The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the Pentagon has decided to withhold $300 million in military aid to Pakistan for failing to take “sufficient action against the Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate blamed for attacks on U.S. and allied personnel in Afghanistan.”
The article goes on to give some background on the organization, which is named after Jalaluddin Haqqanni, a former leader in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, who may or may not still be alive.
“It is the first time the Obama administration has withheld military aid to Pakistan because of the Haqqani group, which has been a primary source of U.S. concern in Afghanistan and which in the past some U.S. officials have asserted had links to Pakistani intelligence,” the Post reports.
What the Post article neglects to mention, however, is much of the relevant history of this group’s rise to power. A clearer picture is offered in Ghost Wars, a 2004 book by a former Post managing editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Steve Coll, that provides an in-depth account of the background to the September 11th attacks.
It is fairly well known that the American government, through such branches as the Central Intelligence Agency, funneled money to the “Mujahideen” that fought the Soviets in Afghanistan toward the end of the Cold War. What is less widely understood by many Americans is the confusing knot of names and allegiances of specific actors and organizations involved in all of that shadowy intrigue, now decades in the past, that unfolded on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
“At the center of this border nexus stood Jallaladin Haqqanni, the long-bearded, fearless Afghan rebel commander with strong Islamist beliefs who had grown very close to Pakistani and Saudi intelligence during the last years of the anti-Soviet war,” Coll writes. “He was seen by CIA officers in Islamabad and others as perhaps the most impressive Pashtun battlefield commander in the war.”
But it was not just admiration the CIA had for Haqqanni. There were also arms, supplies and money.
“For their part, Pakistani intelligence and the CIA came to rely on Haqqanni for testing and experimentation with new weapons systems and tactics,” Coll writes. “Haqqanni was so favored with supplies that he was in a position to broker them and to help equip the Arab volunteers gathering in his region. The CIA officers working from Islamabad regarded him as a proven commander who could put a lot of men under arms at short notice. Haqqanni had the CIA’s full support.”
Returning to more recent history, the Post article points out that the Haqqanni network “is blamed for some of the boldest attacks on U.S. targets in Afghanistan, including a 2011 assault on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.” Unfortunately, it seems taking a longer view of the dynamics that have given rise to insurgent groups like the Haqqani network, and continue to ensure their survival, would simply be too complex a task to ask of a single article. It may be worth noting, however, that the Post‘s piece was more than twice as long as this one. The mainstream media’s definition of relevant context is intriguing, to say the least.
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