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Recent assassinations of two members of the Haqqani network could indicate a rift with the ISI

In November this year, the killing of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud overshadowed the assassinations of two other Pakistan-based jihadists who, in fact, were probably almost as important to India and the US. On November 10, Nasiruddin Haqqani, brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani who orchestrated some of the most devastating operations in Afghanistan was killed on the outskirts of Islamabad and 11 days later, a drone strike killed Sirajuddin's right-hand man, Maulvi Ahmad Jan, in Hangu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

These men were important because they belonged to the top leadership of the Haqqani network. Of all the Taliban sub-movements, this is probably the oldest (at least on the Pakistani side), the best organised (even the most effective) and the one which, in the FATA, has been consistently in contact with Paksitan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Its founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, hailing from the Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan close to Pakistan, is the product of the famous madrasa in Akora Khattak, the Darul Uloom Haqqania. Jalaluddin was one of the mujahideen allegedly spotted and trained by the ISI in the 1970s, along with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Masood, to combat the ruler of Kabul, Daoud Khan, a champion of Pashtun nationalism whom the Pakistani leaders wanted to weaken. During the anti-Soviet jihad, he was an active commander around Khost near Miran Shah and one who received significant backing from the CIA, the ISI and Saudi Arabia. Jalaluddin did perhaps the best job of channelling the flow of Arab combatants streaming in as of the early 1980s, which paved the way for fundraising.

In his masterpiece on the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan, Ghost Wars, Steve Coll writes, "Celebrated as a kind of noble savage by slack-bellied preachers in Saudi Arabia's wealthy urban mosques, Haqqani became a militant folk hero to Wahhabi activists. He operated fundraising offices in the Persian Gulf and hosted young Arab jihad volunteers in his tribal territory. In part because of Haqqani's patronage, the border regions nearest Pakistan became increasingly the province of interlocking networks of Pakistani intelligence officers, Arab volunteers, and Wahhabi madrasas."

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