It’s crazy to trust the Haqqanis

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Yesterday’s explosions at the crowded gate of Kabul airport served as a grim reminder of the threats in Afghanistan still facing the Afghans, the region and the United States. ISIS-Khorasan, an offshoot of ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed more than 70 Afghans and at least 13 US servicemen.

But the Islamic State-Khorasan is not the only jihadist group the United States needs to worry about as it leaves Afghanistan. The Haqqani network is at the center of many militant networks and the new Taliban-dominated Afghan government. Although its leaders claim to have changed their minds by seizing national power, no one believes they intend to sever ties with terrorist groups.

Yesterday’s explosions at the crowded gate of Kabul airport served as a grim reminder of the threats in Afghanistan still facing the Afghans, the region and the United States. ISIS-Khorasan, an offshoot of ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed more than 70 Afghans and at least 13 US servicemen.

But the Islamic State-Khorasan is not the only jihadist group the United States needs to worry about as it leaves Afghanistan. The Haqqani network is at the center of many militant networks and the new Taliban-dominated Afghan government. Although its leaders claim to have changed their minds by seizing national power, no one believes they intend to sever ties with terrorist groups.

Over the past two decades, the Haqqanis have become one of the main faces of armed opposition to US forces and have carried out deadly attacks, including a 19-hour siege of the US Embassy. They have also become a transnational mafia trading in industries ranging from the ransom industry to real estate, telephones, car dealerships, mineral smuggling and drug trafficking.

But what really sets the Haqqanis apart is their particularly close relationship with al-Qaeda. Both groups are rooted in radical Deobandi religious ideology, and the group’s founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, had a personal friendship with al-Qaeda co-founder Osama bin Laden. According to a report by the analytical support and sanctions monitoring team submitted to the United Nations Security Council last May, the Haqqani network is a main liaison actor in maintaining relations between the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Al Qaeda played an active role in aiding the Haqqanis in the battles to conquer Afghanistan.

The network also remains linked to several regional jihadist organizations, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the anti-India Jaish-e-Mohammed, as well as the Islamic State-Khorasan. The UN report noted that the Islamic State-Khorasan “did not have the capacity to launch complex attacks in Kabul on its own” while assuming responsibility for operations which had in all likelihood been carried out by the Haqqani network. Experts have long suggested that the Haqqani Network lets Islamic State-Khorasan carry out attacks that serve its own purposes but does not want to be associated with them. The group allows the Haqqanis to maintain plausible deniability in such attacks.

The brutal network has now been entrusted with the security of Kabul by the Taliban. This week, Khalil Haqqani, a terrorist designated by the United States and the United Nations, was sent to Kabul to take control of the city by his nephew Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy of the Taliban and head of the Haqqani network. Habib Ur Rehman Agha, a local Taliban member and son of Taliban leader Syed Akbar Agha, was among those who met with Haqqani to discuss the security situation in the city. He said the Haqqanis received Kabul because of their long-established security presence in the city, operating underground and alongside the official police and military. “They have had a security apparatus in Kabul for a long time,” Habib Ur Rehman Agha said. It is common knowledge that nothing is happening in Kabul without the knowledge of the Haqqanis.

It is not yet clear whether the Haqqanis played an active role in the airport attack, simply ignored it, or were simply caught off guard. What is clear are the explosions that ravaged the perimeter of the airport which was supposedly under their surveillance. The Haqqani Network had assigned its special unit, Badri 313, to patrol outside the airport and had been boasting online all week about its success with Persian Gulf donors as well as future recruits. The group’s propaganda arm, called Manba al-Jihad or the Source of Jihad, published Badri’s fantasy videos 313 dressed in modern military uniforms, balaclavas and goggles, armed with state-of-the-art American weapons. They were of little use when ISIS-Khorasan militants detonated their suicide bombs, a practice the Haqqanis themselves initiated on the Afghan battlefield.

The Taliban claimed to have lost 28 limbs, more men than the United States. But although Islamic State-Khorasan is a nemesis of the Taliban, their relationship with the Haqqanis has been much more ambiguous. Whether or not the Haqqanis played a role in this attack, those who have followed the group find it untrustworthy and say it cannot be expected to honor the Taliban’s agreement with the States. United States last year, which explicitly states that the Taliban will not allow anti-American terrorist groups to operate on Afghan soil.

Bill Roggio, a senior researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said the Haqqanis derive their strength from their relationship with the Pakistani inter-agency intelligence agency. “They are probably trained by the Pakistani army,” Roggio said, adding that Sirajuddin Haqqani is the most powerful leader of the Taliban, arguably more than the Taliban leader general, Haibatullah Akhundzada. “But Siraj has changed his tone. He told his people that he had conquered a territory and that he must now rule, be fair, have a Sharia code and meet the needs of the people. But will it govern effectively? We know he will keep his alliance with al-Qaeda intact. Roggio added that Badri 313 appears to be a reincarnation of the 313 Brigade whose leader was Ilyas Kashmiri, an Al Qaeda agent who carried out several anti-American and anti-Indian attacks.

Others have said the Haqqanis are masters of deception, implying that it would be reckless for the United States to take their word for it. “When a delegation from the central government visited them, the Haqqanis offered their guests a hearty meal, Kabuli rice and so on. The delegates thought they had an agreement and fell asleep. The Haqqanis slit their throats that night, ”said Gretchen Peters, executive director of the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime, who wrote a detailed article on the Haqqani Network. “That’s the kind of people they are; that’s the kind of person they always have been. They will do whatever they want. They always did what they wanted.

This terrible story is just one of a long list of atrocities committed by the Haqqanis. Instilling terror in the hearts of Afghans to silence them and acquiesce has always been the modus operandi of the Haqqanis. They stuck burning sticks in the legs of Afghans they suspected of having killed others, beheaded others and lined their corpses in the street to serve as an example for anyone who thinks of crossing them. . It is this legacy of fear that they deploy in Kabul as they are charged with maintaining order.

Most of the townspeople are terrified and have locked themselves in. Some, however, see some signs that the Haqqanis seemed to have improved their conduct. “Behave well with the general public”, Sirajuddin had commanded his men as he prepared to retake Afghanistan. Richard Ponzio, director of the Global Governance, Justice and Security program at the Stimson Center and a former State Department official, said the Haqqani Network has shown restraint towards Afghan citizens and has prevented looting and other criminal activity base in the capital. “But at the same time, their repeated harassment – including sometimes of a violent nature – of Afghans seeking to flee the country via the Kabul airport has led to an increase by Western forces of the perimeter of operations around the airport. “said Ponzio. “Once Western troops leave Kabul, the Afghans rightly fear” that the Haqqani network will renege on public commitments made by Taliban spokespersons not to harm Afghan citizens.

Peters said it would be especially interesting to see how the Haqqanis act towards their fellow Afghans once they firmly establish their power in the country. Will they continue their illicit activities and brutal killings or will they live off legally collected taxes? In an interview with Al Jazeera– an information network belonging to the government of Qatar, which mediates between the Taliban and the United States – Khalil Haqqani has tried to allay the concerns of his Afghan compatriots. “We have no hostility with anyone. We are all Afghans, ”he said.

Either way, there is no guarantee that the Haqqanis will stop supporting their ideological relatives who intend to attack other countries in the region and even the United States.

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