Khalil Haqqani, a $5 million bounty on the head of one of America’s most wanted terrorists, has reappeared in Kabul, where Taliban leaders are meeting to plan the country’s future.
Al-Qaeda terrorist Khalil Haqqani promised a new era for Afghanistan as he led prayers for Taliban fighters at a mosque in the Afghan capital in front of adoring fans on Friday.
The Haqqanis have been blamed for some of the world’s deadliest terror attacks in recent years, killing civilians, government officials, and foreign forces.
The US has designated them as a foreign terrorist organization, and the jihadists are also sanctioned by the UN.
Despite their reputation, they are expected to be powerful players in the new regime in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover last week, casting doubt on the group’s pledge not to harbor terrorists.
According to the New York Times, Khalil Haqqani told the crowd on Friday: “Our first priority for Afghanistan is security. If there is no security, there is no life.
“We will give security, then we will give economy, trade, education for men and women. There will be no discrimination.”
Another key leader of the Haqqani network – Anas Haqqani – was also in the capital on Friday.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, a hero of the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s, founded the shadowy group, which became one of the most powerful networks behind the Taliban’s rise to power.
He was a valuable CIA asset at the time, when the US and its allies, such as Pakistan, were funneling arms and money to the mujahideen.
Following the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, Jalaluddin Haqqani formed close ties with foreign jihadists, including Osama bin Laden.
Later, he allied with the Taliban, which took over Afghanistan in 1996, and served as a minister for the Islamist regime until it was deposed by US-led forces in 2001.
The Haqqanis have a history of using suicide bombers, including drivers in cars and trucks loaded with large amounts of explosives, to carry out deadly attacks on major targets.
According to the US National Counterterrorism Center, Afghan forces intercepted a Haqqani truck carrying nearly 28 tonnes of explosives in eastern Afghanistan in October 2013.
The Haqqanis have also hugely contributed to the Taliban’s fighting ranks.
They are the group’s “most combat-ready forces”, UN monitors said in a June report.
A British intelligence officer told VOA: “The fact we have Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani in charge of Kabul security is dismaying.
“The Haqqani and Al Qaeda have a long history together, you could argue they are intertwined, and it is highly unlikely they will cut ties.”
And retired diplomat Ivor Roberts said putting the Haqqani network in charge of security is like the “fox being put in charge of a chicken coop”.
Khalil Haqqani: ‘All Afghans’ should feel safe under Taliban’
Khalil Haqqani, currently in charge of security for Kabul, has echoed the group’s claims that “all Afghans” should feel safe under their Islamic Emirate, and that a “general amnesty” has been granted across the nation’s 34 provinces.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Khalil Haqqani said the Taliban is working to restore order and safety to a nation that has seen more than four decades of war.
“If we can defeat superpowers, surely we can provide safety to the Afghan people,” Haqqani said.
Many Afghans are sceptical that a leader of the Haqqani Network, known to be the most brutal and violent group associated with the Taliban, will bring security to Afghanistan after 40 years of war and violence – especially as reports of house-to-house searches and violence allegedly committed by the Taliban continue to pour in, including in Kabul.
Khalil Haqqani is still labelled a “global terrorist” by the United States, with a $5m bounty for him issued by the US Treasury Department in February 2011, and he remains on a United Nations terrorist list.
The Haqqani network: Afghanistan’s most feared militants
The Haqqanis have been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in recent years, claiming the lives of civilians, government officials and foreign forces.
The shadowy group was formed by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who gained prominence in the 1980s as a hero of the anti-Soviet jihad. At the time, he was a valuable CIA asset as the United States and its allies such as Pakistan funnelled arms and money to the mujahideen.
During that conflict and following the Soviet withdrawal, Jalaluddin Haqqani fostered close ties with foreign jihadists — including Osama bin Laden.
He later allied with the Taliban who took over Afghanistan in 1996, serving as a minister for the Islamist regime until it was toppled by US-led forces in 2001.
Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death after a long illness was announced by the Taliban in 2018, and his son Sirajuddin formally became the network’s chief.