The Haqqani History: Bin Ladin's Advocate Inside the Taliban
New Documents – Posted on 9/11 Anniversary – Offer Partial View Inside Newly-Dubbed Terrorist Network
(courtesy of Harvard University)
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 389 Posted - September 11, 2012
Washington, D.C., September 11, 2012 – In the wake of the State Department's recent designation of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization, declassified documents posted today – on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – by the National Security Archive offer new insight into the Haqqani family's long history with militancy. The records on Network founder Jalaluddin Haqqani detail direct meetings between Haqqani and U.S. diplomats, [Doc 4] his role as a Taliban military commander, [Doc 2] and intimate ties to foreign militants, [Doc 1] al-Qaeda connections, [Doc 5] as well as his potentially critical function as a major advocate for Osama bin Laden within the Taliban administration. [Doc 3]
The released documents include a confession from Haqqani that he had enjoyed very amicable relations with U.S. officials during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, but that the friendship soured after the 1998 U.S. bombing of a Haqqani-linked terrorist camp in Khost, Afghanistan, undertaken by President Bill Clinton in retaliation for al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Although the U.S. decided to officially declare the Haqqani Network a terrorist organization only on September 7, 2012, Haqqani's ties to extremism and al-Qaeda date back to the Soviet intervention and the founding of al-Qaeda. All major leaders in the Haqqani group had already been identified as al-Qaeda and Taliban affiliates and sanctioned by the UN at the request of Washington. [Doc 6]
The National Security Archive obtained the documents below through the Freedom of Information Act. As the U.S. government declassifies and releases more materials, the Archive will make them available, including through future Web postings.
Document 1 - Karachi 01617: U.S. Consulate Karachi, Cable, "The Harakat-ul-Ansar - The Pakistan Dimension [Excised]," March 29, 1995, Secret, 14 pp.
Describing long-standing ties between Jalaluddin Haqqani and foreign terrorists, a report by the U.S. Department of State on the Kashmiri militant group Harakat-ul-Ansar notes "many of the activists of Harakat-ul-Ansar are reportedly veterans of the Afghan war who fought along with Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani in Paktia Province. A significant portion of the membership is non-Pakistani, made up of Afghan war veterans from Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, and other countries, all of whom have stayed on after conclusion of the Afghan jihad. Three sources have told us that the membership also includes a small number of American muslims - we've heard numbers ranging from six to sixteen…"
Document 2 - Islamabad 00154 : U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: Jalaluddin Haqqani's Emergence As a Key Taliban Commander," January 7, 1997, Confidential, 14pp.
Taliban military commander Jalaluddin Haqqani is reported in this 1997 account to be "more liberal" in his opinions on social policy, such as women's rights, than other Taliban officials. But he does not seem to be in a position to influence Taliban positions on these issues. Haqqani nevertheless remains respected as a competent and influential officer in Taliban military affairs. His ties to "various radical Arab groups" concern the Department of State, as one source reports that "in exchange for weapons and money… [he is] offering shelter for various Arabs in areas of Paktia province." The Department notes that "reporting in other channels indicate that Haqqani maintains these links" with radical Arab elements in Afghanistan. An additional previously published document similarly discusses Haqqani's ties to Arab and Kashmiri militants.
Document 3 - Islamabad 04450: U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: Taliban Said to Loosen Grip on Bin Ladin as They Increasingly Turn to Him for Financial Support and Advice," June 12, 1998, Confidential, 9 pp.
Sources inform U.S. officials that Jalaluddin Haqqani is an important individual advocating for Osama bin Laden in the Taliban administration. Washington is concerned as bin Laden appears to be operating largely free of Taliban government control and is being protected by Taliban elements. Sources claim bin Laden's augmented autonomy and influence are due at least in part to "the growing strength of his supporters within the Taliban movement... Bin Ladin is benefiting from the enhanced strength within the movement of such men as Jalaluddin Haqqani, a well-known pro-Taliban commander… Ideologically close to bin Ladin's internationalist Islamist positions, these men have successfully argued with other Taliban in recent months to reduce controls on bin Ladin."
Document 4 - State 095538: U.S. Department of State, Cable, "Usama bin Ladin: Pressing High-Level Taliban Official Jalaluddin Haqqani on Bin Ladin," May 24, 1999, Secret, NODIS, 6 pp.
U.S. officials meet directly with Jalaluddin Haqqani in 1999 to discuss Osama bin Ladin. Haqqani is in the Taliban administration serving as "Acting Minister of Borders," and is known as a "key" official "with links to Arab militants." Despite noting that "he was deeply appreciative of U.S. assistance during the 'jihad' (holy war) against the Soviets and the (Afghan) communists," tensions between Haqqani and U.S. officials are palpable since American missiles destroyed a Haqqani-linked terrorist camp in Khost, Afghanistan, in August 1998. Haqqani initiates the meeting by "joking" that it was "good to meet someone from the country which had destroyed my base, my madrassh [sic], and killed 25 of my mujahideen."
Bin Laden remains the focus of the meeting with Haqqani. American officials tell Haqqani, "the U.S. would continue to make things difficult for the Taliban if the [bin Laden] issue remained unresolved. It was in the Taliban's advantage to expel him immediately." Haqqani agrees bin Laden is "a problem," but insists that "maybe the best solution is what is taking place now with him remaining in the country."
Document 5 - ISAF - RC East OSINT Summary: International Security Assistance Force - Afghanistan (ISAF), Report, "The Landing Zone, RC East OSINT Summary," December 18, 2008, Secret, 8 pp.
Quoting unclassified sources, a letter ostensibly signed by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the head of a network "very closely aligned with Al Qaeda," was released denouncing Taliban leader Mullah Omar as "ineffective, ignorant, and illiterate." Most suspect the letter is a fake. "Intelligence agents with the international forces suggest that the letter originated from the Afghan government or its allies as an attempt to inflame tensions between insurgent groups." The previously-classified ISAF intelligence analyst commentary notes: "The strategy of separating the Taliban from Al Qaida is a pretty farfetched concept since the majority of low level fighters for these organizations are known to be used by both… Al Qaida plays a coordinating and strategic role between several syndicate organizations, enabling global support while simultaneously ensuring the harmonization of these groups. These actions assist with… the Taliban's main objective of forcing western forces out of Afghanistan and regaining control of the national government."
In other words, attempts to separate groups like al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and Taliban-affiliates are unlikely to succeed since on the ground they use many of the same fighters, and the Taliban benefit from al-Qaeda and Haqqani's strategic role in coordinating groups aiming to weaken U.S. efforts.
Note: "RC East OSINT Summary" stands for Regional Command [Afghanistan] East, Open Source Intelligence.
Document 6 - State 070339: U.S. Department of State, Cable, "Instruction to Nominate Four Terrorist Leaders for Listing by the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee," July 6, 2010, Unclassified, 5 pp.
Document 7 - State 002648: U.S. Department of State, Cable, "Pre-Notification for Impending U.S. Domestic Designation and UNSCR 1267 Listing Request of Khalil Haqqani and Said Jan +Abd Al-Salam," January 10, 2011, Secret, 7 pp.
As discussed in these two cables, prior to the September 7, 2012, designation of the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization, the leaders of the Haqqani group had already been added to the UN 1267 Committee list of "individuals and entities associated with Usama bin Laden, the Taliban or al Qaida." The Department notes that "[l]isted individuals are subject to UN Security Council mandated sanctions, including a travel ban, arms embargo, and assets freeze." Individuals who had been named include Haqqani Network founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, his sons Badruddin (killed in August 2012), Nasiruddin and Sirajuddin, as well as Jalaluddin's brother, Khalil Haqqani, who was said to have "acted on behalf of al Qa'ida (AQ) and has been linked to AQ military operations. In 2002 Khalil Haqqani deployed men to reinforce AQ elements in Paktia Province, Afghanistan."