Haqqani Network Influence in Kurram and its Implications for Afghanistan (CTC Sentinel)

This article was originally published at the CTC Sentinel, a product of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Sentinel Volume 4 Issue 3

Haqqani Network Influence in Kurram and its Implications for Afghanistan

By Jeffrey Dressler

The Haqqani Network is one of Afghanistan’s most capable insurgent groups. Based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency, the Haqqani network’s senior leadership directs the insurgency in Afghanistan’s southeastern provinces of Khost, Paktika, and Paktia. The network is important not only because of its tactical and operational proficiency, but because it links foreign terrorists, such as al-Qa`ida, to operations inside Afghanistan.

In the last few years, however, the Haqqani network has come under growing pressure in North Waziristan. The group has been targeted by repeated drone strikes in Miran Shah, and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has severed a number of the network’s infiltration routes in southern Khost and eastern Paktika. According to the outgoing commander of U.S. forces in southeastern Afghanistan, this increased pressure has made it difficult for the senior Haqqani leadership to direct and provide resources to the insurgency in the southeast.1 Meanwhile, the United States has prodded Pakistani security forces to launch full-scale operations in North Waziristan targeting the Haqqanis, as well as the affiliated national and transnational terrorists they harbor.2 Thus far, Pakistan’s military has largely failed to launch such operations despite international pressure.3

In response to attacks on its North Waziristan bases, the Haqqanis, under the leadership of Sirajuddin and Badruddin Haqqani (sons of the infamous mujahidin commander Jalaluddin Haqqani), have expanded their Pakistan-based sanctuary into Kurram Agency. They have accomplished this with the help of myriad other insurgent and terrorist groups, and some allege with the aid of the Pakistani security establishment.4 Recent Haqqani interference in Kurram and the network’s brokering of a peace deal between long-feuding Sunni and Shi`a tribes in the region have important implications for U.S. efforts in eastern Afghanistan, the Haqqani network’s ties with al-Qa`ida-affiliated groups, and the international community’s tenuous relationship with Pakistan.

This article explains the strategic significance of Kurram, and then examines how the Haqqani network has been able to increase its influence in this tribal agency by exploiting sectarian tensions.

To read the rest of this article, please visit CTC Sentinel Vol. 4 Issue 3

1 U.S. Colonel Viet Luong, news briefing, teleconference from Afghanistan, U.S. Department of Defense, December 28, 2010.
2 Jeffrey Dressler, “The Afghan Insurgent Group that Will Not Negotiate,” The Atlantic, October 25, 2010.
3 Baqir Sajjad Syed, “US Patience on N. Waziristan Wearing Thin, Warns Biden,” The News International, January 13, 2011.

4 There is no direct evidence linking the Pakistani security establishment to the Haqqani network’s expansion in Kurram. Many Western analysts, however, believe that the Pakistani security establishment is likely offering some assistance to the Haqqani network, as they see the group as a potential proxy force for gaining influence in Afghanistan after the eventual departure of international troops.