Trapped in the Haqqani web
BOOK: Fountainhead of jihad The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012
AUTHOR Vahid Brown & Don Rassler
PUBLISHER Hachette India
Fountainhead of Jihad is a crucial document that goes beyond the usual rhetoric of ‘the Taliban’ and delves into the nuances of the insurgency
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi
As the 2014 US-Nato troop withdrawal approaches, mixed emotions pervade Afghanistan. Whilst a section of the youth, the enterprising and the hopeful, is certain that it will be able to steer the country out of the mess with its abilities, another section is wallowing in apprehensions of a civil war. For, they have learnt from history that their future is tied to the ‘strategic’ and ‘geo-political’ considerations of other players. Going by the experience after the Soviet withdrawal, at least. Hundreds of civilians had lost their lives then in the deadly civil war that ensued between the several Mujahideen factions, most of them riding high on the weapons and money supplied generously by the CIA through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This time around, though the US-led NATO alliance has managed a few gains on the ground, the general feeling is that it has lost the war to the ‘extremists’.
The Haqqani network, which has terrorized Afghanistan, with spectacular strikes targetting the US, Afghan and Indian assets, is one such entity. Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the organization, was their blue-eyed boy — “goodness personified,” as Charlie Wilson, the Texan Congressman who was a major force behind the anti-Soviet offensive, once described him. An army of Deobandi insurgents with strong links to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the Haqqanis’ threat has forced the White House to renegotiate the terms of partnership with Islamabad, even asking it to hound out the network from its country. Naturally, Pakistan has been reluctant for it recognizes them as an ‘important ally’, more so for their capabilities to thwart the Indian influence in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Fountainhead of Jihad is a crucial document that goes beyond the usual rhetoric of ‘the Taliban’ and delves into the nuances of the insurgency. It traces the journey of the Haqqanis from the Loya Paktia or larger Paktia, an almost out-of-bounds tribal stronghold for militaries of all hues, and also establishes the existence of their umbilical cords with the ISI, which continues to leverage them as a bargaining chip. There has been more than one instance when the Pakistanis have offered to broker a truce with the Haqqanis for the Afghans and the Americans.
Loya Paktia is largely ruled by tribal writ. History notes that the Nang Pashtuns have long resisted any foreign control over them. This is the place where the Haqqanis are based. It offers them a safe haven, control of a strategic region and an easy supply of fighters. The sway they exercise on this important area also gives them the levers of control and bargaining with other insurgent groups who depend on their support. This is perhaps the reason the Taliban, a largely low-land Kandahari Pashtun army, and the Pakistani establishment continue to rely on them.
Meanwhile, as the 2014 deadline approaches, the desperation is visible. With the US now almost sure that it cannot sweep away the insurgents, there have been hasty developments, including back-channel talks with the ‘Taliban’. These efforts to bring all the insurgent groups to the table are a manifestation of the desperation to make an honourable exit. They are also ominous signs of the times to come.