the Taliban after they took power in Kabul in 1996 and restored calm to Afghanistan after the anarchy of civil war.
In Mullah Omar's regime, he served as minister for tribal affairs and the frontier region, Afghanistan's eastern border areas with Pakistan.
As an anti-Soviet fighter, Pakistan considered him a refugee and allowed him to live in the tribal district of North Waziristan. As a member of the Taliban government, he travelled to Islamabad in 2001.
When American troops invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, Haqqani looked up old friends and sought refuge in North Waziristan, becoming one of the first anti-American commanders based in Pakistan's lawless border areas.
"He had bases in North Waziristan and the support of Pashtun tribes along the border during the anti-communist Afghan war. He returned after the fall of the Taliban," says Pakistani tribal affairs expert Rahimullah Yusufzai.
Haqqani has training bases in eastern Afghanistan, is close to Al-Qaeda and loyal to Mullah Omar, exploiting relations with militant groups to target US troops across the Afghan east, the southeast and within the capital Kabul.
Militarily the most capable and most dangerous of the Taliban factions, the network operates independently but remains politically subservient and would fall behind any peace deal negotiated by the Taliban leadership.
Now in his late 70s and frail, Jalaluddin's seat on the Afghan Taliban leadership council has passed to his son Sirajuddin, who effectively runs the Haqqani network's fighting force of at least 2,000 men.
Washington designates both father and son as "global terrorists".
Ties to Al-Qaeda date back to the 1990s, further to Arab fighters who went on to join Al-Qaeda. Yusufzai says Osama bin Laden held a news conference at a Haqqani training camp in the eastern Afghan province of Khost in 1998.
US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter has accused the Pakistani government of links to the Haqqanis and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday renewed blunt demands that Pakistan crack down on Haqqani militants.
And a US Senate committee voted Wednesday to tie Pakistan aid to greater cooperation in fighting the Haqqanis, escalating action against the group with a move that requires approval from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The CIA has already drastically stepped up drone strikes on North Waziristan against Haqqani fighters, and one of Jalaluddin's sons was among those killed.
The Afghan government concurs with US complaints against the Haqqanis and the Pakistanis. Defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP that the network is the "connecting bridge" between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
But Pakistani officials deny any relationship with the Haqqani network and often downplay the group's importance.
The big question is, could Pakistan take on the Haqqanis and win?
Pakistani commanders refuse US calls for an offensive in North Waziristan, arguing that their troops are too overstretched to stir up a new hornet's nest that risks sparking a nationwide backlash in suicide attacks.
Privately, officers warn that Haqqani's fighters -- who do not attack within Pakistan -- are better trained and better armed than the Afghan Taliban's local Pakistani offshoots whom the army has taken on at great cost.
Yusufzai says it would be extremely difficult but argues that under extreme pressure Pakistan could expel the group from North Waziristan.
The Haqqanis maintain that they have no training camps in Pakistan, where the leadership is based, and that all military activity is conducted across the border in Afghanistan.
One regular visitor to North Waziristan likened Sirajuddin to a mafia godfather whose power strikes fear into the hearts of ordinary people.
"Everybody's afraid of the Haqqani network and any militant group that wants to operate in North Waziristan has to have Haqqani's agreement," he told AFP.
Yusufzai says that two of Jalaluddin's brothers, non-fighters Ibrahim and Khalil, often visit Islamabad and that through an intermediary, the Americans made secret contacts with them last year.
Reva Bhalla of global intelligence think-tank STRATFOR says Pakistan, the wider Taliban and the Haqqani network are key to any US negotiation effort to end the 10 years of war in Afghanistan.
"There are multiple differing interests and a number of sub-factions within each of these groups, but they do largely work in concert," she said.
[Description of Source: Hong Kong AFP in English -- Hong Kong service of the independent French press agency Agence France-Presse]
Pakistani Paper Analyzes Structure, Leadership of Haqqani Network
SAP20110922052010 Karachi The Express Tribune Online in English 22 Sep 11
[Report by Zia Khan: Who on earth are the Haqqanis?]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
The Haqqani network is the talk of Washington and Islamabad, seen as pivotal to the endgame in Afghanistan and probably trending on Twitter. However, few seem certain about the exact location and structure of this elusive group.
Allegedly based in the North Waziristan tribal region and in some provinces across the border in Afghanistan, the most lethal of all Taliban insurgent groups has struck serious blows to diplomatic relations between the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The US blames the network for most attacks on international forces based in Afghanistan, including the 2008 assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in the same year and the Kandahar jailbreak earlier this year.
The most serious attack was last week's 20-hour commando-style assault, carried out in Kabul's highly fortified green zone, on the American embassy and the country headquarters of Nato. The US also claims the network was behind this attack.
What is the Haqqani network and what makes it, as officials in Washington have put it, the most dangerous group on earth?
The answer to these questions, according to experts on the issue, lies in understanding the organisational structure, combat capabilities, fundraising abilities and cross-border sanctuaries it has on either side of the Durand Line.
Jalaluddin Haqqani founded the group, deriving strength from his Zadran tribe, but he no longer has daily operational command over the group.
"His role in fact is limited to the spiritual guidance of the associates ... he is the binding force that keep them together," said Brigadier (Retd) Muhammad Saad, an expert on Taliban insurgency. "He is too old and too frail to lead the group."
In January it was reported that Jalaluddin, also known as Khalifa or Caliph among his group, died of natural causes in the Khost province of Afghan. The news was later proved to be untrue and his current whereabouts are unknown.
His son Sirajuddin Haqqani is now leading the group.
Siraj, however, does not have total control. His role, besides being the overall head, is limited to non-military strategic issues. His remit is largely political and includes negotiations with other groups and dealing with authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"He hardly deals with the group's military issues," said a commander belonging to the network by telephone from Mirali, a town in North Waziristan where it supposedly has a strong presence.
A rallying figure in tribal badlands
Siraj is such a powerful figure due to the respect he commands from other groups, such as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, in tribal areas. "It looks like he is the one magnet everybody wants to stick to," said Fida Khan, an Islamabad-based journalist who has been covering militancy in Pakistan for a Japanese publication for more than a decade.
"From the militants' perspective, Siraj is the most charismatic leader acceptable to all," wrote slain Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shehzad in an article last year.
But the network is not all about Siraj, though the Haqqani family tries to controls most of its activities. The group is divided into broader categories for specific objectives and members have well-defined roles.
Sangeen Zadran and Baduruddin Haqqani
Mullah Sangeen Zadran is the network's main military commander. "He is the man," said a fighter from the group about Sangeen, who reportedly has thousands of volunteers under his control.
According to some reports, Sangeen is the nephew of Jalaluddin and belongs to the Zadran tribe from which the Haqqani family hails. There is no confirmation of this, however.
Sangeen, though, must defer to Badaruddin Haqqani, one of Siraj's younger brothers. This seems another example of the Haqqanis' conscious attempts to keep control within their fam ily.