India uneasy over US move to de-link Taliban, Haqqani

Unease in New Delhi over US move to de-link Taliban, Haqqani Network

The issue is likely to come up when Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla will meet his counterpart and the US Deputy Secretary of State in Washington next week

Senior Haqqani group leader Anas Haqqani (R). Credit: AP/PTI Photo

The latest move by President Joe Biden’s administration to de-link the Taliban and its long-time affiliate Haqqani Network has not gone down well with India.

The US State Department’s spokesperson Ned Price told journalists in Washington D.C. on Friday that the Taliban and the Haqqani Network were two separate entities. He made the comment when a journalist asked him if the US troops’ coordination with the Taliban to ensure the security of the Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul extended to the Haqqani Network too.

The statement by the US State Department came as a surprise for New Delhi. The Government of India has not yet officially reacted, but a source told the DH that New Delhi had taken note of it and would seek further clarity on the issue during its forthcoming engagements with the Biden Administration.

Brahma Chellaney, eminent strategic affairs analyst, slammed the statement by the US State Department’s spokesperson as a “shameless big lie”. “(The) Haqqani Network, a front for Pakistan's ISI (Inter Services Intelligence), constitutes the Pakistan-reared Taliban's special forces. Khalil Haqqani is the security chief of the new theocracy,” tweeted Chellaney.

With a large number of militants of the Haqqani Network deployed on the streets of Kabul, and its leader, Anas Haqqani, representing the Taliban in negotiations for forming the next government in Afghanistan, New Delhi recently warned the international community about the outlawed terrorist organisation based in Pakistan.

Explained | The Haqqani Network: Who are they? What's their Pakistan connection?

Anas Haqqani is the son of the Haqqani Network’s founder Jalaluddin Haqqani and brother of its current leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also one of the three deputy leaders of the Taliban, with the two others being Mullah Yaqoob, the son of Mullah Omar, and Mullah Baradar. Khalil Haqqani is the uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani and the Taliban put him in charge of the security of Kabul after taking over the capital city of Afghanistan on August 15 last.

The issue is likely to come up when Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla will meet his counterpart and the US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, in Washington D.C. next week. They are likely to exchange views on the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban took over in most of the provincial capitals as well as the national capital Kabul – 20 years after being ousted from power by a US-led military offensive. Shringla is likely to convey to Sherman that separating the Taliban and its long-time affiliate Haqqani Network not only goes against New Delhi’s position, but also contradicted the publicly articulated assessments of the top US military and intelligence officials in the past, the source said on Saturday.

The ISI of Pakistan had in the past used the Haqqani Network to carry out attacks, not only on India’s diplomatic and consular missions in Afghanistan, but also on its citizens engaged in development projects funded by New Delhi in the conflict-ravaged country.

“Events unfolding in Afghanistan have naturally enhanced global concerns about their implications for both regional and international security,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said during a UN Security Council session on threats terrorism poses to international peace and security on August 19. “The heightened activities of the proscribed Haqqani Network justifies this growing anxiety.”

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