Taliban Acknowledges the Death of Haqqani Network Leader Jalaluddin Haqqani
By William Tucker
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Early on Sept. 4, 2018, the Taliban stated that Jalaluddin Haqqani had finally succumbed after a long bout with Parkinson’s disease. The elder Haqqani founded the infamous Haqqani network and was a notable leader in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
But prior to his current role in fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Haqqani was a U.S. ally in the fight against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Haqqani’s alliance with the U.S. during this period revolved around covert funding and arms supplies.
Though several U.S. leaders spoke well of Haqqani, the goodwill was not reciprocated. For Haqqani, the U.S. was a means to an end.
Haqqani Network Thought to Be Separate Movement, but Had Deep Ties to Al-Qaeda
After the Soviets left Afghanistan, the ensuing political mess eventually led to civil war and Haqqani sided with the Taliban. For years, the Haqqani network was considered a distinct movement operating outside of the Taliban, but Haqqani dispelled this notion. Declassified U.S. documents from the late 1990s similarly dispel this claim and further show the deep ties between Haqqani and al-Qaeda.
Haqqani had been ill for several years. Although he placed his son Sirajuddin at the head of the family network, Haqqani still played a functional diplomatic role by maintaining the cohesion of the various factions of the Taliban.
Haqqani Also Linked to Pakistan’s ISI
Haqqani also maintained a close relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). When a member of the Haqqani network was assassinated in Islamabad in 2013, the ISI stepped in, moved the body to Waziristan and denied that a Haqqani was ever in the area. The Haqqani network actually confirmed the complicity of the Pakistani government in moving the body – something that embarrassed Islamabad.
Since the war in Afghanistan began, the U.S. has been pressuring Pakistan over its relationship with Islamic militants and this episode served to undermine Pakistan’s credibility. It was bad enough that Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan. Three years later, the financier of the notorious Haqqani network was operating openly in the capital.
Haqqani’s Death Demonstrates Taliban’s Resiliency
The death of Jalaluddin Haqqani is unlikely to have much of an impact, since Sirajuddin has been functionally running the Haqqani network for the past decade. Sirajuddin has already shown himself to be a capable leader who is well respected among the different Pashtun tribes loyal to the Taliban.
The death of Mullah Omar did not destroy the Taliban, nor did the death of Osama bin Laden mark al-Qaeda’s defeat. What Jalaluddin’s death does demonstrate is the resiliency of the Taliban movement – and insurgency in general – in Afghanistan.
The U.S. is in talks with the Taliban, looking for a way to end a war that has gone on for 17 years. Haqqani’s death, though noteworthy, will not change the situation.