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jalaluddin haqqani


A warlord and head of the Taliban in North Waziristan, Jalaluddin Haqqani is believed to be the architect of the Taliban's current attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and he's credited with introducing a new tactic -- suicide bombing.

Haqqani has had a long history with Saudi, American and Pakistani intelligence agencies. During the Afghan jihad against the Soviets, he was one of the favored commanders and received millions of dollars from the West and Saudis, as well as Stinger missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, explosives and tanks. He became close to Osama bin Laden during the jihad and after the Taliban took control, he served as minister of tribal affairs in its government. He has worked with Pakistani intelligence for more than 20 years; the U.S. has repeatedly asked Pakistan to capture or kill him.

Here, journalist Steve Coll talks about Haqqani's rise to prominence and explains why, shortly after 9/11, the United States and Pakistan considered trying to persuade Haqqani to switch sides. Also talking about Haqqani -- and whether the Pakistani government knows where he is -- are Peter Tomsen, who served as U.S. envoy to Afghanistan from 1989-1992; Munir Akram, Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations; journalist Ismail Khan; and Nek Zaman, a pro-Taliban tribal leader and congressman from North Waziristan.


Author, Ghost Wars

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Steve Coll

Jalaluddin Haqqani … was a very important figure in the 1980s. He was a late convert to the Taliban, and he has had a long and very close relationship with ISI and particularly with the Afghan bureau of ISI.

During the 1980s, Haqqani received an extraordinary share of the CIA-funded and Saudi-funded war materiel that were shipped to the Afghan front. During the 1990s, he remained a very important commander and also a fund-raiser because of his connections in the Persian Gulf. He was an independent-minded fighter, and the Taliban wanted him on their side. At some stage in the 1990s, he agreed to sort of fly under the Taliban flag, and he became, eventually, interior minister in a Taliban government.

But there was always a question about whether Haqqani was really Taliban, because he hadn't come out of Kandahar; he wasn't part of the core group. And it was quite reasonable to believe after 9/11 that maybe he could be flipped.

At the moment that the United States and Pakistan began to think about, well, how are we going to defeat the Taliban militarily, the idea of persuading Haqqani to change sides quickly occurred to them. They summoned him to Pakistan, and they had a series of meetings with him, the content of which is unknown. There was some hope that he would, for money or for the sake of Pakistan's new policy, change his loyalty. But he didn't. He left unmolested, went back to the Afghan frontier, and has been waging war ever since, in some sense, against both Pakistan and the United States.

Now, the ISI officers who worked with Haqqani, who had been his partners over a long period of time, their loyalties were clearly divided at the same time that Haqqani himself was trying to make a decision. I think it's quite reasonable to assume that the decision that Haqqani made to reject these treaties, to in effect betray the Taliban, that his feelings were shared by many of his collaborators within the ISI. ...

Jalaluddin Haqqani has very long and intimate roots, and a long history with bin Laden personally. When Al Qaeda was formed along the Afghan-Pakistan border in the summer of 1988, its first camps were in Haqqani's territory. The first infrastructure of Al Qaeda was essentially supervised by Haqqani. Haqqani himself raised money repeatedly in Saudi Arabia and had rich contacts with Arab fighters coming to the region. He was their Afghan patron in many ways.

He was an extraordinarily effective fighter, and he also had the benefit of favored support from ISI and the CIA, for that matter, right through the end of the anti-Communist war in Afghanistan.

So bin Laden and Haqqani would have known each other for 15 years by the time bin Laden came across the border after Tora Bora.

So he's running into the arms of a friend?

A brother.

And Haqqani is based in Miram Shah, in North Waziristan?

In that area. He's always been based right around Miram Shah.

Is he Pakistani or an Afghan?

He's an Afghan who has some credibility in terms of social identity in the Miram Shah area, but mostly he's earned his reputation by being an extraordinarily effective, brave and tenacious war fighter. He fought the Communists in that area around Miram Shah ... very effectively.

He was under fire himself, wounded, treated in hospitals in the Persian Gulf, back into the fray. I think for many of the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs who would encounter him at hajj, where he would raise money in tents in Mecca, he was the symbol of Afghan bravery and independence in the face of the Soviet occupation. He came to understand through his own acquisition of Arabic language and his frequent visits to Saudi Arabia that his reputation was something that could lead him to resources that many of his rival commanders could not possess.

The CIA and the ISI in the late '80s also saw Haqqani as an unusually effective commander against Soviet forces. He was willing to fight. He didn't go to a lot of meetings; he might be rough around the edges, but Americans would go up to Miram Shah and sit cross-legged at meetings with him as the cash and the weapons were being directed his way. They came away with an impression similar to the pilgrims at the hajj: This was an Afghan war fighter. This was an independent-minded, dangerous man, but someone we could do business with. Haqqani received a great deal of support.

At the same time, he controlled this area around the south of the Khyber Pass … that was an obvious crossing point for volunteers like bin Laden, who were based in Peshawar. It's not a coincidence that the first camps that bin Laden created in Afghanistan, Lion's Den and some related infrastructure that he started to build, were in Haqqani's territory.

U.S. special envoy and ambassador on Afghanistan, 1989-1992

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Peter Tomsen

[Haqqani] was our client.

Right. He was also the ISI client.

And the CIA built a lot of his capacity.


Through the ISI.


[He] has been an associate of bin Laden's for a long time, right?

Yes, very close to bin Laden. ... Haqqani was a major military commander for the Taliban. He led much of the destructive campaigns that destroyed the Shomali Plain north of Kabul, which the Northern Alliance had controlled previously.

He was a good fighter?

He was a good fighter. ... He was a local mullah during the jihad, but somebody who had a client-patron relationship with ISI. Like other commanders, he would go over to the ISI headquarters in Peshawar and periodically meet with the ISI generals or colonels.

He also came to Islamabad for meetings.

He would come to Islamabad for meetings, but he would always be out for more -- something to attract more ordnance, more money for himself as hundreds of other commanders were trying to do. And ISI would sit in their offices and tell him, "Well, we're going to provide you this much for this many men, and we want you to take this particular offensive."

Together they would discuss the ISI plan for the next couple months, which Haqqani would then be implementing. He would not be devising strategies on his own. He would be instructed by ISI on what he needed to do. And other commanders would, too.

In the attack on Khost in January of 1991, which was the first major communist bastion to fall after the Soviets left ... there were ISI officers positioned with different mujahideen groups, who wouldn't cooperate with each other in a general offensive, because of their differences. But, the ISI officers were deployed with each group … [including] the Haqqani group.

The ISI kept them together?

The ISI would keep them together, and the ISI would have their separate communication, the officers, prior to the attack. They'd provide all the ordnance for the attack. They'd help position it for the attack.

[Would the ISI know where Haqqani is?]

The ISI knows exactly where Osama bin Laden is, al-Zawahiri is. … They know where Haqqani is.

Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations

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Munir Akram

Jalaluddin Haqqani -- why don't you arrest him?

Well, I think Jalaluddin Haqqani, if he's found, I'm sure he'll be arrested.

But the ISI certainly is a very capable organization with longstanding ties to Haqqani. Even post-9/11, you were talking to him. Why not arrest him?

Well, that's a question which we will have to see. Arresting him might be something that we will have to do. But I'm not sure whether we know where he is or whether we are capable at this time of getting him.

American officials tell me that it is not believable that the ISI couldn't arrest Haqqani, and by doing so could get a lot closer to bin Laden.

I'm not sure the assessment of American officers is necessarily a correct one. I think the situation on the ground could be much more complex.

But he was an ISI asset for many years.

But that doesn't mean that we know where he is.

ismail kahn

Journalist, Dawn and The New York Times

Ismail Khan

Jalaluddin Haqqani, top Taliban commander, he had his base there in North Waziristan, close to Miram Shah. He has a house there and still a madrassa there in Miram Shah. …

So he sits in Miram Shah? Musharraf knows he's there?

No, he doesn't live there himself in Miram Shah. … He has a madrassa there, and I'm told that recently had a house there as well. He himself is not there.

There have been a few raids there, unsuccessful raids on his madrassas and on his house. And there was one particular raid on one of his compounds, and there was a huge cache of arms and ammunition dumped underneath the ground. It was unearthed and truckloads of weapons, arms, and ammunition was recovered from that area.

Pro-Taliban tribal leader and congressman from North Waziristan

Nek Zaman

Jalaludin Haqqani. Is he a hero or is he a villain?

It was the Americans who made this guy a mujahid against Soviet Union. It was you people who told us that he is a mujahid and a hero and we still say that he is a mujahid and a hero. Even though your interest with him is changed, for us he is still a hero, a mujahid and an Islamic scholar.

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posted oct. 3, 2006

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