Opinion

The Haqqani clan and the Taliban government (Part 2)

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The Haqqanis have remained in forced hiding until the Taliban overthrew the previous Afghan government last August and several of their members were elected to two important ministries, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Refugees. Their political activity within the Taliban government is being closely watched by the countries with which Afghanistan wants to establish relations, since international recognition of the Taliban government depends to a large extent on it. There has also been no shortage of clashes between the Haqqanis and other members of the Taliban government. All of these circumstances will be developed in this article.

Introduction

More than two months have passed since the Taliban came to power. If there is one thing they have been known for during this time, it is a renewed international image compared to their previous government. The interviews of high-ranking Taliban in the international media have been along the same lines as before, using very careful and non-belligerent language, such as that of the Taliban and Haqqani clan spokesman, Anas Haqqani, who in his statements calls for peace and understanding between Muslims, unlike the Taliban of the 1996 regime. 

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid gave several interviews, including to a Spanish reporter1 , in which he said that he would respect human rights, including those of women. However, as long as they are within Shari'a law. The controversial Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani held a meeting in early October in Kabul2 , where he honoured the suicide martyrs in front of their families for their contribution to the Taliban government now ruling after the departure of international forces.

The aim of this analysis is to expose or show the position held by the Haqqani clan within the Taliban government, which moves in a purely political field, unknown to them, where they are trying to establish the structures to run Afghanistan. The international community does not fully accept that an organisation that has been historically violent for years in Afghanistan, where several of its members are wanted by the FBI, has managed to take the helm of the country and wants to govern normally, under Sharia law, which is incompatible with a modern Muslim society.

Haqqanis in the Taliban government

Pakistani General Hameed, the head of Pakistan's intelligence service, visited Afghanistan on 4 September, two days before the formation of the Taliban government, with the intention of meeting with future members of the government. It did not take much guesswork to work out that the purpose of the visit was to influence the formation of the future government, although there was no official record of the people he met, it was not difficult to imagine that he met with members of the Haqqani clan. Days later, Sirajuddin Haqqani was Minister of Interior and his uncle Khalil Haqqani was Minister of Refugees. According to Taliban sources in the civil service, General Hameed was concerned about human smuggling across the border. A month after this visit, General Faiz Hameed left his post as intelligence chief to become commander of the Penshawar Corps, a key region in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border traffic. 

Once the government was formed, the Haqqanis were seen at various functions and events as representatives of the regime. Anas Haqqani, despite not holding a ministerial position, has become an important spokesman for the Taliban and the clan, and given his media skills, he has no qualms about exposing himself publicly on his visits. An example of this is the visit he made in early October to Bagram prison, where he was imprisoned for five years, or to the tomb of Mahmud Ghaznavi3 , a 10th century sultan who plundered and destroyed the temple of Somnath (India) for idolatry.

The former's uncle, Khalil Haqqani, made his first public appearance at the Kabul mosque on Friday 20 August, surrounded by bodyguards from the Badri 313 unit and carrying an M4 rifle, taking to the pulpit to say that "Afghanistan is now free because it is free of the US and will be safer and free of corruption". As Minister for Refugees, he received the UN High Commissioner for Cooperation and Assistance to Displaced and Returnees.

The Minister for Refugees emphasised the need for transparency in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and coordination between his office and UNHCR for the security of the mission in the country, women NGO partners and UN employees4.

For the Haqqanis, as members of the Taliban government, there is one issue that resists them as much as the rest of the government: the consolidation and international recognition of the government. Serious economic problems, with aid that is not forthcoming, are taking their toll. Security is another pending issue due to the cruel attacks committed by Afghan Daesh terrorists, which have caused hundreds of deaths, not counting those in Kabul in the last days of the evacuation. 

In addition, there are internal rifts between members of the government, especially between Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and the Haqqanis. In one of the councils of ministers, Baradar reportedly defended the success of the Taliban army as a whole in dislodging the allied troops and the previous government in Kabul, a success that the Haqqanis also claimed credit for, which, according to sources close to him, led to moments of tension due to the desire to take the lead in the victory.5But there was also another controversial factor

But there was also another factor of controversy between the two sides. As is well known, the Haqqanis have a strange attraction to the sport of cricket, to the extent that Anas Haqqani fired the head of the Afghan cricket board without explanation and replaced him with Naseebullah Haqqani6 . All this brought about a serious tension with Baradar who had his own candidate and who did not admit the clan's candidate.

Despite calls for internal cohesion, the Taliban government could be accused of these clashes between the two factions at a time when the councils of ministers are talking about guaranteeing security because they know that protecting the lives of citizens is paramount in the face of the serious threat of the Afghan Daesh. Hence the importance of security, believing that it will bring economic development, prosperity and ultimately international recognition.

As for the state administration, the spokesman for the political office, Mohamed Naeem, stated that efforts are aimed at structuring the regime, creating jobs and combating the drug addiction suffered by almost five million Afghans.7 It should not be forgotten that Afghanistan cultivates the poppy flower and is the world's leading producer of opium, which is the source of opium and therefore also of heroin and morphine. 

It should not be forgotten that Afghanistan is a world leader in poppy cultivation, from which opium and therefore heroin and morphine are produced. The Taliban tax the farmers who grow opium poppies heavily, which is why the situation is so complex for them. They not only want to stop addiction, they also have to stop drug trafficking and the income from it, since opium and heroin account for 80% and 90% of the world trade, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 

However, Afghanistan is also a mineral-rich country, which has led it to reach out to international companies for extraction because it lacks the means to do so. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an interview on Chinese television, a country with which they have established trade and friendship ties, that anyone could exploit Afghanistan's natural resources, thus appealing for foreign investment. 

Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi, the Taliban foreign minister, met his Chinese counterpart in Doha, Qatar, who pledged to help Afghanistan in exchange for exploiting the country's lithium and copper deposits.

Anecdotally, he is the most active minister in the Taliban government, as foreign investment in Afghanistan and, above all, international recognition of Afghanistan depend on his diplomatic efforts

Therefore, Sirajuddin Haqqani's work as Interior Minister is very important for Mutaqqi in terms of foreign investment, to ensure that Afghanistan is a safe country and to bring stability to the main provinces of the country, having been involved in the appointment of provincial governors, in order to convey to neighbouring countries that Afghanistan is a safe country.

Mutaqqi, as foreign minister, has to attest to the fact that security is not threatened in his international meetings, such as the one he had with Iran at the end of October with his Iranian counterpart Bajador Amininan, to whom he asked for special attention to Afghan refugees in Iran, a subject of interest and competence also of refugee minister Khalil Haqqani, who, as mentioned above, met in Kabul on 13 September with Philip Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 

If we take a snapshot of the activity of the ministers we have seen so far, they are facing a situation in which the most important thing is to provide security on the streets (within their understanding of security) and stability in the country, because the backdrop is the international recognition of the Taliban regime by countries such as China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran, among others. They hold regular meetings with them, because this recognition undoubtedly brings economic support and with it the ability to face the economic and humanitarian crisis with guarantees. 

In fact, Sirajuddin Haqqani, from his Ministry of the Interior, gave the order to issue passports of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan so that citizens are free to travel wherever they want, although it is another matter whether this passport is recognised. For the time being it is possible to travel, though not entirely to Pakistan whose border remains open at several points, as does its embassy in Kabul since the Taliban seized power and whose Prime Minister Imram Khan made an international appeal to help Afghanistan emerge from the crisis and gain legitimacy8

Al-Qaeda is for the moment maintaining a calculated silence in the area, aware of what is at stake. It reappeared in a video commemorating the 20th anniversary of the twin towers attack. A video starring the hitherto missing Al-Qaeda emir. However, the video is not known to have been recorded at the time, as it does not mention the Taliban victory at any point, hours after the last US soldier in Afghanistan (Major Chris Donahue) left Kabul. In the video, Al-Qaeda leader Al-Zawahiri announced: "Today (the US) is leaving Afghanistan, broken and defeated after twenty years of war", and of course a call for global jihad "the whole world is the battlefield "9.

Al-Qaeda is not committing attacks in Afghanistan in order not to destabilise the Afghan government because of its historical ties to the Haqqani clan.

In conclusion, Afghanistan is in a situation of instability, mainly due to the political environment, which is divided into two factions. On the one side is the more political faction led by President Hassan Akhund and Deputy Prime Minister Baradar, who are working diplomatically for international recognition of the Taliban regime. On the other side would be the more extreme and paramilitary faction, led by Sirajuddin and Khalil Haqqani, obsessed with security, aware that a high degree of insecurity would hamper Baradar's and the foreign minister's efforts to convince surrounding countries that international recognition would bring stability to Afghanistan. 

The Taliban foreign minister met with his counterpart Mahmood Qureshi and representatives of China, India, Russia and the US in the Pakistani capital on 10 November.  The highlight of the meeting was that the representatives of these countries would continue to hold meetings with the Taliban with a view to regional stability, not forgetting the request to the Taliban to form an inclusive government and to cut ties with terrorist groups, so far without significant progress. Pakistan will probably be the first to recognise the Taliban government, but it should enjoy greater economic solidity and security that would guarantee a clearer path towards such recognition. While this is happening, the surrounding powers will remain on standby, recalling the words of the Pakistani minister: "If there is peace and stability in Afghanistan, this will have both global and regional benefits "10. So far, international recognition has not been forthcoming, although the members of the Taliban government are considered valid interlocutors in these meetings, but the following countries do keep their embassies open in Afghanistan: China, Iran, Russia, Pakistan and Turkey, which does not mean de jure but de facto recognition of the Taliban government, as they have diplomatic personnel in the country, although for the moment their government is not recognised internationally.

Luis Montero Molina, contributor to the Terrorism and Armed Conflict area of Sec2Crime. Political scientist. Master in International Geostrategy and Jihadist Terrorism.

https://www.sec2crime.com/

References:

  1. PUIG Francesc, La Vanguardia (24 de octubre del 2021) Salvados viaja al Afganistán bajo el poder talibán en su retorno a La Sexta. https://www.lavanguardia.com/television/20211024/7812394/salvados-la-sexta-gonzo-afganistan-electricas-thunberg.html
  2. Equipo editorial, VOI ( 27 de octubre del 2021) El Líder Talibán Haqqani Elogia Al Atacante Suicida Afgano Y Su Familia Recibe Un Premio De 1,7 Millones De IDR. https://voi.id/es/berita/98268/el-lider-taliban-haqqani-elogia-al-terrorista-suicida-afgano-y-la-familia-recibe-una-recompensa-de-17-millones-de-rupias
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