The Haqqani Network: International Friends, Local Enemies
Introduction to The Haqqani Network
As much as the powers that be want everyone to believe that “terrorism” is a giant catch-all covering every group, the truth is that terrorist groups are extremely varied and unique. They can be massive groups like ISIS or smaller, localized cells. Regardless, one of the most effective ways to eliminate terrorist groups, control the spread of violent and extremist beliefs, and prevent future terrorism from proliferating is by studying groups and understanding them. This understanding allows folks from all walks of life a modicum of knowledge to best respond to any attacks and threats. Most people pay attention to the heavy hitters, but a group that needs more extensive study is the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Central Asian countries. This group is much less infamous than Al Qaeda or ISIS, but no less deadly.
Brief History of The Haqqani Network
The Haqqani Network starts and ends with Jaluddin Haqqani and the radical Wahhabi doctrine he learned at the Dar-al-'Ulam Haqqaniya Deobandi Madrassa. Hailing from a tribal area of Afghanistan with deep ethnic ties, Haqqani developed radical Wahhabi and Islamist beliefs in his youth and during his Ph.D studies at the Haqqaniya Mosque. Haqqani returned to Afghanistan in the early 1970’s after completing his Ph.D and developed relationships with Hezb-i-Islami and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as he worked to actively undermine both the Shah and Afghanistan’s civilian government including Marxist parties and movements. Due to increasing pressure and pursuit from the Afghan government, Haqqani returned to Pakistan in 1978 but continued to build his Islamist connections and networks. These networks proved extremely useful when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics invaded Afghanistan.
The Haqqani Network began to develop more formally outside of Jaluddin Haqqani’s personal sphere when the Mujahedeen matured into a fierce resistance group. Working with the Mujahedeen, Haqqani became personal friends and allies with Osama Bin Laden and also courted the Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan and wealthy Arab Gulf States for funding and support in his jihad against the USSR. This is a unique aspect that also makes the Haqqani Network exponentially more dangerous than the Taliban; while the Taliban and other Islamist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan work from fiercely loyal tribal bases and use local fanatics to dominate their countries, Haqqani developed his network to court support from Arabs and the West. After fighting the Soviets for a decade, Haqqani turned his attention away from insurgency and instead focused on international terrorism. This took the form of aiding Bin Laden, supporting the Taliban, and opening their coffers to foreign money and doctrines.
Ideology of The Haqqani Network
Ideology is an important aspect for any group; The Haqqani Network has a strict Islamist Fundamentalist outlook on the world, and believes in Wahhabi doctrine both within Islam and when interacting with infidels. The Haqqani Network has a relatively simple ideology, believing that the West needs to pull out of all Islamic countries and stop influencing their education and politics, and that Afghanistan (and all countries) should follow strict Sharia law interpretations.
The most unique aspect of the Haqqani Network is their focus on Western meddling in Islamic education. Most Islamic Terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda or ISIS are focused predominantly on military and political control and vicious attacks on the west, but the Haqqani Network has a strong focus on education and internal politics within Islamic countries. Looking at the background of the founder, it is not surprising that a man who has a Ph.D values education and understands the ability for schooling to influence children one way or the other. This unique perspective on Islam and the world led the Haqqani Network to ally with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban; One organization (Al-Qaeda) seeks a worldwide reach for Islam, and another organization (The Taliban) that dominates the politics and education systems of a country through Islamization and Sharia Law. This ideological alignment with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban illustrates one of the principal tactics of the Haqqani Network: work with other groups to secure funding, foreign fighters and advance Islamist thoughts.
Tactics of The Haqqani Network
The Haqqani Network and its affiliates have been fighting insurgent style warfare in Afghanistan since the 1970’s. They are experts at asymmetric warfare and fighting from small terrorist cells. They do not seek to re-invent guerilla warfare or try new techniques when it comes to waging war and carrying out terrorist attacks. Hospital bombings, ambushes on police forces, and attacks on schools are commonplace tactics for the Haqqani Network. They are also noted for conducting attacks close to the border with Pakistan and fleeing into the Waziristan area of Pakistan where they have built up support among locals. There is no need to change what has worked for decades against perceived outside threats to the Islamic fundamentalist lifestyle in Afghanistan. Where the Haqqani Network is very innovative tactically is in their strategy to acquire money and support.
Most insurgent and terrorist networks operate as a loosely affiliated group with multiple layers of cells; this structure means that they are also wary of any outsiders or outside influence. During the insurgency in Afghanistan, most Mujahedeen insurgent groups were not welcoming to Arabs and other foreign Muslims, but Haqqani welcomed folks like Osama Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam. As his network developed, Haqqani also welcomed their money, political support, and Wahhabi doctrine. This tactic, accepting foreign money and foreign fighters has allowed the Haqqani Network to remain relevant for decades while other groups of fighters have withered without foreign money and foreign fighters. It is no surprise for the Haqqani Network to operate with a large foreign footprint, as the founder was educated in a Madrassa that was funded by foreign, Wahhabi money. The money and the foreign fighters allow the Haqqani Network to keep a continuous flow into Afghanistan where they are able to conduct insurgent activities and maintain pressure on NATO forces and the government of Afghanistan.
Current Status of The Haqqani Network
Currently, The Haqqani Network operates out of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan, along the Afghan-Pakistan Border. They utilize Pakistan as a sanctuary area because they are seen as a key ally by the ISI. The Haqqani Network administers many areas and allows other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad to operate in their jurisdiction. Starting in 2012, The Haqqani Network began to shift back to Afghanistan. Drone strikes and surgical raids devastated the Haqqani Network in Pakistan and with the US Withdrawal starting, they felt safer in Afghanistan.
The current state of the Haqqani Network is designed to leverage their past success while setting them up for a position of power in Afghan politics for the future. They conduct regular insurgent warfare against NATO and US forces, but also reach out regularly to the Afghan government stating their goals of ousting the foreign invaders and setting up a completely Islamist government. Usually, these calls do not fall on deaf ears, and the Afghan government is more willing to work with the Haqqani Network than with the Taliban. The Haqqani Network’s extensive foreign contacts also help when conducting negotiations; in 2012 the United States even held talks with the Haqqani Network through the network’s connections with Pakistan. Despite multiple talks and attempts at peace, the Haqqani Network continues to train, finance and carry out terrorist and insurgent attacks to the current day.
Some Conclusions About The Haqqani Network
The Haqqani Network is such a dangerous terrorist group because they leverage international financing and fighters in a very surgical manner. Other groups, like ISIS and Al-Qaeda have a worldwide focus, executing attacks in varied nations. While these attacks may cause fear and terror, life usually goes back to normal. The Haqqani Network though, is able to leverage international financing and fighters to wage local insurgency and attacks. In other words, they are able to concentrate the resources and aims of worldwide terrorists into one specific cause and area. By using education in conjunction with their terrorism and insurgency, they also have effective propaganda and reach into the households of the areas they control. By studying this group and limiting the foreign influx it prevents them from waging insurgency and forces them to carry out terrorist attacks on local populations to retain control, and if this is coupled with effective education from counter-terrorist initiatives eventually people in affected areas will see the heinous nature of The Haqqani Networks.
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