THE U.S., PAKISTAN, & THE HAQQANI NETWORK: SPONSORING THE SPONSORS OF TERRORISM

On September 13, 2011, the Haqqani network perpetrated a terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, a coordinated assault involving suicide bombers and rocket fire that killed 25. During congressional testimony the following week, US Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of facilitating the attacks, saying “The actions by the Pakistani government to support [the Haqqani Network]—actively and passively—represent a growing problem that is undermining U.S. interests.” Although the Pakistani government has denied the US allegations, tensions between the two countries continue to rise, threatening to further destabilize an already fragile alliance.

 

BRUTAL HAQQANI CRIME CLAN BEDEVILS U.S. IN AFGHANISTAN

Mark Mazzetti, Scott Shane & Alissa J. Rubin
NY Times, September 24, 2011

They are the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war, a ruthless crime family that built an empire out of kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, even trucking. They have trafficked in precious gems, stolen lumber and demanded protection money from businesses building roads and schools with American reconstruction funds. They safeguard their mountainous turf by planting deadly roadside bombs and shelling remote American military bases. And they are accused by American officials of being guns for hire: a proxy force used by the Pakistani intelligence service to carry out grisly, high-profile attacks in Kabul and throughout the country. Today, American intelligence and military officials call the crime clan known as the Haqqani network—led by a wizened militant named Jalaluddin Haqqani…—the most deadly insurgent group in Afghanistan.

In the latest of a series of ever bolder strikes, the group staged a daylong assault on the United States Embassy in Kabul, an attack Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged [last Thursday] was aided by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. According to two American officials, cellphones used by the attackers made calls to suspected ISI operatives before the attack, although top Pakistani officials deny their government played any role.

But even as the Americans pledge revenge against the Haqqanis, and even amid a new debate in the Obama administration about how to blunt the group’s power, there is a growing belief that it could be too late.… Responsible for hundreds of American deaths, the Haqqanis probably will outlast the United States troops in Afghanistan and command large swaths of territory there once the shooting stops. American military officers, who have spent years urging Washington to take action against the Haqqanis, express anger that the Obama administration has still not put the group on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations out of concern that such a move would scuttle any chances that the group might make peace with Afghanistan’s government.…

The Haqqanis have expanded their reach and numbers as top American officials have tried repeatedly over the last decade to berate and cajole officials in Pakistan to cut ties to a group it considers essential for its own security, all with little effect.… Now largely run by two of Mr. Haqqani’s sons, who experts say are even more committed Islamists than their father, the network is in a position of strength as the United States tries to broker a peace deal in Afghanistan before pulling its troops from the country.…

With a combination of guns and muscle, the Haqqani network has built a sprawling enterprise on both sides of a border that barely exists. The Haqqanis are Afghan members of the Zadran tribe, but it is in the town of Miram Shah in Pakistan’s tribal areas where they have set up a mini-state with courts, tax offices and radical madrasa schools producing a ready supply of fighters. They secretly run a network of front companies throughout Pakistan selling cars and real estate, and have been tied to at least two factories churning out the ammonium nitrate used to build roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

American intelligence officials believe that a steady flow of money from wealthy people in the gulf states helps sustain the Haqqanis, and that they further line their pockets with extortion and smuggling operations throughout eastern Afghanistan.… They are also in the kidnapping business, with a mix of pecuniary and ideological motives. In May, the group released the latest of a series of videos showing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American infantryman held by the network since June 2009, with a Haqqani official.…

Over the past five years, with relatively few American troops operating in eastern Afghanistan, the Haqqanis have run what is in effect a protection racket for construction firms—meaning that American taxpayers are helping to finance the enemy network.… But the group is not just a two-bit mafia enriching itself with shakedown schemes. It is an organized militia using high-profile terrorist attacks on hotels, embassies and other targets to advance its agenda to become a power broker in a future political settlement. And, sometimes, the agenda of its patrons from Pakistan’s spy service, the ISI.

Last month, Afghanistan’s National Intelligence Directorate released recordings of phone calls intercepted during the June 28 attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. In the exchanges, Haqqani network leaders in Pakistan instruct their operatives in the hotel to shoot the locks off rooms, throw in grenades and make sure no one escapes. Later, as a fire blazes, the recordings capture the voice of Badruddin Haqqani, one of Jalaluddin’s sons.… More than a dozen people were killed in the attack, which American officials say they think was carried out with some ISI help.…

According to a senior American military official, cross-border attacks by the Haqqanis into Afghanistan have increased more than fivefold this year over the same period a year ago, and roadside bomb attacks are up 20 percent compared with last year. For years, American officials have urged Pakistan to move against the Haqqanis’ base of operations in North Waziristan. They typically are rebuffed by military and intelligence officials in Islamabad.…

As a result, the United States has fallen back on a familiar strategy: missiles fired from armed drones operated by the C.I.A. But because the Haqqani network’s leaders are thought to be hiding in populated towns like Miram Shah, where the C.I.A. is hesitant to carry out drone strikes, American officials said that the campaign has had only limited success against the group’s leadership.

A quarter-century ago, the Haqqani fighters were not the targets of C.I.A. missiles. They were the ones shooting C.I.A.-supplied missiles, the shoulder-fired Stingers that would devastate Soviet air power over Afghanistan. Jalaluddin Haqqani was in temporary alliance with the United States against its greater adversary, the Soviet Union, just as his network today is allied with a Pakistan that sees Afghanistan as a critical buffer against its greater adversary, India.…

On Feb. 19, 2009, the day before Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s new senior military commander, was due in Washington for his first meetings with the Obama administration, the American Embassy in Islamabad sent a classified cable to the State Department. American officials believed that General Kayani, Pakistan’s onetime spymaster, had for years overseen Pakistan’s covert support for militant groups like the Haqqani network, and the cable offered blunt advice about the coming talks. “The single biggest message Kayani should hear in Washington is that this support must end,” said the cable, written by Ambassador Anne W. Patterson.

In the 30 months since, few in Washington believe that Pakistan’s support of armed militia groups has diminished.…

The new urgency for a political settlement in Afghanistan has further limited Washington’s options for fighting the Haqqani network. During high-level discussions last year, Obama administration officials debated listing the group as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization,” which allows for some assets to be frozen and could dissuade donors from supporting the group. While some military commanders pushed for the designation, the administration ultimately decided that such a move might alienate the Haqqanis and drive them away from future negotiations.… But as Washington struggles to broker an endgame for the Afghan war, there is widespread doubt about whether the Haqqanis will negotiate, and whether their patrons in Islamabad will even let them.…

“Is there any formula for Pakistan to agree to stop supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan and instead help broker and be satisfied with a political settlement?” asked Karl W. Eikenberry, who served as both America’s top military commander in Afghanistan and its ambassador to the country. “We don’t know the answer to that question,” he said.

THE GLOVES COME OFF

Daniel S. Markey

Foreign Policy, September 23, 2011

On Sept. 22, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before Congress that the Haqqani network, the group that launched the Sept. 13 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, is a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate. Public testimony has been matched by tough talk in private, including in meetings between CIA chief David Petraeus and ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha and between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her counterpart, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

Washington is launching a full-court press to show that it will no longer sit idly by while terrorist groups, abetted by the ISI, kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan. Never before have we seen this sort of high-level, across-the-board pressure from the U.S. government. And never before have U.S. demands on Islamabad to get tough on the Haqqani network been coupled with what—at least implicitly—sound like threats of significantly expanded U.S. unilateral action inside Pakistan.

At surface level, these statements require no explanation at all. If Washington has ample evidence of ISI complicity, then how can it possibly look the other way, much less continue to provide assistance to the Pakistani government and military?

But the reality is that evidence of ISI support for Haqqani operations in Afghanistan is hardly new. Back in July 2008, Washington made similar claimsof Pakistani complicity when the Indian Embassy in Kabul was bombed. Since then, however, U.S. military and civilian aidto Pakistan has increased, in part reflecting American hopes that carrots, rather than sticks, will be more likely to shift Pakistan’s behavior.

In the past, Washington always tempered its criticism of Pakistan for fear that pushing too hard might break the relationship in ways that would cause more harm than good. U.S. officials have always known that the major supply lines for American forces in Afghanistan run through Pakistan’s ports, highways, and airspace.…

What has changed? There are probably two reasons behind Washington’s newly aggressive posture.

First, U.S. military leverage in the region is a diminishing asset. Washington can make threats now that will be less credible in a year or two. NATO force levels in Afghanistan are at their zenith, so if there is ever going to be a time for credible threats to expand the conflict into the Pakistani tribal areas where the Haqqani network is headquartered, it is now.

Second, Washington believes it has relatively little to lose in its bilateral relationship with Pakistan. To be sure, much is still at stake. Supply routes to Afghanistan and bilateral ties with a nuclear-armed state are nothing to sneeze at. But the calculation has to do with relative losses, not absolute ones. As U.S. officials peer into the future, they see little reason to expect that relations with Islamabad are likely to improve. Indeed, there’s precious little evidence to suggest that the trajectory of the U.S.-Pakistan relations will go anywhere but downhill. If there is already a realistic chance that this relationship will rupture and that the benefits of bilateral cooperation will eventually be lost, why not press Pakistan now while Washington still enjoys some positive leverage and before relations hit rock bottom?…

But Pakistan also has cards to play in its escalating bout with the United States.… Pakistan is likely to remind Washington that it controls the ground supply routes into Afghanistan, perhaps by halting or delaying entry or by allowing shipments to be destroyed. Both of these steps have been taken in the past. And it could get far, far worse than that. Pakistan could close its airspace to American overflights, end remaining military and intelligence cooperation, deny visas to U.S. officials, enable militant attacks on U.S. Embassy employees and facilities, and shoot down the U.S. drones that still fly over Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Would Washington be willing and able to respond to each of these steps? Perhaps; but it won’t be easy. The United States could take the costly step of shifting ground supply routes to Afghanistan to run through Russia and Central Asia, along the so-called Northern Distribution Network; negotiate new agreements for airborne shipments and personnel; substitute drones with less-discriminating, higher-flying bombers that can evade Pakistani air defenses; and launch commando raids into Pakistan supported by a surged conventional presence on Afghanistan’s eastern border.

These are ugly options. They could get even uglier. But this is now the reality, with Washington having taken such an aggressive, public stance against its erstwhile ally.… Faced with such terribly high stakes, the question now is which side will blink first, and when.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SPONSORS
THE SPONSORS OF ANTI-AMERICAN TERRORISM

Barry Rubin
Pajamas Media, September 18, 2011

Is there any sponsor of anti-American terrorism in the Middle East that the Obama Administration hasn’t tried to sponsor?

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told Radio Pakistan, September 17: “The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago, that was the work of the Haqqani network.… There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.”

Do you realize the significance of those two sentences? It goes something like this:

-The United States gives billions of dollars to the Pakistani government to fight terrorism.

-Instead, the Pakistani government doesn’t do that very much. Remember where Osama bin Ladin was hanging out without Pakistan’s regime doing anything?

-The Pakistani government gives money to al-Qaida and Taliban-linked terrorists—the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network and other terrorists sponsored by Pakistan murder hundreds of people in India. They also attack Americans.

-A week ago, the Haqqani Network attacked the U.S. Embassy with rocket-propelled grenades. It took the Pakistani military 20 hours to get them out of a nearby building.

-Thus, U.S. taxpayers are paying money to the Pakistani government to fight terrorists attacking America that the government then uses to help terrorists attack America.

Might this be a problem? Could this be a central example of the insanity of U.S. policy that also, for example, gives money to the Palestinian Authority which is allied to Hamas, a genocidal, anti-American group, and successfully pressed Israel to reduce sanctions so that the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip can flourish.

And Obama Administration policy was nice to Syria for 2.5 years, until it literally was forced to change that policy, despite the fact that Syria’s regime was giving money to kill Americans in Iraq. It also tried to be nice to Iran but Iranian intransigence and domestic pressure finally made it impose more sanctions.

The Obama Administration has also made the Turkish regime its favorite Middle East ally despite that government’s support for Hamas, Hizballah, and Turkish Islamist groups. It has even to some degree become the patron of the Egyptian and Syrian Muslim Brotherhoods which are profoundly anti-American, pro-terrorist groups.

In ordinary times, this sort of thing would be a major scandal. Front-page media stories would daily skewer the Obama Administration for aiding, abetting, and financing major sponsors of terrorism. Academic experts would pour on scorn; members of Congress would demand investigations. Yet in this era nothing happens.

The U.S. ambassador, under instructions from Washington, stamps his foot and says that Pakistani government support for anti-American and murderous terrorism “must stop.” But it won’t stop. And the Obama Administration won’t do anything about it.…