- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2008

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.

Since then, the ISI has helped U.S. agencies capture al Qaeda leaders as Mr. Musharraf, who retired from the military and became a civilian president last year, declared Pakistan an ally in the fight against terrorism.

In exchange, the U.S. gave Pakistan $10 billion in aid, according to a 2007 study by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Yet the ISI has continued to protect the Taliban, including Mr. Haqqani, in hopes of again using them to influence Afghanistan once U.S. forces leave, said Mr. Tomsen, the retired U.S. ambassador.

In 2005, a Pakistani intelligence officer tipped off Mr. Haqqani to a CIA plan to kill or capture him, said a retired CIA officer who served recently on counterterrorism assignments in Pakistan.

The next year, the CIA asked Pakistan’s military to approve a new Haqqani assassination plan but got no response, the retired officer said, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the information.

Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA’s former counterterrorism chief and now a private consultant, said “current contacts in the business” have told him that Pakistani intelligence officials alerted Mr. Haqqani to the planned 2005 raid.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said: “The agency does not as a rule comment on these kinds of allegations.”

Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said there was no need to respond to the allegations because they were not an “official complaint.”

Pakistan blamed the Taliban for last month’s bombing of Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel, which killed 53. Afghanistan’s government accuses the ISI and Mr. Haqqani’s network of organizing an April assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai and the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

Pakistani officials deny the charge.

On Sept. 8, American Predator drones fired missiles into Mr. Haqqani’s mud-walled family compound in Miramshah, according to Pakistani news reports citing residents and officials.

The strike killed members of Mr. Haqqani’s family and at least three Arab al Qaeda guerrillas, Pakistani newspapers reported. The News quoted unnamed family members as saying the Haqqani men were mostly in Afghanistan at the time.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide