The Taliban and the Haqqani Network are "separate entities," the State Department insisted on Friday, arguing the United States providing information with the former did not mean it was doing the same with the latter.
Despite State's denials there are strong links between the groups, Haqqanis even help fill the Taliban’s leadership ranks.
Ned Price, the State Department’s spokesman, was asked if U.S. coordination on security with the Taliban extended to the Haqqani Network, and he replied, “No, it does not. The Taliban and the Haqqani Network are separate entities.”
He went on to argue the U.S. had “developed and implemented effective tactics to be in a position to facilitate the safe passage of individuals to the Kabul airport” and that “the idea that we are providing names or personally identifiable information to the Taliban in a way that exposes anyone to additional risk — that is simply wrong.”
A reporter then noted members of the Haqqani family had prominent positions inside the Taliban, and Price was asked again about the U.S. working with the Haqqani Network.
Price said bluntly: “The Haqqani Network is a designated terrorist organization. We are not coordinating with the Haqqani Network.”
The Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda are deeply intertwined in Afghanistan, with the Taliban integrating Haqqani Network leaders and fighters with al Qaeda links into its command structure. ISIS-K has long clashed with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, claiming Taliban rule is illegitimate.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said last weekend, “The Taliban, obviously, to a considerable extent, are integrated with the Haqqani network. Our effort is with the Taliban military commanders currently in charge of security in Kabul.”
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the “deputy emir” of the Taliban, “currently leads the day-to-day activities of the Haqqani Network,” according to the State Department, which explained that “the Haqqani Network is allied with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda.” Sirajuddin has been designated a terrorist by the U.S., and the State Department’s Reward for Justice program has offered $10 million for his arrest.
The Long War Journal reported in 2017 that “the Taliban again affirmed that the Haqqanis are an integral part of its organization — not an independent faction.” When denying their role in a terrorist attack in Kabul, the Taliban said, “None of our Mujahideen including those of Haqqani Sahib had any role in this event and neither does the killing of civilians benefit the Islamic Emirate.”
Sirajuddin is the nephew of Khalil Rahman Haqqani, another top Taliban figure who is now reportedly in charge of security in Kabul. The Treasury Department designated Khalil a global terrorist in 2011, alleging he was “providing support to al-Qaeda.”
The Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS-K fighters are believed to have been among the thousands of prisoners freed from the Parwan Detention Facility when the Taliban entered Kabul last weekend. The prison is right next to Bagram Airfield, which the U.S. quietly abandoned in July.
The U.S. has relied upon the Taliban to maintain security checkpoints around Kabul's airport, even amid confirmed reports Americans had been threatened and beaten by Taliban guards while trying to make it to the gates to board planes. Central Command leader Gen. Frank McKenzie said Thursday the U.S. would continue to ask the Taliban to assist with security, saying he hadn't seen evidence the Taliban let the attack occur.
The U.S. first designated the Haqqani Network as a terrorist group in 2012. The National Counterterrorism Center said the Haqqanis “are considered the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group targeting U.S., Coalition, and Afghan forces” and said the Haqqani Network was considered a terrorist group “because of its involvement in the Afghan insurgency, attacks on U.S. military and civilian personnel and Western interests in Afghanistan, and because of its ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”
A report from the United Nations in July said ISIS-K “was largely underground and clandestine” and is led by Shahab Muhajir.
The U.N. said one member state contended Muhajir “may also have been previously a mid-level commander in the Haqqani Network,” and he “continues to maintain cooperation with the entity” and provides “key expertise and access to [attack] networks.” The report said some member states “have reported tactical or commander-level collaboration between ISIL-K and the Haqqani Network,” but “others strongly deny such claims.”
The report said: "Authorized movement of personnel with a tacit understanding that both groups benefit from certain joint venture attacks is also likely, as such attacks project a weakening security situation that undermines public confidence in the Government and clearly benefits both ISIL-K and the Haqqani Network.”
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Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy