Sirajuddin Haqqani, senior leader of the Haqqani Network, has been appointed the Interior Minister in the caretaker government of Afghanistan. The appointment by the Taliban poses serious obstacles towards the Joe Biden administration’s efforts to partner with the Jihadist outfit.
The problems are exacerbated by the fact that Sirajuddin Haqqani features in the ‘most wanted list’ of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Following the end of the 20-year war, USA has made several overtures towards the Taliban in a bid to secure their collaboration for American foreign policy interests.
Consistent with its approach, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price had said late August, “The Taliban and Haqqani Network are two separate entities.” Similarly, NSA Jake Sullivan had on one occasion refused to call them ‘enemies’ and on another, admitted that the USA could send financial aid to Afghanistan if certain conditions were met.
Furthermore, the Joe Biden administration had issued a license permitting humanitarian aid to continue to flow into Afghanistan. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the USA, asserted that they could ally with Taliban for strikes against the Islamic State of Khorasan Province.
US Forces and the Taliban worked together during the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Jihadist outfit was in charge of security of Kabul when US Forces remained at the Kabul airport to evacuate. “In war you do what you must in order to reduce risk to mission and force, not what you necessarily want to do,” Milley had said.
The head of US Central Command, Marine General Frank McKenzie, had said that the US-Taliban partnership during the withdrawal was “very pragmatic and very businesslike”. All of this points towards the fact that the USA is considering partnering with the Taliban to secure its foreign policy interests.
However, the appointment of Sirajuddin Haqqani as the Interior Minister of the country could prove to be a spoiler in the possible arrangement. The USA and CIA is being subjected to much mockery online given their recent flirtation with the Jihadist outfit. The Haqqani Network also has close ties to Al Qaeda and Pakistan’s ISI.
Even so, the possibility of a partnership cannot be ruled out altogether. If the USA is willing to work together with the Taliban, an outfit it called terrorist for 20 years and waged war against, then a working relationship with the Haqqani Network should not be completely ruled out.
Furthermore, the USA has funded Jihadist outfits in the past. In the Middle East, the USA funded Jihadist groups to remove Basshar al-Assad from power in Syria. They funded groups they labeled ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria, another war torn country, knowing fully well that the weapons they supplied often fell into the hands of Al Nusra, a group affiliated to Al Qaeda. Some of the ‘moderate Syrian rebels’, funded through CIA’s Timber Sycamore program, went on a rampage killing Kurds in the region in 2019.
It is also suspected at least some of these weapons fell into the hands of ISIS as well. “Evidence collected by CAR indicates that the United States has repeatedly diverted EU-manufactured weapons and ammunition to opposition forces in the Syrian conflict. IS forces rapidly gained custody of significant quantities of this materiel,” Conflict Armament Research (CAR) had said back in 2017.
Thus, despite the appointment of the Haqqani Network leader in the Taliban government, a partnership between them and the USA remains a distinct possibility. Furthermore, Afghanistan is located in a very imposition from the perspective of geopolitics. The USA would not want for the Taliban to develop a close relationship with China and Russia.
However, as of this moment, the group appears more willing to align with the two major powers in the region. Simultaneously, with the appointment of Sirajuddin Haqqani, a partnership with the outfit will be difficult for the Joe Biden administration to sell to his domestic audience.