Inside Afghan Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani’s Reception Honoring Suicide Bombers — Jamestown

The Taliban Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, hosted a large reception for the heirs and families of hundreds of Taliban suicide bombers in the five-star Inter-Continental hotel in Kabul on October 19 ( RFE/RL, October 19). [1] This first-ever public appearance for Haqqani also involved praise for the Taliban’s jihadist victory against the U.S. and its allies, and for the sacrifices of these suicide bombers. Haqqani further touched on the history of suicide attacks in Afghanistan and explained how his group, the Taliban’s most powerful faction called the “Haqqani Network,” commenced suicide attacks after 9/11. Lastly, Haqqani emphasized to the reception’s participants that the success of the Taliban government came at the cost of the blood of these martyrs. He then urged everyone to strive to preserve the Taliban government and solve all challenges facing it. This article summarizes the content and significance of the video of this reception, which reveals that the Haqqani Network under Sirajuddin introduced the tactic of suicide bombings in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda support, which caused devastating effects to the U.S. and its allies.

Sirajuddin Haqqani and the Decisive Role of Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan

Sirajuddin Haqqani, known as “Khalifa Saib” (the successor) in Taliban circles, is not only the Taliban’s Interim Cabinet’s Interior Minister, but also the Taliban’s deputy supreme leader and former military chief. He now leads the Taliban’s Haqqani Network, which is named after his father, Jalaluddin Haqqani ( Militant Leadership Monitor, October 6). The latter was a senior Afghan jihadist commander in the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Haqqani family joined the Taliban after the latter’s emergence in the mid-1990s. After 9/11, Haqqani took control of the Haqqani Network when his father suffered from serious health issues. The Haqqani Network then turned its strongholds in Waziristan, Pakistan into the most enduring safe haven for al-Qaeda fighters, who took shelter there after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. Haqqani is one of the five Taliban commanders on the U.S.’ Most Wanted list with a $10 million bounty on him. The other four on the Most Wanted list also belong to the Haqqani Network, including Haqqani’s brother, uncle, and brother-in-law, who each have a $5 million reward for their capture.

In the reception video, Haqqani stated that the resistance against the U.S. and its allies at the beginning was seen as a futile and dangerous mission. Critics, for example, would warn the Taliban that defeating the U.S. was beyond the realm of possibilities. He added that the massive propaganda exaggerating the U.S.’ advanced military technologies had made any victory against the U.S. seem hopeless, but the sacrifices of the suicide bombers and their attacks were a “gift from God” that falsified all such claims and played a decisive role in the jihadist victory against the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan.

The First Haqqani Network Suicide Bomber and Silence about Al-Qaeda

Haqqani also narrated the account of the first suicide attack in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion, which targeted the German forces’ convoy in Kabul in June 2003. He stated that his group facilitated this attack although it was planned by “others.” He was silent on details about these “others,” who, according to him, established the foundation for suicide attacks in Afghanistan and taught the tactic to the Haqqani Network, but it is a well-established fact that these “others” were none other than al-Qaeda. The al-Qaeda as-Sahab media wing documentary entitled “Winds of Paradis-1,” for example, was released in July 2007 and included details about this first suicide attack in Afghanistan by al-Qaeda member, Abdul Rahman al-Najdi from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia ( As-Sahab, July 2007). Al-Najdi was trained in the 1990s at al-Qaeda’s al-Farooq camp in Afghanistan and, according to a declassified U.S. court document, al-Qaeda senior military commander, Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, funded and planned al-Najdi’s attack [2].

The Haqqani Network’s silence on al-Qaeda’s role in introducing this crucial “jihadist technology” to the Haqqani Network might remain a question for many. Al-Qaeda might have been expected to deserve a special tribute for guiding the jihadists in Afghanistan who began using this tactic. However, the Haqqani Network’s silence may be intended to hide the relationship of the Taliban to al-Qaeda. Since the peace talks with the U.S. in Doha in 2020, the Taliban leadership has been focusing on denying any connection to al-Qaeda or foreign fighters and has alleged for diplomatic reasons that they no longer remain in Afghanistan, although this has not been true ( Militant Leadership Monitor, September 2021).

Tributes to Badruddin Haqqani and Suicide Bombers’ Families

Haqqani explained that with the increasing number of suicide bombers approaching him to conduct suicide attacks, he set up a separate brigade for suicide operations and appointed his brother, Badruddin Haqqani, to be in charge. He also narrated several suicide bombers’ stories, which showed that he was also directly involved in those attacks. The Haqqani Network’s suicide attack brigade was named after Badruddin and became known as the “Badri Brigade” after Badruddin was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August 2012 in the tribal region of North Waziristan, Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan (Dawn, August 25, 2012). Haqqani added that he himself had survived several drone strikes and noted that the Badri Brigade eventually trained 1,050 suicide bombers to carry out suicide attacks.

In his address to the families of the suicide bombers, Haqqani stated that he feels highly indebted to them because they sacrificed their beloved sons for restoring Taliban control in Afghanistan. He apologized to the families about not being able to fulfill his wish to meet them years ago because time and security constraints prevented him. However, he noted that it was inevitable that such a day would come when he could meet them all. He promised two special rewards for the families of suicide bombers: first, the issuing of special certificates to guarantee them a special protocol across the country; and, secondly, the allocation of land for their houses. He told the reception audience that these rewards are not solely for the Badri Brigade suicide bombers, but also for the families of every suicide bomber who carried suicide attacks for the Taliban.

Haqqani also explained to these families that although no one in his family carried out a suicide attack, he takes pride that his brother Badruddin met a similar death as the suicide bombers. He noted that the drone strike had caused Badruddin’s body to resemble the bodies of the suicide bombers he trained because Badruddin’s body was untraceable after the attack. In fact, only a portion of his chest was ever found.

Conclusion

This video of the reception reveals that the Sirajuddin Haqqani played a central role in the rise and expansion of the Haqqani Network since 9/11, although he only became its formal chief in 2018 when his father passed away. Secondly, it reveals that Haqqani and the Haqqani Network have deep roots with al-Qaeda, although he kept silent on it. Lastly, it is notable that Haqqani also showed concern about the Taliban’s signature weapon of suicide bombings being used by its rival, the Islamic State in Khurasan Province (ISKP), against the Taliban itself. The most recent example validating Haqqani’s concern is the November 2 multiple suicide bomber attack in Kabul, which killed a senior Taliban commander among nearly 20 other people ( Al-Jazeera, November 2).

Notes

[1] The reception video was released on October 20, 2021 on the Taliban Ministry of Interior’s Telegram channel.

[2] See the Rewards for Justice website profiles on Sirajuddin Haqqani and his brother Aziz Haqqani, uncle Khalil Haqqani, brother-in-law Yahya Haqqani and his senior commander Abdul Rauf Zakir: https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/most-wanted/south-and-central-asia.html

[3] Charge sheet against Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, US court document, dated February 3, 2014.

Originally published at https://jamestown.org.

Researcher: Af-Pak and South Asia´s Security and Politics; (Sunni Jihad: AQ, AQIS, ISKP, Taliban/Jihadi groups) (MSc: Pol.Sci) (BSc: Peace & Development; IR)