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Kamis, 09 September 2021

Taliban include Haqqani network members in senior Afghan government roles despite terrorist listings - ABC News

The Taliban have unveiled their new interim government, and some of its senior figures have a brutal reputation. 

No government in the world includes so many who have either faced sanctions by the United Nations or terrorism charges by the United States.

Several are members of the Haqqani network, which is responsible for some of the most horrific terrorist attacks of recent times and is believed to be holding at least one US citizen hostage.

Here's what we know about them.

Who are the Haqqanis?

Jalaluddin Haqqani is seen with a long beard dressed in Afghan traditional clothes pointing at a map of Afghanistan.
The Haqqani network was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani (right) and is now headed by his son Sirajuddin.(

Reuters

)

According to the US National Counterterrorism Center, the Haqqani network was considered "the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group targeting US, coalition, and Afghan forces in Afghanistan" before the Taliban regained control of the country.

The group has a reputation for brutal terrorist attacks and kidnappings and has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

It also has a strong relationship with Al Qaeda and Pakistan's intelligence agency, known as the ISI.

The Sunni Islamist group was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani — a top Afghan warlord and insurgent commander during the anti-Soviet war.

At the time, he was supported by the CIA and held close ties to Osama bin Laden.

He pledged allegiance to the Taliban in 1995 and served as one of their ministers after they took power in 1996.

After the US designated the Haqqani network a terrorist organisation in 2012, the Taliban and Haqqani leaders denied its existence as a separate entity, saying the group's leader was a member of the Taliban's top leadership council.

But security analysts say the Haqqani network remained semi-autonomous within the Taliban fold.

After Jalaluddin Haqqani died from illness in 2018, his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who also serves as deputy leader of the Taliban, formally took over.

Mainly based in eastern Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan's north-west, the group is believed to oversee the Taliban's financial and military assets across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

A map shows a highlighted area on the Pakistan-Afghan border.
The Haqqani network is based along the Pakistan and Afghan border.(

ABC News: Graphic by Jarrod Fankhauser

)

Why is the Haqqani network listed as a terrorist group?

The Haqqani network is responsible for some of the highest-profile attacks of the Afghan war, using methods that include suicide and car bombings, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and coordinated small-arms assaults coupled with rocket attacks.

The attacks include the bombing of Kabul's Serena Hotel in 2008 and a 20-hour siege of the US embassy compound in Kabul in 2011 that left 16 Afghans dead.

An image shows blood on the ground outside a building.
The Haqqani network is believed to be behind an attack on Kabul's Serena Hotel in 2008.(

 Reuters: Stian Lysberg Solum

)

In 2017, Afghan authorities blamed the Haqqani network for a car bomb in Kabul that killed more than 150 and injured nearly 500 people.

The group is also allegedly involved in criminal activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including extortion, kidnapping for ransom, and smuggling.

The kidnappings have involved wealthy locals as well as foreigners, including an American couple with three young children that were rescued in 2017.

Even now, US intelligence agencies believe the group is holding hostage an American contractor who disappeared in Afghanistan last year.

The US government has also designated key members of the group as wanted terrorists, including two top leaders that have just been appointed as ministers in the Taliban's new government.

Damaged cars are seen after a blast at the site of the incident in Kabul, Afghanistan May 31, 2017.
The aftermath of the 2017 car bombing in Kabul that injured nearly 500 people.(

Reuters: Omar Sobhani

)

What's their role in the new Afghan government?

The group's leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is on the FBI's most wanted list with a $US10 million ($13.6 million) bounty on his head, is Afghanistan's new Interior Minister.

He is believed to be in his late 40s or early 50s.

An FBI wanted poster.
The wanted poster issued by the FBI for Sirajuddin Haqqani.(

FBI

)

According to the FBI, Sirajuddin Haqqani "coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan", and was involved in a Kabul hotel attack and an assassination attempt on Afghan president Hamid Karzai in 2008.

Afghan researcher and political analyst Irfan Yar told the ABC Sirajuddin Haqqani had a reputation for being even more brutal than his late father.

"He was really a military commander rather than a political figure in the Taliban," Dr Yar said.

Sirajuddin's uncle, Khalil Haqqani, the Taliban's new Minister of Immigration, is also on the US wanted list with a $US5 million reward for his arrest.

He is believed to be a key fundraiser for the group and was previously in charge of prisoners.

A graphic shows members of the Taliban government.
The Taliban's new government leadership with some key ministerial positions.(

ABC News: Graphic by Jarrod Fankhauser

)

Najibullah Haqqani, who is alleged to have had an important role in organising terrorist attacks and fundraising, is the new Minister for Communications.

Tajmir Jawad, now First Deputy Chief of Intelligence, is alleged to be a key leader in the Haqqani network, according to Afghanistan's intelligence services.

Another Haqqani, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, is the new Minister for Higher Education.

Abdul Baqi Haqqani has spoken in the media recently about the importance of Islamic education over formal education.

He said women could continue to study at university but in separate classrooms to men.

The Taliban want to "create a reasonable and Islamic curriculum that is in line with our Islamic, national and historical values and, on the other hand, be able to compete with other countries," he said.

Political analyst Dr Yar said there were fears Mr Haqqani's focus on Islamic studies could weaken the formal education system.

Abdul Baqi Haqqani holds his hands to his head as he stands near a Taliban flag.
Abdul Baqi Haqqani is the Taliban’s Higher Education Minister.(

AFP: Aamir Qureshi

)

He said the appointment of so many high-ranking members of the Haqqani network, who have historically held close ties to Pakistan, could gave Pakistan "leverage to extend its influence" in Afghanistan.

Since the make-up of the new government was announced on Tuesday, protesters have taken to the streets of Kabul and beyond, calling for "freedom" and criticising the "intrusion" of neighbouring Pakistan into Afghanistan's domestic affairs.

How has the international community reacted? 

After the interim government was announced, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Cabinet included "people who have very challenging track records".

"We're assessing the announcement, but despite professing that a new government would be inclusive, the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates, and no women," Mr Blinken said at a news conference.

He added: "Any legitimacy, any support will have to be earned."

The European Union said the Taliban had failed to honour vows to form an inclusive government.

But Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, "China attaches great importance to the announcement," and it welcomed the end of "three weeks of anarchy" in Afghanistan.

Dr Yar said the decision to include wanted individuals in key government positions could significantly delay any chance of international recognition for the Taliban leadership.

"If the Taliban happen to be recognised by those countries, by default those people might be removed [from terrorist lists]," he said.

But having them in the Cabinet in the first place "makes this job more difficult" he added.

"It serves the Taliban's domestic purpose but for its international recognition, it is a challenge."

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2021-09-09 19:02:23Z
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