Haqqani network: ISI's friend, America's foe
The US says that the Haqqani network is aided by Pakistan's spy service, the ISI, and is closely allied with the Al Qaeda, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Under the leadership of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the group has blown up Kabul supermarkets, stormed Afghan government buildings and assisted the Al Qaeda suicide bomber who killed seven Central Intelligence Agency operatives in Afghanistan in 2009.
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Image: Militants belonging to the Haqqani network
Haqqani's spooked by drone strikes, Osama's death
Yet, the ISI has resisted taking on the Haqqani network, and now wants the group to explore a role in Afghan peace talks, say Pakistani officials and tribal elders with ties to the group, suggesting that Pakistan is unlikely to heed the US warning that it must act soon, said the report.
A tribal elder from North Waziristan, who has contacts with Haqqani's inner circle, told the newspaper that the terrorist network has been spooked by an unrelenting campaign of CIA drone strikes and the death of Al Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, and may be increasingly amenable to talks.
In one indication that the Haqqanis are worried, their compounds in North Waziristan's capital, Miran Shah, largely emptied out in the days following the bin Laden raid, the elder added.American officials say that Haqqani, who is based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area, is a potential target for a raid like the one that killed bin Laden, but their preference would be for Pakistan to take action in North Waziristan similar to its military offensives against the Pakistan Taliban in other parts of the tribal areas, said the report.
Image: Villagers pick up rocket fragments after a drone strike
Haqqanis not included in efforts to open talks with Taliban
The Haqqanis haven't been included in recent efforts to open talks with the main Taliban leadership, headed by Mullah Muhammad Omar, US officials say.
"I don't see any evidence that makes me think Haqqani is a guy we're going to want to be talking to," said a US official.
After years of privately voicing their suspicions, American officials now openly accuse Pakistan of giving the Haqqanis succour in hopes of using them to maintain their own influence-and combat that of rival India-in Afghanistan's future, the report said.
A Pakistani defence official denied that his government gives any support to the Haqqanis and called talk of them as irredeemably violent players "unhelpful", the report added.
Image: Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar
ISI believes Haqqanis can be a 'force for peace' in Pak
They can't be "picked off willy-nilly by drone strikes," the official said, arguing that the Haqqanis ultimately have to be won over through talks, just like the negotiations that the US is trying to open with the main Taliban movement, although American forces are fighting the insurgents at the same time.
The official said Pakistan would use whatever influence it had over the Haqqanis -- that he insisted was minimal -- to bring them to the table, adding that the ISI was leading the effort.
The Pakistani spy agency did not respond to requests to comment, but in one indication of the ISI's thinking, a senior ISI official once said in an interview that he believed the Haqqanis could one day be "a force for peace" in Afghanistan.