Pakistan’s powerful ISI had brought in Haqqani network’s chief Sirajuddin Haqqani as the deputy leader of the Taliban last year to protect him from the Americans, a media report said on Sunday.
The New York Times, quoting Afghan and American officials, said in a report that the “closer integration of the feared” Haqqani militant network into the leadership of the Taliban is “changing the flow of the Afghan insurgency this year, with the Haqqanis’ senior leader increasingly calling the shots in the Taliban’s offensive.
It quoted Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil as saying that “the ISI brought Sirajuddin as the deputy to the Taliban to give him protection, so if the peace talks get serious, the Americans wouldn’t be able to say, ‘We will make peace with the leader but not with the deputy’.”
Nabil, who now runs a charity for wounded Afghan soldiers, said the merger had been helped by the fact that the Haqqanis were struggling financially, after their chief fund-raiser was gunned down near Islamabad in 2013, and that the Taliban needed Haqqani’s expertise in waging complex attacks.
Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, the chief spokesperson for United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said that “Sirajuddin increasingly runs the day-to-day military operations for the Taliban, and, we believe, is likely involved in appointing shadow governors.”
“The Haqqani network s closer integration with the Taliban command also creates awkwardness for the Obama administration, and is raising tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” it said.
The report cited some senior Afghan officials as saying that the Pakistani military was “central” to bringing the Haqqanis more closely into the Taliban during the insurgencys leadership councils last summer, which were held in Quetta.
The report said that the Haqqanis have “refined a signature brand” of urban terrorist attacks and cultivated a sophisticated international fund-raising network, factoring prominently in the United States military’s push to keep troops in Afghanistan.
It added that the group’s growing role in leading the entire insurgency in the war-torn country has raised concerns about an even deadlier year of fighting ahead, as hopes of peace talks have collapsed.
“The shift is also raising tensions with the Pakistani military, which American and Afghan officials accuse of sheltering the Haqqanis as a proxy group,” it said.