Gardez (Afghanistan), June 2 (ANI): Many officials in Afghanistan consider the shadowy Haqqani network as the biggest threat to the American presence in the country.
"The Haqqani network has proven itself to be the most capable [of the insurgent groups], able to conduct spectacular attacks inside Afghanistan," the Christian Science Monitor quoted Matthew DuPee, a researcher at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, as saying.
The network, which is independent of (but allied with) the Taliban, showed its mettle again on May 12, when nearly a dozen fighters stormed government buildings in Afghanistan's southeastern city of Khost. The coordinated attack featured multiple suicide bombers and was one of the most brazen to take place in the city in years.
According to CSM, the Haqqani network is considered the most sophisticated of Afghanistan's insurgent groups. The group is alleged to be behind many high-profile assaults, including a raid on a luxury hotel in Kabul in January 2008 and a massive car bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul that left 41 people dead in July 2008.
The group is active in Afghanistan's southeastern provinces - Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Logar, and Ghazni. In parts of Paktika, Khost, and Paktia, they have established parallel governments and control the countryside of many districts.
The leadership, according to US and Afghan sources, is based near Miramshah, North Waziristan, in the Pakistani tribal areas. Pakistani authorities and leading Haqqani figures deny this, although former Haqqani fighters say this is indeed the case.
The network is better connected to Pakistani intelligence and Arab jihadist groups than any other Afghan insurgent group, according to American intelligence officials.
Unlike most of the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network often works closely with foreign militant groups. For instance, the Islamic Jihad Union, an Uzbek militant group, reportedly has ties to the Haqqanis. The IJU brings militants from as far afield as Turkey to conduct attacks in Afghanistan. They are also allegedly behind plots to attack targets in Europe.
The Haqqani network also works more closely with the Pakistani Taliban than other Afghan insurgent groups.
The Haqqanis pioneered the use of suicide attacks in Afghanistan, an import from Al Qaeda in Iraq. Haqqani attacks are more likely to use foreign bombers, whereas Afghan Taliban attacks tend to rely on locals. The suicide attacks are an innovation of Sirajuddin's, according to US intelligence officials.
"The majority of Haqqani fighters are young," says the former Haqqani commander, "and their fathers had fought for Haqqani during the Russian jihad." Many joined after the Afghan government and the Americans failed to live up to their promises, he adds. (ANI)