In recent months, the name of one terror group has consistently grabbed the headlines and the lethality of its schemes and suicide bombings have terrorized the people in Kabul, Jalalabad and elsewhere. The feared Haqqani network has been behind most of the suicide bombings and armed assaults in cities and towns throughout Eastern Afghanistan, including Kabul and Jalalabad. The fiery attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, the attack on a Kabul Bank branch in Jalalabad, the bombings at the Indian embassy in Kabul, the attack on the house of President Karzai's advisor in Kabul that took place a few weeks ago as well as the recent foiled plan of attack on Kabul's airport are all the handiworks of the Haqqani network.
This group is primarily based in North Waziristan in Pakistani tribal areas. Miranshah, the center of North Waziristan has for long been the main base of operations and activities of this group. While the leadership of the group is vested with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of its founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, the group has cultivated close partnerships with many other self-styled terror groups all across Pakistani tribal areas as well as Eastern Afghanistan.
These contacts and affiliations have effectively turned this group into a network that it is duly called with its reach far and wide throughout Eastern Afghanistan and tribal areas of Pakistan. These close affiliations and liaisons have worked to dramatically increase the group's resources, contacts and lethal reach with Kunar, khost, Paktia, Paktika, Nangarhar and Laghman having fallen under the influence of the group and its affiliates. What is interesting is that while the Haqqani netwok considers itself a wing of the wider Taliban organization in Afghanistan, it has largely kept intact its own command and control and organizational structure. Attacks and operations across Afghanistan's east up to Kabul and even beyond are planned and controlled from the bases of the network in the tribal areas.
The Haqqani network was founded by the elder jalaluddin Haqqani in the years of the war against the Soviet invasion in late 1970s and from then onwards, the group has grown to become one of the most feared, resourceful, sophisticated and battle-hardened terror organizations in South Asia. Its experience of over 30 years in fighting pitched guerrilla wars has made the group into a particularly fierce and sophisticated paramilitary organization. As is the case with many other terror groups in South Asia, the activities of this group is not limited to insurgency and warfare; it runs a sprawling network of business-smuggling-charity activities that goes all across the tribal areas and also many provinces of eastern Afghanistan. The group's founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was a well-known figure during the days of Jihad against the Soviets. After the fall of the Communist regime in Kabul in early 1990s, he was appointed a minister in the Mujahideen's government.
Apart from the Taliban, the Haqqani network has been able to put up a tremendously fierce challenge to the government of Afghanistan and the international forces in the Eastern parts of the country. The magnitude of damage it has inflicted upon the mainly American forces in the East has been significant with the Afghan and American military operations failing to clear the region from the network's influence and shadowy presence.
The Haqqani network has been behind most of the terror attacks inside Kabul. What sets this terror group apart is its extensive cooperation and affiliations with many other terror groups inside Pakistan which provide the Haqqani group with suicide bombers at times. As recently reported, the Haqqani network sells some of the trained suicide bombers in its disposal to other terror groups for hefty prices which are then used for financing the operations of this large network.
The U.S. has rightly been pressuring the Pakistani government to take strong steps towards eliminating the Haqqani netwok in the tribal areas. American requests to the Pakistani government to take effective action against the Haqqanis has turned into open warnings of late with Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of staff, on Tuesday warning Pakistan against inaction in relation to eliminating militant hideouts including that of Haqqanis in its tribal areas.
The Haqqani group's long record of affiliation with Al-Qaeda is amply documented whether now or during the years of war against the Soviets. The network still maintains close working relationship with Al-Qaeda in tribal areas and parts of eastern Afghanistan. The Haqqani network also looks for every opportunity to plan and execute attacks in the Europe and North America in conjunction with its Arab Al-Qaeda affiliates. The fact that Haqqani network harbors ambitions beyond the region and might get involved in any future attack on the West should enough for the international coalition in Afghanistan and Pakistani and Afghan governments to take every measure necessary to neutralize the network and defuse the growing threats.
As said, the Haqqani group has its flourishing backward bases in the tribal areas of Pakistan, mainly the North Waziristan, while its fighters routinely cross the border into the Eastern belt of the country taking advantage of the mountainous terrain and dense jungles in the region. Taking shelter in the high mountains and thick vegetation cover of Eastern provinces by the Haqqani group fighters have made the task of the NATO and Afghan forces particularly difficult. In the run-up to the 2014 deadline of handing over the whole of security responsibilities to Afghan forces, both the international coalition and the Afghan government must break the back of the Haqqani group in the East in spite of the adverse terrain conditions.
Accomplishing this task in the East is important after the Taliban were weakened in their Southern strongholds. The transition process in Afghanistan will not be smooth if the Haqqani group can operate with impunity and carry out more attacks like what it did in Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. The cooperation of Pakistani forces is absolutely necessary since the Haqqanis' main base of operations is across the border. The task of neutralizing the Haqqani network in eastern Afghanistan is yet to be started. It is expected that the U.S. military and Afghan forces drastically escalate their campaigns in the Eastern region to tackle the threats posed by the Haqqani network. This has long been overdue; with John Allen, the new coalition forces commander, having assumed the command of the international forces, the war against the Haqqanis will enter a new phase.