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'Murmurs of discontent have broken out on Haqqanis' home turf'

November 06, 2013 16:11 IST

Support for the dreaded Haqqani network across the militant group's historical stronghold in eastern Afghanistan is gradually turning into "resentment" as local leaders say the Haqqani supremo's war is for "Pakistani rupees and power" and they cannot follow him "blindly".

"Murmurs of discontent have broken out on the Haqqanis' home turf. As the Haqqanis themselves -- Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin, his son, who now leads the group – shelter across the border in Pakistan, support has turned to resentment in some corners," the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

It said that for more than a generation, the remote mountains of Khost and Paktia in eastern Afghanistan have been Haqqani country but of late leaders of Haqqani's native Zadran tribe in KhostProvince say they have formally broken with the feared militant network.

"The tribe now understands who Haqqani works for," the NYT quoted former Haqqani commander and head of the Zadran Tribal Council Faisal Rahim as saying.

Rahim was referring to Pakistan's support for the network. "His war is not a holy war. It's a war for dollars, for Pakistani rupees and for power."

The NYT said the Haqqani network has come to resemble a mob in recent years, with a wide range of funding sources -- from basic donations to businesses in the Persian Gulf states -- and a sharp sense of how to protect its interests.

"But the foreign support, particularly within Pakistan, has come at a cost among Afghans in Khost and Paktia. Many view Pakistan as a sovereign enemy, and the Pakistani security forces' implicit support for the Haqqanis has tested the loyalty of some people here," it said.

Mohammad Ali Zadran, a member of the Zadran tribe and the head of the Tribal Council Liaison Office, said the Haqqanis are not allowing development of schools, clinics, roads and other basic services, "so why would people support him."

"We are no longer that older generation who followed him blindly," Zadran said, adding that Haqqani was a hero because he had defeated the Communists but "now he is an insurgent and a terrorist. We don't know who made him a hero back then or a terrorist now."

The Haqqani network still remains a potent source of concern for US military commanders and counter-terrorism experts.

"But the changing attitudes among some in Afghanistan show how much the years of war have changed the social landscape -- and, particularly, how deep the distrust of foreign influence runs among Afghans, even when it comes to favourite sons," the NYT said.

Tribal authorities say the shift in attitude towards the Haqqanis has come gradually over the past few years, as fighters loyal to the group killed an increasing number of the tribe's elders for refusing to afford them food and shelter.

"Some believe the Haqqanis are so confident of their grip on the region that they feel they can afford to mostly abandon it for now. Others say the group has become more focused on Kabul, the ultimate prize in the battle for influence, and on franchising its planning expertise to other insurgent groups across the country," the report said.

Further, with the group moving its headquarters to Pakistan, Sirajuddin has taken operational control and has kept up a fierce militant campaign against American forces and the United States' allies in the Afghan government.

The younger Haqqani, however, does not command the loyalty and admiration that his father does.

"Siraj is neither a scholar nor a tribal leader," said Hanif Shah, who was a top Haqqani commander during the anti-Soviet fight.

"People only respect him because of his father."

Some residents also question why the United States, with its vast resources and military might, has not been able to defeat the Taliban and groups like the Haqqanis.

"If we both live long enough, we will see Haqqani sahib and the Americans shake hands," Shah said.

Yoshita Singh in New York
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