ISLAMABAD: Once the most wanted by the US, the powerful Haqqani network is calling the shots on both military and political fronts to set up a new governance structure in Afghanistan, following the Taliban’s capture of Kabul earlier this month.
The Taliban have entrusted the security of the Afghan capital to the Haqqani network, which was listed by the US as a terror group in 2012 and has long been blamed for several brazen attacks on foreign forces across the war-infested country, particularly in Kabul.
Founded by a veteran commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani, the network was one of the first to raise arms against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, with the backing of the US.
Following the Taliban’s rise in 1996, Haqqani merged his group into the “students’ militia,” while still maintaining a degree of independence. Haqqani, who had also served as chief commander of the Hizb-e-Islami faction of Moulvi Yunus Khalid against Soviet forces, was appointed as minister for border affairs in the first Taliban government.
He died in September 2018 in his home province of Paktia at the age of early 80s. Haqqanis are members of the Pashtun ethnic group from the Zadran clan.
The network has long been accused by the West of having links with foreign militants, particularly Al-Qaeda.
Here are the key network members involved in the Taliban’s ongoing efforts to install an inclusive government and maintain security in Afghanistan.
Years before the death of his father Jalaluddin Haqqani, Siraj had taken over the network.
Under his command, the group carried out numerous high-profile attacks, mainly in Kabul, against foreign forces, prompting Washington to designate the network as a terrorist outfit in Sept. 2012.
He is also known as Khalifa sahib among his followers.
After the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, the Taliban’s second supreme leader, Siraj was appointed as one of the three deputies to the current leader Mullah Haibitullah Akundzada in 2016.
Jalaluddin Haqqani had set up a seminary in the town of Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan in the 1980s, which is still in operation.
The US State Department has offered a bounty of up to $ 5 million for information leading directly to Siraj’s arrest.
He is believed to have been in Paktia and overseeing the security of eastern Afghanistan, a stronghold of the Taliban.
Khalilur Rahman Haqqani
Khalilur Rahman Haqqani, an uncle of Sirajuddin, has been tasked with overseeing security in Kabul, where things are gradually returning to normal.
Rahman, Jalaluddin Haqqani’s stepbrother, is suspected as the mastermind of some of Afghanistan’s deadliest attacks on foreign forces.
Washington designated Rahman a global terrorist in February 2011, offering a 5 million bounty for information leading to his arrest, as well.
He has also been added to the UN’s list of terrorists.
Anas, the youngest of Jalaluddin Haqqani sons, is leading efforts to form a governance system in Kabul following the collapse of the Afghan government by the recent Taliban blitz.
As a chief Taliban negotiator, he has met with various groups and leaders, including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, former top peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah, and former veteran Mujahideen commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
According to journalist Hamid Mir, Anas is one of the Taliban’s most-lettered figures.
Anas, a poet and author, rose to prominence after being sentenced to death by an Afghan court in 2016.
However, he was released by the Kabul government in exchange for the Taliban’s release of Western captives in 2019.