Devil’s legacy: Jalaluddin Haqqani and his terror network

Though deceased three years ago, Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death was confirmed by Taliban only a week ago on 3 September 2018.

Jalaluddin Haqqani participated in Afghanistan war for four decades. He fought against the Soviet army in the 1980s, engaged in a war against president Najibullah and the so-called Northern Alliance in the 1990s, and began a new chapter of fierce and violence in post-2001 Afghanistan war. Jalaluddin Haqqani operationally and strategically headquartered in Waziristan, a safest haven for insurgent groups and one of the springboards for violence in Afghanistan.

Jalaluddin Haqqani found and nurtured his feared militant group, the Haqqani Network, by the extraordinary share of funds from the Arab countries, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and distinguished himself by bringing thousands of Arab fighters, including Osama bin Laden, into Afghanistan Jihad in the 1980s. Jalaluddin Haqqani is also credited for introducing suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

Jalaluddin Haqqani died at the age of 72 due to his “long illness”.

Background: Haqqani’s early life and the formation of his Network

Jalaluddin Haqqani was born in 1939 in Paktia province of Afghanistan. He was belonged to a wealthy family of Zadran tribe from an ethnic Pashtun who supported the King, Mohammad Zahir.

The root establishment of the Haqqani Network date back to the late-1970s when the Afghan kingdom of Mohammad Zahir was overthrown by his cousin Daoud Khan in 1973. Jalaluddin Haqqani, a royalist, was soon found to be among those plotting against the Daoud’s government and therefore exiled to the border area at Miramshah of Pakistan.

The Pakistani president Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who considered Daoud Khan’s pro-Pashtunistan policies as a threat to his country, not only welcomed Jalaluddin but also supported him with military munitions and training to fight back against Daoud Khan.

According to Giustozzi, the Pakistani Frontier Corps led by Naseerullah Babar (also known as one of the Taliban mentors in the 1990s) trained and prepared more than 500 fighters and commanders for Jalaluddin Haqqani to fight against Daoud Khan’s government.

From 1975, Jalaluddin Haqqani started the most vicious attacks against Daoud Khan’s government which as results dozens of civil servants were killed, including the governor of Urgun, and hundreds others were injured.

Jihad against the Soviet army: Haqqani as a favored asset of the CIA and ISI

Eventually, Daoud Khan was overthrown from the power and killed by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in 1978. Soon after his death, the Soviet Army decided to invade Afghanistan to prop up the fledgling communist government presided by Nur Muhammad Taraki.

Jalaluddin Haqqani grew considerably in this period by taking part in the fight against the Soviet Army. Parnell and Bruning view Jalaluddin Haqqani as a sharp leader who led his group of Mujahideen (Muslim warriors in Jihad) to successfully destroy dozens of Russian tanks and aircrafts in his area of control. According to Parnell and Bruning, Jalaluddin Haqqani’s “moderate religious views” and his closeness to the Pakistani ISI made him naturally fit with the CIA’s campaign to support him against the Soviets force. During this period, Haqqani became the “goodness personified” of the US Congressman Charlie Wilson and benefited tens of thousands of US dollar in cash for his work in the war against the Russians and Afghan forces.

By 1982, the scope of Afghan Jihad spread out and many countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, China, the US, and Pakistan have significantly supported the Mujahideen groups, especially Jalaluddin Haqqani, to harm the Soviets force. The Arab countries started setting up religious schools in tribal areas and sending out volunteers to train the Afghan Mujahideen. Osama bin Laden was one of the Arab volunteers who came to Peshawar of Pakistan and later shifted to Jalaluddin Haqqani’s guesthouse in North Waziristan. Other neighboring countries, especially Iran and China, used to provide weapons and military equipment to Afghan Mujahideen groups, especially the Hazara and Tajik Mujahideen groups.

When the Soviet forces failed to seal the frontier border of Pakistan, the Mujahideen morale became even stronger and they brought the war to cities. The war in Afghanistan continued for 10 years until the Soviet forces were compelled to withdraw from the country in 1989.

Haqqani’s role during the internal war of the 1990s

Soon after the Soviets withdrawals from Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani captured the city of Khost, which became the first communist city to fall under the control of Mujahideen in 1991.

A year later, the Afghan Democratic Government of Mohammad Najibullah completely collapsed in the hand of the Mujahideen groups and Jalaluddin Haqqani became minister for Justice under Sebghatullah Mujaddadi’s interim presidency.

With the Taliban capturing of Kabul in 1995, Jalaluddin Haqqani pledged his allegiance to Mullah Mohammad Omar and served as Minister for Tribal and Frontier Affairs. However, since his position as a minister was symbolic and all decision was centralized to Mullah Omar himself, Jalaluddin was only authorised to take part in military operations against the so-called Northern Alliance. In 1999, Jalaluddin set about the ethnic cleansing of the Shomali plains, north of Kabul, which as result up to 200,000 Tajik inhabitants were forced out of their homes.

Haqqani’s Jihad in post-2001 Afghanistan war

After the fall of Taliban regime in November 2001, an invitation was made to almost all Afghan Mujahideen and tribal leaders, including Jalaluddin Haqqani, to participate in Bonn (Germany) conference to form a new government under the presidency of Hamid Karzai.  However, after a visit made by Jalaluddin Haqqani with the Pakistani ISI, he refused to attend the conference and declared another “holy war”, this time against the US-led NATO forces.

From 2003, the Network began targeting police check posts, government and non-government offices, the US supply convoys, and NATO forces. The Network significantly increased its attacks after the killing governor of Paktia province, Hakim Taniwal, in 2006. The incident became even worse when the next day another explosion occurred during Taniwal’s funeral which as result seven more lost their lives.

From 2007, the Haqqani Network not only increased their attacks but also started changing their tactics. The Network became much brutal and began targeting high ranked officials and attacking major government office in Kabul and other big cities. The bombing of the Indian Embassy in 2008, the bomb explosion at Kabul Bank in 2011, and the truck bomb explosion in a crowded intersection near the German Embassy in 2017 are few examples of many terror attacks carried out by the Haqqani Network in subsequent years.

In 2012, the US Senate officially designated the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organisation. However, Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder, was never sanctioned as a terrorist.

Haqqani’s legacy

Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose death announced on September 3, 2018, had long ago trained his successors to continue his legacy of fierce and violence. Since 2016, Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of his seven sons, is managing the network his father built. Sirajuddin Haqqani, who surpassed his father in brutality and violence, also holds a seat in the Quetta Shura as a Deputy to the Taliban leader Mullah Hebbatullah Akhundzada.

Found and based in Waziristan of Pakistan, the Haqqani Network has a longer history in Afghanistan war than any other terrorist organisations in the region. With the strengths of 4,000 to 15,000 fighters from Arab nations, Pakistanis, Central Asians, and other Al-Qaeda recruits, the Network has been behind some of the most deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, including a truck bomb explosion in Kabul in 2017 that killed more than 150 and injured 413 civilians.

Currently, there is an overwhelming view amongst the analysts and security pundits that the Haqqani Network is one of the most ruthless, aggressive and brutal insurgent group than any other outfits such as Islamic State or Taliban groups.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder, spent four decades of his 72-years life to become a symbol of betrayal to his country by directing the ISI’s terror against his own people. His legacy comprises of eleven coldblooded sons and relatives, a terror network with an army of up to 15,000 members, and thousands of innocent souls who became victims of his violence in the last four decades of war in Afghanistan.

Additional readings and references:

Bergen, P., & Tiedemann, K. (2012). Talibanistan: Negotiating the Borders Between Terror, Politics, and Religion. London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Dressler, J. (2012). The Haqqani Network: A strategic threat. Washington, USA: Institute for the Study of War, Military Analysis and Education for Civilian Leaders.

Dressler, J. A. (2010). The Haqqani Network: From Pakistan to Afghanistan. Washington, USA: Institute for the Study of War, Military Analysis and Education for Civilian Leaders.

Gall, C. (2008, June 17). Old-line Taliban commander is face of rising Afghan threat. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://

Gall, S. (2012). War Against the Taliban: Why it all went wrong in Afghanistan. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Giustozzi, A. (2009). Decoding the New Taliban: Insight from the Afghan field.New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Gopal, A. (2009, June 1). The most deadly US foe in Afghanistan. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from

Haqqani, H. (2005). Between Mosque and Military.Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Lawrence, K. (2011). The Haqqani Network: Threat Convergence Profile Series. Washington, USA: The Fund for Peace.

Miller, G. (2010, December 17). U.S. struggles to root out militants in Pakistani madrassa. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Nordland, R., & Sahak, S. (2011, February 10). Afghan Government Says Prisoner Directed Attacks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://

Parnell, S., & Bruning, J. (2012). Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan.New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Ross, B. (2009, June 22). Taliban Wanted $25 Million for Life of New York Times Reporter. ABC News. Retrieved from

Yaqubi, M. K. (2011, June 15). Haqqani network threatens attacks on judges. Pajhwok Afghan News. Retrieved from

US House of Representative. (2012). Haqqani network officially declared a foreign terror organization; chairman rogers praises the designation. Retrieved from

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