Haqqani Network


For the most current information on the Haqqani Network, please read Afghanistan Report 6- The  Haqqani Network: From Pakistan to Afghanistan by Jeffrey Dressler.

Named after its leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Haqqani Network is a group within the insurgency in Afghanistan that is based out of North Wazirstan in the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The group has been active mainly in the east of Afghanistan—in Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni Wardak and even Kabul provinces.




The group is still believed to be led by the old (estimated over sixty years) and ailing Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani. Mawlawi Haqqani is a former anti-Soviet resistance commander known for ruthless effectiveness as a fighter.  His ties to Pakistan, and his base in and around Miram Shah, go as far back as his exile during the Republican government of Sardar Daud in early 1970s.  He was initially a part of the many mujahideen leaders that formed Hizb-e-Islami. When Hezb-e Islami fractured in the late 1970s, Haqqani followed Yunis Khalis rather than Hekmatyar, and became one of the most important commanders in the Hezb-e Islami (Khalis) or HIK.  When Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan, Haqqani was in Pakistan with the other key mujahideen leaders.  Haqqani later became a field commander in Mawlawi Yunis Khalis’s Hizb-e-Islami.  He received significant support from the CIA and from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), and built up a sizable and competent militia force by the mid-1980s. Haqqani is believed to be influenced by radical Islamist principles drawn from the early Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt , which were prevalent among many of the religiously-motivated Afghan mujahideen of that time.  Mawlawi Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani run a number of madrassas and training camps in North Wazirstan.1  Due to his father’s ill health, Sirajuddin Haqqani is reported to be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the movement.

The Haqqanis hail from the Zadran qaum (tribe), who are mostly based in Paktia and Khost provinces in the east of Afghanistan.   Their support base has always been in that area with a base in the FATA’s North Wazirstan.


The Battles for Khost, 1985-1987


The mujahideen had isolated the Soviet/Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) garrison at Khost early in the war, taking advantage of the fact that there is only one major road linking Khost with the rest of Afghanistan—the Khost-Gardez road that runs through the Satekandav Pass.  In summer 1985, Haqqani gathered several thousand fighters and assaulted the city of Khost itself, overrunning Soviet and DRA outposts and requiring a significant Soviet counter-attack to save the city.2  Heavy fighting continued in 1986, including operations during which Haqqani was reportedly burned by napalm while leading his soldiers.3  On each occasion, Haqqani and other key leaders in his group withdrew to Waziristan when it became clear that the temporary Soviet firepower would overwhelm them if they continued to resist.  The Soviets lacked any overall operational concept for their efforts in the Greater Paktia area (and, generally, in the war), and never attempted to maintain military dominance in the area over the long term.

In 1987, the Soviet leadership decided to undertake a major effort to open the Khost-Gardez road long enough to get supplies in to the town and its garrison.  Operation MAGISTRAL (MAINLINE), as it was called, was the major Soviet military effort of that year, overseen directly by Colonel General Boris Gromov, commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan.  Gromov made numerous attempts to negotiate with Haqqani and Zadran tribal elders to secure safe passage for supplies to Khost without fighting.  It is not clear whether or not Haqqani himself participated in negotiations, but Zadran tribal elders certainly did and they drew out the discussions intentionally to allow time for their forces to react.  Two weeks of hard fighting allowed the Soviet forces to secure the Satekandav Pass.  The arrival of Soviet reinforcements and the elimination of a key insurgent base convinced Haqqani to withdraw his forces temporarily. The Soviets resupplied the garrison and then withdrew from the area.4  By 1989, all Soviet forces had withdrawn from the country.

Haqqani had consolidated his military position in Greater Paktia, establishing a Shura (Council) to coordinate military operations in the area, but he did not attempt to establish political control as Ismail Khan did in western Afghanistan.  Nor was he able to extend his reach by forming regional coalitions, as Ahmad Shah Masood did in the north.5  His forces were, however, able to capture Khost in 1991 from the communist government of Dr. Mohammad Najibullah—becoming the first mujahideen commander to seize and hold a major Afghan city after the Soviet withdrawal.  (The final assault on the city was led by his brother Ibrahim Haqqani. Jalaluddin was in Miram Shah at that point.)  Haqqani received a ministry in the new government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, but defected to the Taliban in 1995.6

The relationship between Haqqani and the Taliban government was not smooth.  Haqqani is a member of the Ghilzai tribe of Pashtuns, whose lands lie generally east of Kandahar, whereas the Taliban leadership was largely from the Durrani tribe and particularly from sub-tribes around Kandahar itself.  Ghilzais prided themselves on the role they had played in defeating the Soviets, and Haqqani and other Ghilzais resented the primacy of the Kandahari Taliban.  Haqqani received a large sum of money to recruit soldiers after the Taliban's massive 1997 defeat in Mazar-e Sharif, but tensions with the Kandahari officers he was assigned, among other things, led to mass desertions from among his forces.7 He nevertheless remained loyal to the Taliban government, becoming Minister of Tribal Affairs. In late September 2001, Mullah Omar appointed Haqqani the commander-in-chief of the Taliban armed forces.9


Arab/al-Qaida ties


Haqqani speaks fluent Arabic and one of his two wives is from the United Arab Emirates10  – assets that have helped him raise a great deal of money from Saudi Arabia and individuals in the Persian Gulf. He also frequently travels to Gulf Arab states, where he is highly respected and has key contacts from the times of the anti-Soviet war.11  Haqqani established a close relationship with Osama Bin Laden in the 1980s and:  “It's not a coincidence that the first camps that bin Laden created in Afghanistan, Lion's Den and some related infrastructure that he started to build, were in Haqqani's territory.”12  The Haqqanis currently run a network of religious seminaries and training bases of Afghan and foreign fighters in North and South Waziristan.13  A U.S. military spokesman in eastern Afghanistan, Maj. Chris Belcher, has accused the Haqqanis of inviting foreign fighters from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Turkey and Middle Eastern countries into Afghanistan.14 


Pakistan Connection


Haqqani’s connection with the ISI dates back to the times of the Soviet jihad. According to U.S. Special Envoy and Ambassador to Afghanistan (1989-1992), Peter Tomsen, the ISI has maintained its Jihad era ties with Haqqani.15  Right after the U.S. invasion in October 2001, Haqqani was invited to Islamabad for talks about a post-Taliban government.16  In a transcript passed to Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence in May 2008, Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani was heard referring to Haqqani as “a strategic asset.”17  A top ISI official was reported to have held talks with Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of Jalaluddin’s sons who has replaced him as the leader of the movement due to his father’s ill-health, in Miranshah of North Waziristan in early March 2009.18  In a prisoner exchange with Pakistani Taliban led by Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani government released three family members of the Haqqani family in November 2007 – Haqqani’s brother Khalil Ahmad, son Dr. Fazl-i-Haqqani and brother-in-law Ghazi Khan.19  Haqqani is said to have mediated peace deals between the Pakistani government and Waziri and Mehsudi commanders of the Pakistani Taliban in North and South Waziristan.20


War Strategies/Tactics


U.S. military officials says the Haqqanis were behind most of attacks in eastern Afghanistan in 2008.21  Sirajuddin has been working to expand his father’s traditional operational base of Khost, Paktia and Paktika to other provinces in the east, such as Ghazni, Logar, Wardak and Kabul.22  He has also sought closer ties with foreign terrorist groups and adopted far more brutal tactics. “Siraj Haqqani is the one who is training, influencing, commanding and leading,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dave Anders, Combined Joint Task Force-82 director of operations. “Kidnappings, assassinations, beheading women, indiscriminate killings and suicide bombers - Siraj is the one dictating the new parameters of brutality associated with Taliban senior leadership.”23

The Haqqanis, with the help of ISI, are alleged by Afghan and American intelligence officials to have been behind the recent simultaneous attacks on government buildings in Kabul,24 a suicide attack on the Indian Embassy on July 7, 2008,25  and an assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai in April, 2008.26  The Afghan National Security Directorate said it had destroyed a terrorist network involved in at least six suicide bombings in the capital, Kabul, which was run jointly by the Haqqanis, Harakat-al-Mujahedin, and ISI.27  The Haqqanis collaborate with the Mullah Omar-led Taliban forces, but try to keep their leadership in the east. A letter reportedly issued by the Haqqanis in 2008 grieving about the loss of Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah Lang called on the Taliban forces to replace Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders in Quetta.28  While the letter praised Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, Siraj Haqqani has repeatedly voiced loyalty to Mullah Omar.



1 Carlotta Gall, “Old-Line Taliban Commander Is Face of Rising Afghan Threat,” The New York Times, June 17, 2008.
2 US DoS, Bureau of Public Affairs, “Afghanistan:  Six Years of Soviet Occupation,” Special Report no. 135, December 1985.
3 US DoS, Bureau of Public Affairs, “Afghanistan:  Seven Years of Soviet Occupation,” Special Report no. 155, December 1986.  (Available from the Digital National Security Archive).
4 Boris Gromov, Ogranichennyi contingent [The Limited Contingent], Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1994, pp. 298-304.  Tactical vignettes of the fight for the Satekandav Pass (now called the K-G Pass by US forces), are available in Lester Grau, ed., The Bear Went Over the Mountain, and Grau and Ali Jalali, eds., The Other Side of the Mountain.
5 Neamatollah Nojumi, The Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan:  Mass Mobilization, Civil War, and the Future of the Region, (New York:  Palgrave, 2002), 94.
6 Marc W. Herold, “The Failing Campaign to Kill Jalaluddin Haqqani,” Cursor, January 18, 2002.
7 Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, p. 60; William Maley, ed., "Fundamentalism Reborn?  Afghanistan and the Taliban," p. 60; Neamatollah Nojumi, "The Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan," p. 146.
8 Rashid, p. 60.
9 "Haqqani Appointed Taliban Commander," Dawn , September 29, 2001.
10 “Rebel chief Haqqani loses his son in battle,” Quqnoos, July 13, 2008.
11 “Return of the Taliban: Jaluluddin Haqqani,” Frontline, PBS.
12 “Interview with Steve Coll,” Frontline, PBS.
13 Shaiq Hussain, “U.S. Missiles Said To Kill 20 in Pakistan Near Afghan Border,” The Washington Post, September 9, 2008, A14.
14 Carlotta Gall, “Old-Line Taliban Commander Is Face of Rising Afghan Threat,” The New York Times, June 17, 2008.
15 “Interview with Steve Coll,” Frontline, PBS.
16 John F. Burns, “A Nation Challenged: The Aftermath; Taliban Army Chief Scoffs At Report of Peace Talks,” The New York Times, October 21, 2001.
17 Catherine Philp, “Pervez Musharraf was playing 'double game' with US,” The Times (London), February 17, 2009.
18 “ISI officer met Haqqani: Indian media,” The News (India), March 02, 2009.
19 “Pakistan frees Haqqani relatives under swap deal,” Pajhwok Afghan News, November 13, 2007.
20 M Ilyas Khan, “The Afghan-Pakistan militant nexus,” BBC News, September 10, 2008.
21 Jim Garamone and David Mays,  “Afghan, Coalition Forces Battle Taliban, Narcotics, Emphasize Training,” American Forces Press Service, October 19, 2007.
22 U.S. Army Sgt. Timothy Dinneen, “ANSF, Coalition Forces Focus on Haqqani Network,” Combined Joint Task Force-82 Public Affairs Office.
23 U.S. Army Sgt. Timothy Dinneen, “ANSF, Coalition Forces Focus on Haqqani Network,” Combined Joint Task Force-82 Public Affairs Office.
24 Richard A. Oppel Jr., Abdul Waheed Wafa, and Sangar Rahimi, “20 Dead as Taliban Attackers Storm Kabul Offices,” The New York Times, February 11, 2009.
25 Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, “Pakistanis Aided Attack in Kabul, U.S. Officials Say,” The New York Times, August 1, 2008.
26 “US arrests 'Haqqani terror commanders',” Quqnoos, September 24, 2008.
27 “Afghan Security Services Capture Terrorist Cell in the Capital,” Quqnoos, February 3, 2009.
28 See a copy of the letter in Farsi at http://www.azmoone-melli.com/index.php?number=3676.