Kabul Blasts: First Afghan VP Alleges Pakistan-Based Haqqani Network Linked to Daesh Affiliate
The suicide attack at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday was the deadliest for US forces in Afghanistan since 2011. The attack, claimed by the Khorasan affiliate of the Islamic State (Daesh), has brought into focus the role of the Haqqani Network, arguably the most influential sub-grouping within the broader Taliban movement.
Afghanistan's First Vice-President and self-declared 'caretaker President' Amrullah Saleh has accused the Taliban and the Haqqani Network of sheltering Daesh of Iran and Levant (Khorasan) sleeper cells, hours after a series of suicide bombings at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport left 60 Afghans and 13 US troops dead.
The suicide bombings, one at the airport’s Abbey Gate and the other at the nearby Baron Hotel, were followed by a gunfight, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in the aftermath of the attacks.
The deadly airport bombings have been claimed by ISIL’s, or ISIS, Khorasan affiliate, as per SITE Intelligence Group, a company tracking communication from terrorist outfits.
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) August 26, 2021
Senior members of the Haqqani network, which has its roots in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and is led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, were put in charge of Kabul's overall security this week.
Khalil al Rahman Haqqani, an uncle of Sirajuddin, is the group's senior-most figure in Kabul. Both are US-designated terrorists with bounties of $5 million each on their heads. Sirajuddin is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the jihadi commander and former Haqqani Network chief who died in 2018, while Khalil is the younger brother of Jalaluddin.
Sirajuddin is also currently the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban. Sirajuddin has been opposed to the ongoing peace negotiations with the US government, as per the UN.
Anas Haqqani, another son of Jalaluddin, is one of the negotiating members of the Taliban political office based in Doha.
The UN Security Council describes the Haqqani Network as the most “combat-ready” subgroup within the Taliban movement, also alleging that it acts as a “liaison” between the Taliban and the foreign terrorist groups.
While breaking ties with all terrorist networks, including Al-Qaeda, was one of the pre-conditions of the US as it sealed the peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020, there have been looming concerns about such links.
— Jeff M. Smith (@Cold_Peace_) August 26, 2021
A United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC) Analytical Support and Sanctions’ Monitoring Team report, dated 1 June, says that ISIS Khorasan’s current leader Shahab al-Muhajir could be having close ties to the Haqqani Network.
“According to one Member State, Al-Muhajir may also have been previously a mid-level commander in the Haqqani Network. That State assesses that he continues to maintain cooperation with the entity, providing key expertise and access to [attack] networks,” states the report, adding that it was yet to authoritatively verify the connection.
The UN report also states that ISIS Khorasan, whose creation was announced in 2015, retains a “core group of approximately 1,500 to 2,200” Afghan and Pakistani fighters in Kunar and Nangarhar Provinces.
As per Stanford University’s Centre for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), ISIS-K comprises disaffected militants, who are opposed to a peace treaty with the US, within the Afghan Taliban as well as the Pakistani Taliban movement.
The Centre describes the differences between ISIS and the Taliban as being “ideological”, with the latter practising a more militant and radicalised form of Islam.
US Coordinating With The Taliban, Says CENTCOM
General Kenneth F. McKenzie, head of US Central Command (CENTCOM) has warned of the terror threat being “very real”, as he revealed at a press briefing last evening that the US had been closely coordinating with the Taliban to carry out evacuations of American citizens from Afghanistan.
— Travel - State Dept (@TravelGov) August 25, 2021
The US General also said that a “little more than 1,000” Americans were left in Afghanistan as of Thursday evening and that Washington would carry on with its evacuation flights.
The embattled US President Joe Biden has been getting flak from his domestic rivals over a “disastrous” troop pullout from Afghanistan has vowed to avenge the terrorist strikes.
"We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," Biden remarked, while addressing the nation from the White House.
Meanwhile, Taliban’s official spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has described the attack as a handiwork of “evil circles”, as it refused to directly name ISIS for the deadly bombings.
*the Taliban and Daesh are terrorist organizations banned in Russia