Haqqanis were amicable with US officials during Soviet Era

The Pakistan-based Haqqani network that was last week designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organisation, had a very amicable relationship with American officials during the Soviet war.

Washington: The Pakistan-based Haqqani network that was last week designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organisation, had a very amicable relationship with American officials during the Soviet war, that later soured, latest declassified documents have revealed.

National Security Archive, which released relevant classified documents yesterday, said these include a confession from the network founder Jalaluddin Haqqani that he had enjoyed very amicable relations with US officials during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, but that the friendship soured after the 1998 US bombing of a Haqqani-linked terrorist camp in Khost, Afghanistan, undertaken by the then President Bill Clinton in retaliation for al Qaeda attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Offering new insight into the Haqqani family`s long history with militancy, these documents records on Jalaluddin Haqqani detail direct meetings between him and US diplomats, his role as a Taliban military commander, and intimate ties to foreign militants, al Qaeda connections, as well as his potentially critical function as a major advocate for Osama bin Laden within the Taliban administration.

Describing long-standing ties between Jalaluddin Haqqani and foreign terrorists, a 1995 report by the State Department on Kashmiri militant group Harakat-ul-Ansar notes "many of the activists of Harakat-ul-Ansar are reportedly veterans of the Afghan war who fought along with Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani in Paktia Province".

A significant portion of the membership is non-Pakistani, made up of Afghan war veterans from Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, and other countries, all of whom have stayed on after conclusion of the Afghan jihad.

"Three sources have told us that the membership also includes a small number of American Muslims - we`ve heard numbers ranging from six to sixteen," the cable says.

Taliban military commander Jalaluddin Haqqani is reported in another 1997 document to be "more liberal" in his opinions on social policy, such as women`s rights, than other Taliban officials.

But he does not seem to be in a position to influence Taliban positions on these issues.

Haqqani nevertheless remains respected as a competent and influential officer in Taliban military affairs.

His ties to "various radical Arab groups" concern the Department of State, as one source reports that "in exchange for weapons and money... (he is) offering shelter for various Arabs in areas of Paktia province".

The Department notes that "reporting in other channels indicate that Haqqani maintains these links" with radical Arab elements in Afghanistan.

According to a declassified cable of May 24, 1999, US officials meet directly with Jalaluddin Haqqani to discuss Osama bin Ladin.

At that time Haqqani was in the Taliban administration serving as "Acting Minister of Borders," and is known as a "key" official "with links to Arab militants".

Despite noting that "he was deeply appreciative of US assistance during the `jihad` (holy war) against the Soviets and the (Afghan) communists," tensions between Haqqani and US officials are palpable since American missiles destroyed a Haqqani-linked terrorist camp in Khost, in August 1998.

Haqqani initiates the meeting by "joking" that it was "good to meet someone from the country which had destroyed my base, my madrassh, and killed 25 of my mujahideen".

Bin Laden remains the focus of the meeting with Haqqani.
American officials tell Haqqani, "the US would continue to make things difficult for the Taliban if the (bin Laden) issue remained unresolved. It was in the Taliban`s advantage to expel him immediately".

Haqqani agrees bin Laden is "a problem," but insists that "maybe the best solution is what is taking place now with him remaining in the country".