The Maulavi Known As “Goodness Personified”: Jalaluddin Haqqani & The Fight For Afghanistan-Pakistan

Adam Fitzgerald
29 min readJun 19, 2023

“At Pakistan’s insistence, US and Saudi funding for the Afghan mujahidin was all to be funneled through the ISI, not given directly to any mujahidin leaders, but both the US and Saudi intelligence agencies made a small number of exceptions during the war. Jalaluddin Haqqani was one such exception, and in addition to the ISI-directed aid and extensive private funding sources established in the Gulf, by the mid-1980s he had secured a personal pipeline of Saudi aid through the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Yousef Mottakbani, and had gained “unilateral asset” status with the CIA, making frequent trips to Peshawar where he regularly received “tens of thousands of dollars in cash directly from CIA officers working undercover in Pakistan, without the mediation of Pakistani intelligence.”

(Fountainhead Of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus 1973–2012, Don Rassler)

Jalaluddin Haqqani was born in the village of Karezgay in the Zadran District of Paktia Province, Afghanistan. Am ethnic Pashtun from the Zadran tribe of Khost, Haqqani’s parents were moderately wealthy landowners who later moved to Sultankhel, a village and union council of Mianwali District in the Punjab province of Pakistan. His father, Khwaja Muhammad Khan, business in trade made him quite well off financially, and in the process sent Jalaluddin to religious studies at Darul Uloom Haqqania, a Deobandi Islamic seminary in Pakistan in 1964, where he graduated six years later in 1970.

His three younger brothers, Muhammad Ismail, Ibrahim and Khalil would all later play a major role in the jihadist network Jalaluddin would help build. When he graduated Darul Uloom, he took the surname “Haqqani” from the seminary as many students usually do with their religious centers. He also graduated with high honors, to which he was given the title “malawi”, which generally means a highly qualified Islamic scholar, usually one who has completed full studies in a madrassa or seminary.

The Haqqani family were born into, what seems like, an infinite territorial dispute, between India and Pakistan with the fight for Kashmir as the reward, and the Afghan and Pakistan border crisis. To make matters more tense than what it already is, the Loya Paktia province located east of Afghanistan and right at the border of southern Pakistan, would be under sectarian conflicts and neighboring Afghan warlords that date back centuries where the population mostly consists of Pashtuns from various tribes under the larger Karlani and Ghilji confederacies. All of these matters would form the Haqqani network into a local powerhouse of violence in the region for many years to come, even to the present day.

Afghanistan was under the rule of Mohammad Zahir Shah, who ended up being the last king of the country and also i’s longest serving ruler, from November 8th 1933 until he was deposed on July 17th 1973 by his own cousin in a classic ‘coup d’etat’ by Mohammad Daoud Khan. Khan would establish an autocratic republican government and proclaimed himself the first President of the Republic of Afghanistan with the full backing of the Afghan Army while Shah was visiting Italy. In response to this, Zahir Shah sent a letter from Rome to Khan in Kabul declaring his relinquishing the authority to rule as king saying “ i will respect the will of my compatriots after realizing the people of Afghanistan with absolute majority welcomed a Republican regime”

Mohammad Daoud Khan supported a nationalistic reunification of the Pakistani Pashtun people with Afghanistan and with the formation of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) a Marxist–Leninist political party in Afghanistan established on January 1st 1965 by two communist revolutionary's, Babrak Karmal and Nur Muhammad Taraki, also becoming powerful enough to win over supporters in the Afghan parliamentary elections, it put enormous stress on the religious sector of Afghanistan who saw a competing ideology in communism incompatible with Islam. And according to Don Rassler’s excellent book “Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus 1973–2012”, this pitted the country into two competing ideologies.

“The Haqqanis’ primary areas of operation since the early 1970s have been the southeastern Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika — known collectively as Loya Paktia or “greater Paktia” — and North Waziristan, one of the seven Tribal Agencies that make up Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The Pashtuns themselves mark this distinction in terms of the binary pair nang (honor-bound) and qalang (rent-paying), as in the Pashtun proverb “taxes ate the valleys, honor ate the hills.

On the left, the Marxist–Leninist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) emerged in 1965, organized into the two factions of Parcham (“Banner”) and Khalq (“Masses”), named after two communist magazines. On the Islamic right, a group of professors from the Faculty of Shari’a at Kabul University inspired a network of student activists that formed the Jawanan-i-Musulman (“Muslim Youth”) in 1969.”

The students of Kabul university were with two camps one with the socialist principal's of Mao and Lenin and also a faction that centered around the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and the notable works of one of it’s more famed authors, Sayyid Qutb. They were known as Kabul Islamist s. This led to confrontations between the two groups with often violent clashes. The Kabul Islamists were led by university professors and students who would later go on to have enormous influence in 1979 as the Soviets invaded. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, ‘Abd al-Rabb Rasul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Sayyaf was a professor at the Shariat (Islamic law) faculty of Kabul University until 1973, Rabbani was hired as a professor at Kabul University in 1963, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar attended Kabul university’s engineering department between 1969–1972, and gained enormous popularity because of his opposition to the Soviet influence in Afghanistan increasing through the PDPA elements in Daoud’s government, and in 1972 Ahmed Shah Massoud enrolled at Kabul Polytechnic Institute, then Kabul University’s newest and most prestigious addition founded, financed, and operated by the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, Jalaluddin Haqqani was suspected of being involved with a nefarious plot to help overthrow Khan from government and he immediately fled and was exiled in Miranshah a small town that is the administrative headquarters of North Waziristan District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It was reported that Haqqani was training an army and also served as a senior member of a movement devoted to anti-Daud and anti-Soviet resistance, Hizb-i-Islami. Once again, from Don Rassler’s “Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus 1973–2012”

“During the anti-Soviet years, Yunis Khalis and Muhammad Nabi Muhammadi would establish, respectively, the two traditional highland Pashtun mujahidin parties: Hizb-i Islami-Khalis (HIK) and Harakat-i Inqilab-i Islami (hereinafter “Harakat”). These two party leaders and their senior battlefield commanders — foremost of them being Jalaluddin Haqqani, who was affiliated during the war with Khalis’ HIK — formed, along with the Pakistani Pashtun Islamist politicians of the JUI, what could be called the “Haqqaniyya network,” an intertwined group of Haqqaniyya graduates who deployed distinctive practices of Islamist mobilization in the highland tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan during the 1970s and 1980s and from which some of the Taliban leadership emerged in the 1990s.

By 1978, Hekmatyar led the Hizb-i Islami-Gulbuddin (HIG), the most ideologically radical and organizationally centralized of all the parties, while Rabbani went on to form the Jamiat-i Islami Afghanistan (JIA), whose most capable commanders were Ahmad Shah Massoud in the north and Isma’il Khan in Herat in western Afghanistan. Haqqani joined the Hizb-i Islami-Khalis (HIK) of fellow Haqqaniyya alumnus Yunis Khalis, while Nasrullah Mansur joined the other Haqqaniyya party, Nabi Muhammadi’s Harakat. Sayyaf, imprisoned in Kabul during this period, was later released and formed the Ittihad party in 1980.”

The Haqqani Network prospered due to simple geography. Afghani people are notoriously guarded when it comes to territory and provincial influence, thus a reason for their strict loyalties to clans while warring constantly with others. The Haqqani network had worked to develop religious and military infrastructure on both sides of the Durand Line in the Loya Paktia/Waziristan corridor. The Durand Line forms the Afghanistan–Pakistan border, a 2,670-kilometer (1,660 mi) international land border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in South Asia. The Durand Line also cuts through the Pashtun tribal areas and further south through the Baluchistan region.

Because Haqqani had immediate influence in the Loya Paktia and Waziristan border, they had allowed for Pakistanis, who trained under Haqqani (who was an exceptional warlord in guerrilla warfare) to fight against the anti Kashmir groups in India. This led Haqqani to become more accessible to the Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which gave Haqqani in return, logistical and weapons support whenever he needed it.

The Haqqani network’s root values are nationalistic and religious. The ISI saw them as geographically advantageous and willing to employ the training received by the Pakistan intelligence service on anti-Kashmiri groups, a war that started when Indian gained independence in 1947, in which, Pakistan feared that the Maharanja (of Kashmir and Jammu) would accede to India. According to Rowman & Littlefield’s book, “South Asia In World Politics”

“Tribal Islamic forces with support from the army of Pakistan attacked and occupied parts of the princely state forcing the Maharaja to sign the Instrument of Ascension of the princely state to the Dominion of India to receive Indian military aid. India gained control of about two-thirds of the state (Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh) whereas Pakistan gained roughly a third of Kashmir (Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan).”

The battle between Pakistan and India has culminated into a full scale war hardly mentioned by national media but remains a constant shadow due to the simple fact both countries are nuclear powers as well. Meanwhile the anti-Daoud militants from Kabul university would also seek military aid from the ISI. Pakistan President, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, tasked then-Brigadier Naseerullah Babar, inspector general of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, with arming and training Afghan Islamists in their anti-Daoud efforts. Many were absolutely willing to risk their lives and whatever else to fight against the communist influences which permeated in the universities and they feared an ideological conflict as well.

However, Mohammad Daoud Khan’s was someone who knew not of fate, but of chance and his presidency was under another’s fate! Khan met Leonid Brezhnev on a state visit to Moscow between April 12015 1977. During this meeting. He asked for a a private meeting with Brezhnev regarding two political factions, the Parcham and Khalq. The Parcham, which was the name of one of the factions of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, formed in 1967 under Nur Muhammad Taraki and Babrak Karmal. The Khalq wing was formed in 1967 after the split of the party due to bitter resentment with the rival Parcham faction which had a differing revolutionary strategy. Khan was an unwitting supporter of the Soviet Union but was being used. According to Dr. Sayed Makhdoom Raheen, a Persian author and an Afghan politician in 2003,

”All of his life experience is evidence that Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan would not bow to foreigners, regardless of their nationality. Particularly, in his last meeting with [Soviet leader] Leonid Brezhnev, he proved his bravery and patriotism. But KGB deceptions and the games that they played could have benefited from Daoud Khan’s influence in the armed forces. So Daoud Khan, indirectly and with total unawareness, could have been manipulated by the KGB.”

Daoud Khan saw a nationalistic future for Afghanistan, whereas Brezhnev wanted to control the country free from NATO aligned countries and western influence for fear of being stationed in the northern parts of Afghanistan. Where the largest untapped oil reserves were close by, the Caspian Sea which lay just 2,107 km (1,309 miles) from it’s north. The meeting ended with Daoud Khan’s abrupt ending, Afghanistan would remain free from Soviet Union influence. To add to his seemingly unchecked “death sentence” he announced from his palace that the country would start downsizing their relationship with the Soviets. While beginning to start relationships with the Iran, Egypt and the United States.

It was all the Soviets needed to do what was necessary to keep the strategic diamond in the Middle East from the hands of its cold war nemesis.

Mir Akbar Khyber, an Afghan left-wing intellectual and a leader of the Parcham faction of People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, was assassinated by unknown gunmen outside his home on April 17th 1978. Almost immediately Daoud Khan began placing blame. According to Diego Cordovez book “Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story Of The Soviet Withdrawal”

“The Daoud regime attempted to put the blame for Khyber’s death on Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezbi Islami, but Nur Mohammad Taraki of the PDPA charged that the government itself was responsible, a belief that was shared by much of the Kabul intelligentsia.”

During Khyber’s funeral, many thousands of PDPA supporters took to the streets and began looking for blood. They shouted anti western slogans and harshly criticized Iran. Daoud Khan quickly ordered a military crackdown on the protests. This in turn promoted what many would know as the Saur Revolution which began on April 28th 1978. But by then, the Haqqani family had long ago declared a jihad against Daoud Khan back in 1973. Jalaluddin Haqqani saw an opportunity and a chance to take advantage of his declaration but it wouldn’t be what he foresaw five years prior.

The next steps to the PDPA’s coup was swift and violent, unlike the bloodless coup under Daoud Khan. Tamin Ansary would explain the initial steps in his book “Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History Of Afghanistan”

“Preliminary steps for the coup came in April, when a tank commander under Daoud warned of intelligence suggesting an attack on Kabul in the near future, specifically April 27. On the commander’s recommendation, tanks were positioned around the Arg, the national palace. On the 27th, the tanks turned their guns on the palace. The tank commander who made the request had, in secret, defected to the Khalq beforehand.”

Military shelling was heard by neighbors and eyewitnesses to the attack on the Ministry of Interior. The propaganda machine from the PDPA was just as swift, as nighttime fell, broadcasts could be heard on the government program Radio Afghanistan that the Khalaq have successfully overthrown Daoud Khan.

The broadcast was published by The Kabul Times newspaper on May 4th 1978.

“Dear compatriots, your popular state which is in the hands of the council of the Revolution informs you that every anti-revolutionary element who would venture to defy instructions and rulings of the Council of the Revolution shall be submitted immediately to the revolutionary military centers. In the name of God Almighty and benevolent and merciful.

Decree Number Two, of the Revolutionary Council of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, in it’s second sitting charred by Nur Muhammad Taraki the chairman of the Revolutionary Council of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan unanimously elected Babrak Karmal as Vice Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.”

Jalaluddin Haqqani and his network built its organization thru the loyal tribes located in Waziristan and Loya Paktia. They were not the least bit interested in governing Afghanistan, like other afghan warlords who were “opportunists” like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Haqqani only seeks to instead maintain autonomy, control, in Loya Paktia and North Waziristan, while also enabling other entities that aim to spread jihad elsewhere. But Haqqani also knew that Pakistan, under President, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who was also the Army’s chief of staff, could put a complete stop to the Haqqani nexus. So Jalaluddin had to play by the command of the ISI.

With Daoud Khan trying to put a forceful end to the revolution, as he ordered the arrest of Taraki and Karmal managing to escape to the USSR, and Hafizullah Amin was merely placed under house arrest, Daoud Khan assumed the Parcham faction was now nuetrzlieed and the threat over. However, the Khalq faction were the silent enemy here. As certain members had infiltrated the military while Amin sent complete orders for the coup from his home while it was under armed guard, using his family as messengers. You see, Amin was second in command, only under Taraki. Under the cover of night on April 27th 1978, the coup d’etat began. With members of the PDPA and Daoud Khan loyalists battling it out at Kabul International airport. In the end, Mohammad Khan and most of his family were assassinated during the fight. The Haqqani nexus had no idea that the next regime would be worse than under Daoud Khan.

This comes at the heel of another coup, this time in the neighboring country of Pakistan. As Don Rassler notes in “Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus”

“General Zia ul-Haq ousted — and then executed — Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a coup in 1977, ending democratic rule in Pakistan for the next decade and eventually restoring Pakistani aid to the Afghan resistance. With the hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid that began pouring from the United States and other countries into Pakistan after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Zia and the ISI, Pakistan’s sprawling intelligence agency, had tremendous resources at their disposal with which to manipulate the direction of the Afghan insurgency.

By 1978, Hekmatyar led the Hizb-i Islami-Gulbuddin (HIG), the most ideologically radical and organizationally centralized of all the parties, while Rabbani went on to form the Jamiat-i Islami Afghanistan (JIA), whose most capable commanders were Ahmad Shah Massoud in the north and Isma’il Khan in Herat in western Afghanistan. Haqqani joined the Hizb-i Islami-Khalis (HIK) of fellow Haqqaniyya alumnus Yunis Khalis, while Nasrullah Mansur joined the other Haqqaniyya party, Nabi Muhammadi’s Harakat. Sayyaf, imprisoned in Kabul during this period, was later released and formed the Ittihad party in 1980.”

With the Kabul Islamists now in control of some of the largest Afghan factions located south of Afghanistan and to it’s northeast. The communist bloc under Taraki and Karmal would take an extreme turn of events along with a massive flow of government funding toward the military bloc. As Anthony Arnold notes in Chapter 1 of Myron Weiner’s book “The Politics of Social Transformation in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan”

“When the political solution failed the Afghan government and the Soviet military decided to solve the conflict militarily. The change from a political to a military solution did not come suddenly. It began in January 1981, as Karmal doubled wages for military personnel, issued several promotions, and decorated one general and thirteen colonels. The draft age was lowered, the obligatory length of arms duty was extended and the age for reservists was increased to thirty-five years of age. In June 1981, Assadullah Sarwari lost his seat in the PDPA Politburo, replaced by Mohammad Aslam Watanjar, a former tank commander and Minister of Communications, Major General Mohammad Rafi was made Minister of Defence and Mohammad Najibullah appointed KHAD Chairman.”

Nur Muhammad Taraki’s policydierctives were to end feudalism in Afghan society and responded with violence to unrest by the religious opposition. Other members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment and intelligentsia fled the country, this led to a growing number to join the ranks under Sayyaf, Hekmatyar and others. Meanwhile the ISI began assisting Haqqani;s nexus with logistics and building training bases in hopes of using them and other Afghan mujahid army's to conduct guerilla warfare against the threat of the communists in Kabul.

The measures were taken after the fall of the Afghanistan Army and with Soviet military intervention in it’s capitol Kabul. With desertions comes forced integration, and this led many joining the opposition and to the Afghan warlords like Hekmatyar, Rabbani and Massoud. The Defence Councils were established at the national, provincial and district level to empower the local PDPA.And to those who joined the Afghan rebels, Babrak Karmal had this to say,

“The people of Afghanistan do not recognise the rebels who include a number of hired people of the reactionary circles of Pakistan, Chinese chauvinists, imperialist America and Britain, and the reactionaries of Arab countries and the Zionists, who pretend to be the representatives of Afghanistan.”

However the Soviets began to look for blame of Afghanistan’s recent failures, and siting under the gun was Babrak Karmal. Mikhail Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, went on to explain Karmal’s situation,

“The main reason that there has been no national consolidation so far is that Comrade Karmal is hoping to continue sitting in Kabul with our help.”

On August 3rd 1978, a KGB delegation visited Afghanistan, and on first impression of general Oleg Kalugin, Nur Muhammad Taraki,

“..did not have the physical strength or the backing to continue to lead the country for long”, adding that Amin was a “far more impressive figure”.

And shortly after Kalugin’s statements, which came crystal clear…Hafizullah Amin, the force behind the Saur Revolution, introduced several socialist reforms, including land reforms, and who was the influence behind the military’s response to the Afghan rebels against the mass murder and social reforms of the Pashtuns and Afghans, made his final move. On September 11th 1979, Taraki was greeted by Amin at the airport on his return to Kabul from Moscow. Shortly afterward, Taraki, instead of reporting to the cabinet about the Havana Summit, indirectly tried to dismiss Amin from his position as per the plot of the Soviets.

According to Nabi Misdaq’s book, “Afghanistan: Political Frailty and External Interference”,

“The following day, Taraki invited Amin to the Arg (the Presidential palace) for lunch with him and the Gang of Four. Amin turned down the offer, stating he would prefer their resignation rather than lunching with them. Soviet Ambassador Puzanov managed to persuade Amin to make the visit to the palace along with Sayed Daoud Tarun, the Chief of Police, and Nawab Ali (an intelligence officer). Inside the palace on September 14th, bodyguards within the building opened fire on the visitors.

Tarun was killed but Amin only sustained injuries and escaped to his car, driving to the Ministry of Defence. Shortly afterwards, Amin placed the Army on high alert, ordered the detainment of Taraki, and telephoned Puzanov about the incident. That evening at 6:30, tanks from the 4th Armoured Corps entered the city and stood at government positions. Amin returned to the Arg with a contingent of Army officers and placed Taraki under arrest. The Gang of Four, however, had “disappeared”, taking refuge at the Soviet embassy.”

What took place next, would begin the eventual doom of the Soviet Union and Hafizullah Amin, as Leonid Brezhnev replied that it was his choice to do what was necessary to save the communists in Afghanistan. Amin, who believed he had the full support of the Soviets, ordered the death of Taraki. Taraki’s death occurred on October 8th 1979, when he was (according to most accounts) suffocated with pillows by three men under Amin’s orders.

With the Soviet military invasion of Kabul, Pakistani intelligence officials began privately lobbying the U.S. and its allies to send materiel assistance to the Islamist rebels. The Amin government, having secured a treaty in December 1978 that allowed them to call on Soviet forces, repeatedly requested the introduction of troops in Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 1979. They requested Soviet troops to provide security and to assist in the fight against the mujahideen. The invasion of a practically defenseless country was shocking for the international community, and caused a sense of alarm for its neighbor Pakistan.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dated January 29th 1980,

“Foreign ministers from 34 Muslim-majority countries adopted a resolution which condemned the Soviet intervention and demanded “the immediate, urgent and unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops” from the Muslim nation of Afghanistan. The UN General Assembly passed a resolution protesting the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan by a vote of 104–18.”

The war official started on December 24th 1979, and to many historians, this would begin the “Great Game” for the two major superpowers t indirectly engage in conflict. Again to quite Don Rassler’s book “Fountainhead of Jihad” The Haqqani Nexus”

“Afghanistan became the focal point for the final battle of the global Cold War, and staggering quantities of resources poured into Pakistan from all over the world to aid the mujahidin. The United States, Saudi Arabia, China, and other partner states contributed upwards of 12 billion dollars worth of direct aid to Pakistan in the 1980s to support the insurgency, and according to some estimates more small arms were shipped into Afghanistan than to any other country in the world during that period.

Despite the renewed interest in their struggle shown by General Zia, Taraki’s communist coup in April of 1978 found the Afghan Islamists resource-poor and disunited, and it reignited the strategy debates that had divided the Islamist leaders in 1975. Some wanted to return to Afghanistan and attempt another broad uprising, while others, citing lack of weaponry and cash, argued that appeals must first be made to the oil-wealthy Arab states for aid.

Unlike any of the other parties, the Haqqanis made direct calls for foreign fighter volunteers, and the Haqqanis would remain throughout the 1980s the only group consistently willing to welcome large numbers of non-Afghan volunteer fighters into their ranks.”

Soviet troops entered Afghanistan along two ground routes and one air corridor, quickly taking control of the major urban centers, military bases and strategic installations. The Afghan factions under Rabbani, Sayyaf, Massoud and Hekmatyar had the largest armies but the Haqqani network, had the primary connection to the Pakistani ISI and now the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Operation Cyclone, was the code name for the CIA program to arm and finance the Afghan mujahideen in Afghanistan. Zia ul-Haq, would send ISI officials to lend military and training aid to many in the Haqqani nexus who were the first Afghan group to allow Arabs to fight alongside them. This would lead to warlords like Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to follow suit. Many Arabs from around the world, and Egypt, which Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri and Abu Hafs al-Masri (Mohammed Atef) would fight alongside the Haqqani’s.

Later, these men would become the primary founders of the Bin Laden camo, Al Masadah which would be the formation of a group which were called “Al Qaeda”. The Haqqani nexus were the primary influencers of many of Al Qaeda’s founding members to receive military training in their camps. However Bin Laden wanted his own camp, which would employ the training the Arabs received under Haqqani. As Anne Stenersen notes how Al Qaeda came about in her book “Al Qa’ida In Afghanistan”,

“It was the happiest days of my life,” said Bin Laden about those October days in 1986 when he started work on a remote construction site in the Jaji region of Khost, Afghanistan. The site had been discovered by Azmarai, one of Bin Laden’s associates, on a reconnaissance trip he had taken with a group of Afghans the month before. The most amazing thing about the place was that it had a direct line of vision to the Soviet fort at Ali Khel, situated next to the strategically important Parchinar- Gardez highway. And no one was there — neither the Soviets, nor the Afghan mujahidin.

The place later become known as al- Ma’sada –the Lion’s Den — and would play a central part in al- Qaida’s mythology. But at the time of its founding, there was little to suggest that this would be the birthplace of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization. Bin Laden’s construction team consisted of four men and a bulldozer, a tent, and three reluctant Afghan guards. The original purpose of the project was to build a forward base for the Afghan mujahidin stationed at “Jaji base” some fi ve hours drive to the south. The Jaji base was controlled by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and was an important base for training, supply, and staging of operations for mujahidin in the area. The base had been expanded and fortified in 1985– 1986 on the advice of Brigadier Yousaf, the Pakistani ISI’s representative to the Afghan mujahidin.

The key proponents of the “Operation Cyclone” program were Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson; Michael G. Vickers, a young CIA paramilitary officer; and Gust Avrakotos, the CIA’s regional head, who developed a close relationship with Wilson. Their strategy was to provide a broad mix of weapons, tactics, and logistics, along with training programs, to enhance the rebels’ ability to fight a guerilla war against the Soviets. According to an article by Washington Post dated December 27,2007 “”Sorry Charlie this is Michael Vickers’s War”, the Israeli government were initially instrumental in providing military aid to the program,

“This plan was enabled by the tacit support of Israel, which had captured large stockpiles of Soviet-made weaponry during the Yom Kippur War and agreed to sell them to the CIA clandestinely, as well as Egypt, which had recently modernized its army with weapons purchased from Western nations, funneling the older Soviet-made arms to the mujahideen.”

The Pakistan government under, Zia ul-Haq, found the Arab resistance movement, rather lacking in fighting. Unlike the native Afghans, who seemingly had centuries of battle instilled in each man. Unlike any of the other parties, the Haqqanis made direct calls for foreign fighter volunteers, and the Haqqanis would remain throughout the 1980s the only group consistently willing to welcome large numbers of non-Afghan volunteer fighters into their ranks. They were also the most “competent” military guerilla leaders out of the Afghan warlords.

Bin Laden, a notable Saudi from the rich and influential construction magnate the “Saudi BinLadin Group”, where his father founded in 1931 which became the most favored construction company in all of the Saudi Kingdom. Osama Bin Laden, its youngest son of 51, wanted to use his financial influence but also started campaigning to the Sunni majority to donate to the case. He first would travel to Pakistani, where he met with Mian Muhammad Tufail, the second leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (Pakistan), to whom he presented money collected from members of his family for the cause of the Afghan mujahidin.

The Jamaat-e-Islami was one of the original and most influential Islamist organizations, and the first of its kind to develop an ideology based on the modern revolutionary conception of Islam. One of its affiliate groups the “Hezbi Islami” broke off with the group in 1975, is led by the venerable warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was the primary recipient of logistical and financial aid from the CIA program, Operation Cyclone. Like Hekmatyar, Haqqani was more successful than other resistance leaders at forging relationships with outsiders prepared to sponsor resistance to the Soviets, including the CIA, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and wealthy Arab private donors from the Persian Gulf. Haqqani’s nexus would benefit from the Soviet invasion in some ways, unlike Sayyaf or Massoud. Who would both become divided on religion and politics later on.

While the instructions were made that the mujahedeen would only accept military and financial aid from the CIA thru the Pakistan ISI, the Haqqani network were the “only” exception to this rule. And according to Don Rassler, heavily referenced in this article, he states the following from his book “Fountainhead of Jihad”, an important caveat that would indirectly lead to the benefit of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in the years to come,

“The makings of what would become the global jihadi movement were all present: robust resource mobilization networks spanning the globe, training camps for foreign fighters of many nationalities, and open fronts for the transformation of international muhajirin — emigrants, or in Abu Hafs’ phrase, “guests” — into fighting mujahidin. Out of this mix the self-proclaimed vanguard of that movement — al-Qa’ida — would be born, and in a form that was and remains to this day inextricably
bound up with the Haqqani network.

Bin Laden also managed to win over Abu Hafs al-Masri and Abu ‘Ubayda al-Banshiri to his project, thus benefiting from their years of experience in mountain guerrilla warfare with the Haqqani network and their prior experiences in the Egyptian military. The camp project required people with military training, and Bin Laden reached out to Abu ‘Ubayda first, who agreed to visit the site and offer advice on its suitability. During the visit Bin Laden urged him to stay and be the military leader of the project. Bin Laden ultimately convinced him to stay on after seeing through the preparation of the camp, and Abu ‘Ubayda inaugurated the first general training program as amir of what would become known as al-Qa’ida on February 17, 1987.”

Jalaluddin Haqqani would open many bases that recieved “guests” from the foreign arabs. According to a declassified US government report, a training facility belonging to Haqqani was located at Miram Shah (located in North Waziristan), in which fighters of Pakistani Punjab, Arab, Kashmir, Uzbek and Afghanistan, all connected with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban, were in residence. Similar al-Qaeda-associated training facilities connected to Haqqani by US authorities have been reported in Northern Waziristan.

Haqqani did not fear death, but instead, he welcomed being a martyr. So did his three brothers. The Soviets were not privy to the routes and locations high above the mountains in Waziristan, as they didn't need to for they had heavy air power. But his nexus would battle the Soviets with uncomprmising ferocity. This led to him being noticed, and ersepcted by Senator Charlie Wilson, one of the influential means for the CIA program, who want on to call Haqqani…

“Goodness personified”

Reports that he visited President Reagan’s White House are based on an erroneous identification of Mohammad Yunus Khalis, another mujahedin fighter and leader of the “Hezb-i Islami Khalis” which Haqqani was once initially a member of, as well as Mohammad “Mullah” Omar (the future leader of the Taliban).

Bin Laden would receive a meeti ng chaired by Palestinian imam and venerable cleric, Abdullah Yusuf Azzam and Algerian mushed, Abdullah Anas about financing the idea of a recruitment center based on military and religious instruction, it was called “Maktab al-Khidamat” or the “Afghan Services Bureau”. Bin Laden was highly in favor with the idea and agreed to be its primary donor but he wished for Azzam to be its emir. Later, in 1988 al-Qa’ida officially established itself as a clandestine, hierarchical organization, and it began to erect its first training camps: al-Faruq at Zhawara, the Jihad wal and Siddiq camps in Hekmatyar’s region at Zhawara’s southeastern approach.

According to Bin Laden’s former bodyguard “Abu Jandal”,

“It was established on the basis of a clear military methodology, a military college where cadets passed through a number of stages and levels until they finally graduated at the command level, as military commanders capable of leading any jihadist action anywhere. The idea of establishing that military college was a global idea. Thus, if the jihad in Afghanistan ends, graduates of the college can go anywhere in the world and capably command battles there. Those objectives have actually been achieved through the success accomplished by the young men who had moved to many fronts outside Afghanistan, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, the Philippines, Eritrea, Somalia, Burma, and elsewhere.”

Jalaluddin Haqqani also knew that he didn’t want to offend his ISI superiors and stood distant from Al Qaeda, but didn’t disassociate either. While al-Qaeda’s stated goals are international in scope, the Haqqani network has limited its operations to regional matters concerning Afghanistan and Pashtun tribalism. They shared a religious commonality with the group, and were also adamantly opposed to non compliant ideology, such as communism. The organizations share an ideological foundation; Jalaluddin Haqqani realized the importance of Azzam’s “foundational Islamic legal decisions declaring the Afghan jihad a universally and individually binding duty borne by all Muslims worldwide.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistan government were also willing to work with the Haqqani’s just as long as the nexus also engaged the Indian enemy at Lahore. A prospect Jalaluddin couldn’t just refuse, if he wanted to keep receiving military and financial air (Pakistan continues to deny any association with the Haqqani network).

On May 15th 1988, The final and complete withdrawal of the 40th Army (Soviet Union) from Afghanistan began and ended on February 15th 1989, under the leadership of Colonel-General Boris Gromov. The Soviets were defeated and two years later the country would fall. Operation Cyclone was an enormous success and the arab mujahedeen were just getting started. With the United States leaving Afghanistan to it’s own devices, the Afghans began fighting each other and the government Rabbani. But how did former Kabul islamist Burhanuddin Rabbani become President of Afghanistan and come under attack when it was he who intervened in 1979, when Rabbani helped lead Jamiat-e Islami in resistance to the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan regime?

Rabbani’s forces were the first Mujahideen elements to enter Kabul in 1992 when the PDPA government fell from power. Under the Peshawar accords, they chose Rabbani to become the President of Afghanistan on June 28th 1992. This led to unbridled rage for Hekmatyar, who originally thought he was the next President of the country, due to the fact the ISI and CIA favored him among all of the other warlords. His party, Hizib-i-Islami was also the largest and most influential and ruthless. This led to a vehement disagreement between Hekmatyar and Ahmad Shah Massoud, who agreed to vote for Rabbani over him. Massoud explained it this way,

All the parties had participated in the war, in jihad in Afghanistan, so they had to have their share in the government, and in the formation of the government. Afghanistan is made up of different nationalities. We were worried about a national conflict between different tribes and different nationalities. In order to give everybody their own rights and also to avoid bloodshed in Kabul, we left the word to the parties so they should decide about the country as a whole. We talked about it for a temporary stage and then after that the ground should be prepared for a general election.”

Meanwhile, Jalaluddin Haqqani began to identify the United States as the next main enemy of the Muslim world following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a turn which was also reflected in the publications of the Haqqani network in the first years of the 1990s. Bin Laden focused his efforts on the Arabian Peninsula. While the Afghan factions were ready to rip the battred country of Afghanistan further apart.

According to Marcela Grad in her article, “Massoud: An Intimate Portrait of the Legendary Afghan Leader” dated March 1st 2009, there was a recorded radio communication between the two leaders which showed the divide as Massoud asked Hekmatyar the following,

The Kabul regime is ready to surrender, so instead of the fighting we should gather. … The leaders are meeting in Peshawar. … The troops should not enter Kabul, they should enter later on as part of the government.” Hekmatyar’s response: “We will march into Kabul with our naked sword. No one can stop us. … Why should we meet the leaders?” Massoud answered: “It seems to me that you don’t want to join the leaders in Peshawar nor stop your threat, and you are planning to enter Kabul … in that case I must defend the people.”

War was declared between Hekmatyar and Massoud, Due to this sudden initiation of civil war, working government departments, police units or a system of justice and accountability for the newly created Islamic State of Afghanistan did not have time to form. Atrocities were committed by individuals inside different factions. While the war raged, there was a band of Islamic brothers from the madrassas in the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. The group follows the Deobandi school of Sunni Islam. In Pakistan, Deobandis have a presence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Sindh, and Balochistan. One such brother of the Ulema-e-Islam school was Mohammad “Mullah” Omar. Omar along with 50 other students had formed to create an organization simply called “Taliban”, meaning student in Pashto. Many of the original members of the Taliban were also involved in the Soviet war, just like Al Qaeda.

Within months, 15,000 students in Pakistan, mostly Afghan refugees who were studying in religious schools or madrasas (or as one source calls them Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-run madrasas joined the group. But not without some “controversy” of course. Some Taliban historians would later claim that the Taliban’s immense success at such an early stage could not have been possible without the assistance from the Pakistan ISI. The reason for such a hypothesis was due to the simple fact that with Afghanistan fallen, India started to become heavily influenced to assist in the restructuring of the country.

Omar’s Taliban however were unlike the Afghan factions, they were strict opponents of women in government, music and other things they considered “haram” (forbidden). The Haqqanis, however, have been known to dissent from the Taliban line by permitting music and education for women. The massive fight against Rabbani began with the Taliban on November 3rd 1994, in a surprise attack, which conquered Kandahar City. Militias controlling the different areas often surrendered without a fight while Omar’s commanders were a mixture of former small-unit military commanders and madrassa teachers who captured the province's without much hesitation. Omar began to think big and began an offensive for the capitol Kabul. However the Taliban suffered a major loss, it was from Massoud’s Northern army. The Taliban fighters started shelling the city, killing many civilians as they retreated.

The following year, Massoud was the one who had to retreat. This time the Taliban came with heavy military firepower, according to some authors and notable historians, the Pakistan ISI helped. With the capture of Kabul, the Taliban were the self appointed rulers of the country. After the Taliban came to power, Jalaluddin Haqqani accepted a cabinet-level appointment as Minister of Tribal Affairs. Haqqani however didn't feel the need to lend the Taliban much help in the civil war and decided to stay neutral. They were more concerned with fighting against the anti-Kashmiri groups. As noted in Don Rassler’s “Fountainhead of Jihad”

“Pakistan has a long and rich history of providing operational support to various insurgent groups, ranging from anti-Soviet resistance commanders
and Mullah Omar’s Taliban to Lashkar-e-Taiba and a mix of other Kashmiri and sectarian insurgent entities. The ISI provided strategic direction to many of these militant groups and lent its facilities and military expertise to help train them, before turning on several of them post 9/11.

Pakistan has a rich history of training Afghan and Kashmiri mujahidin units. The Haqqani network has often been a central partner in these initiatives. During the 1990s the ISI helped numerous Kashmiri militant groups to establish training camps to prepare Pakistani youth for operations in Indian-occupied Kashmir. A document that Pakistan provided to the Taliban in late 1998 illustrates that the ISI had intimate knowledge of who was training at these camps, indicating that the intelligence group had operatives at those locations or was at least collecting on them.”

Pakistan however plays “Russian Roulette”, by cobertly supporting Islamist groups like the Haqqani Network, while also suffering from blowback as they attack its military units in Waziristan. This helps keep the Haqqani nexus as legitimate in the eyes of Al Qaeda, who are also wanting to delegitimize Pakistan, due to Bin Laden recognizing the critical role Pakistan plays for the United States in its efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and the broader region.

With the Haqqani network being an enabler to Al Qaeda, as well as a involved in the fighting against the Indian Kashmir armies and groups for control of Lahore, the Haqqani network can reasonably exist with open ended support from Al Qaeda and the ISI. The question is, how long can it last?

Special acknowledgement to Don Rassler whose fantastic book “Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus 1973–2012” was a primary source for this article.



Adam Fitzgerald

Geo-political scientist/researcher into the events of September 11th 2001.