The Taliban has announced the formation of an interim government of Afghanistan following the organization’s overthrow of the country’s elected government, which includes the FBI-designated terrorist mastermind Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Al Qaeda-aligned Haqqani Network.
“Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a long-time Taliban member who has been [the] leader of the group’s Shura or Leadership Council for about two decades, was named as prime minister. He is seen as an influential and respected on the religious side of the movement, rather than on its military side,” CNN reported. The organization did not name any female members despite their pledge to include women as members of the new government.
“Two senior figures in the Haqqani Network, a US-designated terror group aligned with the Taliban and al Qaeda, will be in in the interim government. Both have been sanctioned by the United Nations and the US,” CNN reported.
Sirajuddin Haqqani is joined by Khalil Haqqani, who was appointed “acting minister of refugees.” Haqqani, who has a $5-million bounty on his head, is wanted by both the FBI and the U.S. State Department.
“The Rewards For Justice Program, United States Department of State, is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading directly to the arrest of Sirajuddin Haqqani,” reads the FBI’s Most Wanted page. “Haqqani is thought to stay in Pakistan, specifically the Miram Shah, North Waziristan, Pakistan, area. He is reportedly a senior leader of the Haqqani network and maintains close ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda. Haqqani is a specially designated global terrorist.”
Haqqani is wanted for interrogation in connection to the Jan. 2008 attack on a Kabul hotel, which killed 6 people including an American citizen. He is also believed to have coordinated and partaken in cross-border attacks against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. The FBI also notes that Haqqani was allegedly involved in planning an assassination attempt on then-Afghan President Kamid Karzai in 2008.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Haqqani Network is connected to Al Qaeda. It has been a U.S.-designated terrorist group since 2012.
“It is the single most impressive nonstate militant group I have ever seen, with the exception of ISIS in the first two years of the caliphate,” said a counterterrorism expert to the WSJ, which noted that “Experts who have followed the group for years worry that its consolidation of power will enable the kind of transnational terrorism that the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 aimed to eradicate. The network’s de facto leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin, worked closely with Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, according to files recovered in bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Today, Sirajuddin is the Taliban’s military chief, and his forces have been put in charge of security in Kabul.”
Experts told the WSJ that they believe the Haqqani Network may be the bridge between the Taliban and the Islamic State, which the Biden administrations maintains are enemies of one another.
“Afghan officials have for years accused the Haqqani network of facilitating deadly attacks on civilians by providing Islamic State’s local affiliate with technical assistance and access to criminal networks in Kabul, even though Islamic State and the mainstream Taliban are sworn enemies,” the WSJ reported.