Afghan ally Haqqani is now a foe

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | When Jalaluddin Haqqani fought Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. showered him with praise, guns and money. The congressman celebrated in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the movie and book about that conflict, called him “goodness personified.”

Now the U.S. is trying to kill Mr. Haqqani, who commands a Taliban guerrilla force fighting Americans in five Afghan provinces from his base in western Pakistan.

Mr. Haqqani has eluded his pursuers, former U.S. officials say, with help from the intelligence services of Pakistan’s military, which the U.S. also has showered with guns and money.

The Afghan tribal chief illustrates one reason the U.S. has failed to win the war on terrorism: Its enemies are sheltered by its friends.

“Haqqani is the biggest threat in eastern Afghanistan,” said Peter Tomsen, a retired U.S. ambassador who knows him personally from the Soviet war. Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies “know where Haqqani is, but they’re protecting him. They know he’s sending people across the border to kill Americans and Afghans.”

Estimated by news reports to be in his 60s or 70s, Mr. Haqqani appeared frail in a video his organization released early this year. His network’s military operations now are run by his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, 28, said the News, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan.

The elder Mr. Haqqani was born on the Afghan side of the border and in about 1974 settled 10 miles inside Pakistan, in Miramshah, said Mohammed Yaqub Sharafat, director of Afghan Islamic Press, a news agency specializing in that country’s wars. From there, he began organizing forces against the Afghan government, Mr. Sharafat said.

Pakistan’s military for decades has backed guerrilla groups in Afghanistan and India to maintain leverage against its neighbors, according to Ahmed Rashid, a Lahore-based author who wrote about the U.S.-led war on terror in the June 2008 book “Descent Into Chaos.”

After the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Mr. Haqqani became a commander in the mujahideen resistance movement, receiving weapons from the CIA and the Pakistan military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI).

When Mr. Wilson, Texas Democrat who pushed covert mujahideen funding through Congress, secretly visited Afghanistan in 1987, the ISI escorted him to meet Mr. Haqqani. Mr. Wilson, now 75, recounted the story to George Crile, the author of “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

Mr. Wilson, who retired from Congress in 1996, didn’t respond to e-mail and phone messages to his Texas home.

The mujahideen drove the Soviets out in 1989. When the Islamist Taliban movement arose in the 1990s, Pakistan’s military helped it consolidate power in Afghanistan. As Taliban fighters swept toward Kabul, Mr. Haqqani allied with them, later becoming the Taliban government’s tribal affairs minister.

In 2001, the U.S. pressed Pakistan’s military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, to cut support for the Taliban because their leaders had sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda lieutenants as they planned the Sept. 11 attacks.

Then Gen. Musharraf replaced his Islamist ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, 26 days after those attacks. He also purged the army and the ISI of many but not all of their militant Islamist officers. Some officers remain committed to supporting the Taliban, according to Mr. Rashid, the analyst.

After Western forces led by the U.S. and Afghan warlords toppled the Taliban government in November 2001, Mr. Haqqani helped rebuild the movement in Pakistan’s largely ungoverned northwestern borderlands.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story
Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus