Sirajuddin Haqqani may be even more deadly foe than Mansour

Published: May 22, 2016
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A file photo of Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. PHOTO: FILE

A file photo of Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: Afghan guerrilla commander Sirajuddin Haqqani, a possible successor to Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, would likely prove an even more implacable foe of beleaguered Afghan government forces and their US allies.

The United States killed Mansour in an air strike in a remote border area just inside Pakistan, the Afghanistan government said on Sunday, in an attack likely to dash any immediate prospect for peace talks. The US has not confirmed Mansour’s death.

Haqqani, who has a $5 million US bounty on his head, is widely seen by US and Afghan officials as the most dangerous warlord in the Taliban insurgency, responsible for the most bloody attacks, including one last month in Kabul in which 64 people were killed.

If Haqqani is confirmed as the next Taliban leader it may be seen as fitting for the scion of a family that has been famously involved in Afghanistan’s decades of bloodshed.

Taliban leader Mansour: man of war, not peace talks

His father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was a heavily bearded leader of the mujahideen who fought the Soviet troops that invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

A former US Congressman, Charlie Wilson, once called Jalaluddin “goodness personified” and he was held in such high esteem he visited the White House when Ronald Reagan was president. His son is seen as even more ruthless.

Sirajuddin Haqqani became one of two deputy Taliban commanders last year, integrating his feared militant faction, known as the Haqqani network, closely into the Afghan Taliban insurgency.

The Taliban now control more territory than they have done since their ouster from government in 2001, and hopes of peace talks that the United States was pushing have all but collapsed as the bloodshed has increased.

The Haqqani network is thought to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan and the US State Department calls it the most lethal insurgent group targeting US-led and government forces in Afghanistan. It labels Sirajuddin Haqqani a “specially designated global terrorist.”

Sources close to the Haqqani network said they were still trying to verify whether Mansour had been killed.

“It is too early to comment if Sirajuddin Haqqani would be willing to replace Mullah Mansour,” a source said.

Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour killed in US drone strike in Pakistan

Haqqani, who is in his mid-40s, has been trying to reconcile factions within the Taliban who refused to accept Mansour’s leadership since last year when it became clear that the group’s founder, Mullah Omar, had died nearly two years earlier.

He had been made head of a committee tasked to resolve a bloody split between Mansour and a rival faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool, a senior member of the Afghan Taliban told Reuters earlier this week, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Haqqani far from certain

But it is by no means certain Haqqani would be named Taliban leader. The Haqqani network, which has for years had strongholds in northwest border lands, is a powerful force in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province, and the wider Loya Paktia region, but not in the birthplace of the Taliban – Kandahar province in the south.

“Haqqani … as a non-Kandahari and as someone who is unfamiliar with the insurgency landscape beyond Loya Paktia, would likely struggle to gain the support of the powerful southern Taliban commanders who still dominate,” Thomas Ruttig from the Afghanistan Analysts Network wrote in a February article on potential successors to Mansour.

US drone strike on Taliban leader — what happens next?

Ruttig said Haibatullah Akhundzada, a former top member of the Taliban judiciary who became the other deputy along with Haqqani in July 2015, was a more natural successor.

A respected cleric from Kandahar, Haibatullah was among the few thought to have gained Mullah Omar’s trust and to whom the late Taliban leader would turn for a final say on sensitive decisions, Ruttig said.

Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, and brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, who were given important positions recently within the Taliban could also be in the running.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Feroz
    May 22, 2016 - 6:49PM

    Now Haqqani network leaders could be next in the line of fire. Their handlers must be suffering sleepless nights after one golden goose has been eliminated. Running out of proxies slowly but surely.These guys will be sheltered in cities like OBL was to protect them, the outback would make them easy target for Drones. Time seems to be running out.Recommend

  • Khilari
    May 22, 2016 - 8:07PM

    Let him be the leader, drone is waiting for him.Recommend

  • vinsin
    May 22, 2016 - 9:44PM

    Hafeez is even more dangerous than Haqqani and Red Mosque Cleric even more than Hafeez.Recommend

  • IndianDude
    May 22, 2016 - 11:06PM

    Ok..will pass this informations to the brave drone operators in sunny Arizona.Recommend

  • Fed up
    May 22, 2016 - 11:17PM

    For a month mullah Mansoor enjoyed the hospitality of Iran before he was killed. What do you have to say about that?@Feroz: Recommend

  • Hamza
    May 23, 2016 - 12:50AM

    @Khilari:
    Pakistan will protect him becaus he ensures veggie eaters have no foothold in afghanistanRecommend

  • Acorn Guts
    May 23, 2016 - 1:01AM

    Isn’t that picture of Jalaluddin Haqqani?Recommend

  • vinsin
    May 23, 2016 - 7:26AM

    @Fed up:
    He was in Saudi Arabia not Iran. Before Saudi Arabia he was in Iran from “10 PM with Nadia” and Dr Shahid MasoodRecommend

  • Giri
    May 23, 2016 - 3:31PM

    I am sure, after yesterday’s drone attack, the Haqqani leadership would now be relocated to cities deep inside Pakistan.Recommend

  • Giri
    May 23, 2016 - 3:33PM

    To the humble drone nobody is a dangerous foe.Recommend

  • Khilari
    May 24, 2016 - 12:50AM

    And he was in Pakistan to meet you. Right?BTW, who is Hafeez, your relative?@vinsin: Recommend

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