Correction: In a previous version of this post, The Envoy included a photo we stated depicted Ronald Reagan hosting Jalaluddin Haqqani, the patriarch of the Haqqani network. That is incorrect. The person depicted is Younis Khalis, a mujaheddin commander. Khalis died in 2006. The photo can be viewed here.
The photo was distributed by several journalists, and the South Asian media outlet NDTV also reported on the image as depicting Haqqani. The Envoy did not sufficiently verify the image's provenance, and regrets the error.
During the Reagan administration, the CIA worked covertly to arm mujaheddin militants fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Among the American allies in this covert effort were several of the entities that are now hostile to America's effort to stabilize Afghanistan: the Pakistani intelligence services, their Afghan insurgent proxies, and their allies the Haqqanis, the powerful tribal family that controls the Afghan-Pakistan border area near Khost.
American officials have charged Haqqani militants with carrying out attacks this month on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, possibly with the complicity of elements of the Pakistani intelligence services. While the United States had previously put several leading figures from the Haqqani network on its list of official terrorists, the State Department signaled this week that it may soon designate the entire group as a terrorist entity. The action has reportedly been the subject of intense U.S. government inter-agency review.
A former U.S. intelligence officer who was in contact with America's then-ally during the George H.W. Bush administration told The Envoy:
"Jalaluddin Haqqani told me in 1990 that if the Americans left Afghanistan before the fight against the communists was over, it would be as though we were never there," the former official said on condition of anonymity. "I reported that, and it was ignored by [then] Secretary of State [James] Baker. We eventually cut off all support to the Afghans just seven months before [the Soviet-backed Afghan leader] Najibullah fell. The bitterness toward us was very real."
The George H.W. Bush/James Baker "State Department saw the issue of support to the Afghans only in terms of U.S.-Soviet relations and ignored the Afghans," the former official said, describing the frustrating time--vividly portrayed in the book and film "Charlie Wilson's War--when those arguing for continuing support for the region after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan were rebuffed by the new American administration and Congress.
Several years ago, during the George W. Bush administration, the United States sent envoys to try to persuade the Haqqani patriarch to break with the Taliban. The outreach was unsuccessful, in part thwarted by divisions within the U.S. bureaucracy.
Bitterness and mistrust continue to plague the American-Pakistani relationship--and there is no shortage of recriminations among current and former officials over who is responsible for mismanaging the deteriorating relationship.
Early this month, the United States received intelligence that Haqqani militants were planning a truck bomb attack on an American military facility in Afghanistan, but they didn't know precisely where or when it would occur, the Washington Post's Greg Miller reported Wednesday. The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. John Allen, met with Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani to urge him to try to persuade the Haqqanis to halt the impending attack.
That effort was also unsuccessful.