Pakistan: A Shift in Dealing With the Afghan Taliban?

We are publishing this interesting analysis by a respected think tank. However, it should be clarified that the views expressed here are not those of PTH. The purpose of this post is to inform the readers and elicit responses and debates that may not be possible within the confines of conventional media. Raza Rumi

STRATFOR – February 19, 2010 | 2143 GMT


Pakistani security officials said Feb. 19 that Mohammed Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin and brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani (the leader of the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan) , was killed in an unmanned aerial vehicle missile strike Feb. 18. The strike comes just after the arrest of Mullah Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s second-in-command, in Karachi. These two actions against the Afghan Taliban on Pakistani soil could be part of the ongoing shift in U.S.-Pakistani relations, with Pakistan trying to work with the United States to regain influence over the Afghan Taliban and strengthen Islamabad’s position in Afghanistan.


Pakistani security officials announced Feb. 18 that Mohammed Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin and brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani (who leads the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan) , was killed in an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) missile strike Feb. 18. Mohammed Haqqani’s role within the Haqqani network is unclear, and even his death is being contradicted by some STRATFOR sources (confirming the death is all but impossible, given the difficulty of obtaining forensic evidence from the scene) but his presumed demise is not likely to seriously affect the group’s operations.
However, the strike targeting Mohammed Haqqani could be linked to the nascent shift in U.S.-Pakistani dealings on Afghanistan. The United States has long pursued Haqqani family members and associates in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s tribal belt, using UAV missile strikes. Washington considers the Haqqani network as irreconcilable Taliban, due to the network’s close ties to al Qaeda. The success of the Feb. 18 strike has prompted speculation that the intelligence preceding the attack came from Pakistan.

Pakistan has worked with the United States for some time in targeting al Qaeda and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in the tribal areas, but it has avoided acting against the Haqqanis and other Pakistani Taliban elements that fight in Afghanistan. Pakistani leaders believe they need the Haqqanis, and the wider Afghan Taliban movement, to exert influence in Afghanistan — a strategic geopolitical imperative for Pakistan.

However, Mohammed Haqqani’s presumed death comes in the context of a major, unprecedented move by the Pakistanis to crack down on the Afghan Taliban. Earlier in February, Pakistan arrested the Afghan Taliban’s second-in-command, Mullah Baradar, in a raid on a house in Karachi. While few details are known about this arrest (it is not even clear whether it was an arrest or a ruse; he appears to be in custody but the exact circumstances are unclear), it appears to be an example of Pakistan’s increasing aggressiveness toward the Afghan Taliban.

The alleged killing of Mohammad Haqqani and arrest of Baradar appear to be much more in line with the United States’ interests in Afghanistan than Pakistan’s. Right now, Washington and Islamabad are relying on each other heavily: The United States needs Pakistani assistance to wrap up the military mission in Afghanistan, while Pakistan is interested in working with the United States to eliminate Afghan Taliban elements that are not in line with Pakistani strategy. In fact, if Pakistan is indeed involved in the move against the Haqqani network, this interest in eliminating some Afghan Taliban could be the reason for it.

Pakistan is interested in hiving off al Qaeda from the Haqqani network in order to convince the United States that the Haqqani network is in fact a reconcilable faction of the Taliban. By surgically removing certain elements of the Haqqani-al Qaeda relationship, Pakistan could achieve this. In the past, Pakistan has arrested one of the Haqqani brothers in order to contain the family and keep the Haqqanis’ al Qaeda connections from undermining Pakistan’s interests. This strategy would be in keeping with Pakistan’s need to align its distinction of good and bad Taliban with the U.S. dichotomy of reconcilable and irreconcilable Taliban.

Since few details are available and confirmations are pending, it is not certain that the alleged killing of Mohammed Haqqani and the alleged arrest of a top Afghan Taliban leader are indeed part of this strategy. But these two developments certainly signal that relations between the United States and Pakistan bear watching as the countries attempt to come to terms on how to address Afghanistan and reach a consensus on which factions of the Taliban can stay and which should be removed.



Filed under Pakistan

9 responses to “Pakistan: A Shift in Dealing With the Afghan Taliban?

  1. Hayyer

    Surgical is the new way to describe terminally guided munitions.
    If Stratfor’s analysis is correct there may not be much gain to Pakistan’s strategic depth policy.
    Helping the US destroy precisely those Taliban that were most closely aligned with Pakistan’s strategies may ensure that no Afghan group trusts Pakistan hereafter. Rather than create space for Pakistan in Afghanistan it may well eliminate whatever little remains. If the remaining Taliban are squeezed into an alliance with Karzai they are unlikely to continue as a support system for Pakistan’s strategic objectives. On the other hand if they survive the shift in PA’s tactics and remain reduced and defiant they are bound to be hostile to Pakistan. It is a daring play though, taking on the Quetta Shoura and the Northern types at the same time.

  2. hoss

    February 24, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I don’t have time now and will discuss this in details later but let me say this now that old paradigms in the current situation are not always applicable. Pakistan is clearly supporting the Haqqani group which means it has possibly decided to sacrifice the Taliban.

    Stratfar is not really a good place to look for quality analysis. Their analyses are usually half-baked and often way off the mark.

  3. Hayyer

    I look forward to your detailed analysis.

  4. Mansoor Khalid

    The arrest of Mullah Baradar was indeed an admirable breakthrough in this on-going war on terror. All the top leadership of these extremists needs to be hunted down because this will serve as a backbreaker to these militants. Plus we should not forget to appreciate the efforts put in by our security forces in this regard with the help of foreign intelligence assistance.

  5. Ammar

    Pakistan needs to take actions against all Taliban fractions be it the haqqani or Hikmat yarr, we should not show any leniency to them. We cannot bet on any rouge horses! The armed forces need to carry out the operation across the board.

  6. Midfield Dynamo

    The Taliban doctrine is not conciliatory towards democracy let alone its secular form, therefore any alliance with them will be short lived. Even if Pakistan succeeds in achieving its immediate objectives there is a likelihood of resurgence in fundamentalism/hotheadedness. Their leaders are addicted to absolute power, indiscriminate torture and killing, they cannot and will not change. An effort to eliminate them piece meal has met with marginal success, their destruction therefore needs to be devastating and swift to purge the possibility of recovery. Or else we need another Zia, one holier than the pope.(only said in jest)
    The aim should not be limited to pacification or agreeing on common strategic interests but to change the psyche, where it conforms to the norms of moderation. They may continue to have the same tactical influence on the region but at least should be able to see beyond the imposition of Islamic fundamentalism and realize where their strategic interests lie.

  7. hoss

    The question that needs to be asked whether the US and Pakistan really want to end the war in Afghanistan or just manage it to the extent that their armies don’t suffer continued losses and they ride out the bad economic conditions in the US. Last year Pentagon through Gen. McChrystal pretty much forced the Obama admin to get additional forces in Afghanistan. While the Obama admin conceded the surge, it imposed several conditions on the Pentagon. To the Pentagon’s chagrin, the Obama admin went on to set up a date of withdrawal and demanded that the Pentagon show some progress in Afghanistan by that date. Pres. Obama not only went public with his phased withdrawal date but reconfirmed it in the SOTU address in January. That has put enormous pressure on Pentagon and it is clear that Pentagon has in turn pressured Pakistan to support the US efforts in Afghanistan vigorously, in the process also conceding some strategic room to Pak army. Pak army usually responds more favorably to the Pentagon than the WH.

    We see behavioral changes in Kiyani…he is asserting himself more in internal affairs. He recently called the Interior Minister to his office and he also refused to have the Prez’s input in internal army promotions. He has claimed that it his right to grant extensions to some generals and I think there will be a dispute when his own retirement issue comes up. He has also reinserted the much maligned strategic depth again in the public space. It seems that the US and NATO have conceded that the Pak army’s input would be sought in Afghan’s affairs.

    While Gen. McChrystal is leading an attack on a village-US media is making it sound like some large town of 80k, Pak army is busy arresting some Taliban leaders who might already have lost some significance in the Taliban hierarchy. I think by resurrecting strategic depth, Kiyani signaled that the army would not give up its friends in militant groups. That to me really means that the Army might give up some leaders that have lost their utility or there is some falling out between the agencies and some Taliban leaders, yet the army would maintain control over the militant organization.

    Immediate goal appears to me is to create an alliance between some Taliban, some from the Haqqani group and the Karzai group and create a government in Afghanistan that is acceptable to both Pak and the US. This solution would allow Obama to pull out some forces from Afghanistan.

    These arrests and the Marjeh campaign are not designed to break the Taliban back, they are designed to gain temporary respite to ride out bad economic situation and placate a demanding President who is now scared of the continued recession and bludgeoning deficit in the US and worsening economic conditions in Europe.
    I think we will see a low key campaign in the next year or two before it picks up momentum again.

    The whole thing stinks as for as Pakistan is concerned. A confident army means more pressure on already fragile civilian government. It is unfortunate that the government is more interested in picking unnecessary fights with the Judiciary rather than working to strengthen the civilian institutions.

    Taliban have dual purpose for the Pak army. Taliban are also used to harass the politicians, liberal and progressive forces in Pakistan. So this political utility called Taliban is just not about Afghanistan but it is also a force that blocks/sabotages any meaningful and positive political activity internally in Pakistan too.

  8. hoss

    Btw, What do you think of this story?

    PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb. 17, 2017 — President David Petraeus’ “New Way Forward” in the Af-Pak War got off to a rousing start today as a combined force of U.S. Marines and Frontier paramilitaries launched a new ‘warfighter/nationbuilder’ offensive against this stonghold of Taliban insurgency. The attack is seen as a vital test of what the president has called his “Counterinsurgency 2.0” strategy, an updating of the highly successful approach that President Petraeus implemented in Iraq, where the 75,000 remaining U.S. advisors and trainers recently marked the 10th anniversary of his victorious surge…..

  9. hoss

    I found the above story really credible and absolutely believable.