Brutal Haqqani Crime Clan Bedevils U.S. in Afghanistan is the unusually colorful title of a New York Times article by Mark Mazzetti, Scott Shane, and Alissa J. Rubin. They write that the Haqqani network -- separate from, but affiliated with, the Taliban -- is "the most deadly insurgent group in Afghanistan" according to "American intelligence and military officials." It's effectively a crime syndicate -- "the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war" according to Mazzetti, et al. Yet it's as brutal as a serial killer: this year alone, for instance, the Haqqanis are responsible for the attacks in Kabul on the Intercontinental Hotel and the U.S. embassy.
The authors write: "They have trafficked in precious gems, stolen lumber and demanded protection money from businesses building roads and schools with American reconstruction funds." In fact, "Over the past five years … 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."
Humiliating, to say the least. To some American officials, though, failing to deal with the Haqqanis constitutes "a missed opportunity with haunting consequences. … American military officers … 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."
In fact, even though they're 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."
Why postpone the inevitable then? Leave Afghanistan to the Haqqanis, as well as the Taliban. Without Western aid, it won't be long before they come down with a severe case of "watch out what you wish for." One reason this is unlikely to soon occur is that the United States is no doubt reluctant to relinquish its original purpose for attacking and invading Afghanistan -- to not only defeat al Qaeda, but drive it out of Afghanistan.
See, according to a report in July by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (as summed up by Washington Post) the Haqqani network "has been more important to the development and sustainment of al-Qa'ida and the global jihad than any other single actor or group."
After bin Laden relocated to Afghanistan and began making provocative statements against the West … Haqqani allowed the al-Qaeda leader to use its territory in eastern Afghanistan to organize calls for global jihad. … [Recent] events may have brought al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network closer together, their ambitions more in line. With drone strikes on the network's base in North Waziristan, it likely has a sense of shared suffering with senior al-Qaeda leaders. In part because of that shared affinity, the CTC study finds, it would be a mistake for U.S. policymakers to underestimate the impact of Haqqani network beyond Afghanistan's borders."
Them's certainly intervention-extending words. In fact, the CTC concludes that
U.S. efforts to disrupt and degrade [the Haqqani network] today … are just as much about dismantling [al-Qaeda] as they are about degrading the Haqqani network.
Still, who's to say that the Haqqanis aren't open to throwing over al Qaeda for the right price? Let's sit down with them and see.