Sirajuddin Haqqani

Sirajuddin Haqqani is an internationally designated Taliban official who not only served as operational commander of the Haqqani network, but also held the role of deputy emir of the Taliban. After the death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar was reported in July 2015, Sirajuddin Haqqani was elevated to the second spot in the Taliban leadership under its new emir, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. “Taliban confirms death of Mullah Omar, names new leader,” France 24, July 30, 2015, http://www.france24.com/en/20150730-taliban-confrms-death-omar-names-new-leaderafghanistan- mansour. On September 7, 2021, Haqqani was appointed interior minister of the Taliban government.Matthieu Aikins and Jim Huylebroek, “Taliban Appoint Stalwarts to Top Government Posts,” New York Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/world/asia/taliban-women-protest-kabul-afghanistan.html.

Sirajuddin Haqqani’s father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founded the Haqqani network in the 1970s. The group gained momentum during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Jeffrey A. Dressler, “The Haqqani Network: From Pakistan to Afghanistan,” Institute for the Study of War, October 2010, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Haqqani_Network_0.pdf; “The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al-Qa’ida,” The Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, July 14, 2011, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/CTC-Haqqani-Report_Rassler-Brown-Final_Web.pdf. The Haqqanis are of the Pashtun Zadran tribe, based predominantly in the Paktia and Khost provinces in eastern Afghanistan. Jeffrey A. Dressler, “The Haqqani Network: From Pakistan to Afghanistan,” Institute for the Study of War, October 2010, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Haqqani_Network_0.pdf.

Sirajuddin Haqqani is wanted by the U.S. State Department and the FBI “Seeking Information Sirajuddin Haqqani,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed on March 12, 2015, http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/terrorinfo/sirajuddin-haqqani/view. for planning a 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul that killed six people including American citizen Thor David Hesla. “Wanted: Information That Brings to Justice Sirajuddin Haqqani,” Reward for Justice, U.S. Department of State, accessed March 12, 2015, http://www.rewardsforjustice.net/english/sirajuddin_haqqani.html. The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Haqqani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 on March 11, 2008. Bureau of Counterterrorism, “Individuals and Entities Designated by the State Department Under E.O. 13224,” U.S. Department of State, http://go.usa.gov/3qkES.

On February 20, 2020, the New York Times published an op-ed by Haqqani defending the Taliban’s position in the then-ongoing negotiations with the United States, which led to an agreement between the Taliban and the United States later that month in Doha, Qatar. In his op-ed, Haqqani claimed the Taliban did not choose war and were forced to defend themselves. Haqqani wrote everyone was tired of war and he was convinced the killing must stop. The Times described Haqqani only as “the deputy leader of the Taliban,” without mentioning his suspected involvement in international terrorism or his wanted status by U.S. authorities. The omission drew criticism from government officials, media analysts, and New York Times reporters.Sirajuddin Haqqani, “What We, the Taliban, Want,” New York Times, February 20, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/opinion/taliban-afghanistan-war-haqqani.html; Peter Bergen, “What the New York Times didn’t tell readers about its Taliban op-ed is shocking,” CNN, February 21, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/21/opinions/new-york-times-taliban-op-ed-haqqani-bergen/index.html; Katie Shepherd, “New York Times hit for publishing op-ed by Taliban leader linked to ‘ruthless attacks,’” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/21/nyt-taliban-haqqani/. The New York Times’ senior correspondent in Afghanistan, Mujib Mashal, criticized the paper for declared Haqqani “is no Taliban peace-maker as he paints himself” and is “behind some of most ruthless attacks of this war with many civilian lives lost.”Katie Shepherd, “New York Times hit for publishing op-ed by Taliban leader linked to ‘ruthless attacks,’” Washington Post, February 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/21/nyt-taliban-haqqani/. On Twitter, Andrew Stroehlein, the European media director for Human Rights Watch, questioned why the Times printed Haqqani given his suspected involvement in war crimes.Andrew Stroehlein, Twitter post, February 20, 2020, 6:54 a.m., https://twitter.com/astroehlein/status/1230460599055929344?s=20. Retired four-star Marine General John R. Allen, who commanded American and NATO forces in Afghanistan during the Obama administration, told the Daily Beast the op-ed was an undeserved “strategic communications coup” for the Haqqani network.Lloyd Grove, “NYT Publishes Taliban ‘Terrorist’ Op-Ed, All Hell Breaks Loose,” Daily Beast, February 20, 2020, https://www.thedailybeast.com/nyt-publishes-taliban-terrorist-op-ed-all-hell-breaks-loose.

Under the terms of the February 2020 Doha Agreement, the Taliban agreed to end cooperation with al-Qaeda and not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for foreign terrorist organizations.“Joint Declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan,” U.S. Department of State, February 29, 2020, https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/02.29.20-US-Afghanistan-Joint-Declaration.pdf. A June 2021 report by a U.N. monitoring team stated that the Taliban and al-Qaeda remained closely aligned and showed no indication of breaking ties.“Letter Dated 20 May 2021 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1988 (2011) Addressed to the President of the Security Council,” U.N. Security Council, June 1, 2021, https://www.undocs.org/pdf?symbol=en/S/2021/486. The report also claimed Haqqani was also a member of al-Qaeda’s leadership.Thomas Joscelyn, “U.N. Report Cites New Intelligence on Haqqanis’ Close Ties to al Qaeda,” FDD’s Long War Journal, June 7, 2021, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2021/06/u-n-report-cites-new-intelligence-on-haqqanis-close-ties-to-al-qaeda.php.

On August 6, 2021, the Taliban began an offensive against major Afghan cities with the seizure of Zaranj, capital of Nimruz province.Susannah George and Ezzatullah Mehrdad, “Taliban fighters overrun an Afghan provincial capital for the first time since withdrawal of foreign forces,” Washington Post, August 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/06/afghanistan-taliban-nimruz/. By August 13, the Taliban controlled 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and more than two-thirds of the country.Rahim Faiez, and Joseph Krauss, “Taliban sweep across Afghanistan’s south; take 4 more cities,” Associated Press, August 13, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-taliban-c6c8d4a41c554f36031a8131538d1402. By August 16, the Taliban laid siege to the presidential palace and took complete control of Kabul, after which the Taliban declared the war in Afghanistan had ended.“Taliban declares ‘war is over’ as president and diplomats flee Kabul,” Reuters, August 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/talibans-rapid-advance-across-afghanistan-2021-08-10/. A month after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, on September 7, 2021, the Taliban announced the official appointments within their caretaker government. Haqqani was named acting minister of the interior. Haqqani’s role provides him with extensive authority over policing and legal matters, as well as access to international actorsHaqqani remains on the FBI’s most-wanted list and subject to a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture. Nonetheless, since joining the Taliban government he has sought to shift negative international perceptions of the Taliban. He has met with international leaders such as EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson and U.N. Under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths. In 2022, after long concealing his face, he allowed himself to be openly photographed and filmed in public.. The government is exclusively male, with many positions filled with veterans from their hardline movement in the early 1990s.Matthieu Aikins and Jim Huylebroek, “Taliban Appoint Stalwarts to Top Government Posts,” New York Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/world/asia/taliban-women-protest-kabul-afghanistan.html; Kathy Gannon, “Taliban form all-male Afghan government of old guard members,” Associated Press, September 8, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-pakistan-afghanistan-arrests-islamabad-d50b1b490d27d32eb20cc11b77c12c87.

Haqqani remains on the FBI’s most-wanted list and subject to a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture. Nonetheless, since joining the Taliban government he has sought to shift negative international perceptions of the Taliban. He has met with international leaders such as EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson and U.N. Under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths. In 2022, after long concealing his face, he allowed himself to be openly photographed and filmed in public.“Taliban’s Most Wanted Mostly in Plain Sight,” Voice of America, May 18, 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/taliban-s-most-wanted-mostly-in-plain-sight/6579407.html. In a May 2022 interview with CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour, Haqqani proclaimed the Taliban “would like to have good relations with the United States.”“Exclusive: Amanpour speaks with Taliban deputy leader,” CNN, May 16, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/05/16/amanpour-sirajuddin-haqqani-interview-part-1-intl-vpx.cnn; Jo Shelley, Masoud Popalzai, Ehsan Popalzai, Ahmet Mengli and Rob Picheta, “Top Taliban leader makes more promises on women’s rights but quips ‘naughty women’ should stay home,” CNN, last updated May 19, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/18/asia/amanpour-haqqani-taliban-women-interview-intl/index.html. Haqqani said the Taliban don’t currently look at the United States or the international community as enemies. He also lauded expanding education for girls under Taliban rule.“Exclusive: Amanpour speaks with Taliban deputy leader,” CNN, May 16, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/05/16/amanpour-sirajuddin-haqqani-interview-part-1-intl-vpx.cnn; Jo Shelley, Masoud Popalzai, Ehsan Popalzai, Ahmet Mengli and Rob Picheta, “Top Taliban leader makes more promises on women’s rights but quips ‘naughty women’ should stay home,” CNN, last updated May 19, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/18/asia/amanpour-haqqani-taliban-women-interview-intl/index.html. While the United States has refused to deal with the Taliban government, some analysts have deemed the reward meaningless given Haqqani’s increasingly public persona.“Taliban’s Most Wanted Mostly in Plain Sight,” Voice of America, May 18, 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/taliban-s-most-wanted-mostly-in-plain-sight/6579407.html.

On July 31, 2022, a CIA drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul’s Sherpoor area. According to U.S. President Joe Biden, Zawahiri had been staying in the house that had been targeted. The house reportedly belonged to a top aide to Haqqani.Matthew Lee, Nomaan Merchant, Mike Balsamo, and James Laporta, “Biden: Drone strike on al-Qaida leader delivered ‘justice,’” Associated Press, August 1, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/ayman-al-zawahri-al-qaida-terrorism-biden-36e5f10256c9bc9972b252849eda91f2. Some Afghan media outlets reported Haqqani’s son and son-in-law were also killed in the strike. During a White House briefing, a senior Biden administration official denied reports of any casualties other than Zawahiri. According to that official, the residence was a safe house operated by the Haqqani network and senior Haqqani network figures were aware of Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul. The official said Haqqani network members worked to conceal Zawahiri’s former presence at the house after the strike and moved Zawahiri’s wife, his daughter, and her children to another location.“Background Press Call by a Senior Administration Official on a U.S. Counterterrorism Operation,” White House, August 1, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2022/08/01/background-press-call-by-a-senior-administration-official-on-a-u-s-counterterrorism-operation/. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the strike as a violation of “international principles.”Idrees Ali, “Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in CIA drone strike in Afghanistan - U.S. officials,” Reuters, August 1, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/cia-carried-out-drone-strike-afghanistan-us-officials-say-2022-08-01/. After Zawahiri’s death, Haqqani’s links to the Zawahiri safehouse renewed criticism of normalization with Haqqani, as well as of the 2020 New York Times op-ed.David Rutz, “Critics recall Taliban leader’s 2020 New York Times op-ed after link established to slain al-Zawahri,” Fox News, August 2, 2022, https://www.foxnews.com/media/critics-recall-taliban-leaders-2020-new-york-times-op-ed-link-established.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Taliban
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, regional, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Deobandi, Islamist, jihadist, Pashtun, Salafi, Sunni, Wahhabi
Position(s):
Reported deputy emir; head of the Quetta Shura; interior minister of the Taliban government

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 after previously leading a violent insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group is closely affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Extremist entity
Haqqani Network
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, non-state actor, regional, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Deobandi, Islamist, jihadist, Pashtun, Salafist, Sunni, Wahhabi
Position(s):
Operational commander

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 after previously leading a violent insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group is closely affiliated with al-Qaeda.

  • Designations
  • Rhetoric

United States

  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Sirajuddin Haqqani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 on March 11, 2008.Bureau of Counterterrorism, “Individuals and Entities Designated by the State Department Under E.O. 13224,” U.S. Department of State, http://go.usa.gov/3qkES.

    The U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program offers a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to Sirajuddin Haqqani’s arrest.“Sirajuddin Haqqani,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed August 4, 2022, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/terrorinfo/sirajuddin-haqqani.

United Nations

  • The United Nations Security Council Committee listed Sirajuddin “Jallaloudine” Haqqani pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) on September 13, 2007. “Narrative Summaries of Reasons for Listing: TE.H.12.12. Haqqani Network,” Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011), November 5, 2012, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1988/NSTE01212E.shtml.

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