Taliban Reject American Perceptions of the Haqqani-ISI Relationship

Andrew McGregor

October 14, 2011

Following a series of high-level meetings between American and Pakistani security and military figures related to the operations of the notorious Haqqani Network in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, the leadership of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has released a statement denouncing what it perceives as an American attempt to detach the Haqqani Network from the Taliban command in the interests of creating divisions within the movement.  The statement is also critical of American suggestions that the Haqqani Network has close ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the latter agency long suspected of having close ties to the Taliban and various other Islamist militant groups active in Kashmir and in the tribal agencies of Pakistan’s northwest frontier. The Taliban consider this an attempt to “attribute the decisive and staggering attacks by Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate to the neighboring country of Pakistan” (ansar1.info, September 27).

Jalaluddin Haqqani

The Taliban assert that the success of their summer “Badr” offensive was so successful that it forced many Coalition partners to reassess their participation in the Afghanistan conflict. Afghanistan’s government claimed from the beginning that “Badr” was coordinated with the ISI (Tolo News [Kabul], May 28). According to the Taliban statement, the success of this campaign revealed the true nature of the “lies and false information” spread by CIA chief General David Petraeus and others in the American command. Unwilling to attribute these victories to the Afghan Taliban, these same U.S. officials have concocted an intervention from Pakistan to explain their defeats at the hands of an enemy they claim to have weakened long ago. These unfounded allegations are meant to “deceive the members in its coalition for a bit longer.”

The Taliban are especially disturbed by American suggestions that veteran Pashtun jihadi commander Jalaluddin Haqqani is not part of the Afghan Taliban command but is rather somehow a separate force “tied to others.” The statement asserts that such efforts are designed to “give a bad name to our prominent figures by tying them to foreign intelligence… the Islamic Emirate is at its strongest and [is] unified more than it has been at any other stage… Neither are our bases in Pakistan, nor do we need residence outside of our country… The respected Jalaluddin Haqqani is [one of] the Islamic Emirate’s honorable and dignified personalities and receives all guidance for operations from the leader of the Islamic Emirate.”

The U.S. military has long been frustrated by deadly operations carried out against its troops in Afghanistan by Haqqani Network forces, which typically retire into Pakistan after finishing their operations, placing them beyond most forms of retribution by American forces.  A series of meetings in the last few weeks has been designed to goad Pakistan’s military into carrying out a major offensive against the Haqqani Network and compel the ISI to stop its support for the group (Pakistan Observer, October 10).

According to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, “We cannot have the Haqqanis coming across the border attacking our forces and [Afghans] and disappearing back into a safe haven… We keep telling [the Pakistanis] you can’t choose among terrorists. If you are against terrorism, you have to be against all forms of terrorism” (Dawn [Karachi], September 22).

This article was originally published in the October 14, 2011 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor