Haqqani network one of the most dangerous groups fighting foreign forces in Afghanistan

Sep 07, 2012, 4:58 PM EDT

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Some questions and answers about the Pakistan-based Haqqani network and the potential impact of the Obama administration's decision to designate it a foreign terrorist organization:

Q: What is the Haqqani network?

A: The Haqqani network is considered one of the most dangerous militant groups fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, partly because of its record of carrying out high-profile attacks in the capital, Kabul. The group is based across the border in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area but also has significant strength in eastern Afghanistan, the original home of the network's founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani. He made a name for himself in the 1980s when he fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, with extensive support from U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agencies. He fled to Pakistan following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Haqqani is now believed to be in his 60s or older and has handed day-to-day operations of the group over to his son, Sirajuddin.

Q: What impact will the U.S. designation of the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization have on the group?

A: The designation requires U.S. financial institutions to freeze assets owned by the network and outlaws Americans from providing the group funds or material support. It can also prevent members of the group from traveling to the U.S. Analysts doubt the designation will have much of an impact on the group given the informal nature of its financing network and the lack of ties with the U.S. Many of the Haqqani network's senior leaders have already been blacklisted individually, and that has seemingly had little effect.

Q: What impact will the U.S. designation have on its relationship with Pakistan or the peace process in Afghanistan?

A: The designation could further strain already troubled ties between the U.S. and Pakistan. It could also complicate U.S. efforts to strike a peace deal in Afghanistan because of the close ties between the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Pakistan has long criticized the U.S. for trying to fight and talk with militants at the same time, and the designation could feed into that narrative.

Q: How many fighters make up the Haqqani network and how much violence are they responsible for in Afghanistan?

A: The network is believed to be composed of several hundred core members and thousands of fighters with varying degrees of affiliation and loyalty, according to the Combating Terrorism Center in West Point, N.Y. A U.S. defense official estimated the group's size at 2,000 to 4,000 militants. U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that the Haqqani network is responsible for less than 20 percent of all U.S. and NATO casualties in Afghanistan.

Q: What is the Haqqani network's relationship with the Taliban and al-Qaida?

A: The Haqqani network has pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but the group largely operates independently. The elder Haqqani developed close ties to slain al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden during the Soviet war in Afghanistan when both of them spent months together on the front lines, according to the Washington-based New American Foundation. The network's ties to al-Qaida and other foreign militant groups have remained strong, one of the reasons why it has become such a potent force in Afghanistan.

Q: Does the Haqqani network pose a threat to the U.S. homeland?

A: The U.S. intelligence community believes the Haqqani network is focused on attacking local enemies, with no aspirations to attack the United States, said a U.S. defense official. But the group's ties with al-Qaida and other transnational militant groups are a concern to the U.S.

Q: What is the Haqqani network's relationship with Pakistan?

A: Ties between Pakistan's intelligence agency and the elder Haqqani stretch back to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. U.S. officials have accused Pakistan of continuing to support the group, but Islamabad has denied the allegation. The U.S. has demanded Pakistan target the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, but it has refused. Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target a group that could be a potential ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.


AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier in Washington contributed to this report.