U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price incorrectly labeled the Haqqani network and the Taliban as “separate entities” on August 27, 2021, when responding to a reporter’s question at a press briefing concerning the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden’s chaotic withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan that month.
Nearly one year after the U.S. State Department made the false designation, Washington’s announcement on August 2 that it ordered the successful assassination of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul on July 30 seemed to confirm not only al-Qaeda’s continued presence in Afghanistan but also how closely intertwined the Haqqani Network remains with al-Qaeda.
Biden’s administration extended the 20-year Afghan war beyond the May 1, 2021, deadline set under predecessor Donald Trump into August. Biden’s administration announced on August 14, 2021, that all U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, to end the 20-year-long conflict. On August 15, the Taliban seized the country.
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was chaotic and rife with accompanying tragedies, including the suicide bombing of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 26, 2021, allegedly by a member of Islamic State — Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), which killed 13 U.S. service members and an estimated 173 Afghans. At the time, concerns that the Taliban would share power with the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, and thus lead to further violence, gripped international attention.
“My second question has to do with security around the airport […]. Yesterday General McKenzie said that the Defense Department is sharing versions of information with the Taliban and there’s some coordination with security. Does that coordination extend to members of the Haqqani network, who are also providing security?” a reporter asked U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price during a regular press briefing on August 27, 2021.
“No. It does not. The Taliban and the Haqqani network are separate entities,” Price responded.
False. The AQ-allied Haqqani Network is an integral part of the Taliban. Sirajuddin Haqqani has been deputy emir of the Taliban since 2015. The Haqqanis’ special forces are some of the Taliban’s most effective fighters. This is not disputable. https://t.co/jipl6Pvozj https://t.co/KVsUltMPBr
— Thomas Joscelyn (@thomasjoscelyn) August 27, 2021
The U.S. State Department’s false designation of the Haqqani network as “separate” from al-Qaeda in August 2021 seemed especially relevant nearly one year later when U.S. President Joe Biden announced in a nationally televised address on August 2 that his administration had successfully neutralized al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul on July 30. Al-Zawahiri was bin Laden’s deputy at the time of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The Haqqani Network’s founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, “was a known associate of Usama Bin Ladin and was recognized as one of Bin Ladin’s closest mentors during the al-Qa‘ida founder’s formative years in the 1980s Afghan war,” according to the website of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
“The Haqqani Network is a Sunni terrorist organization that serves in many ways as a bridge between the Taliban and al-Qaeda; multiple members of the Haqqani family now serve in cabinet-level officials in the Taliban’s rogue ‘government,'” Breitbart News observed on August 3.
“The United Arab Emirates (UAE) newspaper the National revealed in a report this week that it was likely more than just senior Haqqani Network leaders were aware of Zawahiri living in Kabul, as the septuagenarian terror chief spent much of his time sunbathing on his balcony with no measures to hide his identity,” according to Breitbart News. “His behavior indicated that he felt protected in the densely populated capital city, a sign of ongoing ties between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”
“We know that some senior leaders of the Haqqani Network were aware. And we know that from the way that they tried to cover things up over the last 24, 48 hours. That’s really about as far as I can go into this. But we have indications that some of them were aware,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on August 1 during an interview with MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” when asked if he believed the Taliban were aware of al-Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul prior to his assassination on July 30.
“Look, I mean, al-Qaeda was on the ground in Afghanistan even when the president decided to end that war, and we knew that, and we talked about that, that al-Qaeda was already re-establishing a presence there,” he added.
Kirby on August 28, 2021, acknowledged that members of al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network “comingled.”
“We know that there are there is a certain amount of matter of commingling here. I mean, there’s a marbling, if you will, of Taliban and Haqqani,” he told a reporter during a regular press briefing.
Al- Zawahiri was allegedly living in a house that reportedly belonged to Taliban and Haqqani network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani at the time of his assassination on July 30. Sirajuddin Haqqani is the “Interior Minister” of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is the Taliban’s official name for Afghanistan. Sirajuddin, along with three other men with the surname “Haqqani,” currently serves in the “cabinet” of the so-called “government” administration currently ruling Kabul under the Taliban.
These members include the following, according to a September 2021 Indian Express article:
KHALIL-UR-REHMAN HAQQANI, the uncle of Sirajuddin, who has been appointed the Minister for Refugees, was listed as a terrorist in 2011. The listing says he travelled to Gulf countries, as well as in South and South-east Asia to raise funds on behalf of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. He is said to have been one of several people responsible for the detention of prisoners captured by the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The listing links him to al-Qaeda as well.
NAJIBULLAH HAQQANI, Minister for Communication, was listed [as a terrorist by the U.N.] in 2001. He had been a minister in the previous Taliban regime as well — first the deputy minister for public works, and later, deputy minister for finance. He was militarily active until 2010.
SHEIKH ABDUL BAQI HAQQANI, an associate of Jalaluddin Haqqani and the new Minister for Higher Education, is the only leader of the Haqqani Network in the government who not designated by the UN Security Council. However, he has been sanctioned by the European Union. On being appointed the shadow minister for education last month, he was reported as saying that while girls could study, “All educational activities will take place according to Shariah.”
The United Nations designated Sirajuddin Haqqani as a terrorist in 2007. The U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) currently offers a $10 million reward for information leading to Sirajuddin Haqqani’s arrest.
“Sirajuddin Haqqani is wanted for questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed six people, including an American citizen,” the FBI states on its website. “He is believed to have coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Haqqani also allegedly was involved in the planning of the assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008.”