Some of the Taliban’s top leaders are gathering in Kabul to discuss the formation of a new Afghan government – including representatives of the Haqqani network, the country’s most feared terrorists.
Haqqani has been accused of some of the deadliest attacks in recent years and has claimed the lives of civilians, officials and foreign troops.
Despite their reputation, they are expected to be strong players in the new government after the Taliban took over Afghanistan last week.
Who are Haqqani?
The Dark Group was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who gained prominence in the 1980s as a hero against Soviet jihad. At the time, it was a valuable asset of the CIA as the United States and its allies, such as Pakistan, directed weapons and money at mujahideen.
During that conflict and after the return of the Soviet Union, Jalaluddin Haqqani formed close ties with foreign jihadists – including Osama bin Laden.
He later joined the Taliban, which took over Afghanistan in 1996 and served as Islamist minister until he was ousted by US-led forces in 2001.
The Taliban announced the death of Jalaluddin Haqqani after a long illness in 2018, and his son Sirajuddin became chairman.
Due to their financial and military strength – and non-stop reputation – the Haqqani network is considered semi-autonomous and remains in the Taliban network.
Headquartered mainly in eastern Afghanistan – with alleged cross-border bases in northwestern Pakistan – the group has become more visible in the Taliban leadership in recent years and Sirajuddin Haqqani was appointed Vice President in 2015.
His younger brother, Anas, who was previously imprisoned and sentenced to death by the former Afghan government, has been in talks with former President Hamid Karzai and former secretary general Abdullah Abdullah since the fall of Kabul last weekend.
Why are they so scared?
The Haqqani network has been accused of some of the deadliest and most shocking attacks in Afghanistan in two decades.
They have been designated foreign terrorist organizations by the United States and are also subject to UN sanctions.
Haqqani has a reputation for using suicide bombs frequently – including drivers of cars and trucks loaded with large quantities of explosives – and has demonstrated the ability to carry out complex attacks on large targets, including military bases and embassies.
In October 2013, Afghan forces stopped a Haqqani truck in eastern Afghanistan containing nearly 28 tons (61,500 pounds) of explosives, according to the National Terrorism Center.
Haqqani has been charged with murder – including the attempted assassination of then-President Karzai in 2008 – and kidnapping of Western officials and citizens for ransom and forced exchange.
They have also long been suspected of links to the Pakistani military – US Admiral Mike Mullen described them as a “true arm” of Islamabad in 2011.
Pakistan denies the allegations.
Haqqani has made a significant contribution to the Taliban’s campaign and is “the army’s greatest weapon,” UN monitors said in a June report.
Analysts also described the network as a “main link” between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
What is their role in the new Taliban regime?
Haqqani has emerged as a serious player in the Taliban’s political campaign with at least two of its leaders in Kabul when talks on forming the next government begin.
Sirajuddin Haqqani’s formal promotion to the position of vice-president six years ago strengthened this role, experts say.
And his brother Anas’ release from detention in Afghanistan in 2019 was seen as a measure to help start direct talks between the United States and the Taliban, which eventually led to the withdrawal of troops.
Sirajuddin Haqqani even wrote an article in The New York Times last year in which he presented the Taliban’s stance on the US talks and the conflict in Afghanistan – albeit in diplomatic tones that disproved the network’s violent reputation.
While Anas Haqqani was in talks with Karzai, his nephew, Khalil Haqqani, was seen praying in Kabul on Friday.
Sirajuddin and Khalil are both still listed as wanted by the United States, with multi-million dollar bids.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is published in a synchronized stream.)