- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Treasury Department on Thursday imposed sanctions against three key leaders and financiers of the Taliban and its affiliated group, the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network.

The order freezes the U.S.-held assets of Gul Agha Ishakzai, head of the Taliban’s financial commission; Amir Abdullah, former treasurer to Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar; and Nasiruddin Haqqani, an emissary for the Haqqani Network.

The order also prohibits U.S. businesses and individuals from engaging in any transactions with them.

“Today’s designation of three senior leaders and financiers for the Taliban and its affiliated Haqqani Network builds upon Treasury’s long-standing efforts to deprive these extremists of the resources they need to execute their violent activities,” said Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

All three were added to a U.N. sanctions list this week for their association with al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the Taliban.

Mr. Ishakzai, a childhood friend of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, lived in the presidential palace in Kabul when the Taliban was in power and closely guarded access to the one-eyed terrorist leader.

He also served as Mullah Omar’s principal finance officer and one of his key advisers.

According to U.S. officials, Mr. Ishakzai in December 2005 facilitated the movement of people and goods to Taliban training camps in Iran.

He is part of a recently created Taliban council that coordinates the collection of donations from Baluchistan province in Pakistan, U.S. officials say. He also has collected money for suicide attacks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and has been involved in the disbursement of funds for Taliban fighters and their families.

U.S.-led forces currently are engaged in operations against militants in Kandahar.

Mr. Abdullah served as treasurer to senior Taliban leader Mullah Baradar, and was the former deputy to the Taliban governor of Kandahar province.

Mr. Abdullah traveled to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates to raise money for the Taliban, U.S. officials say.

Following the U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001, Mr. Abdullah helped senior Taliban members who escaped from Afghanistan settle in Pakistan.

He is thought to facilitate communications for the Taliban leadership and coordinates high-level meetings at the guesthouse of his residence in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

The third terrorist financier, Nasiruddin Haqqani, is the brother of the Haqqani Network’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani.

From 2005 to 2009, Nasiruddin Haqqani collected funds for the network from the Persian Gulf region, drug-trafficking proceeds and payments from al Qaeda, according to the Treasury Department. He frequently visited the United Arab Emirates on fundraising trips.

In 2004, he traveled to Saudi Arabia to raise funds for the Taliban. That same year, he provided funds to militants in Afghanistan with the aim of disrupting the Afghan presidential election.

The Haqqani Network is behind many deadly attacks on U.S. troops and Afghans in Afghanistan.

The group is suspected of having links to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, has suggested the Haqqani Network be designated a terrorist group - a view that is shared by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In a televised roundtable with journalists in Pakistan this week, Mrs. Clinton said the Haqqani Network “is not one of the groups that is sitting on the sidelines.”

“They’re deeply involved in what’s going on in Afghanistan, and they take credit for some devastating attacks within Afghanistan. So clearly, they’re a terrorist organization, and they are killing Afghans, Americans and others who are part of the international coalition,” she said.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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