U.S. identifies influential Taliban leader
October 20, 2007
The U.S. military has named the leader of a “younger, more aggressive generation of Taliban leadership” as one of its most-wanted insurgent leaders in eastern Afghanistan.
In a news release issued Friday, the military said Siraj Haqqani, leader of an eponymous network, “has become one of the most influential insurgent commanders in eastern Afghanistan” and called him one of Afghanistan’s “prime antagonists.”
“Siraj Haqqani is the one who is training, influencing, commanding and leading,” said Army Lt. Col. Dave Anders, director of Combined Joint Task Force-82’s operations.
“Kidnappings, assassinations, beheading women, indiscriminate killings and suicide bombers — Siraj is the one dictating the new parameters of brutality associated with Taliban senior leadership.”
Under a program recently instituted by the American military, Haqqani now has a $200,000 bounty on his head, officials said.
Haqqani has not been mentioned much publicly until now. But, according to biographical details provided by military and Afghan officials, he is the son of Jallaludin Haqqani, a famed mujahedeen from the Soviet-Afghan conflict who had established training camps in Khost and Paktia provinces.
According to the military, the younger Haqqani also has strong tribal connections in Pakistan.
“Siraj is part of a younger, more aggressive generation of Taliban senior leadership that is pushing aside the formerly respected elders. Now, the Haqqani network is clearly in the hands of Siraj, and the face of it is evolving, becoming more violent and self-serving,” Anders said.
U.S. officials say this younger breed of Taliban is supplanting the previous generation of leaders.
“He is growing more and more powerful within the Taliban networks, and some would argue his authority exceeds that of elder leaders, who Siraj may believe are becoming obsolete,” Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a task force spokesman, said. “They have become more brutal. They disregard the former motivations for fighting, and they tend to look for opportunities to displace or undermine the old leadership.”
U.S. officials say Siraj Haqqani has expanded his area of operations to include Paktika province and supports other networks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Helmand and Kandahar.
According to some officials, Haqqani is around 40 years old and has built up wealth based on his father’s networks and alleged gun and drug smuggling.