Haqqani Network: Desperate Measures | A Crisis Averted | South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR), Vol. No. 10.18
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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 10, No. 18, November 7, 2011

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Haqqani Network: Desperate Measures
Ambreen Agha
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On November 4, 2011, Pentagon officials declared that "relentless pursuit" of the Haqqani Network was the top priority for American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, as this terrorist formation continued to be a major threat to US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan. Navy Captain John Kirby, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Media Operations, noted, "The Haqqani Network is lethal, deadly and continues to conduct operations inside Afghanistan and is a growing concern for our commanders out there."

Operations against the Haqqani Network have been intensified and, according to the New American Foundation, at least 47 drone strikes have already been executed in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA) of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2011 (data till October 31, 2011). 103 such attacks were executed in 2010, 23 in 2009, 19 in 2008, 3 in 2007, one in 2006 and two in 2005. The database further indicates that 28 of the 198 drone attacks since 2005 specifically targeted the Haqqani Network – one in 2006, two in 2008, four in 2009, 16 in 2010 and five in 2011. In the first recorded offensive against the Haqqani Network on November 2, 2007, a US strike on a housing compound in Danda Darpakhel, near the Miranshah town of NWA, killed at least five alleged militants and wounded up to a dozen. On September 8, 2008, a major strike killed 23 persons, again in the Danda Darpakhel, including nine militants and 14 civilians. Among the dead were many family members of the group’s leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, including eight of his grandchildren, two wives, his elder sister, his sister-in-law and other relatives. The New York Times wrote about the incident, “The strike hit the compound run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who used the compound as a guest house for militants arriving in the North Waziristan to join the jihad forces of the Haqqani family... The family runs training camps and facilities in the tribal region and also has places to hide.” Sirajuddin Haqqani is Jalaluddin’s son, and the present leader of the Network.

In a more aggressive posture, the US, on October 17, 2011, moved hundreds of new troops to the Afghan areas bordering NWA. The US forces sealed the main road connecting the Agency’s border town of Ghulam Khan and the Khost Province in Afghanistan, since the overwhelming proportion of support for the Network comes from Districts in the South-eastern Province of Khost.

Before this, US drones killed a senior ‘commander’ of the outfit, Janbaz Zadran, along with two other militants on October 13, 2011, in NWA. On November 1, 2011, the US blacklisted a Haqqani Network ‘commander’ Mali Khan, jailed in Afghanistan, in a bid to block funds to suspected terrorists belonging to the Network. "All property subject to US jurisdiction in which Mali Khan has any interest is blocked and US persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with him," the US State Department said.

The US has, however, avoided designating the Haqqani Network as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO), since it is currently engaged in efforts to bing the Haqqani Network into peace talks, along with the Quetta Shura Taliban. The US believes that designating the Haqqani Network as an FTO would close the doors for any possible dialogue.

The Haqqani Network which primarily uses suicide bombings as a tactic in Afghanistan, and constitutes a quintessential element of the Kabul Attack Network (KAN), a group that carries out operations in and around Kabul, the national capital. KAN also includes militants belonging to the Quetta Shura Taliban, run by Mullah Omar, and Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HI-G) led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and co-operates with other terrorist outfits including al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Led by senior Haqqani leaders, Dawood and Taj Mir Jawad, KAN has executed several attacks in Kabul. The major KAN successes owe mainly to the Haqqani Network. Jeffrey A. Dressler of the Institute for the Study of War notes, “[a]s early as 2007, there were reports that insurgents were establishing bases of operations in districts and provinces in and around Kabul. These bases were established in Kabul and Logar and resourced by suicide bombers who could be assigned to strike targets in the nation’s capital”. Dressler’s report goes on to note that KAN, with the Haqqani Network playing a major role, divided the city of Kabul into 15 zones, each of which was under the command of a separate leader tasked with providing resources for and coordinating attacks. The identity of each of the 15 zone commanders is kept secret even from the others, and only a few high-ranking insurgent leaders in Pakistan have comprehensive information relating to the KAN leadership.

The Haqqani Network has emerged as the most prominent among the three main terrorist groups in Afghanistan working under common strategic goals, and different strategic plans. Founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, an ethnic Pashtun belonging to the Zadran tribe in the 1970’s, the Network is now led by Jalaluddin’s son Sirajuddin. In his initial years as a mujahid (holy warrior), Jalaluddin allied with Hizb-e-Islami, then led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and which had Younis Khalis and Burhanuddin Rabbani as its members. In 1979, a split in Hizb-e-Islami took Jalaluddin into the Hizb-e-Islami-Khalis (HI-K) group, while Hekmatyar came to control the Hizb-e-Islami (Gulbuddin, HI-G). The same year, Jalaluddin became the key HI-K ‘commander’ in the south eastern region of Afghanistan. In 1986, Jalaluddin walked out of the HI-K, to form his own group.

Jalaluddin Haqqani and then al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden forged a relationship with an explicit understanding against the anti-Soviet resistance. Receiving weapons and funds from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Saudi Arabia, and training from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Network fought against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

In addition to the al Qaeda nexus, the Haqqani Network allied with the Taliban just before the Taliban consolidated power in Kabul. Jalaluddin served both as a military commander and a Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs in Mullah Omar’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Praveen Swami notes, further, “Bin Laden's declaration of jihad against the West — his most sweeping manifesto and ideological keystone of the 9/11 attacks – was critically issued from a Haqqani camp in the Zhawara valley.” In 1986, bin Laden constructed an elaborate cave, the ‘Lion’s Den’ in the Haqqani-controlled territory of Jaji in Paktia Province, to train Arab volunteers to fight in Afghanistan.

Some of the most prominent among recent attacks carried out by the Haqqani Network include:

November 3, 2011: A suicide attack conducted by five suicide bombers on a security contractor’s compound in Guzra District of Herat Province killed two Afghan guards working for NATO-led troops, and wounded five people, including one foreign civilian.

October 29, 2011: A suicide bomber killed 13 foreigners, most of them Americans, and at least four Afghans in Kabul. Though the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, Afghan and American officials suspect involvement of Haqqani Network.

September 13, 2011: A 20 hour siege co-ordinated with three suicide attacks in Kabul killed 14 Afghan civilians and Police and injured 28 others.

September 11, 2011: Two Afghan civilians were killed and 80 US troops injured by a suicide truck bomber on the US military base in Bagram city of Wardak Province.

June 28, 2011: Eight militants attacked the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul, killing 11 Afghan civilians and two Policemen and injuring 13 others. After hours of retaliatory firing by Afghan and NATO forces, four bombers blew themselves up bringing an end to the cross fire.

December 19, 2010: Four suicide bombers dressed in Afghan Army uniforms killed five Afghan soldiers and three Policemen, and wounded 20 others at an Army recruitment centre in Kunduz Province.

December 19, 2010: Two armed KAN members opened fire on a bus carrying recruits near the main training facility outside Kabul. One suicide bomber detonated his bomb killing five Afghan soldiers.

July 18, 2010: The Haqqani led KAN conducted a suicide attack near a medical clinic in Kabul, killing four Afghan civilians.

May 18, 2010: A suicide attack in Kabul killed 18 people, including a US colonel, a Canadian colonel, two lieutenant colonels, two US soldiers, and 12 Afghan civilians.

February 11, 2009: At least 21 persons were killed and 57 injured as militants carried a series of strikes against Afghan Government targets in Kabul.

July 7, 2008: A suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul killed 41 persons and injured over 140. The dead included two senior diplomats, Political Counsellor V. Venkateswara Rao and Defence Adviser Brigadier Ravi Datt Mehta.

March 3, 2008: Sirajuddin Haqqani, the commander of the Haqqani Network, claimed responsibility for the Sabari District Centre suicide bombing which killed two International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members and wounded dozens of Afghan civilians, and promised more suicide bombings in the Khost Province.

Currently working under the leadership and command of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the most wanted man in Afghanistan, with a USD 5 million bounty on his head, the outfit maintains a strong power base in Pakistan’s NWA.

Presently comprising a group of around 15,000 fighters, the Haqqani Network, has expanded its base and leadership. Maintaining a strong power base in NWA, the Network operates in Afghanistan, mainly in the Loya Paktia region, which includes Paktia, Paktika and Khost; Ghazni, Wardack and Kabul Provinces. This dominance goes back to the period of the anti-Soviet resistance when Jalaluddin Haqqani, along with al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, had solidified his position across the Loya Paktia tribal complex, well beyond the traditional Zadran tribal hold.

The Haqqani’s enjoy immunity from Pakistan’s Forces. Though periodic military campaigns have been launched in almost all the tribal areas of Pakistan, there have been no such operations in NWA thus far, despite repeated US demands. Pakistan has virtually declared the Haqqani Network as its “strategic asset”. In May 2008, a transcript given to Mike McConnell, the Director of US National Intelligence, stated that Islamabad’s Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, referred to Haqqani as a “strategic asset”. Further, stressing Islamabad’s laxity in dealing with the terror nodes of the Haqqani Network within Pakistan, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, on September 21, 2011, accused Pakistan of exporting violent extremism in Afghanistan through proxies, and described the Haqqani Network as a “veritable arm” of the ISI. Reconfirming such linkages, on October 31, 2011, the US urged Islamabad to ensure that “Intelligence information does not go to the Haqqani Network”.

Meanwhile, striking back at the US for accusing the ISI of supporting the Haqqani Network, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, on September 27, 2011, observed, "The deadly Haqqani Network was CIA's blue-eyed boy for many years. If we talk about links, I am sure the CIA also has links with many terrorist organisations around the world, by which we mean intelligence links."

As the US pushes for a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is under tremendous pressure to neutralise the terrorist groupings operating in Afghanistan lest the ‘drawdown’ leaves Kabul exposed to a Taliban takeover. Pakistan’s continuing duplicity has forced the US to declare a new and aggressive approach against the Haqqani Network. The current US strategy, however and at best, takes on the contours of a desperate rearguard action to force a reluctant adversary to the negotiating table, even as it provides incentives – through announcement of a timetable of withdrawal – for him to persist in his violence. On September 23, 2011, Sirajuddin Haqqani warned Washington against any military adventure in the NWA, declaring, “The US would suffer more losses in the North Waziristan Agency than they did in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, an ISAF spokesman, Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, on October 10, 2011, stated that Afghan Army and the NATO-led ISAF were keeping up pressure on the insurgents, "We chase Haqqani in the field, killing and capturing more than 100 last week alone, and more than 1,400 were captured this year. We also have to break their financial trends."

Nevertheless, with continuing support from, and safe havens in, Pakistan, with the top leadership of the group intact, with a continuing expansions of both its operational and recruitment base, and with a visible wasting away of the Western will to continue with present levels of military involvement in Afghanistan, there is little possibility of neutralizing the continuing and widening rampage of the Haqqani group, even with continued successes of ongoing US drone operations.

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A Crisis Averted
Fakir Mohan Pradhan
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

The absence of sustained armed violence - despite the persistence of intimidation and sporadic incidents of bloodshed - has itself transformed both politics and the character of political parties in Nepal, including, most significantly, the Maoists. Despite intra- and inter-party friction, there is no reason to believe that this process will not deepen, or that there will be an abrupt regression to the more atavistic politics of the past.
Mixed Relief, SAIR, September 5, 2011

With a further deadline for the tenure of the Constituent Assembly (CA) approaching at the end of November, and the Constitution Drafting process deadlocked, a crisis appeared imminent in Kathmandu. Political observers felt that a further extension to the CA may have attracted a judicial challenge, since no progress had been registered in its activities for months. Such a crisis, however, now appears to have been averted by an uncharacteristic display of extraordinary flexibility and accommodation by the major political formations in Nepal, expressed through a seven-point agreement signed on November 1, 2011. The signatories to the agreement – Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda; Nepali Congress (NC) President Sushil Koirala; Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal; and Bijay Gachchhadar, as representative of the United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF), a grouping of five Madhesh-based parties – demonstrated tremendous sense of purpose, to open a new window of opportunity for the peace process that had stagnated since the CA election in 2008.

The latest deal prepares the basis for the conclusion of the peace process, bringing divergent positions on some of the most contentious issue to a workable closeness. The most significant agreement in this context has been on the the fractious issue of the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants. Out of up to 19,000 Maoist combatants in cantonments (the exact number is to be determined after field verification), a maximum of 6,500, willing combatants are to be integrated with the Nepal Army as per standard norms of the Army, though with some relaxation in age and educational qualifications. Ranks of the enlisted soldiers will also be determined based on the standards of the security body.

The Maoists joining the Army will be brought under a separate directorate within the Army, where their strength will be a maximum of 35 per cent of the total strength of the directorate, the remaining number being drawn from regular Army personnel. This directorate is to be exclusively committed to development related activities, forest conservation, industrial security and crisis management, and will not be part of the armed Force of the military establishment.

The remaining combatants in the cantonments are to be rehabilitated into civilian life, either through a voluntary retirement programme or through a rehabilitation package that includes education, training and vocational opportunities. The cost of these packages varies between NPR 600,000 to NPR 900,000. Those opting for voluntary retirement would receive between NPR 500,000 and NPR 800,000, depending on their seniority within the Maoist organisation.

All the weapons stored in the cantonments are to automatically come under the Government’s ownership once the process of integration begins.

The deal has fixed a deadline for completion of the task of dividing the combatants opting for integration and rehabilitation, respectively, for November 23, 2011.

Two other significant issues of contention that appear to have been settled were the dismantling of the Maoist’s Young Communist League (YCL) and the return of seized properties by the UCPN-M. The Maoists have agreed that “the paramilitary structure of the YCL would be dismantled, while all the public and private properties seized by the YCL would be returned to the rightful organizations and individuals by November 23.” Further, the UCPN-M has also agreed to take an official decision to return the private and public properties seized by the party during the armed conflict to the rightful owners for their use, again, by November 23. Due compensation would be paid to the owners for the loss caused by the seizure of properties. The rights of the peasants would be guaranteed in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006, the Interim Constitution of 2007, and “scientific land reforms”.

The November 1 deal also provides for a Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Commission and a Commission to Investigate Forced Disappearances, which are to be formed “within a month”. The Agreement further provides that relief packages would be made available for the victims of conflict.

In order to take the ongoing peace process to its logical culmination, and to complete the task of the drafting of the Constitution, the political parties have also agreed to set up a high level political mechanism that will facilitate dialogue among the political parties. Further, a team of experts will be formed immediately, on the basis of consensus in the CA, to make recommendations on state restructuring, and to initiate the process of formulating a draft of the new Constitution within one month.

The Agreement sees these processes as a prelude to the establishment of a national consensus government (NCG). A NCG has been the objective of Nepali politics since the CA election in 2008. Indeed, media reports suggest that an informal understanding between the parties has already been hammered out, paving the way for the present Maoist-led Government to make way for an NC-lead NCG, which would oversee the next elections, once Constitution drafting has been completed. 

While the latest deal has been hailed as ‘historic’ in various quarters, the hardliner faction of the UCPN-M, led by vice-chairman Mohan Baidya aka Kiran, has opposed the Agreement, terming it a ‘betrayal of the people and the country’. Threatening to “revolt” against the Agreement, Baidya and Maoist General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa have demanded that the deal be scrapped. There is, however, growing evidence that the hardliner faction is getting marginalised within the party. Party Chairman Dahal has, moreover, allayed apprehensions, arguing that such opposition can exist within the party, and that such voices can be accommodated within the party discourse.

Significantly, after the conclusion of the two-day meeting of the General Staff of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on  November 3, 2011, PLA chief Nanda Kishor Pun declared that the PLA fighters were ‘fully committed’ to the 'historic' deal and would support the Government in its prompt implementation. The meeting directed all the commanders of the seven divisions of the PLA to help implement the agreement.

Nepal Politics has, of course, seen many agreements before this foundering against the challenges of implementation. This time around, however, there is greater optimism and a surprising consensus across parties that have inclined to stubbornness and confrontation in the past. Indeed, during the debate in the CA on November 3, 2011, leaders of the major political parties regretted ‘wasting three years’ in political wrangling. The three fractious years following the election of the CA in 2008 have seen four Prime Ministers and highly unstable Governments. A sense of urgency appears, now, to have gripped all major political formations in the country, and the UCPN-M, NC and CPN-UML, on November 5, 2011, formed a task force comprising Barshaman Pun from the Maoist party, Krishna Prasad Sitaula from the NC and Bhim Rawal from the CPN-UML, to monitor the peace and Constitution drafting processes, even in the absence of Prachanda, who was travelling to New York.

The past three years of a fractious competitive politics had established a hurting stalemate, with none of the political parties able to gain significant ground. With major issues remaining undecided, and a turnstile for Governments established at Kathmandu, the prevailing situation was clearly becoming untenable. It was also becoming increasingly difficult to keep restive PLA combatants indefinitely in the cantonments, and an increasing loss of public faith was eroding support across party lines. Nepal’s political parties appear, now, to have realized the necessity of living with one another, if the country is not to fall into an uncontrollable downward spiral. The present agreement does create the grounds to bring years of fruitless wrangling to an end. There are, nevertheless, a number of sticking points in the peace process that could stall or jeopardize implementation again, and it remains to be seen how long the newly discovered sagacity persists among the country’s principal political players.


Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 31-November 6, 2011



Security Force Personnel





Left-wing Extremism








Left-wing Extremism




West Bengal


Total (INDIA)








Khyber Pakhtunkhwa





Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Former Al-Umma cadres involved in Madurai bomb case, says Police: Special Task Force (STF) officials said that that two former cadres of the banned terror outfit Al-Umma have been identified as the masterminds behind the plot to target the convoy of BJP leader L K Advani during his journey near Madurai in Tamil Nadu and a manhunt is on to arrest them. The suspects, identified as "Police" Fakruddin and Bilal Mallick, close associates of slain terrorist Imam Ali, had started hatching the conspiracy as the schedule of Advani's travel was announced last month, officials said. Indian Express, November 4, 2011.

Aware of Maoists in northeast, says Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju: Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju on November 2 said the Government was aware of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) spreading their activities in the northeast and was taking steps to contain them. "We are aware of its (Maoism) spread in the northeast and we are taking all steps to contain it," he stated. Hindustan Times, November 3, 2011.


14 SFs and eight militants among 26 persons killed during the week in FATA: The leader of a tribal lashkar (tribal militia), Malak Amanullah, and two other people were shot dead when suspected militants opened fire in Azam Warsak bazaar, about 20 kilometres west of Wana, in South Waziristan Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) on November 6.

Three soldiers were killed and seven others injured in an ambush in Speen Mella area of South Waziristan on November 5.

US drone strike killed at least three suspected Haqqani network militants in Darpakhel Sarai, just outside Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan Agency on November 3.

Militants on November 1 handed over dead bodies of three Security Force (SF) personnel, who were abducted after the October 26 attack on a check post in Mohmand Agency, to the political administration in the agency headquarters in Ghalanai, after successful talks with a tribal jirga in Atmarkhel area of Baizai tehsil (revenue unit). Dawn; Daily Times; The News; Tribune, November 1-7, 2011.

ISI was behind 26/11 attacks and bombing of Indian embassy in Kabul, claims BBC report: Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was behind the Mumbai attacks (November 26, 2008, also known as 26/11) as well as the July 7, 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, a November 4 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report claimed. In a new two-part series titled 'Secret Pakistan', Bruce Riedel, the Central Intelligence Agency officer who served as advisor to United States President Barack Obama, said he had informed the then President-elect about 26/11. Indian Express, November 5, 2011.

Islamabad 'hiding' nuclear bombs in civilian vans on congested roads, claim media reports: Two US magazines on November 4 reported that the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), in charge of the storage and security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, has started moving them in low-security vans on congested roads in order to hide them from US spy agencies and Indian agents all the while making the weapons vulnerable to theft by Islamist militants. The Atlantic and The National Journal, in a joint report citing unnamed sources, wrote that the US raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden on May 1-2, 2011 at his compound in Abbottabad, just a stone's throw from the military academy of Kakul, reinforced Pakistan Army's longstanding fears that Washington could try to dismantle the country's nuclear arsenal. Tribune, November 5, 2011.

US sanctions Haqqani Network commander: United States on November 1 blacklisted a jailed Haqqani Network Commander Mali Khan in a bid to block funds to suspected terrorists. "All property subject to US jurisdiction in which Mali Khan has any interest is blocked and US persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with him," the State Department said, adding, "This action will help stem the flow of financial and other assistance to the Haqqani Network." The News, November 2, 2011.

Federal Ministry of Interior releases new list of banned outfits: The Federal Ministry of Interior released a list of 31 banned outfits on November 5. Apart from those in the earlier list, name of People's Aman Committee of Karachi, Shia Tulaba Action Committee, Markaz Sabeel Organisation and Tanzeem-i-Naujawanan-i-Sunnat of Gilgit-Baltistan have been added to the list. Dawn, November 6, 2011.

CIA to curtail drone attacks: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on November 4 agreed to curtail drone strikes without consent of Pakistan. The CIA had made a series of secret concessions in its drone campaign after military and diplomatic officials complained that large-level strikes were damaging the fragile US relationship with Pakistan. Dawn, November 5, 2011.


Reconciliation commission ready with report before deadline: The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to study Sri Lanka's three-decade long war is getting ready to present its final report to the President during the second week of November, 2011. The LLRC was initially scheduled to hand over its report to the President on November 15th. Colombo Page, November 1, 2011.

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

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