Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other senior administration officials visited Pakistan in October to demand that Pakistan’s spy agency either deliver the Haqqani network, a virulent part of the insurgency fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan, to the negotiating table or help fight them in their stronghold in Pakistan’s rugged tribal areas.
But there are any number of reasons why the Pakistanis may disappoint the Americans. Not least is that the Haqqani leadership — contrary to the U.S. emphasis on drone strikes in the tribal areas — does not have to hide in Pakistan’s ungoverned fringes. So close are the Haqqanis’ ties to Pakistan’s military and intelligence service that one might just as well look for them around the capital, Islamabad, or in the closely guarded military quarters of Rawalpindi.
Osama bin Laden was thought to have been hiding in the tribal areas, too, said a tribal elder reached by telephone in the Haqqani stronghold of North Waziristan. Instead, bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos in Abbottabad, a small city deep in Pakistan that is home to a top military academy. Whether he was there with the knowledge of Pakistan’s spy agency is still unclear.
“The Americans have taken the hell out of us through drones all these years trying to target OBL,” said the elder, referring to bin Laden and not wanting to be named for fear of his safety. “But they found him in Abbottabad. The same will happen with the Haqqanis, too.”
The freedom of movement the Haqqanis enjoy in Pakistan could be witnessed on a sweltering July day last year at a graduation ceremony at one of Pakistan’s largest religious schools, Darul Uloom Haqqania, well known for producing the ranks of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.
Among the thousands who had gathered that day in Akora Khattak, just an hour from the capital, were top members of the Haqqani family. The family patriarch, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is a graduate of the school and draws his last name from it.
The Haqqanis stayed for several hours at the event, which was almost certainly monitored by Pakistani intelligence agents, and, after lunch, left in a car with Islamabad license plates.
The Haqqani family, which runs the network like a mafia, maintains several town houses, including in Islamabad and elsewhere, and they have been known to visit military facilities in Rawalpindi, attend tribal gatherings and even travel abroad on pilgrimages, say military and political analysts who follow militant activity in Pakistan.