The Haqqani network was founded by Jalaluddin, an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s with the help of the United States and Pakistan. Now a Taliban affiliate, it is blamed for some of the most shocking and brutal attacks across Afghanistan since the US invasion of 2001. Designated a terror group by Washington, targeting it is one of the top US priorities in the region.
The network has been led by his son Sirajuddin, who doubles as the Afghan Taliban’s deputy leader, for some time now. In 2012 the United States declared the Haqqani network a terrorist organization. Haqqani had not been heard from in several years and reports of his death were widespread in 2015.
Pakistan sees its arch-nemesis to the east, India, as an existential threat, and has long sought influence over Kabul as a bulwark against New Delhi.
The Haqqanis have frequently been accused of targeting Indian installations in Afghanistan, spurring speculation they were overseen by Pakistani intelligence. Analysts say Pakistan appears to view the Haqqanis and more broadly the Afghan Taliban as an asset holding India at bay in Afghanistan.
Long suspected of links to Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment, the network was described by US Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011 as a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence. Following the US invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban fighters flooded across the border into Pakistan, where they regrouped before launching an insurgency against the Americans.
That included the Haqqanis, who coordinated attacks on NATO from across the border in their stronghold of Miranshah, the biggest town in North Waziristan, one of Pakistan’s loosely governed tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
The US launched repeated drone attacks against the group, while Pakistan’s military conducted successive clearing operations, though sceptical Afghan officials have noted they always seemed to miss the Haqqanis.
Washington, which believes Pakistan is playing a double game, has long pressured Islamabad to crack down on militant groups, with the Haqqanis a top priority. Islamabad has repeatedly denied the claims.
Deadly attacks in Afghanistan
The elder Haqqani joined the Taliban when they overran Kabul in September 1996, expelling feuding mujahedeen groups, whose battles left the capital in ruins. Since then, the network has been among the fiercest foes fighting U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.
It was during the 1980s that fighters from the Muslim world were recruited to fight the invading communists in Afghanistan. Bin Laden was among the first to sign up. Many of the Arab fighters gravitated toward Haqqani because he was an Arabic speaker and a ferocious warrior.
Many of the Arab fighters, who remain in Afghanistan, including the new head of al-Qaida Ayman al Zawahri, are believed to be protected by the Haqqani network, which it is believed they also help fund.
His group became notorious for complex, well-organised attacks on both Afghan and U.S. military, as well as civilian targets and high-profile kidnappings.