Haqqani network: Realistic assessment
Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
In the process of combating the terrorism, Pakistan and United Sates have worked as partner for a decade now. Surely, none of individuals perpetrated the incident of 9/11, belonged to Pakistan.
They all were Arabs and so was OBL or Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, arrested and handed over to US along with over 700 other wanted terrorists by Pakistan. By compulsion under US pressure, or as inevitability, Pakistan sided with U.S in particular and international community in general, after the incident and supported the ISAF in Afghanistan by deploying its Army and Frontier Corps troops all along the Pak-Afghan border. By now, over 150,000 Pakistani regulars are deployed to combat the terrorist activities either emanating from the local militants from the FATA region or else, by the foreign intruders from Afghan soil after US invaded Afghanistan to dislodge the Taliban administration.
Indeed, Pakistan started its Military operations against the foreign intruders and in the process; its troops were retaliated by deadly attacks, and by now over 5000 have embraced martyrdom besides wounding over 10000 troops. In October 2001, once Pakistan sided with US in combating the terrorism as a frontline state, it annoyed its own masses, the Taliban regime and all former Mujahedeen groups, as none of them wanted the US invasion, less Northern Alliance. Precisely, Pakistan rendered a wholehearted support to NATO and U.S without any prejudice. So much so, that the former Afghan Ambassador (of Taliban administration) in Islamabad was also handed over to U.S, against the diplomatic norms. Unfortunately, this was the level of dedication of Pakistan towards US success in Afghanistan.
On its part, the United States has always undermined the Pakistani contributions and the sole super power has been demanding for more; through the ‘do more’ mantra. Lately, US started demanding military operation in North Waziristan Agency, where, U.S felt that, Haqqani network is effectively operating and supporting the counter insurgency in Afghanistan. These demands started in 2008 and accelerated after the successful military operations by Pak Army in Swat and Malakand and South Waziristan Agency. Over the period, US started accusing that, Pakistan Army and its intelligence agencies has a linkage with Haqqani network, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Nazir’s set up. Hafiz Gul Bahadur is Madda Khel Wazir and a descendant of Faqir of Ipi. Pakistan rejects such accusations and feels that, NWA is comparatively peaceful area, does not require a military operation. Moreover, Pakistan does have enough forces to operate everywhere to please its coalition partner. U.S portrays the Haqqani Network, as the most dangerous one, whose dislodging is most essential for its success in Afghanistan, as if, it is the only group operating in Afghanistan.
While tracing the history of the Haqqani Network, it is indeed, “a group of militants led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani.” Originally, Haqqanis are from Jadran tribe of Paktia in Afghanistan and have roots in North Waziristan too. There is a controversy, whether, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is still alive, as he was seriously ill, a few years back and has not been seen anywhere. It is said that, he played a significant role in defeating the former Soviet forces in Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan and US. Subsequently, his role was more significant in defeating the Communist forces of Dr. Najibullah in Khost Province in 1991. Indeed, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Sirajuddin Haqani was very close to CIA and ISI, since indirectly he was serving the US aims and objectives. Being close to Taliban leader Mullah Omer, he was a key minister in his Government from 1996 to 2001. As revealed by US officials, after US invasion, Haqqani crossed over to NWA and established its headquarters in Dande Darpa Khel village near Miramshah, just about 10 miles from Pak-Afghan border. Nevertheless, currently, his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, alias Khalifa is heading this network. According to Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2011, NATO and U.S consider Sirajuddin Haqqani as “one of the most dangerous Taliban commanders in the ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan.”
Sirajuddin, in his 30s, has evaded many attempts of arrests by Pakistani security forces and many attempts of arrest and killing by ISAF. U.S has fixed $5 million as the bounty for the arrest or killing of Sirajuddin. The major difference between Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Nazir camps and Sirajuddin Haqqani is that, the formers wants that foreign elements should leave the area, whereas, the later is a strong advocate of the foreigners in the area. Since Pakistan wants, the area should be free from the foreign intrusions, therefore, linkages between Haqqani Network and Pakistani security organization is a US misperception. Although, TTP and Haqqani Network are not on the same page, yet, Haqqani’s militants have not even spared Pakistanis and its installations in undertaking terrorist activities. As revealed from the two arrested men of this network, 200 suicide bombers were infiltrated into various cities of Pakistan by this network for deadly bombing, including the suicide ones. This mean, that they do not spare Pakistan in the terror, why should the network be dear to Pakistan.
Until now US has carried out over 290 drone attacks killing thousands of innocent people and seriously compromising the sovereignty of the country. Most of these attacks targeted Haqqani Network; therefore, Pakistan feels that, presence of Haqqans and other foreigners in its soil is posing a serious domestic threat for it, thus why should we support such elements. The significant feature of the CIA driven drone attacks have been that these are focused against Haqqanis and Hafiz Gul Bahadur or else Moulvi Nazir. These attacks never targeted TTP, the group of Taliban that overtly fight against Pakistani security forces, its innocent civilians and installations. Rather, they get most sophisticated weapons and equipments and financed enormously from Afghan soil. In many cases, weapons confiscated from the TTP terrorists were of NATO or US origin with huge USDs or even Indian currency.
At a time once Pakistani security forces are deployed all along the Pak-Afghan border and almost in all agencies of FATA including NWA, Pakistan cannot afford a military operation in NWA. Any such military operations will many implications. First, the terrain of NWA consists of rugged mountains, generally inhospitable for attackers, thus would need heavy manpower and finances, which is not feasible with current constraint situation. Pakistani forces are engaged in military operations in all agencies of FATA including NWA. Secondly, out of promised $7.5 billion financial support through KLL, US could provide only $500 million so far. Thirdly, the people of the area are already hostile and another major attack would further provoke them against the armed forces and the Government of Pakistan, causing more destabilization all the country. Fourthly, the military operation like Swat would call for a major internal displacement of the locals that again need financial resources and a detailed segregation, both are difficult in this agency.
It is generally very difficult to differentiate between a terrorist and innocent local, as both look alike. Thus shifting the IDPs to settled areas would be amounting to destabilizing those areas too. These implications need to be weighed against the likely gains. A realistic assessment would reveal that there would be no real terms gain from a military operation in NWA, except fulfilling the US desires. The question is for how long we should fulfil US desires. After all, we are a sovereign nation, capable to make decisions in the best national interests of Pakistan, rather obeying the US commandments.