Haqqani network is considered most ruthless branch of Afghan insurgency

| World news | guardian.co.uk

The US has decided to blacklist as a terrorist group the Haqqani network, perhaps the most ruthless and feared branch of the Afghan insurgency, the New York Times has reported.

For many, the surprise was not the decision itself, but how long it has taken. The group is believed to have been behind most of the spectacular attacks in Kabul in recent years, including a rocket assault on the US embassy, as well as deadly suicide bombings of US troops.

But there have been concerns that targeting the group will worsen already difficult relations with Pakistan, long suspected of supporting the group through its feared ISI intelligence agency. Some officials also thought it might dim hopes for peace talks, although the Haqqanis have always been considered the faction least open to reconciliation.

The group was founded as part of the anti-Soviet jihad by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the network's patriarch, who has now delegated most day-to-day operations to the next generation. He was once funded by the CIA and lionised by some in the US, including the congressman Charlie Wilson, who reportedly described him as "goodness personified".

Haqqani joined the Taliban government as minister for tribal affairs after they captured Kabul in 1996, fleeing after they were ousted in late 2001 and taking up arms again.

His stronghold is in the eastern province of Khost, a lawless area where the Afghan government over which has little control, although the group's leaders are widely believed to live across the border in Pakistan.

There they are out of reach of the US forces that regularly capture senior insurgent leaders inside Afghanistan, but are still targeted by drones that last month killed Jalaluddin's son and operational commander, Badruddin Haqqani.

They are considered the most sophisticated, ruthless and well-organised of the groups that make up the Afghan insurgency, and claim nominal allegiance to the Afghan Taliban.

In addition to the embassy attack they are believed to have co-ordinated or supported a string of other deadly attacks including assaults on Kabul's high-end Serena and Intercontinental hotels, a bombing of the Indian embassy, and several kidnappings.

Since the 1980s, however, the group has expanded beyond insurgency to become a mafia-like operation, as focused on "the pursuit of wealth and power" as it is on "the Islamist and nationalist ideals for which [they] claim to fight," according to a recent paper by Gretchen Peters, at the Combating Terrorism Centre in West Point.

"Over the past three decades they have penetrated key business sectors, including import-export, transport, real estate and construction in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Arab Gulf and beyond," Peters wrote in the paper, Haqqani Network Financing.

"The Haqqanis employ violence and intimidation to extort legal firms and prominent community members and engaged in kidnap-for-ransom schemes … they protect and engage in the trafficking of narcotics and the precursor chemicals used to process heroin."
Source http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/07/haqqani-network-blacklisted-terrorist-us


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