The UN has imposed global sanctions on the Haqqani network, which it says is linked to al Qaeda and is responsible for suicide attacks, assassinations and kidnappings in Afghanistan.
The UN Security Council’s Taliban sanctions committee ordered all 193 UN member states to freeze the assets and institute an arms embargo against the Haqqani network on Monday.
An operational commander involved in many of the network’s high-profile attacks, Qari Zakir, was also singled out and placed on the blacklist. The Obama administration has also blacklisted him.
The Afghan government welcomed the move saying it was important for the fight against terrorism in neighboring Pakistan.
“Qari Zakir is a key figure of the Haqqani group,” Sediq Seddiqi from Afghanistan’s interior ministry said. “He is behind most attacks and works very closely with the Taliban. Others should also be put on the list. The terrorists who are in Pakistan have to be prosecuted.”
The US had already designated the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization in September. The group’s commanders said this was proof that Washington was not sincere about peace efforts in Afghanistan, while the Taliban said the sanctions made no sense because they did not have any assets in the US and were not in contact with US citizens.
A message to Pakistan
However, Thomas Ruttig, the co-founder and co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network said the sanctions had another aim.
“Of course, they [the Haqqani network] do not get arms from UN member states and their governments. Pakistan is constantly accused of covertly supporting the Haqqanis, who operate out of Waziristan, which is Pakistani territory. The sanctions are certainly a sign to Pakistan that the UN is serious about wanting to put an end to the activities of the Haqqani network.”
However, Ruttig was doubtful whether Pakistan would stop supporting the network, saying that they were “just one card in the great Afghanistan game,” as Islamabad looks at protecting its interests in the war-torn country after the withdrawal of international troops.
Officially, however, Pakistan, which is part of the sanctions committee, has said it supports the embargo and will cooperate.
Sticking together for jihad
The members of the Haqqani network have found refuge in Pakistan for many years. Their main aim is to rid Afghanistan of the international presence and take over power.
The group’s leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, started fighting the state at the beginning of the 1970s. He then participated in the war against the Soviets and joined the Taliban in the mid-1990s.
“The family is from southeast Afghanistan where the original Taliban were not so strong so they enabled the Taliban to penetrate another important region of Afghanistan and to develop their presence there,” said Ruttig.
He added that Haqqani, which functioned as a relatively autonomous branch of the Taliban, could also work independently because it had ties with al Qaeda for instance and with Arab countries. However, “the Taliban are dependent on the Haqqanis because their name is better known.”
Jalaluddin Haqqani, however, believed that would not be good for the jihad if there were splinter groups, which was why the Haqqanis and the Afghan Taliban all answered to Mohammed Mullah Omar, said political analyst Wahid Mojda.
“I think if the Taliban come to power there could be a regional division into east and south,” he added, although he said there are no such signs right now.
Mojda said the Haqqani network had visibly become more professional and intense in recent attacks. They are accused of being behind the attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s life in April 2008, an attack against a key CIA facility at Camp Chapman in December 2009 and attacks on the US embassy and ISAF headquarters last year.