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US attempt to de-link Taliban from Haqqani network draws ridicule, exposes internal contradictions

Ned Price, spokesperson of the US state department

"Taliban and Haqqani Network are separate entities,” declared Ned Price, spokesperson of the US state department on Friday. In response to a question on the US coordinating with Taliban security and the Haqqani network, Price said Washington is not coordinating with the Haqqani network , underlining that both the groups are separate.

This statement has been drawing sharp criticism from the Afghans, experts and former US and NATO generals who fought the war in Afghanistan. 

Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at The Wilson Center does not agree with this. Instead he  blames the US government for this “distinction” between the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. (HQN).

“Haqqani leaders have long held top spots in the Taliban leadership, and they'll hold top spots in the new Taliban government. They're not separate entities.

Also Read :  Anis Haqqani, the dreaded terrorist from the Haqqani network is now Kabul’s security chief

But USG does make a distinction. It has designated HQN as a terror group. It's never done that with the parent Taliban”.

Gul Bukhari, a Pakistani journalist in exile wonders how come the US administration is playing so ignorant.

“Now I understand why the world is going down in flames. Completely ignorant people are in charge. Completely ignorant. Has he heard of Khalil Haqqani, Jalaluddin Haqqani’s brother & Sirajuddin’s uncle, who is the Taliban’s top right hand man in Kabul right now?”

Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US was more direct in his criticism.

“There are lies, damned lies, and then there are recent @StateDeptSpox statements on Afghanistan! (If Taliban & Haqqani Network are separate, why is head of HQN the Deputy Amir of the Taliban?)”

The Haqqani Network (HQN) is considered an offshoot of the Taliban and has more autonomy than other factions within the militant movement, but over the years since its establishment in the 1980s, initially as an anti-Soviet insurgent force with American and Pakistani backing, the network has become more integrated within the Taliban and has become one of the key components of the Taliban. The group's leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is also one of Taliban’s deputy leaders and is the nephew of Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, the man now charged with overseeing security in the Afghan capital.

He worked closely with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, according to files recovered in bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Today, Sirajuddin is among three top leaders of the Taliban. Interestingly, after the takeover, the Taliban has put Haqqanis in charge of security in Kabul including the Kabul airport, the centre of the evacuation efforts which was bombed on Thursday night.

The US Department of the Treasury designated Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani a global terrorist in February 2011, offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He’s also included on the United Nations terrorist list.

The Haqqanis come from southeastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. The network has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan. After the US attack on Afghanistan in 2001, Taliban, the Haqqani Network and Al-Qaida ran joint training camps in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region with the help of Pakistani army and ISI.

While the Biden administration called the Taliban and the Haqqani separate entities,  Pentagon reports says the Haqqani hardliners are the Taliban’s lethal arm and at present, the Haqqanis constitute about 20 percent of the Taliban’s total fighting force.

In a report published by the Long War Journal (Taliban again affirms Haqqani Network is an integral part of group),  it says that  “the Taliban has long maintained that the Haqqani Network does not operate independently and that the concept of a separate entity is a western construct. Any uncertainty concerning the Haqqanis’ role within the Taliban should have been put to rest when Mullah Mansour — the successor to the Taliban’s founder and first leader, Mullah Omar — appointed Sirajuddin as one of his two top deputies in 2015.”