Archive for the 'Haqqani Network' Category



Haqqani Network Designated As Terrorist Group

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 2 months ago

From CBS News:

The Obama administration on Friday declared the insurgent Haqqani network a terrorist body, a move that could undermine Afghan peace efforts and test fragile U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she notified Congress of her decision, which bans Americans from doing any business with members of the Pakistan-based militant group and blocks any assets it holds in the United States.

“We also continue our robust campaign of diplomatic, military, and intelligence pressure on the network, demonstrating the United States’ resolve to degrade the organization’s ability to execute violent attacks,” she said in a statement.

According to a senior U.S. official, it will likely take seven to 10 days for the designation process to be completed. The Haqqani network has been behind a large number of the attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan, and which U.S. officials have long pushed Pakistan’s leaders to target more aggressively.

Designating the Haqqani network a terrorist organization is a complicated political decision as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and pushes for a reconciliation pact to end more than a decade of warfare.

Enraged by a string of high-profile attacks on U.S. and NATO troops, Congress set a Sunday deadline for the administration to make a decision. U.S. officials say there were disagreements within the administration over what to decide.

The U.S. already has placed sanctions on many Haqqani leaders and is targeting its members militarily but has held back from formally designating the al Qaeda-linked network a terrorist group amid concerns about hampering peace efforts in Afghanistan and U.S. relations with Pakistan.

The Haqqani network is also believed to be holding U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl captive – the only U.S. service member held by militants in the region.

Analysis & Commentary

This move shows the degree of disconnectedness from reality of the Afghanistan campaign.  We are ten years into the effort, and as my coverage has shown, Jalaluddin Haqqani, his son Sirajuddin, and their network of fighters, have been at the center of the problem from the beginning.  His camps trained al Qaeda fighters, and it was from Haqqani that many of the jihadists from around the globe learned their military skills.

They are ensconced in the Hindu Kush in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and freely operate against U.S. forces from both sides of the border.  They have done so for a decade, and are responsible for the most recent high profile attacks in Kabul.  This interview of Sirajuddin Haqqani is remarkable for its content, in that the network currently operates regionally but thinks globally based on the ideals of Islamic jihad.

And yet it is still begudging.  Note that there was debate within the administration as to whether this was undue presusre on our “ally,” Pakistan.  The State Department took this action because of Congressional pressure.  Within little more than one year, the bulk of U.S. forces will have been withdrawn from Afghanistan, and we are just now declaring one of their major military enemies to be a terrorist group.

This is a sign of desperation within the administration.  Population-centric counterinsurgency and state-building has been a failure in Afghanistan, as has temporary imprisonment of fighters in the hopes of rehabilitating them (a distinctly American imagination, with the truth here also begrudgingly acknowledged by the plans to retain responsibility for more than 600 fighters even after turnover of the prisons to Afghan authorities).

Get tough strategy with Pakistan?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

From the Los Angeles Times:

The U.S. needs Pakistan’s cooperation to succeed against an insurgent group that uses sanctuaries along the Afghan border from which to attack American and Afghan forces. But so far, Washington has failed to entice that cooperation — or coerce it through threats to pull billions of dollars in aid.

On Thursday, Washington embarked on a get-tough strategy — sending its top diplomat along with its top intelligence and military officers to Islamabad to deliver the blunt message: Whether or not Pakistan chooses to help, the U.S. will continue to fight the Haqqani network inside Afghanistan while seeking a negotiated end to the decade-old Afghan conflict that has taken the lives of more than 1,800 U.S. soldiers and thousands of Afghan civilians.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s arrival in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, on Thursday, accompanied by CIA Director David H. Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, signaled the all-out nature of the bid to persuade Pakistan to cooperate.

To fight Haqqani in Afghanistan (note the absence of the threat to fight them in Pakistan), with or without Pakistan’s help, and a bid to persuade Pakistan to help?  That’s it?  That’s our strategy to get tough with Pakistan?  The same thing we’re doing now, i.e., fighting Haqqani in Afghanistan and attempting to persuade Pakistan to help?  So if the preceding strategy is failing, our forward going plan is to do more of the same?

Maybe that’s not the complete strategy.  We’re also going to seek a negotiated settlement.  Perhaps the threat of a negotiated settlement will persuade Pakistan to help.  I had recommended unilaterally fighting Haqqani in Pakistan too, and if the Pakistani army had in any way impeded our progress or caused harm to our troops, turning the ground they stood on into a sea of glass.  But what do I know?

Let’s all take a strategic pause and see how this plan works out, shall we?

Men, Not Machines, Win Wars

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

As one who has argued for the involvement and importance of air power and conventional artillery, I don’t want to overplay this hand.  I say what I am about to say circumspectly.  I know the limitations of what I am about to say, and I’d rather have air power on my side than just about anything else.  That is, anything except an infantryman.

So am unimpressed with this report.

US forces are massing on the Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan amid reports of an imminent drone missile offensive against fighters from the feared Haqqani Network, a Taliban faction which operates from safe havens in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency, Pakistan Army sources have confirmed.

The scale of the American build-up, including helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of American and Afghan troops, caused panic in north Waziristan where tribal militias who feared they could be targeted gathered in the capital Miranshah to coordinate their response.

Local officials in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) warned that Pakistan’s armed forces would repel any incursion across the border by American forces, but military sources in Islamabad and Afghan officials suggested the build-up was part of a coordinated operation.

It’s not a coordinated effort, “hundreds” of troops will not significantly alter the outcome of the campaign, and sending helicopters into Pakistan will get them shot down by insurgents under the current protocol.  Not that I’m opposed, mind you, to sending helicopters into Pakistan, but this isn’t some bloodless, clinical way to run a war, any more than sending helicopters with 30+ Navy SEALS around in Afghanistan to get shot down.  Frankly, I was surprised it took as long as it did before tragedy happened with our elite troopers.

This report adds some clarity.

There were no signs of troop movement on the Pakistani side, locals and officials said, suggesting no plans for a complementary offensive in the neighboring North Waziristan region. Pakistan has long resisted U.S. pressure to launch an operation against extremists that use North Waziristan as a safe haven.

A senior Pakistani military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that Pakistanis hadn’t been briefed in advance about what the U.S.-led forces were up to but were “informed upon inquiring.”

Although few clear details emerged of what the U.S. and its allies were planning, rumor of the gathering forces spread a mixture of panic and bravado in Pakistan. Many North Waziristan residents believed that a surgical U.S. airstrike was imminent, while some said they were prepared to fight U.S. troops if they crossed over.

A senior NATO official dismissed the Pakistani fears, saying that the alliance wasn’t authorized to operate outside Afghanistan and wasn’t trying to threaten Pakistan.

“No, we’re not massing on the border,” said the official, who wasn’t authorized to be quoted by name.

Pakistan isn’t acting to press the Haqqani network on their side of the border, we still respect the border and won’t cross it, and thus the Haqannis still have safe haven.

I recall this depressing report on Marine Corps operations near Sangin.

It is a conversation, the military surgeon says, that every U.S. Marine has with his corpsman, the buddy who is first to treat him if he is wounded by an insurgent’s bomb.

The Marine says, “‘If I lose my manhood, then I don’t want to live through it,’” according to Navy Lt. Richard Whitehead, surgeon for 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which is fighting in one of the most treacherous combat areas of Afghanistan.

“They ask us not to save them if their ‘junk’ gets blown off,” said Whitehead, using a slang term for genitals. “Usually, we laugh. We joke with them about it. At the same time, you know that you’re going to treat them anyway.”

This is a world of fear, resolve and dark humor that is mostly hidden from accounts of the human cost of the war in Afghanistan. American troops who patrol on foot in bomb-laced areas know they might lose a leg, or two, if they step in the wrong place. But for young men in their prime, most unmarried and without children, the prospect of losing their sexual organs seems even worse.

Whitehead said: “It’s one of the areas we can’t put a tourniquet on.”

Sangin, the district of southern Afghanistan where the Marine battalion is based, was a Taliban stronghold for years. It has one of the highest concentrations of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in the country. Robust Marine operations in the past year have weakened the insurgency in Sangin, and troops now seek to build up the authority of local government and community leaders.

But elusive fighters routinely strike with booby traps on trails and around patrol bases. Lt. Col. Thomas Savage, the battalion commander, said there was a rough average of five IED strikes, finds or interdictions a day in Sangin, in Helmand province. Estimates vary, but some Marines say roughly one in 10 IEDs hits a target.

Sixteen of the battalion’s Marines have died and at least 160 have been injured during a seven-month deployment that ends in October. Of those, about 90 were sent home because of the severity of their wounds, said Whitehead, the battalion surgeon. One lost both testicles, four Marines lost one testicle and two had penis injuries.

We’re sending “blast panties” or “ballistic boxers” to help, but that only helps to stop infection and decrease the damage of shrapnel.  It doesn’t save a Marine’s gonads.  Know what we’re also sending?  Robots.  That’s right, robots.

Listen.  I’m all for robots, and helicopters, and drones, and all manner of new-fangled gadgetry and high tech toys.  But we’ll win in the Helmand Province when we send Marines on distributed operations to sit in concealment and wait to find the IED emplacers, and we shoot them where they stand.  And we find the makers, and we take them out in their homes and in the roads.  We’ll find out who these bastards are when we enter their homes, and get in their faces – when we do census operations, when we press the villagers.  When it becomes too dangerous to emplace IEDs, the insurgents will stop doing it.  Governance and digging wells didn’t work in Iraq, and it won’t in Afghanistan.

And when we inform the Pakistanis that if they shoot at our troops chasing the Haqqani fightes in Pakistan we’ll turn the ground they are standing on into a sea of glass, then we’ll be on our way to ending the Haqqani threat, machines and ballistic underwear notwithstanding.

Striking a Deal with the Haqqanis

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

This article from The Hindu provides a good summary history of the Haqqanis.  Upon reading it, consider just how well connected and globally minded they are.

Born in the early 1950s, Jalaluddin Haqqani hailed from the Zadran tribe of the Pashtun ethnic group. He studied at a seminary in Datta Adam Khel, and would likely have gone on to become a rural cleric — had it not been for a series of dramatic events that transformed Afghanistan, eventually bringing to power a new class of armed clerics who would displace both the traditional tribal élite and the modernising left-wing secularists who had swept them aside.

In 1973, Afghan communists overthrew the decaying monarchy. Even though the new President, Daud Muhammad Khan, was the deposed king’s brother-in-law, he declared the country a republic. President Khan presided over a dramatic process of social reform — marked, among other things, by an emphasis on women’s rights. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, fearful that Mr. Khan’s nationalist rhetoric would seduce ethnic Pashtuns living on its side of the border, responded by backing an insurgency spearheaded by the Afghan Islamists.

Five years before the crisis that would suck the Soviet Union into Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani declared war against the Afghan state. Helped by the ISI, he developed sources of funding in the Middle East, using the flow of cash to build an impressive military apparatus.

The ISI, though, wasn’t Jalaluddin Haqqani’s only source of support. In the wake of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, journalist Steve Coll has revealed, he was cultivated as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset. Charlie Wilson, a right-wing politician who helped funnel tens of millions of dollars to the Afghan jihadists, described Jalaluddin Haqqani as “goodness personified.”

Key figures in the global jihadist movement — among them Osama bin Laden — learned their military skills in camps set up by Jalaluddin Haqqani, and maintained a close relationship with him in the years that followed.

Mustafa al-Hamid, an al-Qaeda linked ideologue and writer who served with Jalaluddin Haqqani’s forces, wrote a hagiographic account which was published in the jihadist magazine al-Somud last year. The “majesty in his personality was a model for the great religious scholars of Afghanistan and students of the knowledge of the pure mujahideen, who now stand as an impregnable bulwark against the largest crusader attack upon the Islamic nation.”

From the outset, scholars Don Rassler and Vahid Brown have noted in a seminal paper, that Jalaluddin Haqqani helped shape the global jihadist movement’s ideas.

In 1980, for example, Haqqani asserted that Middle Eastern charity to the Afghan campaign did “not absolve the individual Muslim of the duty to offer himself for the jihad.” Abdullah Azzam — bin Laden’s mentor, Lashkar-e-Taiba co-founder and ideological patriarch of the global jihadist movement — arrived at the same conclusion four years later, when he declared the Afghan jihad fard ‘ayn, an individual obligation. When bin Laden shifted base to a pink stucco three-storey home in Khartoum in 1991, having fallen out with Saudi Arabia’s royal family, Jalaluddin Haqqani used the opportunity to operate on a wider stage. He backed Hasan al-Turabi’s Islamist regime in Sudan, and sent volunteers to fight in Bosnia. In 1991, at a meeting in Karachi, he also bragged about his war against India, saying his networks had “trained thousands of Kashmiri mujahideen and have made them ready for the jihad.”

Nizamuddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin Haqqani’s deputy, proclaimed in 1991 that the U.S. and Russia were “both infidel forces.”

Bin Laden’s close relationship with the Haqqanis helped him act on those ideas during his last, tortured months in Afghanistan — scarred by an increasingly bitter relationship with Taliban chief Mullah Muhammad Omar which saw al-Qaeda’s leader confined to the city of Kandahar.

“From that point on,” Dr. Rassler and Dr. Brown record, “al-Qaeda came to increasingly rely on the Haqqani network’s autonomy from the Taliban in Loya Paktia as a launching pad for its declarations of war on the West.”

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.

Since 9/11, the Haqqani network has survived by using the same geographical advantages that stood it so well during the anti-Soviet jihad: its control of key routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and its ability to retreat south across the border.

Now take note of one particularly stolid commentary at Reuters.

Pakistan hopes the United States will eventually welcome the participation of the Haqqanis in any Afghan peace talks. Kabul also understands the group can’t be excluded.

Although the Haqqanis fall under the command of Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, U.S. officials believe they do not always accept Taliban authority and can act independently.

Jalaluddin has historically shown a penchant for changing sides, as the Americans know all too well, and he may be more flexible than the hardline Siraj.

Washington is scrambling to bring stability to Afghanistan at it gradually withdraws from the country. Striking a deal with the Haqqanis may be wise while the ailing Jalaluddin might still have a say.

That was no mistake, and you don’t have to read it again.  Reuters is recommending that we strike a deal with the “ailing” elder Haqqani who likes to switch sides rather than his more radical son.  And hurry.  The ailing Haqqani may die, in which case whatever deal we might have struck with him – which was sure to be honored by his more radical son – will have been a missed opportunity.

This is what happens when ignorant people assign themselves the responsibility and authority to become Afghanistan / Pashtun / Islamic / Jihadist / Pakistani experts.  Also, regarding that last paragraph in The Hindu piece on control of key routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan, who was it that issued the warning about the coming logistical struggle because of the attacks on lines through Khyber and Chaman, and that, three and a half years ago?

The Feeble Superhero: Pakistan Freely Tugs on Superman’s Cape

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 2 months ago

The Captain’s Journal previously noted the likely Haqqani network connections to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Now we have Admiral Mullen and Defense Secretary Panetta confirming that a spate of recent, deadly attacks against Americans in Kabul were the work of the Haqqani network with direct, Pakistani support:

Pakistan-based insurgents planned and conducted some of the major attacks in Afghanistan recently, including the one on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul last week, with the support of Pakistan’s intelligence service, senior U.S. defense officials told Congress on Thursday.

“The Haqqani network … acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “With ISI support, Haqqani operatives plan and conducted” a truck bomb attack that wounded more than 70 U.S. and NATO troops on Sept. 11, “as well as the assault on our embassy” two days later.

“We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the June 28th attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a host of smaller but effective operations,” he added.

Mullen’s statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, together with remarks by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to the panel, were the most specific in a week of strong administration criticism of Pakistan.

Lovely.  Can someone please explain how the definition of an act of war came to have this apparent asterisk attached to it?  If Pakistan had sent jets over the border to attack the U.S. Embassy in Kabul (which international law recognizes as a sovereign piece of U.S. territory), it would be war.   But if Pakistan merely assists unlawful combatants to bomb and shoot up our embassy, it is something else entirely.

No one seems to want to put a name to it or to even speculate generally what the U.S. response to this act of war might be:

Both Mullen and Panetta resisted lawmakers’ attempts to describe what Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the committee, called “the kind of options available to us to stop” Pakistani support for the insurgents and the “actions the administration is prepared to take” to ensure it.

“We’ve made clear that we are going to do everything we have to do to defend our forces,” Panetta said. “I don’t think it would be helpful to describe what those options would look like and what operational steps we might or might not face.”

The administration has insisted that Pakistan sever its ties with the insurgents, in particular the Haqqani forces based in the tribal region of North Waziristan, and supply all available intelligence on the group. Although senior administration officials have said they would prefer to work together with Pakistan against the group, they have indicated they are prepared to consider an expansion of drone strikes in the region, as well as surgical ground strikes, according to senior administration officials.

“The first order now,” Panetta told lawmakers, “is to put as much pressure on Pakistan as we can to deal with this issue.”

Levin noted that similar public pressure has continued for several years, and asked whether “Pakistan’s leaders are aware of what options are open to us, so they’re not caught by any surprise.”

“I don’t think they would be surprised by the actions that we might or might not take,” Panetta said.

Well, Pakistan is quaking in their boots I am sure.   We are making it, “clear [to Pakistan] that we are going to do everything we have to do to defend our forces.”

Pakistan is not simply tugging on Superman’s cape.  They are grabbing it and throwing it over Superman’s head and laughing their collective arses off.   The lack of a firm and memorable response by the U.S. is going to invite even more brazen attacks, more dead Americans and the erosion of what little credibility the U.S. has left overseas.    We are becoming that rich, doddering Uncle Sam who lavishes gifts on his nephews and nieces even while they hide his glasses and set up obstacles for him to trip over.   Pathetic old man, but good for a few bucks and a laugh.

Haqqani Fighters Bomb Kabul

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

E2 writing for Free Range International predicted when this happened that this wasn’t the Taliban – it was the Haqqani network of fighters.  Sure enough, we now learn that this is exactly what happened.

American and Afghan officials on Wednesday blamed a Taliban  offshoot, the Haqqani network, for a marathon assault on the U.S. Embassy and the NATO  force headquarters that killed 16 Afghans, including civilians and members of the security forces.

Eleven assailants died as well, the last of them shot Wednesday morning as Afghan police, backed by NATO helicopters, regained control of the unfinished high-rise structure the attackers used as their main staging ground.

The 20-hour siege paralyzed the city center, terrorized Kabul residents and sent hundreds of American embassy worker, military personnel and civilian NATO staff into hardened bunkers, where they remained for hours.

Senior U.S. officials sought Wednesday to downplay the significance of the attack, saying it had little or no military affect. But many Afghans, particularly those living or working in the vicinity of the strikes, spoke of a pervasive sense of insecurity in their daily lives.

We’ve covered the Haqqani network before, and we won’t waste time unearthing their precise relationship again with the Taliban, the Tehrik-i-Taliban, the LeT, the Kashmir fighters, and so forth.  But take note of one thing.  The Haqqani fighters are said in the above article to be a “Taliban offshoot.”  Elsewhere, the words “Taliban-affiliated” are used.

Make sure to point this out.  Because it’s important when we try to sell the idea of negotiating with and reintegrating the Taliban that the American people know that we mean the Quetta Shura, you know, the … good … Taliban.  Not those bad guys the Haqqanis.  Words have to do with perceptions.

The Morphing of the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 6 months ago

Joshua Foust is both a genuinely good guy and an expert on the affairs of Central Asia.  I am neither.  With that said, I strongly disagree with the theme of his analysis of the question of whether all militants are the same?  He weighs in thusly.

Max Boot thinks all militants are the same.

Of greater immediate concern are al Qaeda’s allies: the Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani network and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG), which among them deploy thousands of hardened terrorists. These groups, in turn, are part of a larger conglomeration of extremists based in Pakistan including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (the Pakistani Taliban), Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed…

The major difference among them, at least so far, has been one of geographic focus. The Taliban, the Haqqani network and HiG want to seize power in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban aspires to rule in Islamabad. Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are primarily focused on wresting Kashmir away from India, although there have been reports of the former’s network expanding into Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Only al Qaeda has a global focus—so far.

Apart from rightly noting that al Qaeda is the only one of these groups that poses even a remote threat to the U.S. homeland, this is basically all wrong—so wrong I’m curious if it is the result of maliciousness or just laziness. Boot engages in some worrying conflations and conceptual fuzziness. Assuming the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban groups work together, are equally associated with al Qaeda, or pose an equal and in some way interchangeable threat is, put simply, dramatically at odds with our understanding of those groups, their goals, and their methods. There is no ” a larger conglomeration of extremists,” as he asserts, as that term implies an interoperability that just doesn’t exist in the real world.

Mullah Omar, contrary to what Boot writes, was not closer to Osama bin Laden than Hafiz Muhammed Saeed — and that sort of formulation misses the point anyway. Similarly, and again in contrast to Boot’s portrayal, there ARE a number of signs that the Afghan Taliban (NOT the Pakistani Taliban or Kashmir-focused terror groups, all of which Boot confuses) is seeking a way to break with al Qaeda — and we have reports of these signs going back at least to 2008.

We’ll start with this bit.  I am of the opinion – based on what I have studied – that most of the so-called Afghan “Taliban” who have sought to “reconcile” with the Karzai government are washed-up has-beens who want an easier life as they go into their golden years.  They play us and the Afghan government for fools, and they don’t legitimately represent either the Quetta Shura or Tehrik-i-Taliban (or any allied or affiliated or similar group).

Moving on, it might have been legitimate to have discussed divisions, subdivisions and categories of Taliban and al Qaeda ten or even six years ago.  Things have changed since then.

… they have evolved into a much more radical organization than the original Taliban bent on global engagement, what Nicholas Schmidle calls the Next-Gen Taliban. The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

Nick Schmidle – who is also a genuinely good guy and a scholar – gave us a learned warning shot over the bow.  It was reiterated by David Rohde who was in captivity by the Taliban.

Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.

More recently we have a report at the Asia Times from Syed Saleem Shahzad on Maulvi Nazir.

Extremely loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and a part of the Afghan Taliban, Nazir began as a conventional Talib guerrilla and a follower of the populist traits of the Taliban movement.

This changed in 2006, when, like many others including Sirajuddin Haqqani, Nazir became inspired by al-Qaeda and realized that fighting a war without modern guerrilla techniques meant draining vital human resources for no return.

That led to the advancement of the skills of Nazir’s fighters, and it also came with rewards.

In Afghanistan, if a commander sticks solely to his relations with the Taliban, he will never climb the ladder to prominence and the Taliban can only provide a limited number of local tribal fighters and meager funds. But if a commander allies with al-Qaeda, he is given the opportunity for joint operations with top Arab commanders who arrange finances for those operations.

Similarly, breakaway factions of Pakistani jihadi organizations like the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Laskhar-e-Taiba and the Harkatul Mujahideen also supply an unending stream of fighters to those commanders associated with al-Qaeda.

Nazir’s affiliation with al-Qaeda seems to have passed unnoticed by the United States and NATO, which are investing heavily in a reconciliation process with the “good Taliban” and they appear not to understand the drastic changes that have taken place among the top cadre of the Taliban …

“What is the rationale of dialogue after NATO’s withdrawal?” Nazir asked rhetorically. “Then, the Taliban and NATO can hold a dialogue on whether the Taliban would attack their interests all over the world or not, and what treaties should be undertaken in that regard.”

Taken aback by this statement from a Taliban stalwart who is not perceived as being a global jihadi but simply a guerrilla fighting against occupation forces in Afghanistan, I intervened. “Hitting Western targets abroad might be al-Qaeda’s agenda, but it is not the Taliban’s, so why should the West negotiate that with the Taliban?”

“Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are one and the same. At an operational level we might have different strategies, but at the policy level we are one and the same,” Nazir said, surprising me further.

I’m usually hesitant to cite Syed Saleem Shahzad since he is a mouth piece (witting or unwittingly) for the Taliban.  But occasionally he scores significant interviews, and those tend to be very productive and informative.  For this particular interview, the only thing that surprises me is that Syed Saleem Shahzad is surprised.

To be sure, there are factions within the TTP, and in fact, the Taliban are an amalgam of groups, subgroups, factions, leaders, and so on and so forth, some of whom disagree and even level threats at each other.

So what?  We all knew that.  The question redounds to threat, or some approximation thereof.  And so here is the crux of the issue.  Back to Foust as he opines “If these groups do not pose a threat to the United States, then it is not our problem to “fix” them. Period.”  And he summarizes.

I had hoped that the death of Osama bin Laden would at least temporarily tamp down on the irresponsible fear-mongering over a few crazies with guns in mountains whose names we cannot pronounce and who cannot and do not pose an existential threat to our existence. I guess my hope was mistaken.

Well, yes, no and maybe, depending upon point and inflection.  Let’s dissect.  I agree that it’s not the task of the U.S. to fix all of the world’s problems if there is no national security interest.  In fact, I couldn’t agree more.  While it’s laudable that we might want women treated better in Afghanistan, that’s not a reason for war.  We cannot be the policemen of the world, nor does the world want us as policemen.

But this issue of threat is more complex.  Don’t forget that the Hamburg cell headed for Afghanistan intent on receiving training and returning to Germany to perpetrate violence there.  It was OBL who persuaded them to pull off an attack in the States, and we know it as 9/11.  It was actually a fairly simple attack, and if there is any mistake that the AQ leadership is making at the moment it is that they are focusing on big, flashy attacks when they should be focusing on the simple.  I am thankful for this error in judgment.

I have already described an attack that America simply cannot absorb despite the ignorance of the current administration (who claims that we’re just fine).  The unfortunate truth is that American infrastructure, from bridges to malls, from buildings to roads, from airports to power plants, from water supplies to electrical grid, hasn’t been hardened since 9/11.  It would cost too much money to do it, far more than waging a counterinsurgency campaign in the hinterlands of the earth for the next decade.

As for threat, I never really believed that Baitullah Mehsud could actually pull off an attack on Washington, D.C.  What’s important is that he wanted to.  With enough time, money, motivation and several hundred dedicated fighters, I could bring the economy of the United States to its knees.  So can any smart Taliban leader.

Unlike Josh who believes that Max believes that all militants are the same, I see his mistake differently.  Max Boot makes the mistake of subdividing the Taliban, as if these are neat, clean, Aristotelian categories into which we can drop an organization.  This is wrong in my estimation.  They have swam in the same waters for the last decade with globalists galore, and this ideology has morphed the Pakistani Taliban into something they weren’t.  To a lesser extent this has happened with the Afghan Taliban.  Lesser extent, I admit, but it’s still there.  The mistake Joshua makes is that he sees no threat.  Again, this is wrong in my estimation.

I can play the subdivision game too.  I know the various groups of militants in the Pech River Valley, Hindu Kush, Kandahar, Helmand, FATA and NWFP.  It just doesn’t matter as much as it might have a few years ago, and to some extent I see it as pedantic and braggadocios to list out all of the names (and it’s even more impressive if you pronounce the names right – and for heaven’s sake, pronounce “Pech” correctly as “Pesh”).

But at some point I think this is all being too smart for our own good, and fiddling while Rome burns (or in this case, Central Asia).  The death of Bin Laden will have little affect on the global insurgency.  He and his ilk were but one manifestation of the globalist Islamist movement, the larger framework being the Muslim Brotherhood.  With the air of respectability, the MB will proceed apace.  Their military manifestation will still be seen in AQ, the TTP, Hamas, Hezbollah and others.  Bin Laden is dead.  The war continues.

Shot at Sirajuddin Haqqani Passed Up Due To Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 9 months ago

From The Los Angeles Times:

The CIA  passed up a chance last year to kill Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of an anti-American insurgent network in Pakistan  that is closely linked to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, when it chose not to fire a missile at him from a Predator drone because women and children were nearby, U.S. and Pakistani officials say.

The incident was one of at least three occasions in the last six months when a militant was identified on video and a shot was available, but U.S. officials decided not to fire in order to avoid civilian casualties, said a senior Pakistani official familiar with the drone program.

[ ... ]

The Pakistani official, who spoke on condition he not be named, said allowing high-value targets to escape reflected a decision by the U.S. since August to use greater caution in the drone strikes. A strike Aug. 22 destroyed a militant hide-out in North Waziristan, killing 13 members of the Afghan Taliban but also four women and three children who were living among them, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

The U.S. officials said there had been no policy change and that there always have been occasions when the CIA decided not to fire at a target in the midst of civilians. Those officials would confirm only the Haqqani incident. But they cited two other occasions in the last year when missiles that had already been fired from drones were diverted off target to avoid killing civilians. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified program.

Another factor driving the change, according to a former CIA official, is that the U.S. can afford to forgo an opportunity to kill a senior militant because intelligence and technology improvements to drone operations give the CIA confidence it will get the chance for a clearer shot.

Someone is a “prophet or a son of a prophet,” because we know that we are going to get a clearer shot at one of the most powerful Taliban leaders in the AfPak region, the younger Haqqani who has taken over operational control of the Haqqani network from his father, Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Normally I do not favor the high value target program for mid-level Taliban commanders using Special Operations Forces.  I don’t believe that it’s all that effective, especially since we usually engage in a catch-and-release program for the commanders with the deadline for judicial action in Afghanistan being 96 hours.  I think there is a better way.

But I favored the targeted killing of Baitullah Mehsud, and called for it months before it occurred.  Sirajjudin Haqqani was a very significant target, and it’s remarkable that he was allowed to escape our noose, especially due to rules of engagement.  Make no mistake about it.  This comes back to rules of engagement and possible collateral damage.  But the collateral damage from leaving Sirajuddin Haqqani alive may be catastrophic for some American families, who may lose their sons from massed Taliban force attacks on U.S. outposts, or to IEDs that blow their legs off.

Take particular note just exactly who it is that we left alive, and what he has to say about massing of Taliban forces up to 200-300 fighters at a time.  Consider that in the context of the Battle of Wanat and Kamdesh.  High value targeted killings by drones or other methods is not the answer to the campaign, but it waxes important when it comes to targets such as Haqqani.  We lost that opportunity.

Holding Terrain in Afghanistan: Pakistan’s Games of Duplicity Part III

BY Herschel Smith
4 years ago

In response to U.S. Marine Corps Combat Action in Sangin, Old Warrior said:

… in my mind, if you go to war, go to war right. They are completely robbing most of these young men of the resources that are available to them. Also, as long as the Taliban is crossing over from Pakistan every minute, they will never cease to multiply and that blood vessel needs to be cut quickly. For every Taliban these men kill, another hundred cross the border to replace them. The fundamental strategy of this war is faulty, and it saddens me to see the young, brave men of the infantry, in particular, have to pay the price with their lives. -0311 Vietnam

Recall Lt. Col Allen West’s counsel regarding the difference between occupying terrain and chasing the enemy where he establishes himself.  Population-centric counterinsurgency isn’t any different than occupying physical terrain in time and space, except that the terrain is the mind and will of the population.  That’s why we have “human terrain teams” deployed in Afghanistan (and did in Iraq).

But just like the 80-100 foreign fighters crossing the Syrian border into Iraq for many months on end, and the Quds forces who came across the Iran-Iraq border (many even before the war began), Afghanistan is a theater in a larger, transnational insurgency.  In fact, the problem is even more pronounced in Afghanistan than it was in Iraq.  Iraq was a country.  It’s best not to think of Afghanistan as a country.  It’s also best not to think of the Taliban as a Pashtun insurgency.  It isn’t.  There are Uzbeks, Arabs, Afghanis, Pakistanis and others involved (even a smattering of Europeans).

In Games of Duplicity and the End of Tribe in Pakistan, and then again in Pakistan’s Games of Duplicity Part II, we discussed Pakistan’s gaming the system of largesse with U.S. lawmakers and various U.S. administrations.  There is an important intersecting issue here pertaining to a much-discussed Taliban and al Qaeda ideological alignments.  I previously observed that:

… they have evolved into a much more radical organization than the original Taliban bent on global engagement, what Nicholas Schmidle calls the Next-Gen Taliban. The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

Finally, recall our discussions of David Rohde’s remarkable captivity by the Taliban and his subsequent escape to Pakistani Army forces.  At the time I found it especially troubling and even somewhat amusing how little the presence of Pakistani forces mattered to Taliban sanctuary.  Now comes a report by The Nation that adds to our knowledge base of the events surrounding David’s captivity and escape, and the collusion of Pakistani ISI with the Taliban.  Extensive quoting is necessary.

On a Friday night in June 2009, New York Times reporter David Rohde and his translator made a dramatic escape from captivity in Pakistan, climbing over a wall while their Afghan Taliban guards slept. Rohde wore sandals and a traditional salwar kameez, and he had a long beard, grown during his seven-month imprisonment. The two men walked in the darkness of the city, a Taliban ministate, past mud-brick huts, and found their way to a Pakistani military base just minutes away.

Rohde had been a prisoner shared by two competing groups of Taliban fighters, both of which appear to have held him not as a political or military tool in their operations against the US and Afghan governments but for his monetary value as a hostage.

Rohde’s escape was an unexpectedly joyous ending to a harrowing episode for him, his wife, his colleagues and friends. But it was by no means the end of the story.

An Afghan who is well acquainted with several of the participants in the kidnapping has provided The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute with new details about the perpetrators, as well as new information about what happened after Rohde’s escape. This source’s account reveals how Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) serves as an arbiter for the various Taliban groups that compete with one another for influence, loot and profits. According to the source, the ISI, acting on behalf of one Taliban faction, took two of Rohde’s guards into custody to interrogate them about how he escaped. Then, despite its knowledge of the men’s role in the kidnapping, the ISI simply set them free.

Though this new information merely lends more substance to already strong suspicions about the ISI’s close relationship with the Taliban, it’s still an explosive allegation: rather than cooperating with US authorities, Pakistan’s intelligence agency essentially became an accessory after the fact to Rohde’s kidnapping.

[ ... ]

After capturing Rohde, Najibullah quickly saw dollar signs. Realizing that he might have to hold on to Rohde for a long time to shake loose real money in ransom, Najibullah brought him to Pakistan, where the American reporter, his translator and his driver were placed in the custody of the Haqqani network. Rohde, in his forthcoming book, explains how he had made a mistake his second night in captivity: desperate to stay alive, he told Najibullah that he could be traded for “prisoners and millions of dollars.”

The Haqqanis, a mujahedeen clan from Khost province, may be some of the most effective commanders battling US forces. They deploy terrorist tactics—waves of well-trained attackers wearing explosive vests deployed in operations such as the assault on the Kabul guesthouses, the assassination attempt against Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a series of large-scale actions against US combat outposts on the border near Pakistan.

The Haqqanis were even more effective against the Soviets in the 1980s, when they worked closely with the CIA. The late former Congressman Charles Wilson famously referred to Jalaluddin Haqqani back then as “goodness personified.” A former agency official who used to know Jalaluddin said, “I really regret the fact that we are tangling with him, because he is not a guy to fuck around with.”

When the United States invaded Afghanistan, the Haqqanis sided with the Taliban, not Karzai. By 2002 the Haqqanis were almost on the ropes. Jalaluddin was injured in a US bombing raid. So the younger generation took over. Jalaluddin’s son Siraj, trained like his father in the twin arts of paramilitary warfare and charismatic religious leadership, was now in charge.

The Haqqanis are also known to live well. “They do business,” The Nation’s source said. “They’ve done business for years. They are involved in war, but if they find some business opportunity, they do it. They like buying houses and selling them and stuff like that. Now they have trucks and trucking equipment in Peshawar.”

Rohde’s kidnapping was in essence a business opportunity. Najibullah, the young commander who first captured Rohde, was not a subordinate of the Haqqanis; but by bringing Rohde to them, he would build up his reputation with the clan, giving him a safe base from which to conduct negotiations. Najibullah and his men brought Rohde across Afghanistan’s border to the Haqqanis to make it easier to hold him for an extended period, according to the source familiar with the kidnapping. In Pakistan, they figured, they were safe from American rescue efforts, since they understood that the Haqqanis had the protection of the ISI …

The Nation’s Afghan source said that guarding Rohde was a task shared by Najibullah and the Haqqanis, who provided the logistical support, housing and a secure environment in which to operate near Afghanistan. With so much money at stake, each faction was mistrustful of the other. Of Rohde’s three chief guards, one was a Haqqani loyalist and two were Najibullah’s men. So important was this operation to Najibullah that he had his brother Timor Shah act as a full-time guard for Rohde. (These details are corroborated in Rohde’s book.)

Not only were the Haqqanis and Najibullah eager to use Rohde for profit but the main Taliban Shura—the head council that oversees the Afghan Taliban—hoped to get involved as well, according to The Nation’s source …

Throughout his captivity, Rohde was well aware of the likely connections between the ISI and the Haqqanis who held him, though he said no ISI agents made themselves known during his captivity. “I didn’t witness any direct contact between the ISI and the Haqqanis.” That said, he was living proof, in a sense, that Pakistani authorities gave the Haqqanis full freedom to do as they liked. “What I did see,” he emphasized, “was that Pakistan forces never came off their bases, and the Haqqanis were allowed to operate their own Taliban ministate in North Waziristan.”

In Pakistan, Rohde’s escape was devastating for the Taliban. Not only had they lost their prize prisoner but the loss caused the Haqqanis and Najibullah to turn on each other. They were both convinced, in a case of mirror imaging, that the other one must have released Rohde as part of a secret arrangement in which they kept the ransom money for themselves. Instead of suspecting incompetence on the part of the guards, they believed someone was cheating and getting rich.

“There was a big problem between Siraj [Haqqani] and Najibullah,” the source familiar with the kidnappers told me. “A huge issue. Siraj was blaming Najibullah, that he’s the one who took money from the Americans and let the guy go. 
And [Najibullah] was blaming him, that he did it, because it was his compound.”

Even the Taliban Shura in Quetta got involved, the source said. They “thought that Siraj kept the money.”

To arbitrate the dispute about the kidnapping, the Haqqanis turned to the Pakistan government’s intelligence service, according to The Nation’s source. Siraj, the source said, turned over the two guards affiliated with Najibullah to the ISI for questioning. “One of them,” the source said, “was Najib’s brother Timor Shah.”

The guards were allegedly interrogated fiercely and tortured by the ISI. The interrogators demanded to know exactly how Rohde had escaped. Who had let him go, and why? Were the men paid a ransom they had not shared? In other words, the ISI was making sure that the relations between the Taliban factions weren’t destroyed by anyone’s betrayal.

Once the ISI was convinced that there had been no bribes and no ransom, Rohde’s guards were set free. Despite their role in the kidnapping, they were not charged in court or handed over to the Americans. After more than a month in custody, they were let go.

First, while this report ends with musings on civil war within the Taliban, there is no such war.  There might be individuals who battle each other for preeminence, but the various factions seem to me to get along remarkably well, from the Tehrik-i-Taliban to the Haqqani network, to the Quetta Shura, to al Qaeda.  Anyone who questions the religious and ideological underpinnings of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s fighters should make sure to watch this interview by the NEFA Foundation.  Regardless of the internecine battles, the Taliban factions are well connected.

Second, we have previously focused in on Matthew Hoh’s arguments to get out of Afghanistan because the enemy is in Pakistan.

Advocating disengagement from Afghanistan is tantamount to suggesting that one front against the enemy would be better than two, and that one nation involved in the struggle would be better than two (assuming that Pakistan would keep up the fight in our total absence, an assumption for which I see no basis).  It’s tantamount to suggesting that it’s better to give the Taliban and al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan as Pakistan presses them from their side, or that it’s better to give them safe haven in Pakistan while we press them from our side.  Both suggestions are preposterous.

This isn’t about nation-states and imaginary boundaries.  When we think this way we do err in that we superimpose a Western model on a region of the world where it doesn’t apply.  This is about a transnational insurgency, and it’s never better to give the enemy more land, more latitude, more space, more people, more money, and more safety.  Any arguments to this effect are mistaken at a very fundamental level.

Seeing things in terms of Pakistan or Afghanistan is a category error.  We aren’t dealing with European nation-states, but dangerous waters in which rogue elements freely swim, where they exchange ideas and are increasingly becoming radicalized, and where elements of the Pakistani ISI collude with the enemy rather than fight them.

As we focus on physical and human terrain in Afghanistan, it has become painfully obvious that no amount of focus or effort will secure that terrain when the very insurgents we fight are supported by the Pakistani ISI and given both safe haven and free passage across the border.

Finally, the Durand line is imaginary, and unless we chase and kill the insurgents where they are, the campaign in Afghanistan is doomed.  The press is filled with positive reports lately about progress in Afghanistan, but wherever the ebb or flow of the war is, they enemy awaits our withdrawal to reclaim his own territory.  Pakistan is an enemy in this campaign, not an ally.  Unless we take clear-headed action in the coming months to address this problem, not only will the opportunity to win the campaign be lost, but the opportunity to use this theater to wage war on our enemy will have been relinquished.  We will not find a better theater than this one.


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