A top leader in the Haqqani Network declared the group and the Taliban are one and the same, contrary to the State Department's attempts to argue the two groups are “separate entities.”
Anas Haqqani, brother of a Haqqani Network member who is considered the Taliban’s deputy commander, bluntly told Newsline magazine over the weekend: “We are the Taliban.”
Anas “rejected the distinction between the Haqqanis and the Taliban,” telling the outlet that “any attacks his family was involved in were not conducted independently but are representative of the entire group.”
He is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a now-deceased leader of the Haqqanis and eventual Taliban commander who had allied with and protected al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Some evidence exists that he may have helped bin Laden escape Afghanistan as the United States invaded in late 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
He is also the brother of Taliban “deputy emir” Sirajuddin Haqqani and the nephew of Khalil Rahman Haqqani, another top Taliban leader who has reportedly been placed in charge of Kabul’s security.
State Department spokesman Ned Price was asked on Friday whether U.S. coordination on security at the airport with the Taliban extended to the Haqqani network.
"No, it does not," he said. "The Taliban and the Haqqani Network are separate entities."
After a reporter noted that members of the Haqqani family had prominent positions inside the Taliban, Price said: "The Haqqani network is a designated terrorist organization. We are not coordinating with the Haqqani Network."
The Pentagon differed on the State Department's stance the following day when spokesman John Kirby said there was "a certain matter of commingling" between the groups, adding, "I mean, there is a marbling, if you will, of Taliban and Haqqani.”
The State Department reiterated its characterization Saturday, with a spokesman telling the Washington Examiner: "The Haqqani network and Taliban are separate entities, but they are affiliated. The State Department has long noted the affiliation between the Haqqani network and the Taliban."
The Taliban, the Haqqani network, and al Qaeda are deeply intertwined in Afghanistan, and the Taliban have integrated Haqqani network leaders and fighters with al Qaeda links into their command structure. The local Islamic State affiliate, ISIS-K, has long clashed with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, claiming that Taliban rule is illegitimate.
Thirteen U.S. service members and dozens of Afghan civilians and others were killed in a suicide bombing outside Kabul airport Thursday. ISIS-K took responsibility for the attack.
Former Pakistani Taliban militants founded ISIS-K. The group recruits Taliban defectors, and it seems to have some connections with the Haqqani network as well.
Anas was captured in 2014 after he had visited the so-called "Taliban Five" in Qatar, and he was brought to Kabul, where he is believed to have been jailed at the National Directorate Services headquarters and then the prison at Bagram Air Base. The Long War Journal noted at the time that the Taliban claimed Anas was just a student who did not have any political affiliation.
Afghan intelligence officials contended when Anas was arrested that he was a key part of the Haqqani Network’s insurgent operations, including its fundraising and strategy, which Anas denies.
The Long War Journal reported in September 2016 that the Taliban threatened to attack “judicial installations” in Afghanistan if the Afghan government went through with executing Anas, with the Taliban threatening that "a lot of blood will be spilled and the government will be responsible for all of it.”
“The Americans … wanted to put pressure on my family,” Anas now says, with the outlet reporting that “Anas believes the stubborn loyalty his father had to the Taliban ... led to his detention” and that, “he says he was taken hostage because the U.S. wanted to pressure the Taliban to negotiate with the government in Kabul.”
The Taliban named Anas to its “peace talk” negotiating team in Doha in February 2019 when he was still imprisoned.
Anas and two other top Haqqani members — Haji Malik Khan and Qari Abdul Rasheed — were released in November 2019 in a prisoner exchange that included the Taliban freeing U.S. professor Kevin King and Australian professor Timothy Weeks. Now-deposed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said at the time that his government had to “pay this bitter price” to free King and Weeks.
Anas spoke about the Haqqani role in U.S.-Taliban negotiations, telling the outlet: “Our family needed to be present to disprove the allegations of there being a Haqqani Network, or that the Islamic Emirate was factionalized, or that we operated independently of it.” The “Islamic Emirate” is what the Taliban has long called itself.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the "deputy emir" of the Taliban, "currently leads the day-to-day activities of the Haqqani Network," according to the State Department, which explained that "the Haqqani Network is allied with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda." Haqqani has been designated a terrorist by the U.S., with the State Department offering $10 million for his arrest.
The U.S. first designated the Haqqani network as a terrorist group in 2012.
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Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy