A new report from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point on the Haqqani Network - The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al-Qa'ida - argues that this family-based jihadi network both protected and shaped al-Qaeda from its earliest days and allowed bin Laden's organisation to aspire towards global jihad.
While carefully avoiding any direct association with international terror organisations, the Haqqani Network has been unwilling to disengage from al-Qaeda and has aided its growth onto the world arena. "By shedding new light on the history of al-Qa’ida, this report also tells us that al-Qa’ida and the Haqqani network, and not the Quetta Shura Taliban, became the United States’ primary enemies on 11 September 2001," say authors Don Rassler and Vahid Brown.
To date, the history of al-Qaeda has been understood in terms of the its outgrowth from the Maktab al-Kidamat organisation in Peshawar under the auspices of Abdullah Azzam. This approach, say the authors, fails to take into account the important connections between al-Qaeda's leaders and the Haqqani clan. "The scholarly and policy community have misapprehended the precise local context for the development of global jihadism - a context to be found in the Haqqanis' Paktia and not Azzam's Peshawar - and have underestimated the Haqqani network's critical role in sustaining cycles of violence far beyond its region of overt influence."
They argue that the ties between the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda have remained just as close since 9/11 under Sirajuddin Haqqani's command as they were prior to that when under the control of his father, Jalauddin. Sirajuddin continues to play an important role as a mediator - between the Pakistani ISI and the various factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, between the TTP and local Shias in Kurram and even between the Iranian state and al-Qaeda. In this latter case it is suggested that in 2010 he helped to secure the release of a top Iranian diplomat in exchange for several al-Qaeda commanders, including Saif al-Adel.
The authors point out the paradox of the fact that while the Haqqani network has functioned as Islamabad's proxy in Afghanistan, it has also served as al-Qaeda's local enabler for more than 20 years.
They say that even though the Pakistanis have in the past offered up the Haqqani network as a way of ending the conflict in Afghanistan, the organisation is unlikely to disengage from its relationship with al-Qaeda and other jihadist organisations: "Positioned between two unstable states, and operating beyond their effective sovereignty, the Haqqani network has long been mistaken for a local actor with largely local concerns. It is vital that the policy community correct the course that has taken this erroneous assessment for granted and recognize the Haqqani network’s region of refuge for what it has always been – the fountainhead of jihad."
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