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US still views silent Haqqani network as most dangerous of Taliban fighters

By Nairita Das

Washington, Dec. 27 (ANI): The Obama administration continues to view the so-called Haqqani terrorist network as the deadliest group of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan despite it not having conducted a complex large-scale attack on Kabul for seven months.

According to the New York Times, Washington still grudgingly acknowledges the resiliency of Haqqani fighters, and does want to go overboard in trumpeting its successes in Afghanistan, or on reworking its assessment of the year-end review of its Afghanistan war strategy.

Caution seems to be the byword among senior American officials, as if they do not want to jinx the positive trend.

The Haqqani network, it seems, is showing signs of adapting its tactics and shifting its combatants to counter the allied strategy, American commanders say.

"They're financed better, they're better trained and they're the ones who bring in the higher-end I.E.D.'s," the NYT quoted Major General John F. Campbell, the top allied commander in eastern Afghanistan, as saying while referring to improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs, which the Haqqanis have employed with lethal efficiency in the past several years.

In many ways, the war in Afghanistan, particularly in the rugged eastern part, is a war against the Haqqani family, whose patriarch, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was a legendary guerrilla fighter in the Central Intelligence Agency-backed campaign to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 1980s.

His son Sirajuddin now runs the group's daily operations from his haven in Pakistan, and he has made aggressive efforts to recruit foreign fighters from the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in Central Asia.

The Haqqani network is considered a part of the Afghan Taliban, and is a key ally and protector of Al Qaeda's top leadership, whose members are believed to be hiding in Pakistan's remote border regions.

American and other Western intelligence officials believe that Pakistan's powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, shields the Haqqanis in exchange for the network's attacks against Pakistan's archrival, India, in Afghanistan.

NATO commanders and senior Obama administration officials take heart in the fact that the Haqqanis have not conducted a complicated attack in Kabul since a suicide bomber steered his explosives-laden Toyota minibus into an American convoy on May 18. That attack killed 18 people, including five American soldiers and an officer from Canada, and wounded at least 47 civilians.

Allied officials attribute the tactical success to several factors. A six-fold increase in the past year in the number of Special Operations raids against insurgents, including the Haqqanis, has disrupted the militants' operations. In the past three months alone, commandos have carried out 1,784 missions across Afghanistan, killing or capturing 880 insurgent leaders.

About one-third of those operations were directed against the Haqqani network, a senior NATO official said. He and two other NATO officials agreed to speak candidly about current operations if they weren't quoted by name.

At the same time, 5,400 additional American ground forces have been deployed to eastern Afghanistan, bringing the total there to nearly 37,000.

Combined with increased Afghan army, police and intelligence service operations in and around Kabul, the troop surge has hampered the Haqqani network's ability to run suicide bombers in a crucial corridor between Kabul and Khost, adjacent to the group's Pakistan sanctuary, allied commanders and independent counterinsurgency specialists say. (ANI)

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